Festival - Bexley Anime and Manga Festival
Pretty unique on the UK event calendar, the BAM! Festival is not one event but a series of events throughout the entire month of February in various locations around the London Borough of Bexley. The festival features no less than 8 cinema screenings, including the (as yet) unreleased 5cm Per Second and The Sky Crawlers, plus several card games tournaments, art, cosplay and cookery workshops, 'ninja school' lessons and manga tattooing sessions. The screenings all take place in the Cineworld cinema in Bexley Heath, whilst many of the other events take place in libraries and leisure centres around the borough. Best of all everything is free. Yes, free. Because of this the organisers recommend pre-booking, but it is worth noting that although the cinema screenings are open to all (depending on the film's certificate) the other events in the festival are only open to those aged 11 to 19. For more information check out the Festival's Facebook page here.
ALCL - AnimeLeague Club London
The second of what the organisers hope will become a regular event that will run two or three times a year. As the name suggests the event is run by the AnimeLeague, a UK forum community who also run the Leicester-based convention Alcon, and aims to fill the void left by the closure of the long-running London Anime Club. ALCL bills itself as a mini-convention but with a capacity of 350 it is actually the same size as several full UK conventions. ALCL is held in the Slug & Lettuce America Square in London from 12pm to 12am, with accommodation at a nearby hostel offered at reduced rates of £17.50 per night to event attendees. The event features numerous standard convention activities including a cosplay masquerade, pub quiz, various interactive art and dubbing competitions and computer game tournaments, plus the kind of events normally found in convention bars such as parties and AMV screenings. It is pretty cheap to attend, with entry costing just £5, making it an excellent event for those who have not been to a convention but want to know what they're all about. For more information check out their website here.
MCM Midlands Expo
The little brother of the hugely popular MCM London Expo. The MCM Midlands Expo is a one day event held in the Telford International Centre in the Shropshire town of Telford. The event is very much a mini version of the London Expo, covering sci-fi and comics alongside anime and manga, and sharing its strong focus on merchandise retail. The event boasts a cosplay masquerade and autograph signings, whilst numerous anime merchandise retailers and distributors are on hand to seriously lighten your wallet. The Expo lacks the anime-centric activities you find at a convention and is primarily a shopping and socialising experience, it is also one of the cheapest large anime events on the UK calendar. Like its London sibling no pre-registration is required, and tickets are available in advance or on the door. Price are usually £5-£8 (£3 for children, under 10's go free). For ticket information and event news check out their website here.
The first major event in the Scottish anime calendar this year, D-Con bills itself as an anime and art convention and is held in the Dundee Student Union. The event boasts free entry and is in its second year, 2009's event attracted a very respectable 350 attendees which actually makes it bigger on paper than Scotland's main anime convention, Auchinawa. The focus of D-Con is largely on art, with displays of local artists' work, digital art tutorials and guest appearances from professional artists. However, there is still space for the usual convention staples of a cosplay competition, anime screenings, computer game tournaments and merchandise retailers. The organisers also hope to have a drawing area and a Yu-Gi-Oh! Card game tournament, and are open to suggestions of other activities to add to their lineup. For more information, visit their website here.
Another event that debuted in 2009, Kitacon has the unique distinction of being the UK's only 24 hour convention, with screenings running all hours of the day and night through all three days of the event. Kitacon was very well received last year and this year's event looks pretty impressive too. Attendance is fixed at 600 people, which is about medium-sized for the UK, and pre-registration is required. Tickets cost £45 and there is plenty of accommodation available both in and around the Park Inn Hotel. Kitacon is one of the few UK conventions to boast US voice actors as guests, with the Leah Clark joining the returning Chris Patton, and also has J-Rock bands HITT and Gothika putting on live shows. On top of this are the usual convention staples (cosplay masquerade, dealers room, parties, etc) and a wide selection of intriguing panels and workshops. Places are still available at the moment but with Christmas out of the way they are sure to be snapped up quickly, for information and to register check out their website here.
Run by the same people behind the MCM Midlands and London Expos, it comes as no surprise that Memorabilia is another trade show featuring a large number of merchandise retailers. However, unlike the MCM Expos Memorabilia strongly focuses on sci-fi and cult TV and often boasts large numbers of celebrity guests from the worlds of TV, film and sport. Guests this year include footballing legends Eusebio, Archie Gemmill, Ian Rush and Denis Law, alongside numerous small-screen sci-fi actors and horror actor Tony Todd. More will no doubt be added before the event too. From an anime point of view Memorabilia has less to interest fans than most of the events on this list, but it does still have some anime and manga distributors attending plus plenty of retailers and the ubiquitous cosplay masquerade and artist alley. Tickets are available on the door and cost £10 per day (£5 concessions), with weekend passes, family tickets and early entry tickets also available in advance. For more info, check out the Memorabilia website here.
