Thoughtbubble is on par with London Super Con as the largest annual con in the UK. It has always delivered something a bit different to the latter in that it has a much larger portfolio of independent press and associated creators easily filling two large halls. It is known as a fun and lively Con that is much beloved by the many professional creators for the social and networking opportunities with many of the non UK creators anxious for further visits (hence the number of repeat guests each year).
However, Thoughtbubble’s great reputation was let down by certain aspects of last year’s set up. The addition of a third hall which was cold and poorly lit was coupled with the poor organisation in the main hall of the queues for the main guests which was chaotic cutting off many exhibitors from their potential customers.
The big change to combat these problems this year was the provision on a Tepee as the third hall in which were housed all the main guests.
Did it work?
I’m pleased to report that the atmosphere in both halls seemed to be as good as ever and exhibitors in both halls reported no issues with delegate numbers and were delighted with the extra space generated by not having to combat long queues blocking their stands. Score one for the new layout. The removal of the main guests into a separate arena could have had an adverse effect on the atmosphere in the 2 main halls and dramatically reduced footfall for exhibitors. This must have been a serious risk for the organisers, but it paid off.
However, the Tepee on Saturday was definitely a problem. Long lines of people wanting signings were forced to wait in queues outside the building in pretty cold weather. People were complaining and not happy. The mingling of Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire’s queues into one long line was not clever and had just not been thought through.
Away from the side with most of the main guests, it was much better with manageable lines getting to see their chosen creators in most cases but definitely minus one for the new layout on the first day.
The Tepee on Sunday was much better. There were definitely less people which helped but apart from very first thing, the long lines outside the building were dispensed with as there had obviously been a change of plan overnight. A minimum number of people were allowed to queue with others told to come back later. This worked well and Sunday in the Tepee was a pretty pleasant experience for everybody. Score one for the new layout.
The guests were great particularly Scott, Jeff, Cliff and the two Jasons who remained affable and accommodating all day long on both days. I think the vast majority of people got to see everyone they wanted over the two days although there were perhaps a few failures for one day attendees on the Saturday.
One bugbear of mine is the artists that spend all day sat at their tables undertaking commissions and not bothering to give much time to the people who are paying to get in to see them, talk to them and get a few books signed. One artist on the Sunday managed to spare just 30 minutes for signings spending the rest of the day doing commission work. Great for the 4 or 5 people who have paid for the artwork but not great for the rest of the visitors! They do need to think more carefully about this.
So did Thoughtbubble retain its status as one of the top 2 on its 2014 showing?
The answer is a definite yes from attendees and exhibitors spoken to. It remains vital, vibrant and varied with something of interest to everybody with even the remotest interest in the comics and related genres.
Did the risk of the Tepee experiment work? It was a definite improvement in many ways but the organisation and layout needs much more thought as a repeat of the Saturday melee will not be well received. Perhaps “we are going to need a bigger boat” as far as the Tepee is concerned would be a suitable final comment on Thoughtbubble 2014.
Peter Brewer and Riven Alyx Buckley.