So we were lucky enough to nab some tickets to this year’s London Movie and Comic Con and headed down there on a truly disgustingly early bus last weekend.
Being regulars at the local Cardiff Comic Con this was pretty exciting to us so we hope you don’t mind but we thought we’d share our experience with you guys. And… what an experience it turned out to be!
Making our way down to Kensington (you’ll know it when you get there- it’s full of the kind of shops you don’t dare even look into in case you find yourself re-enacting that scene in Pretty Woman where the shop assistant tells Vivian she probably can’t afford any of the products) we made our way into the Olympia Arena on Hammersmith Road to be confronted by what we can only describe as an immense and chaotic wonderland.
Seriously, it was like walking into a sweaty excitable cattle-market jammed with every kind of people and merchandise you could ever imagine. To be one hundred per cent honest it took a while to adjust to the sheer bustling entropy of the place and for those with a nervous disposition or any tendency towards claustrophobia you really may want to steer clear of the place. But stalwarts that we are, we sucked in a breath and headed down the stairs nonetheless, because goddamn were we excited to be here. And… to be fair after a while we kind of got used to the bedlam. Or immune to it. One of the two.
Here’s some tips we’ve learned though that you may need for your first hour if you venture down there one year:
1. If you’re carrying any kind of bag/rucksack/suitcase then the first port of call you want is the cloakroom. You’ll find one on each level and the ones on the second and third floors usually have less of a queue.
2. Any of the Showmaster staff you ask about this will not be able to tell you where they are. Or where anything is. Or their own name. Sorry dudes, no offence intended but they were pretty much useless in terms of relevant info on the day. And we know it must be a loooong day for them (things wind down at six whereupon you will be shouted at to leave) but basic venue information is kind of helpful to first time visitors so big thumbs down for that.
3. If you are looking to have an autograph/photo taken with any of the stars if you don’t queue up for that first thing at the ticket booth you’re going to be disappointed. Seriously. If you don’t take anything else away from this post then take note of this. We actually heard that some Diamond Pass and Gold Pass holders who paid a lot of money to guarantee autographs and pics with Michael J Fox and Christopher Lee with the DeLorien/clocktower actually missed out on this due to poor management by the organising team. So if that’s what can happen with pre-booked stuff then imagine what it’s like for us average schmoes. You have been warned.
Anyways, after depositing our stuff we began our day. Checking out the array of stalls selling everything from steampunk accessories (particularly awesome), vintage comics, anime merchandise, movie posters and comic book artwork we pootled about merrily checking out the cosplayers moseying around as we went. And holy Hellraiser; those are some impressive costumes you’ll get to see. In fact half the fun is trying to work out who everyone is. There’s the unmistakable getups of course- lots of Harley Quinns, multiple Jokers/Two Faces and bow wielding Lothlorien elves everywhere you look but then you get the more obscure outfits to test your knowledge. Our personal faves this year? Alan Grant and Ellie Sadler from Jurassic Park complete with neckerchief and a Ghostbusters trio including a proton pack wielding Venkman, a cute AF Louis Tully/Gatekeeper and possessed/sluttied up Dana/Keymaster in the orange Zuul dress. Very cool. And massive kudos to all those who took the time to dress up because hand on heart, you guys rock. The generous attitude of all those who were more than happy to have their picture taken with complete strangers every few minutes was also a great thing to see especially when small children were the ones to ask.
In fact, truth be told you could just hang out there all day for the sheer joy of the cosplayers alone if you ask us. Sadly, we were in standard nerd fare for our little jaunt but we really can’t say this enough- cosplayers make the event. They’re the beating heart of it and we love everything they do.
So, after an hour of staring at those in (what must have been absolutely sweat-packed) costumes and trying to keep ourselves from spending every last bit of cash we had on us we made our way up to the first floor to check out the special guests. The calibre of stars at LDCC is without doubt a step up from Cardiff’s offerings (though, don’t get us wrong, we love our homegrown Con… almost too much) and as we made our way around we came across a whole host of stars. Kelly Hu from Wolverine? Check. Gregg Henry and Sean Gunn from Slither and Guardians of the Galaxy? Double check. Some Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (which passed us by sad to say in our tv watching past)? Yep those too.
Pretty much every type of media was represented in spades- film, tv, comic and graphic novels. And you had the chance to get up close and personal with whoever you wanted which was a nice touch too. Made everything feel a little less businessy, you know? Again at this point we have to make it clear that if you wanted photos etc then you’d need to have queued up for your tickets already and even then finding out where to go if you were lucky enough to have a ticket in your hot little hand was a mission in itself. Since we were ’browsing’ for want of a better word though, this actually didn’t bother us so much but if you’re going there for the stars of the silver screen then it’s worth paying attention to this bit.
Oh, and on that note, here’s another tip for you by the way.
If you’re spending all day/two days/three days there then you’ll definitely want to take a sandwich/drinks in with you. The queues for the food outlets on every level were…well, ridiculous to be brutal and once they sold out of something there ain’t anymore coming. And the queue for the cash machine? Insane. This is a problem that may well come back to haunt you if you want to buy from some vendors on site. A lot will take cards of course. But many we came across had issues with the wifi in the building rendering their card processing impossible a lot of the time. And so…the cash machines took the hit throughout the day. It may well be worth taking cash with you before you go, peeps. Just FYI and all that.
We have to admit something at this point and please don’t judge. We knew most of the tickets were sold out. Hayley Atwell. Sigourney Weaver. No chance there, mate. But being a big Gremlins fan, a friendly looking Zach Galligan sitting at one of the guest booths caught our eye and we somehow managed to grab a ticket for a photo with him towards the end of the day. So yeah, that happened. We are now the proud owners of a photo of us holding a tiny Mogwai with the lovely Mr Galligan throwing an arm around us. And…yeah, we’re not even sorry. Because he was awesome (and kind of hot) and though we almost missed our shoot (thanks Showmasters staff) we came away with the photo that now sits lovingly on our corkboard at home. So we call that a win.
And the purple steampunk hat we bought twenty minutes later complete with vintage handgun? Double win.
Six o’clock came too soon after this though. Honestly, we were kind of expecting an announcement that the venue was closing imminently but pretty much all we got was a wave of people herded our way from upstairs and security members pushing us towards the doors as the thing came to a close. Not cool SM. Not cool. In fact, the evacuation was so abrupt that we were almost out of the main doors before we realised our bags were still in the cloakroom. And trying to get back in even when we tried to explain?… All that got us was a rude diatribe from the woman on the doors before we managed to sneak past her. Luckily we were able to retrieve our stuff but we can’t lie, the attitude we were faced with at the end did put a little dampener on the day. Not enough to stop us from going back obviously or from loving our time there but enough to rankle, you know?
So here’s the rub then.
LDCC…is an amazing event. You can argue back and forth as to whether the prices for photo shoots aren’t justifiable till the cows come home but the spirit of the occasion from the people that matter, the stall holders, cosplayers and general public is a wonderful thing to be a part of. Welcoming, accepting and joyous. Really.
The only downside was the running of the affair. The words slapdash, unprepared and offensively corporate at certain points spring to mind aswell as a few others we can’t print here. And if they could only sort that element out then we really believe the whole thing would be the jewel in London’s entertainment crown.
But for now, as it is, we’ll just say we had a hell of a time.
And hope maybe to see some of you there in the future?