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Behind the scenes at UKA HQ

Behind the scenes at UKA HQ

Written by Ross Locksley on 12 Apr 2024

Since the blog is firing up once again (aiming for a weekly natter) I thought it might be nice to add a personal spin and show you a little more about where UKA currently lives and a little more about me - having been sat behind the site since inception in 1996, I've kept a relatively low profile (if you don't count that one time I hosted a panel at MCM  London Expo with ADV, Beez and MVM, causing a stir at Manga Max with an article criticising their fanzine review process and a certain infamous podcast of course). I do however spend time in Japan visiting publishers, artists and studios, having forged a lot of friendships that have lasted many years.

Arc System Works
Myself and James visiting Arc System works. The signed Queen album I gifted the team (1978's Jazz seemed appropriate as that's when I was born) was described by Daisuke Ishiwatari as his "greatest treasure" on a recent panel. Made me smile :)

UKA has always been based in Yorkshire, which straight away removes us from the London "scene" where so many premieres and events take place. Travel from York isn't so bad, but it does make us quite selective as to what we can cover in person (the Suzume and Gundam SEED Freedom premieres made the cut recently). 

Principally UKA is and always has been a hobby site run by people who enjoy writing about anime. We don't have a commercial bent and we don't solicit money from the 150,000 - 250,000 unique readers we reach every month. This means I fund everything (with the help of occasional advertisers) through my company, including our privately owned server hardware. Self-employed even before I left University, I started a technical support firm in '98 and scratch built a Content Management System for websites for which UKA has always been the testbed. Essentially I've married my favourite hobby with an elaborate tech demo! This does mean we don't have a ton of annoying pop-ups or irritating flashy things on the site. We will add a little merch shop someday, but that's a little way off.

I sold my company in 2005, since then I've worked as a consultant for many different industries, including anime and publishing, though always as a sideline. These days I mainly work in the fashion industry, with my largest client based in South Korea, which means I get to travel to Milan and Paris twice a year, and spend time in Seoul on a regular basis.

Working in Seoul
Hard at work in Seoul. No, really... Sunglasses by Henrik Vibskov. Daft aren't they?

The rest of the time, I (and by extension, UKA) work from my garden office. It's a nice short commute and leaves me plenty of time with my daughter, Thea, whose only exposure to anime is "Daddy's toy office", Karumi figures I bring back from South Korea/Japan and Pokemon. Give me time.

Daddy's Toy Office
"Daddy's toy office" 

Over the last 28 years, I've amassed a huge library of weird and wonderful items, both from fans and from my various trips. I've become a bit addicted to smaller Gundam and Macross figures, Figma and of course Transformers,  my first childhood love. Sometimes a delve through the cupboard can unearth interesting finds, such as the lost Macross II linework I picked up from former anime publisher US Renditions (this copy belonging to Robert Napton), the fantastic fan artwork I was sent while running the MVM fan club for 5 years (Anime Connect magazine was where NEO editor Gemma Cox got her first anime start, including writing content for the Urusei Yatsura movie extra content DVD we created) and various books, letters and even signed shikishi boards sent to me by friends. Occasionally I'll dive through to see what I might write about for either UK Anime or our sister site, Anime Independent.

The UKA Cupboard
The UKA office storage cupboard. "Carefully curated" might be a descriptive stretch.

While UKA is always evolving, we've settled into a nice groove in the last few years. We cover anime of interest rather than trying to review literally everything (not so hard in '96, now it's overwhelming) and working on articles we think bring a unique perspective to events or finding ways to interview Japanese talent and play a small part in increasing the appreciation these men and women deserve for bringing our favourite characters to life. More recently we've expanded on our coverage of Japanese cinema thanks to Richard Durrance, whose encyclopedic knowledge is genuinely daunting. I'm trying to handle more of the Games side of things with Rob being busy, and that's fine by me as I get to use my Switch and Steam Deck a lot more now (future article for best anime style games on Steam in the works already!).

Over the coming year, I'm hoping to hop back over to Japan (only £80 from Seoul to Tokyo, so you just kinda have to!) and write about some more events - being able to return and visit the Yokohama Gundam Factory and the R11R x Parco art exhibition was hugely satisfying, though the best bits were catching up with old friends and enjoying an afternoon of excellent wine with Ollie Barder.

I hope what we write collectively continues to entertain and educate, one of the great strengths of anime (and wider Japanese culture) is its ability to bring people together to enjoy what we love without conditions or qualifications. I'm hugely appreciative of the other writers on UKA, and getting to read (and edit) the work they contribute is a huge privilege. So long as I'm able to do so, I'll provide a platform for anyone wanting to share their love of all things Japan.

Until next time!

Ross Locksley
About Ross Locksley

Ross founded the UK Anime Network waaay back in 1995 and works in and around the anime world in his spare time. You can read his more personal articles on UKA's sister site, The Anime Independent.

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