Billed as the UK’s biggest modern pop culture events despite having less guests than ‘Showmasters‘ and with events in; Germany, Sweden and Scotland. I thought it was time for me to give it a shot. So this is…………………………………
So after navigating all of the road works and ‘Pokemon Go’ players I made it to Manchester convention centre on time. Then we had to make the climb to the convention steps which required navigating more road works and join the line something that required navigating a number of Pokemon Go players. This got so bad that at one point a man had to come out to ask people to stop trying to catch pocket monsters and cue like proper British people. Thanks to his help and in under an hour and we were in to the meat grinder. The second day was even smoother as I joined the rest of the ‘weekenders‘ for a quicker entrance. Hands up both days were well staffed and well sign posted and very well run. At least on the outside.
Once inside it was easy enough to find the main hall what with it being right in front of you. There was a heavy Japanese flavour to the stalls this year with one dedicated to pots and bowls for your ramen. That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of comic book, action figures and ninja swords but one person who had been before did note that this was year was quite “cute”.
On the left ran the etsy stalls and on the right was dominated most by CEX and their giant red monster who just wanted a hug. Past them a nice straight line of the “creators” writers, artists and game makers with the end of the hall mostly given over to the mini stage and body paint stall where fit, young attractive people could show off their bodies in the name of art. For everyone else there was a face painting stall a few shops down.
The only other entertainment in the main hall was board games set up for you to come and have a go and the Yu-gi-oh department informing me that it was indeed still a thing and I should stop being so old and get with the times. Of course by the time I get with said new hotness the dang kids will change what it is.
This was kind of the end of the audiance participation section save for a few gaming laptops running League of Legends and two Street Fighters running on proper joystick style gaming rigs. This meant that once you had seen the tables a couple of times most were stuck spending their time either queuing up for over priced food or sat down in the seating area.
There were other things of course but this is where we hit the main problems. The guests were there but its hard to say they were that impressive though you did indeed know what you were getting in for. The drip drip release of names didn’t muster overwhelming joy and Chris Barrie only managed a day after his own release before dropping out. I would say something but he managed better than Lister who was such a late addition to the lineup I didn’t even realise he was supposed to be there until I arrived. I say supposed as it seemed he only lasted a few hours before literally breaking a leg and having to drop out.
Andrew Lee Potts probably got the most face time with a booth in the main hall that I believe he was supposed to share with Stuart Ashen who was mysteriously absent. The rest spent most of their time behind the autograph tables or in the theatre. Now the theatre was large and well lit but it was past the autographs down a short corridor that was easy to mistake as a dead end given over to the professional photographers, of which I was not one, and music video makers. This was one of the big problems and that was the signage. The place wasn’t a maze but considering they could spend time and effort putting up Bridget Jones posters you think they could spare a bit more time to directing people to where they wanted to go.
Now I often say the cosplay is some of the best bits of the typical con and I mean it but I can’t help but feel that the cons are using this to their advantage and calling it a day early relying on great costumes to come and amaze us all. That’s not say great costumes didn’t come and didn’t amaze and I think it’s fair to say the end of day masquerade was the most eagerly anticipated event of the day. On day one it was an all singing, all dancing event. However on day two it seemed like more had dropped out before it could come.
With a meat grinder of a main floor, lack luster guests and little to actually do or see once there it seemed more and more people with dropping out for the bright sun shine and “unoffical” con outside. In the sunshine were giant costume who couldn’t manage the steps, dance parties and room to sit down and catch up with friends both old and new alike.
Now MCM have said that people don’t exactly come for the guests but as the party outside grew I had to ask what they do come for. Now don’t get me wrong this wasn’t a bad convention but I’m not sure I’d class this is a good one either. The whole experience kind of left me a little well “whelmed”