Having only ventured to conventions in London and Birmingham, it was a nice change to go to one in my neck of the woods. With an excellent guest list of stars from sci-fi and fantasy ranging across British and American television, film and print media, my intrigue was peaked as to what sort of convention EM-Con would be.
Arriving at the venue just after 11am to get in for the general ticket entry time, I’d fully expected to see masses of queues to get inside. Surprisingly, this was not the case. There was only one queue, a reasonably sized one outside of the ticketing offices, away from the main doors. This was for the pre-purchased ticket collection only. Luckily for me, I’d procured my tickets alternatively via the post, so with great relief was able to just walk straight in. For a couple of extra quid to receive my tickets ahead of time, I’d avoided any sort of queuing up, especially with the weather being so chilly. Though saying that, everything seemed so well regulated I’m pretty certain people didn’t have to queue for an excessive amount of time. If you were one of those queuing for your tickets, please let us know what the case was.
Before I waffle on about what it was like inside the event, I should mention the decor outside the front of the venue. One thing you couldn’t miss was the giant blow up Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the Ghostbusters franchise. There couldn’t have been any bigger indicator of a geek-infused convention going on than that, and in my humble opinion, was an excellent choice for a bold, welcoming symbol.
On the forecourt, there were a number of replica cars from film and television, including Supernatural, Knight Rider, Cars and The A-Team. It certainly got me into the spirit of things hearing The A-Team theme music – it’s the kind of music that makes you want to jump in a car and burn rubber while something dramatically blows up behind you! (Well, something unimportant and not in the range of any innocent bystanders – you know… health and safety after all!)
Inside the arena – at the heart of the convention – dealer stalls and celebrity signing tables were already heavily bustling with activity. What took me aback a little was how small the event actually seemed – maybe I’d mostly overestimated how big it was going to be; on a side note, EM-Con had been moved to the Capital FM Arena from the much smaller Albert Hall where it was hosted last year – and I’m pretty certain they wouldn’t have fit what they had in this year into the venue of last year! It’s probably a case that having been spoiled by such bigger events held by Showmasters and MCM, my expectations may have been skewed somewhat. Not to say smaller conventions aren’t good ones!
There were plenty of celebrities in attendance to bolster the event, with stars from Red Dwarf, BBC’S Atlantis, Doctor Who, Star Wars, along with many others; though there were not as many dealers as I’d expected. That’s not to forget there were more sellers and displays up in the north concourse corridor just outside of the main arena floor; but even then, it seemed like there could have been more for the amount of space that wasn’t used in the arena.
For over an hour after I’d arrived, the event was absolutely packed. Everyone had turned out in force to get a piece of the excitement hyped up by EM-Con. Surprising for a Sunday, but it was a one day event after all. But with it being so busy, it made for navigating between the dealer tables quite cumbersome as aisles were lodged with eager convention-goers. As a short person, it was hard to try and peek around people to view the merchandise on offer, and it took some effort to squeeze forward to get to the tables themselves. It also didn’t help that with the way the event was laid out, at one end of the dealers’ aisles you were met with lines of people waiting to get signatures from the stars. It made for a lot of human congestion that moved at a painfully slow pace. It would probably be something for the event organisers to think about with regards to the layout for next year’s EM-Con. When I’d survived the crowds and got to sit down in one of the arena seats, I’d contemplated a layout in my mind’s eye, wondering if there could be another way to limit the overcrowding in areas; you can take my ideas with a pinch of salt as I’m hardly an expert.
There was quite a large bit of space at the far end of the arena which was mostly free of tables or displays – a bit of a relief area in some respects, though that end might have been perfect for having the celeb tables, just so it was separated a bit more from the dealer area. Speaking of the dealers’ tables, they could have spaced them out more with wider aisles so people could have moved a little more easily, even when crowded. Also, they could have brought some of the tables from the north concourse down onto the floor as there would have probably been enough room for them , just as it seemed they’d risk getting less attention – like the amazing Iron Man cosplay display with active performer or the intricate models depicting space vehicles from Battlestar Galactica. Though putting tables out in the upper corridor did add to utilising the space of the whole arena and giving another area for people to visit to try and lessen up crowds on the floor.
As mentioned, the overcrowding of people lasted for over an hour after general entry. Though by late lunchtime, this wasn’t as much of an issue as the flow of people was at a more steady flow. It was during this time I ventured back through the aisles to really see what was on offer. Plenty of merchandise old and new to tantalise your wallet, including t-shirts, comic books, figurines, buttons, stationary, custom jewellery and so much more. You could certainly get your sci-fi and fantasy fill with all the items on offer.
Picking out particular stalls and displays that captured my attention included the cute designs by Jess Bradley, with prints and greetings cards with witty and entertaining imagery – they were charming enough that I procured a business card for any future purchasing needs. The business card was funky, with an evil space-type craft (something a la War of the Worlds) zapping fleeing civilians. The card not only indicated about illustration and character design, but alien invasions (which, apparently, were subject to wormhole availability!*) Pop along and visit Jess Bradley’s site for yourselves to see all the great work there.
*If only, right?
The group U.K. Ghostbusters, who are known for raising money for charitable causes, were also in attendance. They were quite prevalent at some of the London conventions I’d attended, and it was great to see them on the concourse. Their presence certainly raised a lot of smiles!
One surprising table was for an original cinematic audio drama called ‘Osiris’. The tag-line on the flyer read: A spaceship underneath Sherwood Forest? A bold and exceptionally unique idea, wouldn’t you say? Certainly one I’d never have thought of! Want aliens mixed with the Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood fame? This might be right up your street! You can find out more about it if you visit their site here.
Unfortunately, I missed out on the chance to attend any of the Q&A panels, so if anyone who did get to attend one can let us know what they were like, that would be great!
Really adding to the event was the huge amount of people who turned out to cosplay on the day, with many familiar characters across sci-fi and fantasy depicted in some amazing getups! Little kids were certainly enjoyed seeing all the costumes and getting pictures with their favourite characters. Please check out the Renegade Revolution Facebook for a small album of snaps captured of some of the cosplayers who attended. Sadly, because the lighting wasn’t that great, I struggled to get the right settings on my camera to really take some good pictures so many things I photographed didn’t make it up; very sad as there were so many great cosplayers who attended I wanted to highlight in pictures.
All in all, for the many hours spent taking in the event, it was clear EM-Con had done a lot to try and create a thriving geek atmosphere. Even though it had started out pretty busy, and was hard to get about (or get food and drink at lunchtime for that matter), it was nice to see that people had turned out to show support for a smaller con. There were many things to engage with at the event, including having photo shoots, as well as having a picture on a Simpsons couch set up, plus interacting with Daleks (“All hail Dalek Sid!” – I’m not a Doctor Who fan, but that was a highlight, just because of how personal and entertaining it was!)
EM-Con will be back for a two day event in 2016, so keep visiting the EM-Con official site to keep up with any new information as it is released! You can find the link below.
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