Words: Clare Lane
Here at Flamingo we follow the doing-it-yourself philosophy, so we’re always keen to keep a watchful eye on people like Alex Spiro and Sam Arthur. From founding their own independent publishing company, Nobrow, in 2008 to their latest venture creating their own festival, they have an impressive back catalogue. We talk to Alex and Sam about ELCAF – The First East London Comics & Arts Festival.
What was the main push to create ELCAF?
Alex: Sam and I had been to quite a few comic arts festivals abroad such as TCAF, Angouleme and, most recently, the Brooklyn Comics
and Graphics Festival.
All of these festivals were called comic arts festivals. We liked the names that they had, but we wanted to do a comics and arts festival, so that we were inclusive of all of the illustration, zine publishers, art book publishers and small-scale art book publishers. We feel a lot of affinity with them because that’s where we came from.
Did you expect that you would get such an overwhelming response?
Sam: There’s been a great response online and in terms of exhibitors wanting to take part. It’s been really good, but to be honest we weren’t really sure how it was going to be perceived. So far it’s better than we expected and even makes us think we could make it bigger next year.
Did you have an initial idea of how you wanted it to be or did it more organically evolve?
Alex: I think its fair to say we were influenced by the fairs that we have attended abroad and possibly trying to learn some lessons from the things that they’ve done well that maybe haven’t been attempted by festivals over here. I think one of the main things was the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival – it was really interesting, as they had people representing illustration books that weren’t necessarily comics. There was one girl who had screen-printed her own pop-up book, for example, and there were people producing and selling zines and calendars.
Sam: You wouldn’t necessarily find that at a comics festival in this country; it would tend to be more segregated. There’s nothing wrong with any of the comics festivals that we go to over here – we go to them – but we thought it would be quite nice to join these two things together.
Alex: Because that’s what we do at Nobrow – we try to represent both illustration and narrative graphics in equal measure, so really the fair is an extension of our philosophy.
What are you most excited about? Any personal highlights of ELCAF?
Alex: The fact that Blexbolex is coming is a big deal for us, because he was one of the first people that we published. He is also a great artist and with a really good profile. He won the New York Times’ Best Illustrated Book last year, and a design award from the Leipziger Buchmesse for the most beautiful book in 2008.
We are very honored to have him. We also have lots of talks and events organised by some great collectives, publishers and people.
What will the live tac au tac involve? How will the artists be working?
Alex: The principal of tac au tac is where you start off [by drawing] a mouse. People then draw the next thing chasing that mouse; it’s sort of a drawing relay race to tie in with the Olympics.
It’ll be either with a brush pen or a pen and it’ll have to be black and white just for speed. We want to get as many artists as we can involved; we are hoping to have around 20 [including Luke Pearson, Isabel Greenberg, Kristyna Baczynski and Jack Teagle], but it obviously depends of the amount of time they each take.
ELCAF (East London Comics & Arts Festival)
17th June at Village Underground
9.30am – 9.00pm