Monday, 16 November 2015

We Cosplay

We Cosplay

We are excited to announce a big project for early 2016:

'We Cosplay' a full length documentary looking at the cosplay community and the culture surrounding comic conventions in the UK.

This will be a documentary created from within the 'community' highlighting how popular comic/film conventions have become and with that how many people now enjoy cosplay. We'll be showcasing the incredible amount of effort and creativity that goes into creating the, often amazing, cosplays that feature at every con now and how much enjoyment cosplay can create.

We will be looking at the charitable and community aspects of cosplay and also looking at prop and costume makers, convention organisers and traders/dealers.

The bulk of the documentary will be filmed over the weekend of the London Super Comic Con 2016 and we are aiming for a release date of late Spring 2016. The documentary will be freely available online but we may also produce DVDs/Blurays for those who would like a 'hard copy'.

More news soon 

Monday, 28 September 2015

Northampton Comic Con

Con Report - Northampton Comic Con

We have just spent an enjoyable weekend trading at Northampton Comic Con, here is our con report.

This was a new event, held for the first time, though organised by a group with a proven track record of putting on cons. It was held at the Northampton Cricket Club.

I guess you could class it as a small to medium sized local con but there is clearly a demand for an event in Northampton as it was very well attended. The event was set up with all the dealer stalls and celeb signings and a photo booth in the sports hall of the cricket club, there was then a decent sized marquee outside with a cosplay stage and seating and the cosplay guests and panels, then the gamer bus, some movie cars/vehicles and a couple of large inflatable characters (Stay puft marshmallow man and Baymax) There was also a food/drink kiosk outside.

The venue has limited onsite parking to begin with and what parking there was was being used for a wedding held at the other end of the cricket club so visitors had to make do with finding free on street parking in the immediate vicinity. This is apparently what happens for major events at this venue, so though not ideal I guess isn't a particular problem unless you are disabled. The organisers did try to accommodate blue badge holders as best they could but the parking situation may have put off a few people who would otherwise have attended. This is a venue issue rather than anything the organisers had any real control over.

There were issues with queuing on the Saturday, there were supposed to be two distinct lines, one for those who had pre bought tickets online and one for those buying on the door. Those with pre bought tickets were nominally let in first, but as the two lines pretty much merged into one outside of the cricket club site, if you didn't arrive early you may have had to queue for longer than you expected. They also had to close the gates for a while as the main hall was becoming too crowded. Once people started also circulating outside they were able to re-open the gate. This sort of issue/problem is one that can arise when a new venue is being used for the first time so though unfortunate for those who had to queue longer than expected is one that can be understood. To their credit the organisers clearly noted that there had been issues and took steps to improve things. Things worked very much more as they should have done on the Sunday and I haven't seen or heard any complaints from anyone about the queuing/entrance on the Sunday.

As a trader/dealer we can say that the organisation we saw was excellent and things ran very smoothly. The hall was crowded and busy for most of the Saturday, but never quite as jammed as it becomes at something like LFCC or MCM, it was still possible to move around the Hall at it's busiest, if rather slowly.  There were a small number of high quality celeb guests signing at one end of the hall and though busy the queues were never unmanageable, it was obvious that the celeb guests were happy to chat to people and pose for pics and also that they were having a good time. They appeared to be very well looked after by the 'crew'. As our stall was opposite the celebs we had a chance to chat to a few of them at the end of the day on Saturday and more so on the Sunday, they all indicated that they had enjoyed themselves and that it was a great event.

For me this demonstrated perfectly why smaller events are now better than the big events. This had everything that LFCC has, though just in a smaller package, autos were around the £15/£20 mark as were photos, the quality of guests was high for an event of this size, even if few in terms of number. People were obviously having a good time, there was a fantastic selection of cosplayers and some good panels on cosplay costume making as well as a cosplay contest.

All in all I think this would have to be considered a great success and the organisers deserve a large amount of credit. For a first event it was incredible, and shows what can be achieved. There is clearly great demand for a repeat event, which is likely to be bigger, using more of the venue to maximise what can be offered to visitors. So a big tick for this one, and we are looking forward to the next.


Friday, 25 September 2015


NICE Bedford 2015

NICE is, and always has been, all about comics, the writers and artists who create comics and the publishers who commission and sell comics. Though in terms of size, it is a small con, in terms of the calibre and number of comic guests it must rank as one of the best cons in the UK.

As ever this year was incredibly well organised and ran smoothly. despite a last minute venue change being forced upon them. In actual fact, the venue (Bedford Blues Rugby Club) worked very well for the event, though it wouldn't have been quite so good if the weather hadn't been fine. Though there was some queuing for the panels and the top draw signings the queues weren't ever huge and they moved smoothly. Otherwise there was a general 'buzz' around the place, without it ever feeling too crowded. 

There was a good selection of traders enabling you to fill any gaps in your comic collection and the usual range of t-shirts and associated merchandise, though of course the main reason for this event is the signings and sketches. Here you had such an amazing choice that I'm sure no-one went away unhappy with what they received.

In short, again, this was a superb event, and some other event organisers could learn a thing or two.

We had arranged to follow Judge Predd and Daddy P around the event, so here are some pics from the Saturday.

Monday, 20 July 2015

London Film & Comic Con - July 2015

A Con Report - LFCC 2015

Note - Showmasters have now posted their thoughts on the weekend, they note, explain the reasons for and explain what they intend to do to improve, many of the problems and issues reported over the weekend.

Well, that was quite a weekend, the Geekzania minions are a little broken and need time to mend, but I thought I'd write the con report now, whilst everything is still fresh in my mind. I do have a lot to cover though I think this will be worth a full read through. I should say that we were trading at this event, so some points are from the viewpoint of a trader, but we all managed to have a good explore/wander around during the weekend so we can also cover the 'visitor' perspective. I also know a couple of people who work for Olympia and the events team employed by Olympia so have been able to confirm, or otherwise, some points with them.

I'll try and cover everything in a logical order, though it will no doubt meander off now and again.

First a little background:

The London Film & Comic Con has been growing for the past few years. In 2012, the first event we traded at, the Summer event was also at London Olympia, the last time the Summer event was held there. The Grand Hall and lower West Hall were used. The Friday preview from 6pm - 9pm was almost empty, with just a few people pre-buying photo shoot tickets. Entry tickets were sold on the door as well as in advance. The Saturday was packed, at times it was difficult to move about the traders areas but there was a large open space between the main hall and the signing area. The Sunday was still busy but relatively much quieter. There were huge complaints over the outside queuing on the Saturday, things were much better on the Sunday. It's worth noting this as even back then there where 'issues' with space and crowding - but everyone seemed to love the event.

Fast forward to this weekend:

This was, by some way, the biggest LFCC ever, by some measures it is one of the biggest signing events ever held world wide, anywhere. There are now people in the U.S.A. complaining that they never have events like this in the U.S. (no really) so this report has to consider both the views of the regular LFCC attendees who loved what LFCC used to be like and the newcomers who have been attracted to the 'Supercon' style event that this is becoming.

So, starting with an overall summary of what we thought:- we enjoyed the weekend (though are exhausted) the vast majority of visitors to our stall enjoyed the event, as did other people we spoke to, but it is clear there were any number of issues that detracted from the enjoyment of many, and for some totally ruined their weekends.

So trying to discuss points in a logical order:

1) Too many people?

Was the event oversold?                      

The short answer is no, I'll explain why in a minute.

Was the venue capacity exceeded?      

