Preview features - a new feature on Animetion where we look at an upcoming event.  We give you the lowdown and also interview one of the organisers for more information. 

For this preview feature we look at the Bexley Anime & Manga Festival, or BAM for short.  It will be run by the youth group Bexley Manga Network and is aimed at 11-19 year olds with an interest in anime, manga and other facets of Japanese culture. 

A month long event held from 1st February to 1st March 2010, it will be held in various locations across South-East London and is completely free.  Everything from panels, cinema screenings, trading card games and more will all be free to attend - yes you heard right, free!  Every single event of BAM will be free, even the cinema screenings. 

This is rather a unique event then and quite unlike any other UK anime event being held in 2010.  We spoke to organiser Paul Fisher to find out more:

Animetion:  How did BAM Festival start?

Paul: "BAM started with an idea by some young people in the group Bexley Manga Network (BMN) to bring the quality of the major national events to our local area.  BMN is a youth group and many of the young people find that attending events in Central London and further afield is often costly and considerations of finance/distance are sometimes a barrier to being an otaku.  It was also felt that there are so few opportunities to watch great movies together at real cinema screenings.  All these factors came together to form the seed of the idea for BAM.  The opportunity to make it actually happen came about when some of the group applied for Youth Opportunity Funding to make their ideas a reality.  They were successful and then the hard work started putting BAM together.  "

A: What can people expect from BAM?

P: "
People can expect big names and top providers from the worlds of manga, anime and eastern culture to bring the excitement of the fandom to our corner of south east London.  Popular names that often feature at the cons, like Sweatdrop studios are in there, but we’ve also thought outside the box a bit and are trying some things we haven’t seen done elsewhere like Ninja School with TV presenter Chris Crudelli.  We also have a unique cosplay workshop that will bring the cosplay lifestyle to a broader audience.  The cinema screenings are at the core of our plans which also makes BAM a bit different.  Cineworld Bexleyheath are hosting 8 screenings of 9 films (the finale is a double bill) and we’ve got 3 major new titles on the line-up including the beautiful 5cm per Second, important new title The Sky Crawlers and insanely fun Japanese superhero movie K20: Legend of the MaskBAM differs a bit also by spreading its events out over a whole month, effectively offering real otaku a chance to meet up over and over again at the events or to let the curious and as yet uninitiated test the waters by just going to the one or few events they fancy.  One of the best things is that its all completely free of charge – nothing costs anything at all including the cinema screenings!"

A: we note that the festival is aimed at 11 to 19 year olds, is there a particular reason for focusing on this age group?  

P: "
The age guidance is a reflection of the requirements of the funding source that's paid for BAM.  We think this includes most local fans.  Maybe next time round we can fund things differently and include over 19s too."

A: being a month long event, held in various venues, how challenging has it been organising BAM and how did you go about it?

P: "
Organising BAM was a huge challenge.  The young people from the group did a lot of the work alongside us, but ultimately it came down to trying to identify the things that would be the most appealing and to balance the budget.  We tried to consider what goes down well another events in the fandom and to try and draw on the best resources available to us to make something worthwhile actually happen.  We are lucky to have a great relationship with Cineworld and other top quality venues in the borough so scheduling wasn’t so bad.  Sourcing the provision of the actual events was the big challenge.  We’ve been in the planning stages since May 09 and as we’ve gathered momentum things have fallen into place."

A: what events will there be and why did you choose these events?  

There are a big range of events.  Cinema screenings are at the core of it all, but we also have manga art, martial arts, Japanese cookery, Yu-Gi-Oh, cosplay and more going on!  All our details can be found in our festival programme – readers can email bam@bexley.gov.uk for a PDF copy.  We chose the events based partly on scheduling and budget decisions, but ultimately a lot of it came down to asking ‘what would be cool’ and then trying to arrange the things we thought would be exciting and fun.  I think we’ve pulled it off."

you are screening a number of big titles, why did you choose these particular titles to be shown?

P: "
Cineworld were immensely helpful in helping us source a range of titles and the icing on the cake is our new title showcase presented by Manga Entertainment.  We're screening on 35mm – the way these films should be seen.  The final film choices were agreed on by the group members as being exciting examples of the genre.  They’re all major titles by important creators and offer a real big screen experience."

A: what feedback have you received on your plans?

P: "
Feedback so far has been great!  People are really excited that the south east corner of London is getting represented in this way.  The two things people keep saying are that its fantastic that everything is free of charge, including the cinema tickets, and, that this is so different from other events being spread over a month, so it adds something to even the broader London scene, if not the national one. "

A: does the Bexley Manga Network meet up on a regular basis and do you organise other events?

P:  "
Bexley Manga Network meets fortnightly on Thursday evenings at Central Library, Bexleyheath.  The group is for ages 13-19 and is a social group that hangs out fortnightly and does at times organise events.  BAM is our biggest undertaking yet, but in the past we’ve had art workshops, coach trips out to MCM expo and a range of other things."

what plans are there for the future?

P:  "
Our plans for the future are to make sure the first BAM Festival is a roaring success and to get as many people involved as possible.  Now we have the architecture in place for future big events, the sky’s the limit.  Another festival next year would be great, as would some further screenings of hot new titles, pre-release.  There were some things we couldn’t do this year we would love to in future, so stay tuned."

BAM Festival Facebook Group

2010 Events Diary (contains dates and locations for all BAM events)

2010 Events Preview