This coming weekend sees the return of London Anime Con (LAC), a bi-annual London-based convention run by AnimeLeague.  The convention, which was formerly known as Anime League Club London, has grown exponentially since we previewed its inaugural event in 2008.  Now running for two days and ensconced in a much larger venue, the LAC bills itself as an anime and gaming convention and remains the only anime event of its kind in London.

This weekend's event promises to be bigger and better than ever, and to find out more we caught up with LAC organiser and AnimeLeague head honcho Mike Towers...

Animetion: This is the third London Anime Con, what have you learnt from past events and what can people expect from this one?

"Key word - Organisation! It's not a glamorous one, but it massively effects the experience of those attending.  We will be aiming to clear any queues as fast as possible (anyone queuing for over 20 minutes even at peak would be unacceptable to us), make sure all events run on time and avoid any technical hiccups.  Thankfully our venue has been ever so helpful with sorting out our tech for this event, so we are aiming for everything to go according to plan.  Our crew (aka gophers) are also looking to be the strongest set we've

ever had, so fingers-crossed that we can put on a very well-run event for everyone whose attending."

Animetion: what events and guests will there be?

Mike: Too many to list - we have video gaming, an artist alley, a karaoke lounge, an anime bar/cinema, manga workshops, cosplay workshops, Japanese culture talks, five live-bands, and of course traditional staples such as the Cosplay Masquerade, DDR tournament, Pub Quiz, and so forth.  There's also some pretty massive night-time parties planned on each night till 1am from the likes of WOTA London and Nintendisco.

Bands and live-music performers attending include Johnny Lazer, MegaRan, Super-Cute-Voices, Unshin and Zonic.  We also have a collection of chip-tune artists who will play 8-bit inspired music from devices, such as Game Boys and old-school Ataris on our Sunday Gamers Day.

Guests include internet phenomenon Harry Partridge, J-Culture expert Akemi Solloway, electronic violinist Masa-Kun, as well as cosplay guests Tab Kimpton, KellyJane and TealPirate.

It would not be an understatement to state that this will be our most packed convention ever for events, phew!

Animetion: the event is referred to as an anime & gaming con. Why & when did it change from purely an anime convention to focusing on both media?

Mike: "When we added the Sunday to the event, we decided that we would try and add a theme to that day and turn it in to a Gamers Day.  As part of this we have a number of gaming groups attending such as the massively popular Neo Empire (#1 fighting game community in the UK, check them out at www.neoempire.com).

From a broader perspective, we believe that there is a cultural similarity there between gaming and anime; both originally came from Japan and a lot of anime fans are also big gamers and vice-versa (though not enough to our tastes!) "

Animetion: LAC is running the same weekend as the Manchester Expo, the latest spin-off from the UK's largest anime and media event. As a smaller event has this presented any challenges?

Mike: "In terms of attendees, we have found that most London-based fans are not prepared to travel to Manchester.  In terms of exhibitors, we sold out and have a lengthy waiting list.  Again, not all London-based exhibitors are prepared to travel and prefer a show closer to

their home. As such it has not really affected us.  If it had, then we would have moved the event.  We wish Expo the best of luck in making their Manchester show a success.  While I am not Expo's number one fan, I do know that if Manchester Expo succeeds then it would show just how much the anime fandom has grown in that it can support two events running at the same time.  I would say that would be a first in this country and an achievement that we could all be proud of."

Animetion: there was cynicism in the UK anime community when the event's name was changed from ALCL to a name which was similar to that of the much-loved (but now defunct) London Anime Club. How did you react this and what have done to give the event his own identity?

"We changed our name to London Anime Con to indicate to fans that we would provide to them what has been lacking; a proper anime convention in London.  The similarity in the naming is unfortunate, but we have gone some way to ensure that there is a difference.  It's a small thing, but we prefer our events to not be called LAC, but rather LAC2, LAC3 etc to

indicate which number we are on.  Truth be told though, that's kind of splitting hairs - I think a majority of fans don't really mind too much.  They want to attend an event, have a good time and meet friends.

Regarding our own identity - Comparing London Anime Club and London Anime Con is akin to comparing chalk and cheese in all honesty.  One was a club and the other is a convention. They're completely different.  Whereas we initially started out with ALCL with the aim to make a club in London, that plan changed when we realised quite how much in demand a convention in London was."

Animetion: In our preview of the first ALCL (the former name of LAC), you state that you have aspirations for the event to become a 'proper convention'.  Do you feel that you have met these aims and do you have any plans to expand further?

Mike: "I firmly believe that London Anime Con offers a great introduction for anime fans to experience the full-convention atmosphere.  To attend an event such as Alcon, Kitacon, Amecon and so forth you have to commit a considerable outlay to do so.  Unless you live nearby this will include accommodation prices in addition to what will be at the very least a 30 entry fee and at the most getting on 50.  This is great for those who have money to spend, but not so great for many others.  It means a lot of people miss out.

Our aim has been, and continues to be, to provide what these events offer, but at a price and location that is very affordable to anime fans in London.  I do believe that it is possible to have the best of both worlds.  Simply put, having the ease of access and affordability of an expo style event, but the quality and atmosphere of a convention-style event is what we're aiming toward here.  We get so many people coming to LAC as first-timers, and it gives us a lot of satisfaction to be the ones to be helping to introduce them more fully to the anime scene in this country.

Do we have plans to expand further?  This is a possibility.  However any expansion can not come at a cost to what the event is fundamentally about.  Any such move should not be done recklessly and needs to be done with very careful consideration.

I can also confirm now that in addition to London Anime Con twice a year in February and July, we will be doing London Gaming Con twice a year as well in December and May.  You can check out London Gaming Con at http://www.londongamingcon.com With four London events for the anime and gaming community each year we are aiming to really expand and grow London's Anime and Gaming community.  We hope that Londoners will aim to attend all four and support our endeavour.

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