So begins the tale of three Midlands conventions across three weekends. The popular convention calendar still shows no signs of slowing, indeed quite the opposite, and this is something which is beginning to become a bit of a common occurrence as organisers battle for the audience share across the UK (and indeed, further in some instances). Nevertheless, particularly in the first two instances, we are actually dealing with ‘comic cons’ in the truest sense of the word; refreshing considering the proliferation of movie, TV and cosplay events that seem to be springing up every other day.
First up was Leamington Comic Con. A small convention with a big heart, returning a year after its humble yet successful début.
This time though, the organisers had upped the gears a notch, inviting the likes of David Lloyd and Andy Wildman along to further bolster the comic element. Also available was an additional room where the panels happened and much more was made of the cosplay given the venue’s stage and general layout. Some issues with venue access delayed the opening and a large queue built up anxious to get in and see what was going on inside, this was quickly forgotten though once the baying crowd starting coming through the doors of the old theatre turned nightclub and the event began to take shape. There were lots of people milling about, the vibe was positive and people seemed to genuinely enjoy the event. From a comics fan perspective, this event keenly promoted what it championed with a good mixture of dealers and small press alongside the now fully entrenched cosplayers. All in all, it was another fun, successful day out and one we hope keeps the momentum going and returns to the Comic Convention’s calendar for a third year.
Next up was a trip to the East Midlands for the Nottingham Comic Con, an event that has morphed and grown since its early Nerdfest incarnation into something slicker. The venue on first impressions is odd; the use of the University facilities open space is something that lends quite an unusual edge to the event but nevertheless works really well. It’s light and open and spacious and welcoming all in one; it really works. Like the smaller Leamington the weekend before, this event really champions comics and truly feels like it’s in the spirit of a ‘honest, we’re really into comics!’, convention. Of course, there are the dealers and the wider art-related sellers but they feel part of the event here and don’t overwhelm the core ideal. It was great to see Duncan Fegredo again and grab a quick sketch and chat and also see Marc Laming in action too. The only downside to the event was that it felt, at times, quiet and a bit sparse. Whether this was an optical illusion considering the layout of the venue or the fact that there were two floors, a bar and two areas where panels and presentations were taking place, I am not sure, but it felt like it should have twice the amount of people there to appreciate the time and effort that went into the organisation. Nevertheless, it is a true comic con and deserves its place among the few that truly deserve the name.
Finally was a trip to Walsall. This was always going to be an odd event for me personally having worked in Walsall for nearly three years. It never struck me as the sort of place that would thrive from the introduction of this sort of event, but given the fact that every town, village and hamlet seem to be introducing one now maybe it was an unfair initial thought. A quick look at the guests on offer would reveal what most comic-focussed people were thinking before they went; this was a film and TV show and definitely not a comic con. Nevertheless, being a local event and given the opportunity of a table with our good friend and esteemed ally, Jatinder Ghataora, it was something that was worth checking out. It was well organised from the outset, that was evident, and had the bonus of having its own cheap cafe within the building! The venue (Town Hall) was well located, large, spacious and light. It was conducive to a good event. To the one side in a small, separate room, were the film and TV stars. I have to confess the only one I knew was Holly from Red Dwarf but people seemed to know who they were and they seemed busy for the best part of the day. The rest of the event was a mixture of merchandise and prints, with a rare sweet seller and a fudge dealer added in for good measure. The comics representative were made up from a couple of dealers, one small press outfit with its resident artist and two other artists, Joseph King and the inimitable Lee Bradley. In short: not very much. Token even. Still, it was certainly busy, although mainly for its cosplay and film/TV elements, and lots of people were enjoying just attending the event itself, thus bringing a colour to the streets of Walsall which is very rarely seen. Unfortunately though, it wasn’t a comic con, just another event misappropriating the name.