Hi-Ex - Highlands International Comics Expo
The third major event held in the same weekend! Now in its third year Hi-Ex is the second Scottish convention of 2010, with a focus on all types of comics including European, American and Japanese works of all genres. The event features an number of UK and international comics artists attending as guests, plus comics workshops and discussion panels. As always there is cosplay, a gaming room and retailers on hand, plus guest signings and sketchings. The event has been praised for its family atmosphere and seems quite similar to the Bristol International Comics Expo which is held in May, but manga may be less prominent. The fact it is running on the same weekend as Memorabilia and Kitacon may see Hi-Ex miss out on some anime and manga retailers and distributors who may otherwise have attended, which is a shame. Weekend tickets are £20 (£10 children) and day tickets cost £11 (£5 children), although entry is free if you fancy dress as a comics character. For more info check out their website here.
The UK's longest running and most consistent anime convention, running for 16 consecutive years! Minamicon holds a special place in the UK anime calendar, and remains somewhat exclusive with a capacity of just 360 attendees. Its registration policy - which allowed attendees of the 2009 event to pre-register for 2010 before the general public - means that it can be notoriously difficult for new people to get tickets. Bizarrely this has led to a secondary event taking place during the Minamicon weekend, Losercon - an annual unofficial fan meet in the bar of the same hotel for those who didn't get tickets. Minamicon itself is probably the smoothest running of all of the conventions, the committee is experienced and the focus of the convention is largely on social activities and screenings rather than panels and workshops. The organisers make very good use of the hotel facilities, and the generally older demographic that attend gives Minamicon a unique feel compared to the other conventions on the UK calendar. It also boasts one of the best cosplay masquerades of any UK event. Tickets cost £49, but there is a colossal waiting list for the 2010 event. For more info check their website here.
Bristol International Comics and Small Press Expo
Anime and manga have been quite recent additions to the long-running Bristol Comics Expo, but unlike the MCM Expos our favourite Japanese art forms haven't managed to take it over to any real extent. The Bristol Comic Expo remains strongly focused on UK and American comics, with international comics and manga forming a smaller part. However, there are still a few anime and manga merchandise retailers on hand plus manga publisher Tokyopop and the Sweatdrop Studios art collective. This year there will also be a showcase of Korean Manhwa comics, although most of the manga and anime side of the event has yet to be announced. Needless to say there will probably be a cosplay competition and probably some art workshops, and previous events have hosted manga scholars Helen McCarthy and Paul Gravett so it is one to watch. Tickets details have yet to be announced, but you can usually pre-book or buy on the door. Keep an eye on their website for more info.
A similar and rival show to Birmingham's Memorabilia trade show. Like its rival Collectormania focuses strongly on retail with large numbers of merchandise retailers and celebrity guests offering autograph signings. It is unlikely to feature much to interest anime fans this time, at least on the Saturday and Sunday, as it is being held on the same weekend as the massive MCM London Expo. The vast majority of anime and manga retailers and distributors will choose to attend the Expo, as it has established pedigree as a leading anime event and will attract the vast majority of anime and manga fans and cosplayers. However, Collectormania does run for twice as long as the Expo and has not only free entry but also free shuttle buses from Milton Keynes train station and town centre. It is likely that anime coverage at Collectormania will be pretty low, but it will have a very strong focus on sci-fi and TV and feature a large number of decent celebrity guests - several Star Trek actors and Terminator star Linda Hamilton are already signed up. For more information check out their website here.
The largest event in the UK anime calendar is not exclusively an anime and manga event, but with an attendance approaching 20,000 people it eclipses everything else. Anime and manga has become such an integral part of the MCM London Expo that it pretty much dominates it, with a two hour long cosplay masquerade ending both days of the event and pretty much all of the UK anime and manga industry in attendance. It is the only UK event big enough to really draw in top-class anime and manga guests and the number of anime merchandise retailers here is unrivalled by any other event. It is also the largest gathering of anime fans and cosplayers in the UK, making it the not-to-be-missed event of the year. Most of the major anime licensing announcements are made at the London Expo, but there has been a reduction in anime panels and screenings recently. However, nowhere else can you get so many great anime and manga deals as you can at the Expo. Tickets cost £10 per day (£5 for children) and early entry is £13, tickets can be bought on the door but early hotel booking is essential considering the colossal attendance. For more info keep an eye on the website here.
