Ian Loxam of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival Podcast was at Oldham Comic Con with co-host and comics creator Nikki Bates, and reports back on a hugely successful event that was rammed to the rafters with top draw comics talent…
Setting off bright and early on 11th May 2019, we headed off from Kendal to Oldham to table at Oldham Comic Con 3. As the title suggests, this was the third year of the event, this time being held at Queen Elizabeth Hall. Previously, the event had been held at the local library which whilst it did the job, felt a little all over the place. The new location was much better, with one big hall offering a huge array of comic guests, small press and the usual merchandise shops as well.
These days, the term “comic con” is kind of looked down on by some, evoking an event full of TV and movie guests, merchandise stalls and just the odd comic creator (if any) – but not this event. Oldham Comic Con is, first and foremost a comic convention in every sense of the term, with 70 per cent of the floor space taken up by comic and art creators.
The guest line up was impressive, with names such as Nick Brokenshire, Amy Chu, Al Ewing, Lew Stringer and Keith Williams, and publishers such as Markosia, to name but a few along with many small independents such as Deadstar Publishing.
Alongside signings and creator stands, there were panels with some of the guests every hour, too.
Most importantly, along with all the guests, plus loads of small press, the event continues to be free. I spoke to Dennis Whittle, the organiser of the event, who explained he wanted to make comics inclusive for everyone and that conventions that often charge too much, which puts off people who only have a slight interest. It’s a barrier to children in many ways stopping them meeting these creators and finding a new love in comics – and I can completely see what he means.
(It’s just one reason the Comics Clock Tower at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival is free, along with other aspects of the weekend-long event, back in October in Kendal).
I went along with my partner and podcast co-host Nicole Bates, who was tabling in the small press area. The cost was small compared to many events and we knew after visiting last year that it would have good visitor numbers. Unfortunately, the first hour was dreadful and she sold nothing, which put a real downer on the day initially and thoughts of driving home with little to show for it wandered through our minds. But this started to change as we hit mid-day, as an odd sale came through followed by more interest, until books were regularly being bought, as was her original art.
It was interesting the see how the clientele changed throughout the day and people who wouldn’t normally visit a con came along and were taken in by her soft watercolours. Selling at events is a challenge as you put out your work hoping people will like it but the story here is don’t get down, give it all day!
The event was wonderful overall, but there ae a few small negatives. The PA system, while useful, was so loud that it made it hard to have conversations and often caused issues mid selling (and mid interviewing, but I can’t complain about that). There wasn’t enough communication before and during the event, so we weren’t aware of the lovely lunch that was provided for the people tabling until it was there or about the car parks being free until we arrived.
Also, the online promotions make it hard to know where to look to find out the full information about the event. But these are minor issues, and it’s good to know a dedicated web site on its way for next year. They certainly didn’t ruin an otherwise amazing event, and they certainly didn’t affect the enjoyment of attending comic fans and associated curious – which at the end of the day is what matters.
Overall, Oldham Comic Con is a wonderful event that’s trying the change the way we look at comic conventions and one other organisers should look at going forward. We have already asked for a table next year and will be going back. If you haven’t been, then make an effort to visit next year.