Absolutely not, the venue would not allow that as they would lose their event licence.

Were Fire/Health & Safety laws broken?

Again, absolutely not, there were fire and safety officers monitoring the event all weekend, had they seen any breaches of legislation Showmasters would be in deep trouble so it's just not worth the risk and again the venue would be in danger of losing their licence.

Was it too crowded?

Yes it was, well doesn't that mean the event was oversold then? No, and I'll explain why. For the layout within the space used, the width of the aisles in the traders areas, the lack of counting people in/out of any particular area, the number of bottlenecks created by poor positioning of stalls, queues etc then yes, it was too crowded and there were too many people. There were jams/crushes at numerous points throughout the whole weekend but this does NOT mean that there were too many people, it simply means that a better use of the space, better layout, better marshaling of the crowds was needed.  On the Sunday, it 'felt' noticeably less busy, less crowded and with more space, yet there were the same number of people (roughly) as on the Saturday, this was down to better signage, better control of the crowds and more awareness of where there were particular issues that needed careful monitoring. This demonstrated that the space, even with a less than ideal layout, was suitable for the number of tickets sold.

This is a good point to address some of the wilder rumours that were flying around over the weekend. Why was the Grand Hall used for queuing on the Sunday but not the Saturday? This was due to the weather forecast and rain earlier in the morning, for the comfort of the attendees, rather than having been 'ordered' by the council, why wasn't this done on the Saturday then? Not sure, it may be that it wasn't felt necessary then and was an 'after thought', or it may be that the venue offered.

Did the council try and 'shut the event down'? - Highly unlikely, none of the venue staff I spoke to were aware of this, council officers were on site monitoring the event, but this would be the case for any large event at the venue.

Was Dr Who arrested for assault? - No, this rumour seems to have started on the basis that people saw a police car on site and then started making up reasons for this. Someone said a cosplayer dressed as Dr Who had punched someone else. That may well have happened, but unfortunately the police attended on the Sunday as a result of a sexual assault having taken place, the suspect was identified and apprehended and taken for questioning (according to venue security) - This is not something that should happen at a con, but whenever you have a large number of people you are going to have one or two intent on causing trouble, this very much is relevant to the whole 'cosplay is not consent' movement, more of which later.

Why wasn't the Grand Hall used? They should have used more space!

They used ALL of the space that was available. There was another event in the Grand Hall and West Hall lower level that was still taking place on the Thursday, which meant that even though the space was 'empty' later in the weekend, no setup could take place in time for the space to be used, other than for queuing. SM could potentially have opened up the space for a chill out zone, but that would have been seriously, seriously expensive and wouldn't make any sense.

Why use Olympia, isn't it unsuitable for such a large event?

Two things, No it isn't unsuitable but it is also the largest London venue available to Showmasters. due to a 'tie up' contract that MCM have with Excel, Excel isn't available for LFCC (as a direct competitor to MCM) and Earls Court doesn't exist any more. There is NO other suitable venue in London, and none anywhere in the Country apart from the Birmingham NEC. However, as mentioned, Olympia is entirely suitable for an event this size, the reasons it hasn't quite worked are nothing to do with the size or layout of the venue - more on this further down.

Why was the air-conditioning not working or why was it not turned on?

It WAS turned on and WAS working all weekend on ALL levels - people don't understand how air-conditioning works, for a space this large you can NOT have true 'closed loop' air conditioning without your own, large power station so what you have is 'air cooling' which isn't quite the same thing. You then can't continuously feed in large blasts of cool air into the space as that can dangerously raise the air pressure in a particular room, about all you can do is have exactly what there was, an intermittent 'waft' of cool air every few minutes. The reason why it felt so much more comfortable on the top level is that it was a smaller space, which is easier to keep cool. There is a finite limit to what such a system can cope with in terms of external temperature and number of bodies. Without the system though, it would have been utterly unbearable and much, much hotter. As it was, though it was definitely hot and uncomfortable, it wasn't as bad as Earls Court last year (Olympia's is a newer system and a little more efficient) - the reason some people thought the 'air con' was broken was a leak, you can get water (condensation) pooling then dripping from (or flowing from) a ceiling when a system is working particularly hard. This is in fact a sign that the system is working, rather than it being broken.

2) Was the event 'disorganised' ?

I heard so many people say something along the likes of 'this event is so disorganised' 'what a shambles' etc. etc. but if they stopped to think they would realise you can't even remotely begin to stage an event like this without an incredible amount of organisation, so by definition then NO this event was not disorganised, it was highly, highly organised. Did that organisation cope with everything that happened over the weekend? No absolutely not, there were any number of areas where the organisation/planning didn't work as intended, from the start in some cases, due to an unexpected problem or issue in others. In the vast majority of cases, Showmasters were able to see where things weren't working as well as intended and do something about it. There were a number of improvements throughout the weekend.

Shouldn't Showmasters get everything right from the start? 

In an ideal world, of course, yes they should, but no matter how much planning you do, no matter how many uncertainties you allow for, especially where large numbers of the public are involved things ARE going to go wrong. Showmasters don't (usually) just stand by and let things continue to go wrong, they do the best they can to address any issues on the weekend, sometimes events are such that they can't do anything about it.

Firstly - what went right?

Quite a lot actually, almost everyone we spoke to had hugely enjoyed themselves despite the 'niggles'. It is incredible that we now get an event of this stature in the UK and we all have to be hugely grateful to Showmasters for having worked so hard to build this event up to what it now is. Despite some people complaining about the venue, layout etc. apart from the issues listed below I liked the multiple halls layout, the basic layout was one that beforehand I was happy with and with some relatively simple tweaks could work very well, there were clearly issues, some down to a lack of thought, not thinking through things fully and largely down to the 'public' not always behaving as expected. The guest roster was amazing, there are always going to be cancellations and changes the fact that certain people were here at all is incredible.

A LOT had clearly improved from last year, demonstrating that Showmasters DO take notice of issues/problems and try and address them. The external queues were much better handled and moved much much quicker, yes it was crowded, but NOT as absolutely jammed as last year, there WAS more space, just not in the particular bottlenecks caused by the layout or crowds not acting as expected. Though hot it was NOT as bad as last year, the aircon, which WAS on and working, seemed to cope better than at Earls Court, though people don't seem to understand unless you have your own Nuclear Reactor on site, any system is going to struggle with hot temperatures and crowds of people, so, in my view, and for many we spoke to (the vast majority) there is a LOT to be happy about.

So what did go wrong?

Of course not everything worked perfectly, and some people clearly had a miserable time.

1) The layout, initially,  proved not to be suitable for the numbers attending - BUT this wasn't entirely Showmaster's fault. Most of the 'bottlenecks' and overcrowding were caused by a few inconsiderate people, people stopping to 'chat' to friends in the middle of a narrow bottleneck completely stopping all movement or even stopping to 'photograph' a cosplayer, this happened consistently throughout the weekend, the same applied to many of the stairwells, better marshaling could have largely dealt with this - improvements were made by the Sunday, with better signage, which meant people knew there were alternative routes to a particular place and certain stairways were made one way - this worked much better and for most of Sunday, though obviously very crowded, movement was much easier and there 'felt' more space. There was only a problem in a few particular spots, people exiting the top floor, some of the areas around the photo shoots, a few spots where a passage way was too narrow due to queue placement or stall placement etc. Things should have been better, but for an event this size it's not always possible to pick up all the possible trouble areas.

