The Grand International Cosplay Ball
Article by Amy Lou (Amy-Lou) posted Wednesday 29th October 2008
Still buzzing from London Expo? Can't wait for the next event? Well for any cosplayer after a chance to wear their classiest costume there's definitely one date you should mark in your diary. On November 30th, the Grand International Cosplay Ball will be held in South London and is shaping up to be an evening full of entertainment!
We managed to get hold of Emily Bastian, one of the members organising this extravagant event, to see if we could find out a little bit more...
Firstly, would you like to tell us a little about yourself, and your cosplay background?
My name is Emily Bastian and I've been cosplaying since 2001. I've spent the past three years working as a freelance cosplay co-ordinator for several events, including IMAF, London MCM Expo and Showmasters events. I also work for a waitressing agency and an import company. For the Grand International Cosplay Ball, I'm in charge of publicity and arranging the venue.
The event is obviously not a one-man show; would you like to introduce the rest of your team and let us know what part they are playing in the organisation of the ball?
Okay first there's Jess Clinch (Mocara), our secretary. We've worked together on the vast majority of events I've run, as a co-organiser and occasional compere. She's the cheerful, organised one who gives us a kick up the backside when needed! Then there's Emily Owusu, the laidback arty one. She's very cool and runs her own J-rock night called Jet Rock. She did all the graphic designs for our flyers and tickets and we're working together to book the guests and entertainment. Lastly there's Paul Browne, the creator of J-Pop Go! as well as various other club nights. He's a bit like our mentor - not only does he look after the website, he also gives wise advice and cooks a mean chicken teriyaki! In the great scheme of things I'd say I was the bossy, scary one...
When did the idea of the ball first come to mind? What made you go for it?
Myself and Emily O have been talking about organising a cosplay ball together ever since we first met at an anime convention 7 years ago. But back then we didn't have a clue how to go about it. Then last November I was on a train coming back from Manchester with Jess (we'd just been organising cosplay events at the Collectormania event there) when the subject got brought up. It turned out she'd had the same idea as us, and the more we talked about it, the more ideas came flooding out! The three of us decided we'd worked on so many events between us that we might as well join up and go for it. Then later Paul came on board and our team was complete!
From the pictures shown of the venue it looks gorgeous.
How important was the type of venue for you, and how difficult was it to find?
The venue is the most important part, as far as I'm concerned! As a first-time event, even finding a large venue in Central London which would give us a weekend slot was a mammoth task. We spent about 2 months looking at different venues, but some wouldn't even give us a quote! Then I randomly saw The Grand on the TV show "Bring Back the One-Hit Wonders". I tried phoning the venue and they were helpful from the word go. I think we were very lucky to find The Grand - it has exactly the look we were going for, but with the stage and bar facilities we need.
Are there any barriers you've come across while organising this, anything that was particularly troublesome?
At the moment, obtaining sponsorship for certain guests we want to invite is taking longer than expected, but hopefully we'll pull through.
What can the guests expect to find at the ball, have you any events or themes planned?
Our aim is that walking through the doors will be like walking into a fantasy wonderland! The theme for the decor is "Alice In Wonderland", and we're spending a lot of time and money on the decorations. We're even transforming the top floor bar into a Wonderland themed photgraphy area!
There will be DJs and special performances running all night to keep guests entertained, as well as set dances every hour for those who enjoy ballroom dancing. Entertainment will include a live band, burlesque, a kimono fashion show and a fire performance!
Would you like to elaborate a little on the dress code and the age limit?
I'm glad you mentioned this, as a lot of people have been asking about it. The age limit is 18+ and you will need to bring ID. This is purely down to licensing laws and the venue's own regulations, i.e. we have no control over it. We understand this does exclude a lot of younger cosplayers, but if we allow under-18's into the venue we can't serve alcohol, and I'm sure most people wouldn't be happy with that either! We are, however, looking into whether it is possible to organise a separate cosplay party exclusively for under-18's.
As for the dress code, it's cosplay or smart dress only. Jeans or trainers are not allowed either. We're planning this as a high-class event, so it's a way of encouraging people to make an effort. That said, there are no rules about what kind of costume you can wear - Emily O and myself regularly go to burlesque and art clubs where you can see anything from steampunks to a man wearing a glitter ball on his head. I'd love to see that same level of creativity at the ball.
You are marketing this as an international cosplay ball, what do you have to entice people to travel from the far corners of the UK and overseas to attend?
For a start there's our guest of honour, Yaya Han - it's her first visit to the UK as a cosplayer, and a great chance to meet a truly world-class cosplayer and see her perform!
Secondly, it's a chance for cosplayers to sample a taste of London sub-culture. All countries have their own style when it comes to cosplay, but when I've visited large events abroad, they don't usually say much about the culture of the place they're held in. All our team are Londoners and we've been heavily influenced by the live music and arts scene here. This is reflected in the style and variety of performances at our event. The mix of old with modern, and different cultures is typically Londinien and I could not imagine this event taking place in any other city.
But what makes our event truly unique is the opportunity to meet cosplayers from other countries all together in a social setting. I've already heard from cosplayers in France, Italy and Japan who are interested to attend, and we hope the party atmosphere will encourage everyone to socialise. For me, the best thing about cosplay is that through it I've made so many close friends in other countries. It would be wonderful if our ball could allow other cosplayers to do the same.
Any extra little bits of information we can get out of you?
What I can say is we're trying to arrange for more international cosplay guests to attend. I can't say names, but I can tell you they're involved with the World Cosplay Summit. At the moment we're trying to secure sponsorship for their expenses.
Any last message you'd like to put out there to your potential guests?
Well of course, "PLEASE COME TO OUR BALL!" But seriously, we hope to see as many cosplayers there as possible and I'd like to wish everyone good luck with making their costumes. We hope everyone who attends the Grand International Cosplay Ball has a great time - I promise it will be different from any other cosplay event you've attended, no matter where you're from.
Bottom left photo by Stuart Townsley, others by Gabriela Fabrowka
The Grand Cosplay Ball is to be held on the 30th November. To buy tickets, find more information and discuss the event head on over to their website.
We're putting on our dancing shoes and dusting off our top hats. See you there!