Review: East Midlands Sci-fi & Fantasy Convention 2014

Last Sunday saw Nottingham’s Albert Hall host the first sci-fi and fantasy convention held in the East Midlands. With a line-up including the cast of the hugely popular television show Red Dwarf and characters from other hit television series, such as Game of Thrones and Doctor Who, the convention was set to be a great success and a fun filled day for all attending. Alas, all did not go to plan, as hundreds of ticket holders were left out in the cold for the majority of the day, queuing for hours on end due to a ridiculous amount of tickets being oversold by the convention’s organisers.

Prior to the event, there had been speculation surrounding the organisers’ choice of venue, as Nottingham’s Albert Hall is a fairly small building, and is a surprising choice for holding a convention, a usually large-scale event. These fears proved to be justified when ticket holders were forced to wait in a queue so ridiculous that it doubled around not only the Albert Hall but also the group of buildings surrounding it. Even the early bird ticket holders who were supposed to gain entry from 10am were unable to gain entry before 11am due to late running, and many were left waiting even longer due to the event’s appalling organisation. To make matters worse still, non-ticket holders were allegedly gaining entry intermittently throughout the day, whilst tickets holders, who had been informed that they had priority of entry, were left feeling bitter and disappointed as they stood endlessly, awaiting answers that never came.

For those who did manage to endure the wait and gain admission, the disappointment didn’t end there. By the time visitors made it into the building, many had already missed the Q&A sessions with the actors they had expected to see, and instead found themselves jammed into an immovable throng of people attempting to battle their way around the merchandise stalls and autograph tables. A lucky few did secure autographs and pictures with the celebrities they desired, however many were left downhearted, as numerous special guests were only available for a small amount of the day and had left by the time their fans had made it in and fought their way to their tables. Credit to the Red Dwarf and Game of Thrones cast members, who did remain at the convention throughout the day and seemed the most dedicated to ensuring their fans were pleased, the majority being smiley and friendly to all who approached them. However, it simply wasn’t enough to rectify the damage that had already been done. Visitors were seen leaving the venue mere minutes after they had gained admittance, many complaining about the hall’s crowdedness and the merchandise stalls, which had been few and far between and offered little.

Inevitably, social media pages for the event were bombarded with infuriated messages from visitors who were outraged at the convention’s complete lack of organisation, and whilst some were able see the funny side, posting witty comments on Facebook, such as ‘this was not the convention you were looking for’ and ‘FailCon’, others were not so amused, particularly those who had travelled long distances to make it to the event. In response to the mass of complaints received, the organisers of EM-Con did offer all of those who did not gain entry to the event a full refund and have issued a formal apology on the EM-Con official website, however this seems little consolation, and questions must be raised as to why tickets were allowed to be massively oversold in the first place.

Whatever the reasons for the convention’s disastrous effects, we must hope at least that the organisers will have learnt from their mistakes. With next year’s convention due to take place in Capital FM Arena and with the arena’s staff also expected to manage proceedings, the future is already looking brighter. Here’s hoping 2015 is less of a smegging shambles.

 

Clara McKechnie