Improvements are still needed in signage (though it was much better this year than last, and much better on the Sunday than it was the rest of the weekend), flow planning, if some stairwells had been made one way, and even some of the key aisles, from the start, flow would have been much easier with far fewer problems. But even then, clear signs and constant marshaling would have been needed as one thing that was very very clear over the weekend was that a very surprising number of people simply don't bother reading the signs in front of their face else completely ignore clear instructions from a crew member or venue marshal. The aisles could also be wider with more space for queuing and more space to just 'chill' but there are reasons why that can't happen which I'll discuss later.

2) Clueless 'crew' - Unfortunately though the vast majority of the crew are brilliant there are a few for whom the whole experience is NOT what they were expecting, though Showmasters go to great lengths to ensure that people should know what they are letting themselves in for. Everyone expects to get one of the 'glamour' jobs, such as escorting/looking after a celeb, but there are also a lot of really boring, but very very important jobs. It is not surprising that some people don't pay as much attention at the training/briefings as they should do and then don't concentrate enough at what they think is a boring 'stupid' job during the actual weekend. Sometimes someone who has been trained/briefed for a particular position doesn't actually turn up for the weekend and someone has to fill in so sometimes there are people who haven't been properly briefed for what they are doing but this isn't the 'norm' - This can though have a very big impact on someones enjoyment of the event, it can be incredibly frustrating to find someone giving out incorrect information rather than finding out the correct information, or just not paying attention to someones needs/problem or worse, being rude and abusive. Showmasters do still need to work hard to improve this, they probably need to increase the size of the 'core' experienced team who work at multiple events and they need to retain this expertise as it is gained, that isn't as easy to do as it seems though, there will always be a few 'less good' people amongst the crew, this isn't entirely Showmasters fault.

3) Communication between the core Showmasters team, crew, venue staff, and venue event staff - there constantly seem to be problems caused by poor or miscommunication. There were some horrendous instances, not least for less able bodied visitors. Showmasters clearly published that the 'Central Hall' entrance should be used by less able bodied visitors and their carers/helpers yet more than one was turned away from this entrance. Where there was a problem with a bottleneck, lift, stairwell etc. the venue/event staff often gave out incorrect information. I heard stories of event/venue staff being rude and abusive to visitors etc. etc. - This isn't something directly under Showmasters control, they can only do so much to make sure the venue/event staff don't cause problems, this happens at every event/venue to some degree where it is not the venue putting on their own event. - Things could be improved by ensuring their is an easy and rapid communication route between event/venue staff and knowledgeable SM staff, but even then you still rely on the event/venue staff using their common sense which clearly doesn't always happen.

3) Inadequate toilets. - The toilets available in the space utilised were wholly and totally inadequate for the number of people present. There were also periods were they weren't cleaned and then had to be closed as a result. This was totally outside of Showmasters control, the venue has a licenced capacity and the toilets provided meet that capacity requirement. Showmasters did NOT exceed that capacity yet the facilites were clearly not up to the job. Showmasters have to push the venue to provide better facilities and to keep them properly clean and running. This will be less of a problem next year as the toilets are much, much better in the Grand Hall.

4) autographs and photoshoots.

These had some of the most serious issues in terms of ruining peoples weekend but again, for reasons I'll go into, most of this was outside of Showmasters control. Yes, it would be possible in theory to build in sufficient 'slack' into a signing and photoshoot programme to allow for delays and issues arising but in practice there are very valid reasons why that CAN'T be done. So whilst it was horrendous that people who had paid what is a large amount of money for an auto or photo with a particular guest and then were unable to get that auto or photo for a reason entirely out of their control, i.e. a guest doing something else, taking to long doing something else, not signing for as long as expected, not turning up for the last day, then though it is easy to blame Showmasters for selling too many tickets, there is actually very little that SM could do to prevent this happening. This is probably a good point to cover several issues that have been raised, what can/can't Showmasters do to improve things?

Improving the event!

So what should we expect Showmasters to do to improve things and make sure the same issues don't keep cropping up.

1) Layout - Showmasters should and can work hard to make sure that lessons are learned and to have an improved layout next time. Until a particular layout in a particular space has been actually tested at an event, you can't be sure how it will work. What looks good on paper may turn out to be awful because the 'public' don't act quite how you think they will. Personally I would have had clearer signs throughout the venue from the start, I would have had a one way system, not just with stair wells but stall aisles as well, with the system clearly signposted and marshals making sure people obeyed it. That would (in my view) have helped enormously with movement around the venue though I'm sure you'd then have people complaining that they have to go a 'long way round' to get to where they want, so SM are never going to be able to please everyone. There are potentially different layouts that might work, but without knowing all the variables it's impossible to say that they would have been any better than the one used.

2) Don't chase after so much money, sell fewer tickets, have more space, fewer dealer stalls etc.

Whilst this sounds fine in theory, in practice, if we want 'THIS' type of event, with the range and 'stature' of guests we had (which clearly we do as this is the first time this event has sold out ahead of time) then Showmasters have to be sure that they can cover their 'financial outlay' - I'm not sure people generally realise how much money it costs to stage this event. It is a huge sum, yes of course SM make money from the event, if everything goes well, it would be possible one event goes bad and due to the potential exposure that SM have financially they could be wiped out with one bad event. That's why you can't simply start from nothing and put on a huge show unless you happen to have a ridiculous level of financial backing. For a small company like SM you can only build slowly. Whilst it would be possible to reduce ticket sales somewhat, it is not just finance that comes into play. If tickets available were to be substantially reduced, which they'd have to be to make an appreciable difference, a) the price would have to go up which people would complain about, b) people who couldn't then get a ticket would moan about not being able to get a ticket. So there may be a slightly different trade off to be made, but it is NOT sensibly possible, in the real world, for SM to make large changes here. The same applies to the number of Diamond tickets sold, SM want as many people as possible to have the 'Diamond Experience' and as many people as possible to get the auto/photoshoot they want. If they were to take a more conservative approach to sales in terms of numbers sold then if everything went to plan, people would then be moaning saying that they could have squeezed in more tickets, more photos, more autos, so here SM can't really win. On the issue of Diamond and Gold tickets having priority over 'mere mortals' as it were. This is unavoidable if we want the big guests here. Again there are likely to be some minor tweaks that can be made to the balance of high price tickets vs ordinary but not wholesale changes. Don't forget that SDCC operate a lottery system, where you have to queue for a considerable time to then be in with a chance to be drawn in a lottery to get a particular guests auto. I'm sure more would complain about that than the system that SM currently have in place.

As to the number of stalls, yes it probably is possible to reduce the number and have somewhat wider aisles but then again, the stallholder fees would have to go up as a result, and people already complain that there isn't enough variety of 'goods' available, that choice would further vanish if stall holder costs were to appreciably rise.

So whilst some tweaks can be definitely made to improve things, they will only be minor changes not the wholesale changes some are calling for, but I actually believe that only minor tweaks are needed to ensure that this becomes a genuinely world class/world leading event. It's also worth stating now that praise must be given to Showmasters for staging this event at all. I believe that they are genuinely trying to stage the best event they can for the largest number of people to enjoy as possible, and generally they do a pretty bloody good job and we should all be grateful that this event exists for us to be able to debate about whether it was good and bad and for what it's worth, far far more people we spoke to had really enjoyed it than hated it.

