Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Loughborough Comic Con 2017 - A Detailed Review

Guests met and discussed in this review (with the franchise(s) I most associate them with personally) :-

• Kerry Ingram (Shireen Baratheon from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Aimee Richardson (Myrcella Baratheon from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Ross Mullan (White Walker from “Game Of Thrones” & Silent/Teller/Wraith from “Doctor Who”)
• Hannah Spearritt (Abby from “Primeval”)
• Andrew Lee Potts (Connor Temple from “Primeval”)
• Ben Mansfield (Cpt. Hilary Becker from “Primeval”)


Two quick notes before we get started...

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With that being said, let’s dive in...


Okay, so this review, is, like, a month later than I originally anticipated it to be. “Loughborough Comic Con” took place on Sunday the 22nd of October at Loughborough Leisure Centre. Ordinarily, I like to have a con review up within 2-3 days, so this one is waaaaaaay overdue. Alas, since finishing my Master’s degree in July, I’ve started a new career and new job in October, which has been a huge adjustment for me and has taken a lot of time to adapt, hence the delay. No matter, gentle readers, your friendly, neighbourhood Shangel is back with not one, not two, but THREE convention reviews over the next week and a half! I shall be starting with this one, Loughborough. Then moving onto this past weekend’s “Reading Comic Con”, and finally finishing out my convention year with my favourite con on the UK scene, “Wales Comic Con”, next week. Loughborough was a unique event in that I was predominantly travelling the two-hours north-east in order to see my friends from the “Game of Thrones” world: Aimee Richardson, Kerry Ingram, and Ross Mullan. Sure, I’d see other people while I was there, but my main motivations to attend were to visit friends. From a reviewing perspective, this highlights a problem in that I will not discuss what is said between myself and a friend at a convention. There is a difference between meeting a celebrity at an autograph table and chatting to a friend about personal shit at an autograph table. One I’ll talk about, one I won’t. Thus, my two-and-a-half-hour conversation with Aimee and Kerry will not be shared within this review outside of a handful of acceptable snippets, which will result in a much shorter-than-usual discussion of the event. Everybody ready? Let’s dive in...

Myself and my friend Hayley left Gloucester at 8am, ready to arrive in Loughborough around the time doors were opening at 10am. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my weary decade of attending Comic-Cons, it’s that you don’t want to start outside in late October if you can help it. With an event the size of this one, it’s perfectly fine to roll up 10 minutes after opening and walk straight in. Keeps you warm, keeps you happy, and you don’t really miss anything. Of course, that would not be my advice for an event like London Film & Comic Con or MCM London, as by the time you casually strolled into the event, the virtual queuing numbers would suck for any headline guest and you’d likely miss out on getting their autograph.


The cool thing about “Loughborough Comic Con” was that the organiser, Paul Waidley, offered me free entry into the event, which was very cool of him and very much appreciated! Overall, my impressions of “Loughborough Comic Con” – which I believe was a first-time event here – were positive. As I’ve mentioned before, a strange phenomena has transpired over the past year or so in that I’ve found myself being drawn closer and closer to the indie cons and further and further away from the drama and cattle-market mentality of the larger ones. For instance, between the cattle-market atmosphere and the astronomically atrocious prices, the chances of me ever going to “Walker Stalker London” or “Heroes & Villains Fan Fest London” are slim-to-none. Unless a truly unmissable guest is added to the line-up, I’ll never go because I don’t want to support a company that charges mind-boggling prices for a 5-second phone selfie or over £100 for some studio photos. It’s unjustifiable to me. If that’s your thing, fair play to you and enjoy yourself! But please be aware that paying those prices makes everyone else’s prices rise too, which makes everything go up and up, and up, so you’re shooting yourself in the foot really if you agree to prices that are too high and unfair. Sometimes it’s better to let your lack of dropping money down do the talking for you, which it will if the higher prices don’t sell. Just my two cents, do with that what you will.

Back to Loughborough...

Loughborough Comic Con took place at Loughborough Leisure Centre, which is pretty standard for localised indie cons, so the results are always hit or miss depending on the size, layout, lighting and quality of the leisure centre itself. I’ve seen some stinkers and I’ve seen some amazing cons take place in leisure centres over the years. Thankfully, Loughborough falls largely into the latter. The comic artists were mostly in a corridor just before entering the main hall, the main hall contained the guests, the merchandise stalls, and other attractions, the studio photo area was a room just off of the main hall, and the Q&A panel room was upstairs on the first floor. Everything was well spaced-out and there were very few issues with congestion or disjointedness, even though there were quite a lot of attendees. The size of the venue also felt pretty perfect for the attractions and attendee numbers too. All great to see from a first-time event as often it takes two or three attempts to get the basics right as problems are rarely known until after a show has finished. Kudos to all involved! The only downside was that the main hall had this weird yellow lighting, which was very jarring on the eyes after a while. People susceptible to migraines would have likely been screwed if their migraines were triggered by unusual lighting. It’s not the end of the world, it’s just a little bit distracting – and makes getting a decent table selfie that little bit harder as everyone looks over-exposed. There’s very little that Paul or the other crew could do about it though, as that is the leisure centre’s lighting. It is what it is. At least it isn’t too dark, like my least favourite convention venue in the world, the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff. You need a torch and emergency footsteps just to find the guests in that shit-hole! It’s not a shit-hole really, it just has atrocious lighting. Everything else is good.


