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Celebrating the cream of comic art at ELCAF

With the East London Comic and Arts Festival taking place this weekend, we caught up with co-founder, Nobrow’s Sam Arthur, to find out more.

The brainchild of independent publishers, Nobrow, ELCAF (East London Arts & Comics Festival) has grown to become a real highlight in the comic arts calendar just three years since its inauguration. With the third festival opening its doors this weekend at Oval Space in Bethnal Green, we spoke to Sam Arthur from Nobrow to find out more about why they decided to start it up, and what this year’s festival holds in store.

Why did you decide to start up an arts and comics festival?

With Nobrow we were going to lots of Arts Comics fairs around Europe, US and Canada, and we realised that there was very little along similar lines in the UK, especially in London which we thought was strange. So we thought we'd give our own festival a go, hoping to have maybe 500 people come to the first year. When 3,500 people turned up, we realised we were on to something!

What's the relationship between Nobrow and ELCAF?

Nobrow was instrumental in starting it up and we are involved in making sure that the festival has some organisational infrastructure throughout the year. Since the second year we have got Arts Curator Ligaya Salazar and Exhibition/Production Designer Joana Felipe involved to curate and organise, so that we can manage the workload and put on an amazing festival.

The festival poster for ELCAF 2014, by Chris Ware

How much organisation goes into pulling the festival together?

It's very time consuming, so it needs to be something that we enjoy or it's not worth doing. Hopefully this comes across, as we are super excited about this year’s festival. It's been hard work and in the run up to the day of the event, it’ll be crazy!

You're now in your third year of putting the festival on. How have things changed from the beginning?

We've changed locations each year, which has been a challenge. Each time we have wanted to offer more and more to festival goers and exhibitors alike and we've needed a venue that can give us that. This year at The Oval Space we have a separate venue across the street from the exhibitors for our talks. We also have support from the Arts Council this year which means we've been able to invite guests such as Chris Ware, Seth, Anouk Ricard, Jesse Moynihan, Anne Simon and Takayo Akiyama who are all involved in talks, signings or workshops. 

What can we expect to find at ELCAF this year?

Apart from talks from the artists mentioned above we have exhibitors from all over the world including publishers Drawn & Quarterly from Canada, Misma from France, Planeta Tangerina from Portugal, SelfMadeHero, Blank Slate and of course, Nobrow from the UK. So there will be plenty of opportunities to buy signed copies of new books, fantastic prints and zines from the likes of Matthew the Horse, Phillipa Rice, Dilraj Mann, and many, many more. We have the Exploring Senses Toy Hacking workshop back by popular demand, as well as screen printing and lino cutting workshops. Calverts Press have their Paper Jam printing workshop and there will be plenty of food and drink to hand. So enough to keep everyone of all ages amused, entertained and well nourished!

Do you have any words of wisdom for someone wanting to put on an event of a similar nature?

Organise your venue as far in advance as you possibly can and get your booking in writing. Once you have the biggest piece of your puzzle locked down, everything else is much easier to put into place. Also, love what you do or don't bother doing it!

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