by Peter Brewer and Riven Alex Buckley

So after my hugely positive review of the 2015 show, how do you write a review of the 2016 event, if it is going to be positive, that avoids me painting me as a gushing sycophantic fanboy, of the variety only to be found on the pages of the forum of a certain alternative convention provider?  Well, let’s have a go, with my apologies to the reader if I come over in that manner!

First off the one bad thing which I know is unavoidable as far as con organisers are concerned but is irritating to attendees. We lost quite a few of the top line guests this year and as usual, the pull outs were too late for the organisers to arrange replacements. So there were a few gaps in the line up but did this matter in the long run?

The Con moved back to its usual home at the Bedford Corn Exchange after it’s one year absence. The benefit of the hall and the secondary hall is the space. You can queue without really getting in anyone’s way and it is easy to get between the two rooms. A great venue which works for this type of con.

The other 3 main elements which make up a great comic con are the guests, the attendees and the atmosphere. So many positives in all 3 areas for NICE 2016:

The guests:

Absolutely all of the guests were welcoming, friendly and engaging. Special mention has to be made of Greg Tocchini who spent the whole weekend doing the most amazing free sketches. This was worth the entrance money alone and a masterstroke by Jeff and Bub, the organisers, in booking him. Others like John Bolton, Guillem March, Tomeau Morey, Steve Dillon to name but a few were sketching and signing all day on both days. They had very little in the way of breaks but they all managed to fit everyone in who wanted a sketch. Others like Matt Hollingsworth and Peter Doherty were offering free advice and help to budding artists and writers which you could see was much appreciated.  A big well done to all the guests for being the cornerstone for making this a great weekend.

The attendees: 

I go to this and many other cons across the UK so this is rather like the “home” event for the many of us that are regular attendees. The fact that so many of us show up to NICE is testament to how good it is! Given the lack of TV and movie people plus the small tip of the hat to cosplaying at this event, it is SO good to see so many children at the event. Given that this event is solely about comics, the organisers can take great kudos in that they are more than doing their bit to help develop the next generation of comic fans.  It is absolutely apparent that every attendee, young or old (like me!),  is completely enjoying the NICE experience.

The atmosphere:

Just completely relaxed and so friendly! The thing I like is that there is no outwardly noticeable management of the attendees and exhibitors. Nobody shouting out limiting signing numbers to 2 or 5, nobody capping queues, those of you who attend cons regularly will know what I mean! Great atmosphere at the event really adding the icing on top of a very substantial cake.

I think one other point is really worth emphasising is that Jeff and Bub organise this event to ensure that all signings are completely free. I’ve already mentioned in a previous review that London Super Con are now allowing their guests to charge for signatures so it is really important that other UK cons take up a counter stance and ensure free signings. Kudos to NICE therefore for proving it CAN be done and perhaps LSCC can take up this banner and control this better at their 2017 event!

It is disappointing to read that NICE is an event that does not break even. It is such a brilliant event from so many angles that it does not deserve to be under any financial pressure. It is at least one of, if not the best Comic convention in the calendar and all it needs to break even is some more attendees. If you are into comics and have never been to NICE, just make the trip to the 2017 event. I can promise you that you will be completely hooked and will never want to miss another show again!

I would like to sign off by adding my thanks to the many already given to all the writers and artists, the superb volunteers, my fellow attendees and of course the organisers, Jeff and Bub for making NICE such a great annual event that cannot be missed!

I think I completely failed the fanboy test, didn’t I…