Now, to OUR con report on the event as we saw it

As a stall holder you are always a little nervous about where your stall will be positioned, with the layout this year we weren't sure where we wanted to be, so when we saw our position weren't 100% whether it was good or not, with the hindsight of the weekend now gone, we can say that we were fairly happy with where we were. We were at the bottom of the temporary staircase. This ensured that almost everyone passed by our stall at some point, but because the aisle at this point was narrower due to the stairs perhaps reduce the number of actual visitors to our stall, hard to say though. We can say though that as the weekend went on we definitely would have preferred to have been where we were than upstairs, just from a comfort viewpoint. The natural light and more 'airyness' of the space was preferable to us than the airless 'smell' of the 1st floor, though they did seem to be consistently more busy than us, so swings and roundabouts.

We TOTALLY enjoyed the weekend though it half killed us, we always do, because we just love meeting people at our stall, both talking to other stall holders but most of all, all the visitors whether in cosplay or not. We always genuinely appreciate it when anyone looks at our stall and stops for a chat, we do though love to see all the amazing cosplays, the effort and time that some people spend on their outfits is astounding, so a huge well done to anyone and everyone who was in cosplay, especially given how uncomfortable it would have been for many of you. Cosplay is now a huge part of what makes this event so much fun and Showmasters could perhaps do more for cosplayers, have a dedicated and roomy changing area and somewhere to stall bags as LSCC does perhaps.

We always seem to be lucky at this event and have a few of the celeb guests visit our stall as they are on their way to/from signings or a photo shoot/lunch etc. We had a few this year as ever but we must particularly mention John Ratzenberger, what an absolute Gent and such a cool guy as well. As he was passing by, one of the outfits one of the girls helping on our stall caught his eye and he came over and complemented her on the outfit and asked her name, he was down to earth enough not to assume that we knew who he was and introduced himself with a 'Hi, I'm John' - of course we knew who he was, he then chatted for a little while about our stock, my photo prints which he loved, and our t-shirts, just a seriously friendly, polite and cool guy and we heard nothing but similar praise from everyone who met him, It's guests like that who can really make someone's weekend, even when their 'main' guests might have been one of the 'bigger' stars. We really do need Showmasters to continue to ensure that they book great people like him.

Of course, due to the heat, the crowding, the three days etc. it was an incredibly long and tiring weekend (and I'm probably rambling now as I'm near exhausted, I might come back and edit this in a few days) and I'm sure everyone else felt the same, but despite that, almost everyone who came to our stall was just so friendly, polite and fun, it really makes our weekend to meet so many wonderful people and that's the key reason we do these events as its not always easy to clear a profit at as big an event as this in London. I'll put up a limited cosplay gallery in a day or two - I didn't get time to take my camera on a wander, so it is limited to those who passed our stall. We'll also be picking one cosplayer from each day as our favourite and then try and track them down to send them a free t-shirt.

So all in all, for us at least, and many of those we spoke to, a really fun, though exhausting weekend, a really special event that we are so lucky to be able to attend, but yes of course, there are numerous things that could be improved, though for the reasons discussed, if we want this event to grow, if we want the big name guests, then there are only limited changes that can be made, but in my view that is all that is needed.

I do though have to report a couple of things that are sad to see at an event like this. With more people attending, it is perhaps inevitable that you begin to attract a few idiots, one of our girls was harassed by a 'photographer' firstly asking her to pose in a suggestive manner, when told where to go, he initially wandered off, but then came back, and started filming her without her knowledge, trying to get shots of her backside. When again 'caught' and challenged he initially tried to laugh it off as a 'joke' but when realising that not only our stall but the stallholders and members of the public around us where having a go at him for unacceptable behaviour he quickly realised the mistake he'd made and 'legged it'. Then later a 'photographer' 'documenting' the event, set up a camera on a low tripod at the bottom of the stairs to 'film the crowds' - it was pointed out to him that by doing so he would be shooting up the skirts of all the girls climbing the stairs, he insisted that wasn't his intention but carried on filming until he realised he'd attracted a large crowd of disapproving people. Such behaviour is actually potentially illegal, so had security been around to witness this, the police could have been called and he could have been arrested. Luckily there is a growing movment to make people aware that such behaviour a) happens and b) isn't acceptable. There was even a panel on the Sunday on this very matter (from the wonderful Food and Cosplay Team) - At future events, Showmasters might like to display signs making clear than any kind of harassment (of anyone not just cosplayers) isn't acceptable and will result in ejection from the event, much as LSCC and some other cons are starting to do so.

So in summary:

Yes of course there will be some who yearn for the friendly, relaxed atmosphere and relative stress free weekends of old but there are now other events in the UK which fill that bill, there is nothing though that offers what LFCC now does, and we have to be lucky and thankful for that, Showmasters have done an incredible job in building up the event to where it is now, and have some amazing plans for the future. They work incredibly hard, far harder than most realise, often just to receive a barrage of criticism, yes of course there are things that could have worked better, and maybe one or two things that Showmasters should have known needed to be better, but SM DO learn from their mistakes and DO strive to make these shows the best they can be. There is always going to be a balancing act between ensuring as many people as possible can enjoy the event, or get someones auto or photo and ensuring it's not too crowded and that things run smoothly with some slack to allow for problems. I look forward with anticipation and excitement to see where LFCC goes from here.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

LFCC first day

Well the first day of London Film and Comic Con is over and it went fairly well, for a Friday it was crazy busy but never a crush like last year. The rest of the weekend will be busier of course but not by much. Though there were a few teething problems with the layout, mainly people not knowing where to find something and the crew not being able to help, but overall things worked well and we like the layout and extra space. Highlight of the day for us was the wonderful John Ratzenberher (Empire Strikes Back, Cheers, Toy Story) stopping by our stall for a chat, a very nice and really cool guy. Plus of course seeing lots of cosplayers and old friends. Looking forward to the rest of the weekend

Friday, 17 July 2015

London film & comic con

It's nearly here, one of the biggest events of the European Con Calendar and the queues are already building up outside Olympia. We are looking forward to seeing everyone, come and find our stall in the National Hall near the stair case

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

New t-shirts added to store

New t-shirts here at last

We've finally added all our t-shirt designs, as unveiled at Collectormania just over a week ago, to our online store. Apologies for the slight delay.

So now we have our initial 'collection' with tees inspired by gaming, tv shows, movies and popular culture. We have slogans, we have logos, we have creative designs.

All our designs feature original and exclusive artwork, either our own designs or licensed from an artist/designer we love (House of Wonderland) - eventually we'll be looking at incorporating artwork from some other artists we admire.

We're already working on some new designs which we hope to have ready for the London Film & Comic Con in a few weeks, then we'll be adding new designs on a fairly regular basis and dropping those designs which are least popular. So if you see something you like, don't wait too long to buy it as it.

Our online prices are currently fixed and are fully inclusive of UK postage and packing. We usually then sell at a discount/promotional price at cons/events as there is no p&p to worry about. These are just a few of our designs - for the full, current range please do drop by our store

Monday, 15 June 2015

CollectorMania 23 - Con Report

CollectorMania Milton Keynes 13/14 June 2015

Here is our con report for Collectormania23 - We had a stall, trading at this event.

Gosh, where to start? To get the negatives out of the way first, from a certain perspective this event was a disaster, the worst con of the year so far, and the worst we've been to for a while. It was too cramped with too little space, the dealers tables were too close together with the aisles too narrow for any kind of flow of 'traffic' whilst allowing people to look at the stalls. Signage was completely inadequate (seems to be a common problem for most events) and a lot of what was originally advertised for this event failed to materialise (e.g. the retro gaming zone) - Conditions in the stadium concourse were not particularly pleasant, even when crowded it was rather on the cold side, whereas the 'tent' was far too hot and humid, and both visitors and stall holders were left paddling in pools and rivers of water on the Saturday. Parking is almost always an issue at this event but was even worse than usual with huge areas of the car park being 'out of use' - The entrance to the event was not in the usual place but not signposted and precious little info was given out about any of the changes beforehand. 

