I’m not new to the concept of Cosplay and multi-media conventions. Last year I attended MCM Expo in London, along with Rob Curley and Stephen Downey, because our comic Jennifer Wilde was nominated for an Eagle Award. It’s one of the biggest cons of this type in the UK, and they got about 60,000+ people through the door. I thoroughly enjoyed the event, even if it was overwhelming at times due to the sheer volume of people attending. And at 2D Comic Book Festival in Derry there’s been an increasing Cosplay presence over the past three years.
ArcadeCon is the first convention of this type I’ve attended in the Republic of Ireland. I’ve been going to cons for a long time, so I was interested to see how this type of event is taking off in Ireland. And the answer is: very well indeed.
The huge queue for registration was hard to miss on the Friday – from what I saw people were continuously signing in from when they opened around 2.30pm until at least 7pm. People were in great humour, and a large array of costumes abounded. The Dealer’s Room had opened, and the traders were already doing business. All the staff were friendly and helpful, and Martin and I had no issues checking in or registering.
I stayed for the Opening Ceremony, which was jammed, and met the delightful Cosplayer Special Guests Lucas Twinfools and Nova Vandorwolf, who travelled all the way from Canada, as well as Wayne Talbot, Kim Brosnan, and Darren Fahey from The Pubcast. Then I had to taxi it to RTÉ for my radio segment on Arena. After food we returned to the hotel, where the con was still buzzing. Martin and I chatted to people, and enjoyed listening to their passion and interest in their hobbies.
The next day the hotel was heaving with people, and the quality and range of costumes was incredible. I didn’t get the chance to take as many pictures I would have liked, but I captured some excellent outfits, such as the very striking Lady Loki.
I was on one of the first panels of the day: Beyond Refrigerators, which was a discussion of the depiction of women across geek culture. My fellow panellists were Anna Nic Ghiolla Mhuire, games programmer Andrea Magnorsky, who is also the co-founder of BatCat Games, along with Kim from The Pubcast. We weren’t expecting much of an audience that early on a Saturday, but we were pleasantly surprised to get a great attendance. We had a fun, interesting discussion of the issues that have been cropping up in geek circles (comics, games, films, etc.). The audience was engaged, intelligent, and articulate. It’s everything you want as a panellist at a con event.
I spent some time on Saturday sitting at the Atomic Diner table selling and signing comics. Over the course of the weekend I got to chat to other comics book creators, such as Darrin O’Toole, Stephen Mooney, Jason Connors, Leeann Hamilton, Anthea West, Amanda Spitzner, Robert Carey, and Declan Shalvey who dropped by on Saturday evening. I also met artists Katie O’Meara, Svenja Liv, and Sinead O’Regan.
There were lots of other retailers at the event, including the make-up artist Skit, who was working flat-out all weekend.
Here’s the after picture – this fabulous woman made the headdress herself the night before!
At 5pm I sat on another panel, cleverly titled Herror: Film, Fear, and Females, which was ably hosted by Lauren Murphy, with input from Wayne Talbot and myself. The small, warm room was filled to capacity, and many people were turned away. We had a great discussion about horror films and the changing role of women in the medium. Again, the audience was well informed and offered savvy contributions to the discussion.
I headed off with some friends for food in the city, and returned later to the hotel which was still simmering with happy fans who had been entertained by the band Jet Set Radio.
The following day I had my special guest panel, which was up against actress Virginia Hey‘s interview. I went in expecting it to be myself and Martin, but ended up with a good crowd. I talked about how I got into writing, the various media I’ve written in, and different aspects of the writing career. Then it was back to selling comics with Rob on the Atomic Diner table, and taking photos of Cosplayers.
The con opened up the main hall to its largest capacity for the closing ceremony, which was much needed. The weather had been stunning all weekend, and the hall was stuffy at this point, so the amazing ArcadeCon staff handed out water to the audience as the evening progressed. The charity auction was the last item of the convention. It was presided over by Wayne Talbot, who was just the right level of outrageous, and managed to coax loads of money from the crowd.
The co-directors of ArcadeCon, Declan Doody and Mairead Lyons, ended on an emotional moment, where they thanked everyone, including their staff, and promised a bigger event the following year.
At the end of the closing ceremony representatives of the other conventions that are taking place in Ireland got on the stage and gave details of their events. This type of cosplay/multi-media convention is very healthy in Ireland, with a big range of events coming up, such as Dublin Comic Con, Nomcon, and Eirtakon happening in the next five months. There was no representation for Octocon at the closing ceremony, which was disappointing as I’m sure many of the audience are fans of the amazing comic book writer Gail Simone, who is one of the GoHs at the convention (and Richard K Morgan has written comics too).
From what I heard the convention was a runaway success – with over 2,200 attendees in total. They had to cut off selling day passes on Saturday as they hit capacity around lunchtime. It was also brilliant to see so many woman at the event – it must have been nearly a 50/50 gender split.
These fans love their genre (anime, film, TV, comics), and put a lot of effort into expressing it as a creative pastime. It’s also an exceptionally friendly community. The social aspect of the con is as important to the attendees as the guests and events going on. I found the event quite inspiring, truth be told. The next generation adore sf/horror/fantasy and they want to interact directly with it.
This is the changing face of sf fandom: it’s democratic and involved. Good on them, I say.
(There are some more photos from the event on my Flickr set.)