The South London Comic & Zine Fair returned last weekend to fill the English capital’s small press calendar void with its 2023 instalment on Sunday July 16.

In previous years London has had a significant number of small press and zine fairs for those keen on the grass roots micropublishing to enjoy but the pandemic – and event fatigue – has seen the big names like ELCAF (East London Comic Art Festival), Safari Festival and more fall away, leaving the city’s once-vibrant comics calendar feeling significantly emptier. Thankfully SLCZF 2023 was a welcome return – and a reminder that the community is still there.

©Dean Simons

SLCZF has been in existence since 2017. Started by experimental graphic novelist, small presser and teacher Gareth Brookes, the show was a small upstart on what was then a vibrant comics calendar. A follow up event took place in 2018 and then a four year hiatus ensued – which included the pandemic. In 2022, the show returned from its slumber under a new organising team of Rebecca K. Jones, Peter Morey and Hannah Lee Miller. The 2023 edition of the show saw the organising team reshuffle, with Hannah Lee Miller replaced by Chloe Starling.

©Dean Simons

In an interview with Broken Frontier, a strong proponent of the event, co-organiser Rebecca K. Jones talked about the central ethos:

“we wanted a community spirit at its heart, both for the comics community and the local community too. We wanted a space where everyone, including people who were new to the comics medium could feel really welcomed and be encouraged to feel immersed in the day.”

This remained clear on the day, with rolling crowds of people filling the two halls of the Stanley Arts Centre in Norwood, South London. It was also a good mix of people – with families coming to check out and buy some books too. 

©Dean Simons

There were a number of activities available – such as a small library area stocked with comics for kids…

All Ages Reading Library @ South London Comic Art Festival 2023 ©Dean Simons

…and even a wall for the kids to draw on. Aces!

Story wall activities at SLCZF 2023 ©Dean Simons

And no small press event is ever complete without a few canine visitors and table wardens.

Dogs dig comics too! ©Dean Simons

The event also held a number of panels, the program of which was organised by local publisher Avery Hill, focusing on show-organising, comics-making, publishing, and a discussion around self publishing vs finding a publisher.

(L to R): Tom Murphy (Colossive Press ), Dave White (Avery Hill), Rozi Hathaway (Good Comics), and Tom Oldham (Breakdown Press) discuss the joys and challenges of establishing a comics publishing company ©Dean Simons
Czech graphic novelist, film maker and writer Vojtěch Mašek talked the process of his graphic novel Sisters Dietl (Published in English by Centrala) ©Dean Simons

Some panels were even so busy that there was overflow up the stairs.

Some panels were easier to get into than others.  ©Dean Simons
Publishing vs Self-Publishing panel featuring Isabel Greenberg, Shazleen Khan, Zhenyi Zheng, and Lord Hurk, chaired by Andy Oliver of Broken Frontier ©Dean Simons

Overall a solid day out – hopefully more again next year.

©Dean Simons