Friday, 24 July 2015

London Film and Comic Con 2015

Con Voyage

London Film and Comic Con 2015
Saturday 18th July - Olympia

This year’s London Film and Comic Con was a more successful one than last years abominable experience (read my review here) but there was still a feel that the organisers maybe didn’t learn enough from the previous years and haven’t been paying attention to the obvious problem that has grown around this show.

However, like I said, overall it was a lot more improved than last year’s shenanigans and, though I missed seeing the various stormtroopers and Mega City law enforcement officers parading the queue (which was mostly all barriered up and stopped you from reserving a place in the queue for your late arriving friends, for example), it was a heck of a lot better than spending the whole day waiting in a line, only to be told you wouldn’t be able to get in after all.

That being said, my biggest complaint was the decision that Showmasters, the organisers of the event, made to not sell tickets “on the door” this year. Which I can kinda understand as it was a technically smaller venue and after last years numbers... I guess that’s one solution to the overcrowding problem. However, it’s a double edged sword. I was alright because, after last year, I decided to buy a ticket in April. However, one of my friends went to buy a ticket, after I’d advised him to, only to find they were all sold out and that he couldn’t queue on the door. The thing is... I’ve been going to this event (and a lot more of this kind of event by other organisers) for as long as it’s been going... they’re now in their tenth year. It’s only last year that I started looking on the website... just would always turn up word of mouth and get in no problem. Last year the issue with the swelling numbers at the show I had been talking about for so long bit me, and many others, in the backside. However, just because I look on the website now... many people don’t.  A lot of people will just turn up to an event, possibly with kids in tow, to just buy tickets on the door. Blocking ticket sales is not the best alternative but... hey ho... from what I understand from the Showmasters forums (read them before they’re censored or taken down like last year’s threads) it was as easy to get in without a ticket as it was with. So that’s a bit strange.

I got there at 7.30am for a 9am opening. I wanted to get there earlier but the first train out of my snoozy town of Enfield was not until the late time of 6.22am... so it was pretty much the earliest I could be there. As such, there were maybe 400 - 500 people ahead of me in the queue. It was a queue that kept moving because the organisers, who were much better equipped to deal with crowd control this year (it has to be said), kept having to expand and relocate parts of the queue because, by the time of the event. it was actually snaking around past the long edge of Kensington Olympia station and track... I’m really glad I wasn’t at that end of the queue, I can tell you. My friend turned up ten minutes after me and he was 500 or more people behind me in the line. That being said, when the doors did open at 9am (doors which weren’t visible from the side of the building I was queuing from) the people did move unbelievably quickly and I was in within ten minutes.

The day started out well with a lot of friendly cosplayers (such as the stormtroopers I’d missed seeing outside) who were only too happy to pose for photos when I asked them but, as the day wore on, the crowds really did start making it almost impossible to move around. One of the stall holders who orders stuff in for me told me that various of my favourite stalls had got to the point after last year where they just refused to come anymore. Apparently, a lot of the people there to see the celebrity guests or wear costumes are less than profitable customers when it comes to buying goods from various stalls and, I have to say, the uniqueness of the stalls at this particular event is the only thing that keeps me coming back. I did notice, this year, that while their was still a unique range of interesting knick knacks for sale, a lot of the stalls could have passed for each other and a lot of the kinds of things I was looking for just weren’t there. How many stalls selling Star Wars Lego minifigures can there be? I actually left the halls with a lot of the hard earned stash of cash I’d been saving up for the event still in my wallet.

At the end of the day I guess I can’t complain about that but... would have been nice to see a wider range of things there, like some of the previous years, and I would have liked a little more product knowledge from some of the stall holders, to be honest. Both me and my friend @cultofthecinema asked various people questions and it was clear that a few of the stallholders either didn’t know their stock, took their customers for fools who didn’t know their business as well as they did (one comic stall-holder really showed his ignorance on the storage of comics while implying that he actually knew what he was talking about) or just obviously made up outrageous prices on the spot for some of their “treasures”... while trying to gauge what you would be willing to pay for an item based on the perceived enthusiasm for one of their products. This coupled with outrageous prices double or triple the rate of what you would pay on Amazon for stock in better condition than that brought to the show made me back off a bit from some of my purchasing options, it has to be said. It’s no good, for example, charging £12 for a new DVD which is easy to get brand new, for a fiver, online. Similarly, a book which is always available in shops and on Amazon brand new in the same edition for £5 should surely not be marked up as £25?

Anyway, it was an experience in itself though, not always the most positive one it has often been in years gone by. This event really has outgrown itself now. Much appreciation to Showmasters for building an extra temporary staircase to get people from level to level... this had queues going up and down it all day and made it easier for the rest of us to just use the side staircases, which were mostly “people free” and easily assailable in less than a minute. I do believe that the organisers should reconsider selling tickets on the door while going to a much larger venue like the O2. Also, integrating the trade, cosplay and celebrity areas so it’s all a bit more broken up and not all in sections (there was a little of this going on this year, but not enough) would, I think, help to keep the people flow much more manageable. Just a thought... I doubt anyone’s going to read this and factor any of those suggestions in. As for me... I think, like a fair few people I know or talk to on twitter, that I’ve maybe had enough of this show for now if the crowd sizes aren’t controlled a little better and in a more user friendly manner. There’s not much there now at the show that I can’t pick up online or from other places and I think I may give next year’s show a miss and wait and hear if it improves substantially.

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