Report by Steve Tanner from Time Bomb Comics
Well, this weekend was a revelation. It was probably one of the busiest comic-themed weekends of the year, what with the comics cognoscenti heading en masse to the second Lakes International Comic Art Festival up in Kendal and the winter London Film and Comic Con attracting the cosplayers and autograph hunters to the capital. Oh yes, there was also this new little one-dayer taking place in Leamington Spa too, but with no star guests and only 20 or so exhibitors it wasn’t really worth much attention, right?
Except something special happened at the first Leamington Comic Con last Saturday, that I don’t think anyone really expected, least of all the organisers. You see, in the Pump Rooms where the show was held – a fairly small venue perhaps not much larger than a village hall – more than 900 people turned up. Of those, 600 had bought their tickets in advance. Even more impressive, these were people eager to peruse the tables, engage with the creators, have a great time and buy comics, prints, t-shirts and pretty much anything the exhibitors had to sell.
As someone who regularly hawks my wares at these things that last part is important. This year, a year where there have been more UK comic conventions than ever (and I’m including those “Comic-Cons” that aren’t really about comics at all, you understand) there’s been a sense of ennui creeping in. Shows that really should have been teeming with fans instead had a trickle as confused exhibitors stood looking at each other across empty walkways that should have been jammed bottlenecks considering the time of day. Whispers of con-fatigue – “Maybe there are too many events these days? People can’t attend them all!”
Ah, but people can – and will – attend shows that have been properly marketed. Where the organising team have spent months building up a sense of excitement about their show, getting the word out – not just through a facebook or twitter account but through active engagement with local newspapers and radio stations. Where a local publicity campaign is more than just some leaflets dumped on the counter of the local comic shop. Where on the day the venue exterior is emblazoned with banners and A-boards proudly proclaiming the show’s existence, and a cheaper late-entry ticket option is made available for the curious. The inaugural Leamington Comic Con was not only a great show but a marketing master class. More experienced show-runners could learn some lessons here (or at least remind themselves of things forgotten).
Of course, all this made for brisk trade. A lot of us had better sales than we have had at the MCM, LFCC or Supercon cash-cows. Some of us had the best sales we had experienced at any show, ever. It was a delight to see the sense of amazed joy on some of those indie creators faces at the end of the day! So the exhibitors had a great time (if with a sense of shock) and the attendees had a great time. Everyone seemed genuinely enthused about the event throughout.
Plans are underway for another show next year, in the same venue and with the same amount of tables. Maybe they’ll have a special name guest too, but it seemed the lack of one this year didn’t really seem to make any difference.
Less, it seems, can be considerably more.