The first anime convention in the North East is a new event for 2010, and an ambitious one at that. NemaCon is organised by former employees of Middlesbrough's branch of Borders bookshop, and although the attendance limit has not been confirmed as yet the venue itself is large enough to make it one of the bigger UK conventions. NemaCon is being supported by the AnimeLeague and has so far secured appearances by UK artists Sonia Leong and Emma Vieceli, plus sponsorship from computer game retailer Game and art supplies manufacturer Letraset. The convention is set to have all of the usual convention activities, including a cosplay masquerade, art classes, Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments and cosplay workshops. They have also managed to secure the local Cineworld cinema for anime film screenings, so it looks pretty impressive on paper. For more information and to register check out their website here.
Continuum is a specialist gaming convention that returns following a one year break. When we say gaming we don't mean computer games though, Continuum focuses strongly on the more traditional role playing games, tabletop games, board games and card games. The convention features a dealers room and panels on various game-related subjects, plus several tournaments and free play events. From an anime point of view the main interest will be in the card game tournaments and dealers which are likely to feature the likes of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon, although there is always the possibility that someone could start up a session of the anime-inspired role playing game BESM (Big Eyes Small Mouth)! The convention is looking for suggestions for activities at the moment, but Games Workshop's tabletop war games and Wizards of the Coast and Upper Deck's card games are likely to feature. Pre-registration is required for the whole event (£25) but day tickets costing £18 are available on the door. For further info check out their website here.
London Film & Comic Con
A similar and therefore rival event to the MCM London Expo, London Film & Comic Con had less to interest anime fans until a couple of years ago. The organisers started working with AnimeLeague, organisers of the Leicester-based anime convention Alcon, back in 2008 and since then their anime and manga coverage has massively improved. As well as the usual anime and manga merchandise retailers the London Film & Comic Con also boasts an artists alley, cosplay masquerade and computer gaming zones, and are currently taking suggestions for further activities. The organisers have also announced that they have secured voice actor Johnny Bosch as a guest along with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actor Armin Shimerman, and more are set to announced over the coming months. Daily entry is £5 (£3 for children) with early entry tickets set at £10, and tickets can be bought in advance for the event and photoshoot sessions. For more information and updates keep an eye on the website here.
The UK's biggest dedicated anime event took a year off last year, but now it's back and has decided to leave Leicester and will now be held at Keele University. As the UK's leading anime convention AmeCon has pretty much everything you will find at most other conventions, but bigger. The event will feature a huge cosplay masquerade and the biggest selection of anime and manga distributors and merchandise retailers outside of the MCM London Expo. Traditionally AmeCon is where the UK anime industry makes most of its announcements, although they have increasingly been using the Expo in recent years, and the variety of activities, screenings and panels is pretty much unrivalled. For many anime fans AmeCon is the must-attend convention in the UK calendar, and even with a capacity of over 1500 it generally fills up quickly. A consequence of the venue change and insurance issues this year has forced the convention to raise its age limit to 18+ for the first time in it's history, a move which has proved unpopular in some quarters. However, this shouldn't impact its popularity too much so you will have to be quick when the registrations open if you want to go. Prices are unknown at the time of writing, but for more information keep an eye on their website here. Also note the links on their webpage to Facebook and Twitter.
Auto Assembly 2010
A unique convention in our listings, as it is focused on just a single franchise - Transformers! Auto Assembly is Europe's largest Transformers convention and 2010 is it's 10th anniversary year. The convention covers Transfomers in all of its forms, from the original Western and Japanese series and films to the recent anime revival and toys from Japan and America. The 2009 event was a big success, drawing in a whopping 501 people, and the organisers have big plans this year that should make it even more popular. Several guests have already been announced, including Optimus Prime voice actor Garry Chalk and Transformers writer Simon Furman, and art workshops and displays are also planned. There will also be screenings of episodes and films, plus toy displays, dealers, customisation workshops, children's areas and a cosplay parade. Its focused theme should mean that Auto Assembly shouldn't suffer too much from running the same weekend as AmeCon, although most anime fans will choose the AmeCon unless they are huge Transformers fans. Tickets cost £45 (£35 for children) and there is no age limit. Pre-registration is required, and registration and info is available on their website here.