The Saturday in particular was incredibly unpleasant and lots of people gave up and went home, many more reading people's complaints about the Saturday didn't bother coming at all on the Sunday.

Many traders had a particularly bad weekend compared to this event usually.

So, what went wrong? - All of the above problems were caused by one single issue, the 'Venue' essentially stitching up Showmasters by double booking the main Arena where the event is now usually held. This was done at such short notice that Showmasters had an almost impossible decision. They could cancel the event, or put it on as best they good in what they knew would be far from ideal conditions. The fact the event happened at all is only down to some incredible hard work by the Showmasters team trying to make the best of a bad situation. There were always going to be issues for many whatever decision they took. So the event went ahead, the dealers were 'stitched up' in that they didn't get what they had booked and paid for, those in the tent had to contend with flooding and a much reduced footfall compared to those on the concourse, those on the concourse had to contend with chilly temperatures and overcrowding. The much heralded 'cosplay stage' was cramped and in a far from ideal location and the gaming zones vanished all together so the 'visitor' was also rather short changed, especially as the reasoning behind charging an early entry fee this year was to enable the show to be 'bigger and better'.

Having said that, the event was still a lot of fun for many, signings and photoshoots went reasonably smoothly as they tend to do so at this event, there were plenty of amazing cosplayers as usual, though it has to be said not as many this year as previous years, I suspect the weather had a little to do with that, and, by and large, there is still a fun, family friendly atmosphere.

Personally, despite the appalling Saturday, I still largely enjoyed myself, it's always great to catch up with con friends, other dealers, cosplayers etc. and to make plenty of new friends as well, so given the almost impossible situation they found themselves in I think Showmasters have to be commended for putting on any kind of event at all, let alone an event which most people still enjoyed, even if not as much as would be the case for this event usually.

They do though need to look at the contracts for the Venue booking, they must have been aware that they occupy a 'lower priority' than big corporate clients so being 'bumped' from the venue at short notice must always have been a possibility, though it was very late notice they could have communicated the changes better, I didn't see any kind of statement either on their facebook page, facebook event page, or their own website or forums, it would have been useful to let people know that certain elements would be missing (the gaming zones) and that the layout would be drastically different from planned, then ensure that there is suitable signage so that people know where they need to go - there was some improvement in this between the Saturday and Sunday so they did recognise there was an issue (or responded to complaints) - I do have to say that I've always found Showmasters more willing to take and recognise criticism and I do know that they were genuinely horrifed at the situation they found themselves in and will take on board all complaints, they will themselves look at where they succeeded (e.g. in putting on any kind of event at all) and where they perhaps might have been able to do things better (in fairness, not much given the very late notice of all the changes)

It would be a shame for Collectormania to end because a suitable venue isn't available but the size it is now, let alone having space to grow, limits the possibilities, I can't think of anywhere else it could be held so I would think that the best that can be hoped for is for future contracts with the Venue to be more robust to limit or remove the possibility of such a thing happening again.

So, in summary, some very obvious negatives:

The 'venue' as used on the weekend simply wasn't suitable, I'm not sure why the whole of the concourse wasn't used, nor why the hotel exhibition/conference areas weren't available but I'm sure SM would have used these areas were it possible to do so.

Given the changes, there was inadequate signage, SM did recognise this and did what they could but this could have been better planned, even with the late notice changes.

Communication, given the changes, although at very late notice, the facts could have been presented in any number of ways, facebook, website, forum, twitter etc. so people would have had more of an idea what was happening, yes there is a danger that doing so would lead to people not bothering going but I think people prefer honesty - though I do appreciate that certain details would not have been available in time, some information could have been given out.

The weather - of course not even Showmasters can control this.

Perhaps Showmasters should have suspended the early entry charge, refunding those who had paid given that the event that took place was some way short of the one that happened.

And the positives:

The event went ahead
It was still well attended
There were some great cosplayers as usual
The cosplay masquerade and regional cosplay championships still went ahead
It was still fun

Unfortunately the conditions inside the tent (very damp and humid)  coupled with the fact that I was on my own on our stall for large periods meant that I haven't taken my any event/cosplay pics on this occasion but there are plenty of great pics being posted on the facebook event page.

Lastly I'd like to thank everyone who still made the effort to brave the tent and come and visit our stall - we always appreciate and enjoy talking to people, especially those who enjoy what we do, it helps keep us sane, an especially big thank you to everyone who likes what we do so much that they found something that they wanted to buy - that makes us particularly happy and enables us to attend other events. Next up is London Film and Comic Con in a few weeks - hope to see many of you there :)

The full range of t-shirts from our stall will be added to our web store this week

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

It's nearly time

for Collectormania

It's only a few days to Collectormania and the full unveiling of our initial t-shirt range. We've been working very hard on creating designs and then printing the shirts so that we have, what we hope, will be a good initial selection of designs. We hope that we'll have something for everyone.

After the weekend we'll be overhauling our web store and all our designs will then be available online (stock allowing) though it may take a few days after Collectormania to get ourselves sorted.

We started out creating and printing simple designs but have now graduated to multi colour and complex designs as we have become confident in the materials and processes we are using. We have chosen to use an eco friendly, water based ink process with everything we use being eco/bio-friendly.

We will regularly swap out designs that don't sell and produce new designs, we are literally overflowing with ideas, so even if you don't see something that takes your fancy straight away, keep an eye out because we may soon produce a design you love. 

Alongside our t-shirts we'll also have our usual selection of goodies from the wonderful House of Wonderland, our cosplay and pin up prints and assorted other goodies (at Collectormania we'll have some movie prints and posters, at LFCC some retro comics/magazines).

We also love chatting and seeing everyone's cosplays so please look out for our stall and come and say hi - as soon as we know where we are located we'll post on our fb page/twitter.

We'll put up a full con report and selection of pics after the event as usual.

Lots still to do, but getting excited :) 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

MCM London Comic Con - May 2015

MCM London 

Firstly an apology for the lack of recent updates, we are currently working hard on getting our initial, full, range of t-shirt designs done and printed ready for Collectormania in a few weeks so have been rather busy to say the least. In fact so busy that we were only able to spare the Sunday to visit MCM.

MCM London has, of recent years, garnered something of a poor reputation for organisation and numerous other issues. MCM do seem to try and address these, but with limited success. How did they do this time around? Are things finally getting better? The answer has to be a guarded Yes.

This event was by far the biggest MCM London yet, and that makes it the biggest event of it's kind in the UK, both in terms of floor area and number of people attending, is it the best though? Probably not but it was clear that huge improvements have been made which can only be a good thing.

