04:55 am, I wake up Four Weddings and Funeral style, woken by the text from the taxi company telling me they were outside. Great. Not even time for a coffee I think as I hastily run down in my jimjams to ask the driver to wait. 7 minutes later and I’m on my way to the train station hoping Coffee will come soon. I arrive in Manchester around 9 am geared up and ready for my first time at For the Love of Sci-fi, however, as I jump in a cab and ask to be taken to the venue the driver acts as though he has no idea where it is or if it even exists. Stress level-up x1. After consulting with Google Maps we’re off.
In the middle of an industrial park sits the Bowlers Exhibition Arena. Odd place for a convention, massively out-the-way, not easy to find even for a taxi with a sat nav. I shake off the bad feeling as I meet up with the other half of the WHIG team and we come up with a plan. Now at most events like these, there will be many stewards you can ask for help, maps and schedules up on the walls for everyone to see and an easy to navigate layout. Not here.
We had to buy a £5 programme to see the schedule, a screenshot of a spreadsheet I could barely read with my glasses on, and find the map, completely unreadable. Stress level-up x2. We couldn’t even find where we were on the map and we were by the entrance. Throughout the day finding anything seemed to become increasingly difficult as more people showed up. There were long queue’s forming right down the middle of the main hall with no staff to direct people where to go, there was barely any disabled access that I could see and I had a sneaky suspicion that by lunchtime the venue was over capacity and still letting people in.
Speaking of lunch finding food was a minor miracle, for an event of this size I expected more options. There was one food stall inside and two in the supposed “food court”. Stress level-up x3. We had to leave the premises to find food at a local retail park where, while eating, we genuinely wondered if we should go back at all. We did, hoping the panels would cheer us up.
Ah the panels, usually one of the best parts of a convention, this is where things got oddly surreal. We walked into flashing disco lights, the cheesiest of cheesy music and a group of Storm Troopers trying to dance on stage. Following that came David Hasselhoff, an odd experience on his own, we laughed the whole way through because of the sheer ridiculousness.
That’s all I can really describe this event as ridiculous, disorganised, or as the voices of Twitter and Facebook put it – a total shambles. Don’t get me wrong I love conventions and exhibitions, this seemed to be halfway and couldn’t decide what it wanted to be, and they had great stuff on display and some amazing guests and vendor. But I’ve never been to an event with such blatant disregard for its visitors.
My advice for next year; have a clearer map and display it around the convention, improve the schedule and stick to it, have a clear path around the event and clear queuing areas, and perhaps most importantly have an actual food court where punters can sustain themselves.
Here’s hoping they’ll listen to the complaints and improve on the potential it already has to be a great event.
Holly @What Happens In Gaming