It was clear from the offset that Paul was going all-out on giving attendees a good bargain for the price of their entry ticket, as the attractions were plentiful and in some cases unique. There was a Cyberman display from “Doctor Who”, showing the various upgrades and incarnations that have been in the franchise from 1963 to the present day. There was a Jurassic Park photo opportunity whereby you could sit on the toilet (I doubt you were allowed to pull your underwear and trousers down) and recreate the iconic scene from the movie. There was a massive, realistic looking Groot wandering around for the day. There was an Iron Throne replica from “Game Of Thrones”...there was a lot of cool shit to do, even if some of it cost a little more, e.g. having a professional photo of you taken on the Iron Throne. I do appreciate and enjoy it when Comic Con organisers go the extra mile like that.


Overall, Loughborough Comic Con was decent value for money. The photographer taking the studio photo pictures was tremendous and the backdrop used for those photos was decent (not always the case, I assure you). The line-up of guests for an indie event was strong, albeit a lot of the line-up were regular Comic Con frequenters, so if you’d been to many events before, the chances would be strong that you’d already have met most of the line-up before. But for locals and newbies, and diehard fans that wanted to meet these people again, the line-up was great. The likes of Danny John-Jules, Norman Lovett, Andrew Lee Potts, Hannah Spearritt, Ross Mullan, Aimee Richardson, Kerry Ingram, Paul Warren and Sophie Aldred were all in attendance. Furthermore, the crew at the event were tremendous and conducted themselves professionally. They were an asset to the event and to themselves. Everything on the schedule seemed to start pretty much on time as well, so the event was well organised not just in the layout and entry times, but also with professional photos and Q&As as well.


Furthermore, another really rare and wonderful thing that Paul did was to gather up some of the guests and the Superheroes Cosplay Group and take them to the Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People in Loughborough. It was a chance to meet the staff, entertain the children and get to know them. To take them away from their struggles for a while. During the event itself, there were some Rainbows collection buckets scattered throughout the venue so that money could be raised for an amazing cause.


I also attended the Primeval Q&A. Ordinarily, at most cons, I do everything from memory, panels included. Alas, I did just that on this occasion, but due to a month elapsing between the event and writing this review, I’ve forgotten most of it. Rather than trying to half-ass my way through it, I’ll just give you my overall impressions. Firstly, Ben Mansfield, Hannah Spearritt and Andrew Lee Potts all came across very well. Ben was the ‘straight guy’ (in comedic terms), Hannah was the anecdotalist and Andrew Lee Potts was the comedian. I’ve been to many, many conventions with Hannah and Andrew before, but I’ve never attended one of their talks, nor have I seen Primeval (I was dragged into the panel by Hayley!). Even though I had little idea of what they were talking about when it came to the Primeval specific stories, I still had a great time. Andrew Lee Potts talking about giving his step-daughter an action figure of his and how it now resides at the bottom of a toy chest, chewed, broken and unused was a particular highlight. Great panel!

 

Outside of that, I spent a lot of time chatting to Ross, Aimee and Kerry when their autograph queues were empty (don’t stand and chat when someone behind you is waiting, don’t be that douche). I caught up with Kerry on the filming she’s currently doing (or was then, she’s finished now) for “Free Rein” season two, which was interesting as she was being put up in the Wynnstay Arms in Wrexham for season one. I know that hotel very well as it’s usually where I stay when I attend “Wales Comic Con”. It’s a legitimate shit-hole and I’ve found blood stains underneath the sheets on more than one occasion, but there’s something so loveable about the place...I think. We also talked about personal stuff, which I shall not divulge. Same goes for pretty much everything I spoke to Aimee about. It’s always amazing to see Kerry and Aimee, and I consider them both to be friends. I met them both, together, at their first-ever convention, “Wales Comic Con 2014 Part I”, which was my first “Wales Comic Con” too, so not only does that event hold a special place in my heart (particularly as I help book the guests for “Wales Comic Con” now), but those two do too. I stayed in touch with both after that event and have seen them grow from 14/15 years old into successful, confident, empowered young women, which is spectacular to see. When I first saw them at the event, they both ran around to the other side of the autograph table to give me a hug and they both happily chatted to me for a very, very long time. I hadn’t seen either of them in nearly a year, so it was a great little reunion for #TeamShkaimee. 


Finally, bizarrely, at about 3:30pm, a local school orchestra started performing in the main hall! I’ve never seen that before! It was certainly unique and they did an amazing job. It was a good choice of time to do it at 3:30pm too, as if it was earlier in the day, it would have affected experiences at the autograph tables, as having a conversation was pretty much out of the question once the orchestra started.


To conclude, my time at “Loughborough Comic Con” was very good. There was very little to complain about in all honesty. A couple of rarer guests perhaps and slightly less yellow lighting (which is out of Paul’s hands, so there’s nothing that can be done about that), but other than that, the event was very, very cool. Guest line-up dependent, I could definitely see myself re-attending again next year. Particularly if there is someone on the guest list from “Game Of Thrones” that I haven’t met before. Doesn’t even need to be a big name! I’ve got a list of 160 people from the show to meet and I’ve now met about 100, which is jarring if I stopped to think about the cost involved!

Catch you again in a matter of days for my review of “Reading Comic Con”! Same organiser, different city.

Stay strong, stay safe, and stay happy!


-        Your Friendly Neighbourhood Shangel


FINAL SCORE: 7.5/10

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