Firstly, finally, they seem to have largely sorted the queuing issues which have dogged the last few events. Taking people in primarily via the North 'Lorry Way' makes so much sense, it is covered so there is (predominantly) shelter from any inclement weather, there is space to ensure that the queues don't back up and block exit from the DLR platforms and the queues seemed to move much quicker than previous events. There were still some issues which, as they could so easily be addressed, were disappointing, issues such as no signage, even though the website clearly stated that there would be, so you had to rely on stewards directing you to the right queue/entrance, and that is an issue because as ever it appears that some of the stewards don't seem to know what they are doing. By and large, most people had no problems or issues, but there were some people who were directed to the wrong entrance/queue or whom had other problems. Even though we had priority tickets for the Sunday, we arrived just after 11am as General entry opened, there didn't seem to be a priority queue/entrance by that point, again even though the website clearly stated that if you arrived after general entry opened you must still join the priority queue. We were directed to join the general entry queue, even though we clearly stated we had priority tickets. This meant we had to queue and wait with those who had bought general entry tickets and were given a general entry wristband - this is something that simply shouldn't happen, though thankfully as the queue was moving reasonably quickly this wasn't a complete disaster. Poor communication and arbitrary changing of key elements, such as where you could re-enter is still a major problem. All the information on the website, forums and facebook groups prior to the event clearly stated the valid re-entry points for various classes of ticket. As seems to be the case now, this information was either incorrect, the stewards were unaware of the correct information and unwilling to check, or this was changed at the last minute without communicating the changes in any way - this caused needless grief to some, and again simply shouldn't happen.

Once indoors though things were better than previous events. Effectively now taking up the whole of Excel, with all the exhibition/event space in most of the South Halls, the North Halls were used for queuing/entry, a cloak room, catering and chill out areas. This ensured that even when at capacity the central atrium and even the stall aisles weren't as totally jammed as they have been previous events, there was, just about, space to move which was an improvement over this event last year. It is still too crowded though, numerous people complained on the Saturday in particular about being barged into by rude people who have no thought for anyone but themselves and several cosplayers suffered broken costumes/props as a result. Even on the Sunday it was uncomfortably hot and airless and still too crowded to be really comfortable. Though it is never going to happen, it would be a more enjoyable event if capacity was reduced somewhat.

This leads to what is now the largest problem this event suffers from, which is a problem which isn't directly down to the organisers. That is simply this event now attracts a significant number of complete morons who have no idea how to behave in public. There were a number of thefts, and more seriously sexual assaults, as 'thugs' grabbed and pawed at some of the female cosplayers. There was a major problem with litter and general bad behaviour. Such behaviour is unacceptable anywhere but should certainly not be tolerated at an event such as this. Though there wasn't the typical bad or nasty behaviour from 'Security' that has been reported at previous events so the Security clearly had been improved, and whilst some were clearly concerned at reports of such behaviour, there was little they could do about it as they were so thin on the ground in relation to the crowds. This is something that is difficult to deal with at an event of this size, but MCM could do more, they could clearly display posters (as other events do such as LSCC) which make clear that any kind of harassment or bad behaviour is unacceptable and will result in ejection and potential prosecution, they then need to increase the number of security teams patrolling so such behaviour is less likely and can be dealt with when reported.

This is though an area where 'we' as a community need to also do more, 'we' need to make clear to these utter morons that the type of behaviour they were engaging in, bullying, harassing, groping etc. is simply not acceptable and where we see it, we need to step in to stop and prevent it (whilst remaining within the law of course) - If this behaviour isn't stamped out, if it isn't made clear to these idiots that they are not welcome if they are going to behave like that, then this event, and others, will become events 'we' no longer wish to attend.

Ignoring those issues though, we had a great time, the number of cosplayers and the standard of cosplay is improving all the time, there were some amazing costumes about and, thankfully, the vast majority of people are there to have a good time, whilst being friendly and respectful to others. Most people had an amazing time, but it is sad that for some the weekend was spoiled. So as we said, a guarded success, big improvements over previous events, but still room for improvement, though this event is now so big, and so many people attend that there are always going to be some idiots amongst them. Hopefully this event will continue to get better, though the size attracts it's own problems and for some, this is no longer an event they wish to attend. Thankfully there are numerous other events/choices now and for many this is still a highlight of the con year.

Photos from the Sunday are being added to our facebook page and will be added to the con galleries page on our website in due course.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Star Wars

Star Wars - Can't Wait

After the release of the 2nd teaser trailer for 'The Force Awakens', like the first, has resulted in near universal excitement and anticipation, I stopped to think about why I'm so excited about this film.

I honestly can't remember when I've ever been so excited, hyped and generally going loopy over a film. The teaser yesterday left me, like many others, struggling to put my feelings into words and I wonder why that is, after all it's only a film, isn't it?

The answer to that has to be no, it isn't.

Star Wars changed cinema and movies for ever. I was 9 when Star Wars came out in the UK, it had been in the news for months as it broke record after record in the U.S.A. and the anticipation, for everyone was building to fever levels, for a 9 year old the wait was almost unbearable. Finally the release date came around, as it was just after Christmas we couldn't go straight away, having to wait for a few more days before we could go and see it. Our local cinema had announced they were sold out for days, something that just never happened, so we had to go to a bigger cinema, further away that had several screens with Star Wars showing on every screen. We went early and queued for quite some time before being able to get in, but that just built our anticipation. We weren't disappointed. It changed everything.

Since then, I have seen Star Wars more times than any other film, I've owned every version released to buy in the UK apart from the Laser Disc version, and how I wished we had a laser disc player to be able to get that, and would always watch it when it was on TV (I still do). It changed the way movies were made and promoted, it influenced everything that followed for decades and impacted on our culture like nothing before or since. When the special editions were released at the Cinema for the 20th Anniversary, I couldn't wait to go and see them, and it was like greeting an old friend, but with added pzazz. This just served to build the anticipation for the upcoming first prequel. The first trailer was greeted with perhaps more anticipation than the first teaser for The Force Awakens but, though it certainly generated excitement, it left some concerns for many, it didn't look like Star Wars and somehow you felt that you weren't as excited about it as you should have been. Of course, once it came out and it became clear how disappointing it was for the true fans that served to dampen the excitement further. Still though I hoped that actually it would be amazing. I can't remember watching it at the Cinema, not like the first Trilogy where I can remember each 'experience' clearly still though do remember coming out and thinking 'Is that it, what happened'

Looking back, it is perhaps easier now to identify why the prequels were so 'bad' compared to expectations and what they might have been. 

They are 'cartoons' clearly aimed at young children, rather than a gritty adventure aimed at all. The technology probably wasn't ready to match Lucas' vision and what resulted though probably the best they could do at the time, wasn't really good enough. The space ships didn't really look real, nor did the environments or 'aliens' but the key thing was that there just wasn't any sense of real danger. The 'robot' troops weren't scary or menacing in any sense and you just never connected with any of the characters in the way you did with Star Wars.

In Star Wars, characters died and even if they'd only had minimal screen time, as for some of the X-wing pilots, you genuinely felt the impact of their deaths. The whole 'Universe' was dark, dingy and dangerous. Though Darth Maul was a great character, he had none of the real menace that Vader had and though there was a key character 'death' at the end, it didn't have anything of the impact that Obi Wan's 'death' had.

As the other prequels came out, things didn't really improve. The whole plot/story felt convoluted and didn't really fit with the vision that you had of how it should have been. The Jedi Academy felt like an ordinary school when in reality Jedi Training should be dangerous and difficult, nothing really felt like it belonged in the same Universe that Star Wars existed in but hey, at least we had some new Star Wars films hey.

This time around, the Universe feels in safe hands, it seems clear from the first two teasers, the way they have gone back to physical sets and models and even shooting on film, not digital that the film makers understand what it is that 'made' Star Wars what it was- there is clearly a sense of menace, of things spiraling out of control, of danger and fighting against the odds and of course we have our beloved characters back, at least for this first film.