The second Collectormania event of the year, and Scotland's largest sci-fi memorabilia trade show. Collectormania Glasgow is smaller than the Milton Keynes Collectormania but the focus is still on shopping and guest signings, no guests are announced for 2010 as yet but previous years have featured numerous TV actors from the UK and US. From an anime point of view the coverage will probably be small, although we would expect some manga and anime merchandise retailers to be there and the usual cosplayers. Forum community AnimeLeague help with the anime area at the Collectormania organisers' other major event (London Film & Comic Con) but we are unsure if they are doing the same for the Collectormania events themselves. If they do then there should be a decent amount of anime focus, but if not it may be limited to what fans themselves come up with. Tickets cost £5 per day, but full ticketing information has yet to be announced. For further updates check out their website here.
Briefly known as ChibiCon, J-CultureCon is a one day event which is now in its third year. Whereas many UK anime conventions focus strongly on anime and manga fandom, J-CultureCon - as the name suggests - focuses on Japanese culture. The event is run by Derby-based Japanese merchandise retailer Tokyo Otaku and has a refreshingly hands-on approach and seeks to educate as well as entertain. As well as the convention standards like the dealers room, the event also features classes on everything from Japanese language to calligraphy. Details on the 2010 event are scarce at the moment, but there should be specialist guests, live performances of Japanese music and numerous educational workshops on a wide number of Japanese subjects. The tickets are already on sale, costing £10 (£15 for early entry) and tickets for the Japanese music gigs cost £20. For more information and updates keep an eye on the J-CultureCon website here.
MCM London Expo
The second MCM London Expo of the year, and, as it happens after most of the UK anime conventions have passed, usually the more popular of the two. Attendance at the MCM London Expo is more than ten times higher than even the biggest UK anime convention, even though the October Expo is pretty much identical to the May one. As before the Expo is mainly a shopping and socialising experience, as well as being the biggest anime fan and cosplayer meetup in the UK calendar. Pretty much all of the UK anime and manga merchandise retailers and industry will be in attendance, and there will probably be voice actors and possibly even Japanese creators appearing as guests. Tickets are £10 (£5 children, under 10's free), or £13 for early entry, tickets are available in advance and on the door. Tickets will not be available until after the May event, but early booking of hotels is recommended due to the huge number of attendees the event draws. No details of the October Expo are usually released until after the May event, but to get the latest news check out the website here.
Leeds' answer to the Bristol International Comics Expo and Hi-Ex. Thought Bubble is a four day series of linked events around Leeds that focuses on comics of all types, with a centrepiece day-long convention on the Saturday. Events include art and writing workshops, talks and discussions with professional artists and writers, a programme of film screenings and a huge number of retailers, guests and art displays. Details are scarce at this early stage, but the central convention day will no doubt feature several anime and manga merchandise retailers and we wouldn't be surprised to find Sweatdrop Studios and freelance artists like Sonia Leong and Niki Hunter on hand too. We also have our fingers crossed for anime screenings. Thought Bubble is run as a non-profit making organisation and aims to raise the profile of comics and sequential art, which makes it an interesting counterpoint to a lot of UK events. Ticket prices have not been released as yet, but last year's convention day cost £8 (£4 for cosplayers, under 12's free). Keep up to date with information on this year's event on the Thought Bubble website here.
Scotland's main anime convention has this year decided to move from Glasgow to Edinburgh, but apart from that nothing is known as yet. Auchinawa attracts a different crowd to most of the other UK anime events, and has quite a fun atmosphere. Activities are similar to most UK conventions, with the usual cosplay masquerade, art and cosplay workshops, computer game tournaments and dealers room. By UK standards the convention was quite small, with an attendance of 300, but the change of location may increase this. As Scotland's leading convention Auchinawa can punch above its weight somewhat and draw in some major retailers and distributors, and the committee also has a great sense of humour which gives the whole event a really light hearted feel. Information will be released on their website as and when it becomes available, check it out here.
The second Memorabilia show of the year is pretty much the same as March's event in a lot of ways, but this one should benefit from not being opposite an anime convention. As with the previous Memorabilia show the focus will be on merchandise retail and celebrity autograph sessions, with anime and manga taking a lesser role than they do at the MCM Expos. However, with no major rival event this weekend Memorabilia should attract a larger percentage of anime and manga merchandise retailers and possibly some distributors, making it a great place to pick up a few early Christmas presents. There will be more anime and manga fans and cosplayers at this event than in March, but it remains to be seen if there will be any official anime or cosplay activities at the event itself. Information should start to be released once the March event has passed, so keep an eye on their website here.