The UK convention scene has grown over the last few years. The rise in popularity in comic book inspired movies and TV shows added to the growing acceptance of all things geeky and fun has changed the rules. Turning up to a large building filled with merchandise, genre TV and movie stars is now an exciting event for all the family and not the niche activity exclusive to an elite few.
The family friendly atmosphere was very strong - this was a fun day out for the kids and a lot of fun for the grown-ups. A great many teenagers also arrived to enjoy what seemed to be their first or second ever convention. To the new generation of fans, the likes of MCM Birmingham Comic Con was the social event of the spring, and many had arrived in costume, determined to look amazing and have buckets and buckets of fun.
MCM are old hands at this now and the event was slickly organised, with queues and expectations handled expertly. The spaces between attractions were sensibly arranged and these wide lanes allowed a high volume of convention goers to explore the various attractions. The key ‘big draw’ areas had been carefully placed to ensure that the natural ‘choke’ points were never too packed. There was also plenty of space at the back of the convention centre for people to take a moment and simply relax.
With interest in sequential art growing every day it was nice to see lots of people looking for the next big thing at the Comics Village, which enjoyed especially good footfall and it was nice to see the great and the good of the UK indie comics scene out in full force. Those looking for new TV shows to get into were also in for a treat; key members from the cast of cult supernatural horror show Sleepy Hollow were in attendance and the panel went very well indeed. Greystone Holt from Bitten also went down very well which is impressive when you consider that the show has yet to air in the UK, meaning that the majority of the UK Bitten fandom are more familiar with the books.
The Robots Live! attraction was as much fun as you’d expect large machines smashing the hell out of each of to be. Robot Wars may be long gone from its slot as must see tea-time telly but the joy of seeing these things hit each other is alive and well thanks to this attraction. Another hit with the fans was a chance to get your photo taken with a TARDIS, a busy attraction that left a lot of people grinning, especially the youngest fans.
Doctor Who dominated the event in other ways as well. Queues were deepest and longest at the table that featured all the Big Finish Audio stars - this was partially due to the presence of an incredibly patient Paul McGann. Still everyone who wanted to meet the chap got a chance to. There were a great many guests at this show including the likes of Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes), Danny John-Jules (Red Dwarf), Sophie Aldred and Frazer Hines (Doctor Who). To say that it was a target-rich environment for autograph hunters is an understatement.
A couple of the tables felt distinctly out of place and were notably sparse when it came to fans; not many people seemed to want to meet various cast members from TV’s Shameless and The Glamour Zone, a closed off area where the public could meet various glamour models and get their autographs also seemed comparatively unpopular. The general feeling was that this area was “for the dads” but most of the dads we got to talk to seemed far more interested in the videogames and TV stars. Both areas felt like guests from a slightly more pop culture event and less a part of the overwhelming geeky vibe that brought smiles to the attendees and was filled with memorable moments for everyone.
MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2014 was a slickly produced, highly organised affair designed to cater to a general public eager to get the full on geek experience. Everyone, from the hordes of stormtroopers to the small children dressed as their favourite time lord seemed to have a great day.
More information on MCM EXPO events can be found at www.mcmcomiccon.com.
Words: Ed Fortune / Photos: Anne Davies
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