I caught up with Jeff Chahal, the organiser/ owner of the NICE conventions recently and took the opportunity to ask him a number of questions about the history of the con and more importantly, the development of this year’s con:
Q1. Could you tell us something of the history of the NICE con and why you actually started it?
The show sprung up from the signings I used to organise at the Close Encounters stores, these used to involve a number of guests at the same time (managed to squeeze in 13 guests for one at the Bedford store). These were very successful for guests and customers alike, up close and personal events which generally ended with eating and drinking.
Q2. What do you think distinguishes NICE from other UK cons?
NICE is small, it’s small on purpose…we have some very big names. Like the signings that I used to organise, the show has a personal feel to it. You actually get to meet people, and I’m not talking about ‘OMG I just paid £65 to meet Stan Lee’ which really means I just paid £65 to stand next to an old man for about 10 seconds. No, you can have an actual conversation with creators.
Q3. One great feature of the Con is the Sketch Roulette. Could you tell us a little bit about it and also about any reaction you get from artists and attendees?
When I first announced the idea for Sketch Roulette I had a few emails/facebook messages telling me I was mad and it just wouldn’t work. It’s a very simple idea, you have a number of artists sketching (Quick head shots only) for up to an hour, after an hour you change the artists for a fresh set of artists. Customers are in a single queue and they get whichever artist is available when they get to the front.
Some artists loved the idea, and some didn’t, overall the reception to the idea was very good.
Q4. You have probably landed the biggest guest of the UK Convention year by getting Brian K. Vaughn to come to NICE. How did you manage this, what has customers reaction been to the news and how are ticket sales going as a result of the announcement?
I get asked this every year…How did you manage to book Guest X, he/she never does any signings. Well it’s simple, I ask nicely and generally guests from previous years help by recommending the show. Customers of course are very excited, the social media response has been excellent, and I seem to have some new retailer friends all of a sudden. Ticket sales are up on last year and I really can’t stress enough that it’s important to buy sooner than later.
The sooner we sell out the sooner we can put in to place floor management plans, just turning up on the day makes it very difficult for us to work.
Q5. Do you have any plans for Brian while he is at NICE beside the signings? For example, a talk on Saga or a Q&A or anything else?
Brian will be doing talks and Q&A sessions throughout the weekend.
Q6. We know that you are far from finished on the NICE 2015 guest list. Can we expect any more international guests beyond those you have already announced?
Yep, R.M. Guera will be joining us this September and I’m still working on a few other people.
Q6. Nice has grown considerably from its first incarnation. Do you have plans to continue to grow the event or indeed any other long term plans for NICE?
My plan is to manage the venue I have and produce the best show I can, I don’t want a monster show, and it’s about quality not quantity.
Q7. Finally, what are the two most important things you would say to UK convention attendees to make them want to attend NICE?
Ummmmmmmmmmm two things?? If you love comic art and talking about comics, this is the show for you. If you want a show that’s not going to drain you financially for autographs and bottles of water, but still has the big names…
Thanks Jeff. We’ll see you in September