The Force Awakens is never going to impact on culture and movie making in the same way that Star Wars did, but it could have a similar short term impact. It easily has the capacity to become the biggest movie in history. Everyone who saw Star Wars as a child wants to see this, children today who have grown up with Star Wars everywhere want to see it as well, but it will always be 'Mine' and not 'theirs' - I saw it first and can't wait for 'The Force Awakens' - I just know it's going to be amazing, the way I feel when watching the teasers is like nothing I've experienced since the original trilogy. The Force has awakened and will be with us always - Yeehah!!


Friday, 10 April 2015

Big Guests at Cons

Big Guests, a good thing or bad thing?

Showmasters' latest forum post about a 'Big' guest announcement next week for this years London Film & Comic Con has prompted some thoughts.

Showmasters have something of a track record for over hyping guest announcements for their events, once or twice 'for fun' they have hyped up an announcement leading people to expect a huge guest leaving many people disappointed when the announcement is finally made. This means that many now take any such 'announcement' with a pinch of salt. This time though I suspect, as for Stan Lee last year, that this really will be an incredible guest. Of course no matter who it is, there will always be people who argue that they are not in fact a 'big guest' and that they are disappointed with the announcement and there will be others who will be overjoyed.

However, there are some 'warnings' within the post that are worthy of discussion. It is clear that this is genuinely an 'A list' guest. Although LFCC has a track record of 'big' guests, they have not had many genuine A listers over the years, nor many really BIG Hollywood stars. I suspect that this guest will tick both of those boxes, it is the 'biggest, rarest guest announcement' showmasters have ever had. 

Is this a good thing though?

It is clear that the only way to get an autograph from this guest is to purchase a Diamond Pass, which will be available in very limited numbers. They will also likely be far more expensive than anything Showmasters have ever had before. Comments on various forums are speculating that something above £400 is likely and I don't disagree with that, it might be much more, though it won't stray into 4 figures. Also with a very limited number of passes available for this guest, only a very few people who can afford that price will get to get an autograph. Who ever it is there will be many people left disappointed as they simply won't be able to afford the cost of this pass.

This guest is almost certainly going to be tucked away behind 'closed doors' with a heavy security team so it won't be someone that everyone can see simply by wandering around the event so for many, if not most people attending, all this guest means is more crowds, more queuing and inflated entrance prices. 

For the traders it means that although there are more people at the event, they have less money to spend on buying stuff, this was noticeable last year where though incredibly crowded, you literally couldn't move on the Saturday, many people were simply trying to make their way past the stalls to the signing areas, not even bothering to browse. As stall pitch fees have also increased substantially the nature of this event is fundamentally changing.

So, there are certainly downsides to getting 'BIG' guests. They increase prices overall, they increase crowding and inconvenience, only a select few are actually going to be able to meet/see the guest etc. etc. The LFCC events have changed over the last few years as they get bigger, it's now something of an 'ordeal' to attend on the Saturday, no longer quite as much 'fun' (for some) as it used to be. Many traders report lower takes, not higher, and some traders are abandoning the event (though equally some also do very well) - of those stalls there are, there are less of the quirky, small independent stalls and more stalls stocking essentially the same thing as everyone else. Many are upset at this and, after last years queuing disaster have said enough is enough and are not going to go this year.

HOWEVER, there are so many cons and events now in the UK that there are plenty of alternative events. If you want a relaxed, uncrowded atmosphere with space to enjoy the cosplay and browse the stalls then there are plenty of other events that offer that. LSCC in particular comes to mind. BUT what LFCC is now beginning to offer is unique in the UK and potentially in Europe, it is beginning to approach the standard of the big US cons in terms of the guests and 'exclusives' they are getting. The attendance is increasing and hence the big studios are more likely to oblige with 'panels' and screenings, you can now see 'guests' in the UK that might only otherwise appear at US events and the number of guests now at LFCC means that there will be someone for everyone. 

So although as a fan and as a trader I do have some negative thoughts about the way LFCC is changing, the crowding, queuing, change of atmosphere, lack of money in people's pockets to spend on stalls etc. I do think overall that the direction that LFCC is going can only be a good thing for UK con goers, it offers something that no other UK event offers and more choice and the ability to go to such an event in the UK rather than having to travel to the US, can only be positive.

So I wait with interest for this 'announcement' - I do have my own thoughts as to who it might be, but I'll probably be wrong, and people will be both amazed and disappointed by the announcement, but I do think it might be a bit special.. time will tell.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Dealing with Fear and Anxiety

Don't let fear and anxiety rule your life

Many people experience nervousness, fear and anxiety to a degree that impacts on their day to day life at some point or other. For some this will be a transitory issue, for others it's something that they have to cope with for a period of time and it may recur and for a few it's something they have to constantly live with.

We all get nervous from time to time, that is completely natural and is usually associated with doing something new or something important, e.g. getting nervous before giving a talk to a group of people or before taking an exam. Sometimes these simple nerves can become something deeper and more intrusive, giving rise to a more intense feeling of anxiety or fear and sometimes can develop into a full on panic attack. There are very real physical symptoms associated with this that can have a varying impact, from that 'butterflies in the stomach' feeling that almost all of us will have experienced to a complete inability to move, talk or even breathe. 

To anyone who has never experienced a full on panic attack, when they see someone having a 'panic attack' even though they may be well meaning, advice such as 'pull yourself together' just isn't going to help and often makes things worse. 'Hidden' conditions such as panic, fear and anxiety can be difficult to understand for those not used to them and difficult to explain for those who suffer from them.

Lots of people attend cons, so it is only natural that there will be a good few for who this can be a problem. There are some though who would love to go to a con but simply get too nervous/anxious to do so.

I suffer from General Anxiety Disorder. I have always been a 'worrier' for as long as I can remember, worrying about anything and everything. It didn't particularly impact on my childhood in any way, I generally enjoyed life and had fun but looking back, it may have prevented me from doing things that otherwise I might have tried. It didn't really have any effect at University either, but I was very aware that I always got very nervous before travelling anywhere, before exams, before talking in public/giving a presentation and when approaching/talking to strangers, including on the phone. This didn't make it particularly easy to ask a girl out, though I managed. So I guess you could say I was aware that my nervousness was something of an issue, but not something that stopped me from living or getting on with life.

As the years went on though, it was something that, at times, became much more intrusive - There were times when I couldn't sleep due to worry. I was fully aware that my fears were completely irrational, I was worrying about things that would almost certainly never happen or worrying about things that just didn't matter, but even though I knew that, I couldn't make the feelings go away. At the same time my nerves could be a problem, I would often be so nervous before going on an evening out for instance that I would spend a good hour or so being sick. I always enjoyed myself once I got somewhere, but it was the fear of who knows what that was the issue. I would even know that if I went out I would have a good time, but sometimes the nerves and anxiety were so much that I would end up staying in, and then I'd feel awful because I knew I was missing out on a good time.

At work I would often have to give presentations to high ranking officials which would usually involve travel as well. This would lead to sleepless nights as I'd just lie awake worrying about both the travel and the presentation. I started having to go abroad with work and whilst I had no problem with flying, general anxiety about the journey, finding the hotel, would they have my booking etc. etc. caused no end of stress and began to impact somewhat on my health.

In general though, day to day life wasn't any problem and I was still able to enjoy most things, it was mainly only when I had to do something new that caused worry and stress, I even sort of got used to giving presentations but a general, background, level of anxiety would always be present when ever I had to travel anywhere.

