Wales Comic Con is a relatively new convention in Wrexham, North Wales. It was the one convention I didn't want to miss this year, mostly because I've never been. We weren't 100% certain that we could go until the week before so I was totally geeked to find out that we could. Saturday was spent getting ready, cleaning the car, packing lunches, getting our con gear together... And then we headed off at 8AM, planning to get there around 11AM.
Yup, that's a THREE HOUR CAR DRIVE, just to get there. It wasn't a bad ride, actually. We cranked the radio up and stuck to the motorways. It helped that the weather was nice - a rarity in Wales. We were both feeling pretty good about the day.
Until we actually got there.
Jay and I have over 40 years and over 100 conventions worth of experience between us. We can usually tell, before we get out of the car, what kind of convention it's going to be. Wales Comic Con was no exception.
We knew that it was being held in a university's sports hall, and we knew it meant it was a relatively small venue. We also knew that it was in a location central to Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham so we were expecting it to be pretty busy.
We weren't expecting a queue that was over a mile long and in the region of two to three thousand people thick waiting outside. We weren't expecting there to be no parking available.
I knew in an instant, from those two things alone, that Wales Comic Con is a poorly run/organized convention. Why?
1. No one was outside controlling parking. If you have extremely limited parking spaces, you get someone outside telling people where to park. You have signs directing people to additional parking facilities nearby.
Speaking of signposting, If it wasn't for the mile long queue outside, we wouldn't have known that we had arrived. The convention wasn't sign posted either. No arrows, no nothing. Not very helpful.
2. With a few thousand people waiting outside, and the couple of thousand inside who'd managed to get early bird tickets, there was a ZERO chance of us getting virtual queueing tickets and therefore ZERO chance of us getting the autographs we wanted. A celebrity at a convention will sign somewhere between 500-800 autographs. Do the math.
3. The queue outside was as bad as it was because the sports hall was either already over capacity or because they were running very late. We got there at almost 12pm and the doors were due to open for normal tickets at 11am. Either way, that means they did a lousy job.
If you have more people showing up than you have room for, you didn't pick the right place. If you can't be there to open the doors when you said you would, things aren't running smoothly - meaning you either have poor time keeping or not enough help. Both things you should have complete control over.
So we did the smart but disappointing thing: we turned around and went home. When it comes to convention, we're both too long in the tooth to waste our time with poorly run conventions. It killed the mood going home - which was made worse by the fact that the satnav took us on a magical mystery tour through the Welsh countryside. All that way, money wasted on food, clothes, and petrol - all for nothing.
You could say, of course, that it was our faults for not getting early bird tickets but, like I said, we didn't know we were going to be able to go. Maybe, if we'd hung out for a couple of hours, we might have at least gotten through the doors. But what's the point? It was obviously going to be over-crowded and we both would have been extremely irritable by then.
I doubt we'll be giving Wales Comic Con another chance, at least not for a few years. Give them time to get their shit together. Their website says that the convention is run by 'Mercury Promotions (UK)' which 'consists of a number of experienced family & friends between them serving over a decade of event organising knowledge.' Maybe they have over a decade of event organising knowledge, but it was painfully obvious that, as of last Sunday, they knew fuck all about conventions.