Wales comic con: a absolute mess.
This is gonna be a long one.
Important footnote:This is obviously just an account of my own personal experience. You may have had a good time! That's awesome! Sadly. I did not.
So the last time I went to Wales comic con was two years ago, it was pretty average. Some problems for sure (eg. the printer broke when collecting our photos but, to be fair, that seemed pretty out of their control) but overall, okay. Quiet. But okay.
So from the off, the reason we were going in the first place was because Josh (boyfriend) wanted to meet a guest (that hadn't been to con before) from Warcraft. They had some people from Buffy I was definitely interested in but. It's near christmas, I'm skint, I'll just stare at them from a distance, it's all good.
So the drive up was 6 hours total, which is an absolute stinker, and has most definitely foopaad my back up from sitting down for so long.
Fun fact! Whilst having a break in the service station, some dude in a white van pulled up and asked if we wanted to buy one of his TV's. Not dodgy at all!
I'm not entirely sure what the hotel situation is like as this is entirely based within University halls/ I didn't have to look for one the last time I went, but we had booked an Air B&B a little away from the convention; which ended up being super cute, we got the entire little house to ourselves, and I was able to take some model photos using the space whilst I was there. No problems with that, super enjoyed it!
So we only went on the sunday, and boy am I glad we did. Now, as Josh went there with a purpose, he had a better time then Jess and myself, as if you aren't there to see a guest that you're giddy about, there is literally nothing to do. The (I want to say) 15 total stalls that were there all were selling the roughly same merchandise. There were no independent print artists, no super unique stalls. All the art they were selling was Marvel/ DC - which is fine! But if you're not into superhero stuff. There's really nothing. There were about two stalls which actually peaked my interest which was the necklace stall (not into jewellery myself but, it was different so it wouldn't stop me from looking!) and a brand I frequently spend money on; Bleading Marvelous. (which you should absolutely check out if you can!) I can imagine the traffic was horrifically slow for them.
However there was still admittedly more than when I last went so, credit where credit is due!
To make matters worse, they had (for some reason) lumped half the guests in right near the stalls as apposed to keeping all the guests in a separate area. Which means that the queueing system was an absolute shambles. As you had people trying to look at the stalls having to elbow through a queue of people trying to meet guests (who could possibly lose their place), as there was literally no other space to move. This also included; people trying to paparazzi them instead of actually trying to meet them, but due to (again) the size of the small hall, this just created more of a people-clump that I genuinely had to push through to get to the other end.
Due to the fact it was in a university, there were two halls and two tents (not one massive one like MCM's etc). Admittedly I didn't even get to go in one of the tents so I haven't got a clue what was in there (I can only assume cosplay guests as I had yet to see any), but this meant that you had to re queue to get into anywhere.. and oh boy the queues.
As we've established, the queuing system indoors was pretty damn shambolic. But the queuing system for some of the photo ops ended up spanning the entire length of the convention. Wales has obviously absolutely overbooked themselves and this also caused for every other op after being delayed or cancelled. That's right! On the day before con, Wales announced that a bunch of guests photo ops would have to be cancelled due to the fact they just hadn't made any time for them. Which means that people who may have travelled there specifically to see whoever, may have done it just for a selfie at an autograph table, or missed out completely. You'd have thought they would have thought that through before booking such a large amount of guests, but here's yet another thing to add to the list. Because of the overwhelmingly large amount of cancellations and what not, this meant that there were a lot of people just standing around not really knowing what to do. Apparently Saturday you literally couldn't even move outside due to the stampede of confused convention goers. To top off the guest hooha, it turns out Wales actually forgot to pick guests up from their hotels! So they cancelled some, and the ones they did book they left in a lobby somewhere for over two hours, meaning they may miss auto and photo slots - and they were regular guests too! Bravo!!
Some of the photoshoots were so delayed, that even after the convention actually shut at 4pm, there were still lines of at least 200+ people waiting for photo ops in an unmoving queue. (see first photo) If you were at the con and you saw any exhausted or frustrated guests, all of this is why!
The ticket itself was a good price, same with the autos and photo ops, the food on the other hand was way too pricey considering it was literally just chips in a canteen. I'm still blown away that I was charged £3.50 for two small pieces of chicken? Mad. They did have other food stalls outside that had burgers, and in the hall there was a fudge stall but, If you are vegetarian or vegan I can imagine your food choices would be severely limited, even more so than usual.
Now, the usual reason I go to conventions is the social aspect. The people can absolutely override a badly organised convention. So you may be thinking "but Tascha, you spent time with friends so everything was still good right?". Sadly. wrong. Wales is really not a cosplay/ tog/ social friendly con. I managed to quickly see a couple of people (the Archie fandom coming at me with those good feels again) but there really wasn't anywhere to go, nowhere to talk and to be honest, the overall vibe of the entire con was just frustration, exhausted-ness and boredom. It really just sucked the whole energy out of trying to even communicate with people I already knew let alone trying to talk to new people who you could tell just sort of wanted to go home.
The big plus about this con I had last time is that you were able to actually talk to the guests as apposed to being put in a two second conveyor belt timeframe, and I think that still holds up! I have a very nice memory of being able to speak to the very kind Red Dwarf and Once Upon a time cast members for well over 4/5 minutes that really did leave a wholesome impression, and I'm pretty sad that I missed out on doing this again due to the fact all the time slots were absolutely all over the place, and it was just too crowded to get to the tables when they were actually there.
If Wales doesn't either find a change of venue, trim down the guests' list or at the very least make their halls more organised, from the look of the Wales comic con community facebook group, they're going to loose a lot of patrons.
How they were even able to book guests from the MCU in the first place I will never know.
To sum up
+ Wales has obviously gotten far too big for their venue.
+ They overbooked guests.
+ They forgot guests in their hotels.
+ They were not equipped to handle the amount of convention goers.
+ A lot of people missed out on photos, autos, and generally getting their photo print because of the lack of planning.
+ There was not enough stall variance.
+ Jess and me should have just stayed in the Air B&B, and had regrets over eating too much chocolate to avoid the emotional and general drain this day gave us.