Occasionally things would get worse, I would go through periods where I really would worry about stupid things that would never happen, or about which I had absolutely no control over so such worry was pointless. I went to the Doctors a few times, which didn't really help at all, but I started to read up on things on the web. I found that such general anxiety is fairly common, and that the easiest way to combat it is to simply not think about the things that are worrying you - easier said than done of course, but over time I have found that I am better able to 'cut off' worrying thoughts before they enter that exhausting spiral. I still get nervous and still worry, but it no longer has anywhere near the impact it has done in the past. Six years ago I did something I'd never have been able to do earlier, I decided to go self employed as a photographer, even though the lack of a 'steady' pay packet would be something that would have driven me mad in the past. I found myself doing things that I used to hate, going out meeting new people and networking with strangers, visiting new places and doing new things, and enjoying it.

I absolutely love going to cons and get a real buzz, even though I might still worry about things before I get there, is the train going to be late etc. etc. fairly normal stuff that no longer stops me from enjoying myself.

You can't always control your feelings and thoughts, but try and concentrate on thinking about how much of a good time you are going to have and try and just let any thoughts about problems or worrying thoughts just slip out of your mind. Sometimes planning things out before hand can reduce some worry, e.g. knowing what time train you need to get, and allowing extra time just in case, though you have to be careful that doing so doesn't lead to a negative spiral of worry.

In short, nerves, anxiety and panic can be something that impact on everyone at some point, some of course much worse than others, never ever be ashamed of having such thoughts and worries or by how that impacts on you, talk to people about it if you find that helps, don't shut yourself away. Set small 'achievable' goals, don't try and do everything at once, and gradually you should find that things improve as you can concentrate on how much fun you have rather than spending time and effort on worrying. DO get out and try new things, DO go out and have fun but understand that not everything is always going to be perfect, there will be times things don't work out, but don't worry about it, just let it go and start planning your next fun day out. Understand that worry and nerves are part of everyday life, but don't let them rule your life, you ARE in control, even if it feels that you aren't.

Stuart x

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Bedford Dr Who Charity Con

Bedford Who Con

We'll be trading and taking photos at a new con, raising money for a worthy cause, on Saturday April 11th in Bedford. We asked the organisers to say a bit about the con.

"It's the first Doctor Who convention to be held in Bedford, and it's rather different from other conventions because it's designed as a charity fundraiser -- as well as a fun day for the fans, of course.  It's being held at The King's House, Ampthill Road, Bedford MK42 9AZ on Saturday 11th April.

Simon Danes is the organiser.  Simon's 49 years old (and he really is 49, even though that's the age lots of people in their early fifties claim to be!).  He's a former teacher and writer, who now works as a volunteer for Bedford Foodbank.  You've probably heard of foodbanks:  they provide emergency food for local people in genuine crisis, and there's a network of them throughout the country.  Like most charities, the Foodbanks' ultimate aim is not to exist; sadly, the need is getting bigger rather than smaller.  

Simon's been fundraising for the Bedford Foodbank for some time now.  He says, 'I was thinking about doing a small fundraising event of some sort:  a concert or something like that.  It then occured to me that I'd been used to organising big events when I was in schools, and I could use those skills to put on something rather bigger.  Hence Bedford Who Charity Con.  We've had some wonderful support from the local community, and of course from our guests.  It's a good line-up:  three companions, Davros, Ailsa Berk, Paul Cornell and Mike Tucker.  Should be a great day.  So that as many people can come as possible, we've also kept our ticket prices as low as we can; they're very much at the lower end of convention prices for individual tickets, and we're offering family tickets as well.'

So, here's the full guest list:  Anneke Wills (Polly), Sophie Aldred (Ace), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Terry Molloy (Davros), John Leeson (K9), Paul Cornell (writer), Mike Tucker (BAFTA award-winning SFX designer), and Ailsa Berk (choreographer).  The day's going to include a mixture of individual and panel interviews, signings, and the chance to browse the dealers' hall.  Mike Tucker, the man who's been blowing up Daleks for a living since the 1980s, will be doing a presentation on the programme's special effects.  Ailsa Berk, who teaches movement to the actors playing the aliens, will be running a monster-movement workshop for attendees.

If you'd like to go to the convention, and would like to help support the Foodbank's work, please visit the website for more information, including how to buy tickets."

We are looking forward to this and hope to see lots of people supporting this worthy (and fun) event.

London Super Comic Con 2015

A great weekend

Well though it's a week ago now, we are still buzzing from an absolutely fabulous weekend at the London Super Comic Con at London Excel. Yes, the weather was dull and cold, certainly compared with last year, so there wasn't the crowds of cosplayers having fun in the Sun, they were just having fun inside. 

Yet again this was a superbly run con, despite the noticeably larger attendance there were still no issues at all with queuing or crowds, yes there was some queuing to get in initially but the queues never built up to a stupid size and moved rapidly thanks to the well organised scanning of bar-codes and issuing of bands/passes. Other cons could definitely take note of how to do this properly. There were loads of staff patrolling all the con areas, both in the hall and in the public areas, all there to help with any questions/queries or issues. Again, this is an area where other cons could take note.

This is still, noticeably so, the best run and organised con of this size in the UK and still a complete joy to attend. 

Everyone is relaxed and friendly and that atmosphere just fills the event. There are a good variety of stalls, though more definitely comic related than other events, this is not a bad thing, there are still plenty of things to spend your money on. The talks/panels were of the usual high quality and interest and the now established cosplay masquerade and cosplay championship draw ever bigger crowds and some amazingly high quality entrants. 

You can find a full image gallery on our con page - and a few preview images below.

Friday, 13 March 2015

The Ballad of Boris, King of Scotland

A Story

Presenting the opening 'teaser' to our serialised 'alternate history' story, 'The Ballad of Boris, King of Scotland'

Travis knew the story off by heart. He'd listened to his Gran tell it often enough. He wouldn't hear it again now, his Gran finally succumbed to the twisted, horrible, cancer overnight. Travis knew that his Gran was no longer in pain and that she was now in peace but the tears streamed down his face anyway. He was not just sad, but bitter and very, very angry. Cancer these days was curable but almost no-one in Scotland could ever remotely afford the cost of the treatments. It was completely different South of the Wall of course, where there was still a free universal health system.
Travis tried to calm his anger by imagining his Gran telling the story one last time :
"It all started with that Salmon chappy", he could still hear the scorn in his Gran's voice. "He wanted to rule Scotland and somehow engineered a vote on Independence, to this day I still think he must have had something on all the UK leaders. No-one really believed that we'd be foolish enough to vote for Independence, after all how could Scotland possibly manage alone. The UK Government certainly didn't seem to expect what was coming, though of course we now know differently. Somehow, whether as a result of the campaigning, or something else, the Scottish people joyfully voted to become an Independent Nation and celebrated long into the night and following night when the vote was won. Nobody stopped to think what it actually meant, nobody could possibly have known what was coming."

Thursday, 12 March 2015

London Super Comic Con

London Super Comic Con

We'll be at LSCC this weekend at the London Excel. Stuart will be wandering around with his camera to record all the wonderful cosplayers and a report on the event, along with the cosplay galleries will appear on our site next week. You can see our visit to LSCC in 2014 here though we've included a few shots here as well. 

If you are at LSCC keep an eye out for Stuart, he'll be wearing our 'Respect the Cosplayer' t-shirt, supporting the rights of cosplayers to enjoy themselves and not be bullied, and he'll be happy to take some shots of your cosplay, or just to say 'Hi' 

We totally enjoyed this weekend last year, so are really looking forward to this year, though we don't look as though we're going to be as lucky with the weather this year. It's still going to be a lot of fun.