Home Con News EM-CON 2016: Review

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Last weekend (April 30th/1st May 2016), Nottingham Motorpoint Arena played host to the hugely popular EM-CON event, featuring some incredible guests, a plethora of stalls and retailers, and wonderful cosplayers – AEISD Contributor Mark Searby was in attendance to report on the weekend’s proceedings…

Words: Mark Searby / Pictures: Samantha Payne

Mark: Nottingham is the greatest city on Planet Earth (full disclosure: I might be slightly biased here as I’m Notts born and bred). The city is known the world over for many different things including its historical lace manufacturing, producing Raleigh bicycles, being at the forefront of the UK dance music revolution, having a provincial football (Soccer) team that won the European Cup back-to-back and last, but not least, the heroic outlaw Robin Hood.

Talking of heroes, there were plenty on display this weekend at EM-CON.

Villains, goodies and the undecided unite in Nottingham for Em-Con

Posted by BBC Radio Nottingham on Saturday, 30 April 2016

It might not be an instantly recognisable convention name to those outside of the East Midlands. However, their professional and positive attitude to putting on a nerd culture convention has seen them grow massively over the past three years. Now extended to two full days at the Nottingham Motorpoint arena, a 10,000 capacity venue that is normally reserved for music concerts and ice hockey.

In order to enter the main part of the arena, the foot flow was directed around the concourse where many of the dealer tables are situated. At times, it created a bottleneck of people trying to pass each other but nobody really cared as they continued to shuffle past the tables whilst have a look at what was on offer. One of the dealers was shouting “…free comics!”, like an old fashioned market trader, which certainly piqued the interest of some. Once inside the main arena, set up on the covered ice rink space, the convention set up saw additional dealer stalls on the left with at the back of the main area and special guests et al featured on the right. I quickly rushed over to David Bradley’s signing line as I knew he was going to be busy all day.

image - em-con 2016 (01, david bradley)

A twenty minute wait was then rewarded with him signing the Abraham Setrakian Funko, with a dedication, and a really enjoyable chat about THE STRAIN and also his very strange experience of filming and subsequent fallout of EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING: even his EM-CON crew assistant got involved in talking about it. Walking away, it actually felt liked you’d had a thoroughly involved chat because nobody was rushing you to move out of the way for the next in line.

In fact, the whole con was quite relaxed. Nobody shouting or barking orders. It was a pleasant experience. A continued walk around the special guests saw them all spend plenty of time with each patron. The GAMES OF THRONES section was heavy with people waiting to have something signed. Once again no problems or issues with unruly behaviour or people being annoyed at wait times. The seventh Doctor Who, Sylvester McCoy, appeared to be signing all sorts of Who merchandise, rather bizarrely on top of a small suitcase. I never found out why, but it’s the Doctor so you just don’t question him do you?!

Artists Alley and professional Cosplayers thankfully had a section that wasn’t too tucked away; instead, it was at the end of the GAME OF THRONES guests, so footfall towards them was quite high, and hopefully it meant they received more trade through that. As I passed that area, Cosplay Artist Helen Alice was giving advice to a young girl about outfits. There wasn’t a high number of cosplayers, but the ones that were there did really stand-out, including those representing HELLBOY, WAR MACHINE, THE LEGEND OF ZELDA, GHOSTBUSTERS and the KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE.

As with any con, there are always some negatives. The temperature in the area was rather high resulting in a lot of people constantly stripping off the additional layers of clothing. The boarding behind each of the special guests needed to be higher. There was many people walking up to the front in order to just see who was sat at the end of a long line. A higher backboard with larger pictures would easily solve that. One other gripe, which isn’t about the con but rather some of the arena staff. People were sat on the side seats taking a break and having a bite or two to eat, as I went to walk up one of the stairs I was stopped and asked where I was going. I replied to say I wanted to go up a few flights and take a photo from the top looking down on the arena. To which I was told that wasn’t allowed. I asked why. The response was, “Arena management have told us we are not allowed to let people take photos of the arena.”

image - em-con 2016 (02, overview)

A strange response; I asked why and was told that that was all they were informed and to stop anyone trying to do that. How peculiar; off I wandered down to the other end of the arena. Walked up some steps and sat near the top to take photos. Not one of the staff nearby came to say to tell us to stop taking photos. A very peculiar set of circumstances indeed.

Those small niggles aside, EM-CON was a very enjoyable day out – to consider this is only the convention’s third year, and the first time it has spanned two days, is worth a lot of praise.  If the team behind EM-CON continue this rate of growth then expect them to be pulling in bigger and bigger guests over the next couple of years. It might not be situated in London but EM-CON is developing into an unsung gem amongst the UK’s conventions.

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