How not to plan Comic-con!

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On Saturday I attended Birmingham Comic-Con with one of my best friends from Uni, a trip fuelled from a love of all things science fiction & a curiosity to why so many people attend, and COS PLAY! .

Overall the event was good, although I was surprised to see it was a lot more about buying stuff than anything else. My favourite cos-play outfit was hands down Emmet from the Lego Movie – and there were tons to choose from, many a storm trooper!

However the talks were an absolute shambles, and in my opinion were one of the worst in terms of organisation.

One of the main things we were excited to see was Tom Felton (aka Draco Malfoy) Q&A session at 1pm, because who doesn’t want to hang out with a wizard!?

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All the talks were being held in an indoor structure that looked more like a bouncy castle, and the way the programme had been set out meant each person was on for an hour with no turnaround time before or after. This meant there was no allocated time to get the audience in and out.

Knowing that Tom’s talk would be popular we arrived early at 12.45. Which is the same plan many other people had,  there were at least 40+ people blocking each of the two accessible door ways (that we’re acting as entrance and exit) The moment the previous speaker left the stage there were people climbing over the backs of seats to sit down & a surge of people who filled up all the aisle ways & emergency exits.

I calculated the seat capacity for this room, which was around 250, but for Tom’s Q&A there was over 100 people standing.

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This structure was not only wholly inappropriate for the venue, as it did not allow for any air to circulate, but the way it had been placed meant only 2 of the 4 doors could be accessed and used. Weirdly two sets of doors let to a large ‘dead space’ that could only be accessed from the structure & organisers office.

They didn’t have any stewards on the doors making sure audiences could enter and exit safely, or making sure the room only met the capacity of the 250 seats. In fact I only ever saw one steward, who tried his hardest to fill all the empty seats and expressed that the number of people made the venue a fire hazard – he was also in charge of the roaming mic. During the talk one girl had a full-blown panic attack, the lone steward acted very quickly in getting her outside (to the side that led nowhere) and calling NEC paramedics – but this took him a good 5 minutes, which meant there was no roaming mic or anyone inside the tent.

Another aspect the frustrated me was that no-one time checking Tom, making him aware that there was 30 mins left etc, and once the Q&A was over there was no-one there to help him get out of the tent – as a swarm of fans whet to try to get pictures and autographs!

My issue with the event was the fact there were rookie mistakes, any trained or working event professional would have been able to notice and fix these problems in the planning stages. The basic aspects would have been to have at least a 15 min turnaround time & at least 4 stewards in the tent (even if there was only one roaming mic). For future reference never put a 4 door bouncy castle into a big hall filled with thousands of people, go for something that has doors to close, so you can monitor numbers – if need be place screens around the venue so people can watch there if the capacity is quite small.

Whilst nothing went wrong, if a fire broken out there would have been a stampede of people trying to get out & not enough staff to help guide people out in a safe manner.

There were other aspects of the even that I think we’re placed wrong, making a majority of areas bottlenecked – or that might have been that the space was very small for the number of stands and attendees. I had high hopes for this event, because so many people praise London comic con, but all I saw was an event that has areas that need to change or be run by people who know how to put on events!

Did you attend Birmingham Comic-Con? Have you been to a Comic-Con Event? & if you have, ever seen anything like this? 

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  • wilmorris

    Is this your Emmet? http://thetorchslguide.com/2014/11/10/123-reasons-why-mcm-comic-con-london-was-awesome-oct-2014/#jp-carousel-12680
    I think MCM has a problem with under-estmating. There was a “Batman Arkham Knight” pannel/promo with the now released Chem plant stuff, and they ended up having the same problem (minus the panic attack). They must expect the crowds to be much smaller they are ever will be.

  • Very similar but slightly different outfit! It is the moments like that where it become apparent that they are lacking experienced staff who are used to planning and running large events. Would you say that London is better organised?

  • wilmorris

    Reasonably. There were few issues but most of them were crowd management rather than control or safety. Their were usualy half a dozon or more stewards controling, all saying the same orders, so it was ‘safe’ (as safe as a 100 person crowd could be) but they usualy deal with the crowd at arms lengh so the mob walk about en masse sometimes.
    It’s safe, but it tends to be a cluster-f*** at bigger draw events, (celeb signings, promos, etc.).