Capital Sci-Fi Con was back in Edinburgh this weekend (3rd to 4th February 2018) with a line-up that included Doctor Who stars Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred, alongside comics guests such as Nick Brokenshire, Gary Erskine, Tanya Roberts and John Wagner. Was it a good event? No… it was great!
This weekend marked a rather interesting period of growth for me, as I got to experience a convention as a vendor for the first time. I’d offered my services to help my friend, freelance artist and illustrator Janine Van Moosel, to look after her two tables. So, I’ve now experienced conventions as a customer, a working volunteer and as part of a vendor team. I now only need to attend a convention as an invited guest and I have the full set!
Conventions are, as we are all aware, about give and take and it is great to have conventions that are about a lot of give and very little take. Capital Sci-Fi Con is definitely a lot of give, as the profits are all donated to the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland, which I am sure you will all agree is a very worthy charity to support. In the three years that it has been in existence, Capital Sci Fi Con has raised over £132,000 for the Hospice.
— Colin Maxwell (@camaxwell) February 2, 2018
— Colin Maxwell (@camaxwell) February 2, 2018
In this third year of operation, the event had to be moved to the Edinburgh Corn Exchange, following the closure of its original venue, Meadowbank Stadium, in December 2017 as it is now earmarked for demolition, a replacement scheduled to be available by 2020. As I’m now a veteran of several conventions, I would say that the Corn Exchange is a much better venue, as sports stadiums tend to be geared towards sports rather than conventions and they can be quite difficult to heat given they have a lot of open space by design.
Rather than push the positives straight away, I am going to make some constructive criticism first. As big events go, the worst failing of this event was that there was no physical map of the traders’ hall to show where all the traders and guests were situated (although one was published online).
Some will wonder why I even mention this as a criticism, as many traders are often swapped around at the last minute. However, my experience is that while one or two traders may be moved, the majority remain static and knowing where each one is can be a godsend to a large group or parents/carers worried about losing track of where a small one is and wanting to have a central point to meet up if the group gets split up.
My only other criticism is that there were not enough comic traders there. (True Believers took place in Cheltenham on the same weekend, which may have contributed to this lack, but there are plenty of comics businesses in Scotland and the North of England who would never countenance a journey so far south. I know I can’t force people to take my money, but it helps if they are there for me to have a chance to give it to them in exchange for some comics!
And that is it. I have a lot of time for my fellow comics fans, so I’m not going out of my way to make up specious reasons why an event was bad, because Capital Sci-Fi Con was far from that. There were plenty of positives about it (and I’m not the only person who thinks that), as follows…
— Maximized Comics (@MaximizedComics) February 3, 2018
This was an event that attracted a footfall of over 6000 over the two days. That was a raw count of people entering the event, and actual attendance will inevitably be a bit lower taking repeat entrants into account, but while that figure may not be a lot compared with, say London Super Comic Con or San Diego, for the first event of the season in Scotland, that is more than respectable.
This was yet another family friendly event. I lost count of the amount of kids I saw going past either in cosplay or just really happy to be getting the most pocket money evah!
I was impressed with the professionalism of the venue staff. They were mindful of their responsibilities and ensured that the venue did not exceed capacity level. While that did cause some grumpiness in some of the people on Saturday afternoon, who had to wait until they could get in, this is a case of your grumpiness does not trump the responsibility of those looking after you.
I was impressed with the enthusiasm from the convention crew as I know how well how hard it is to keep smiling when all you want is for the con to finish and you can leg it to soak in a warm bath!
Organiser Keith Armour felt the need to apologise for the event being too popular, which led to the earlier issue of people not being able to get in. I am sure that it is a position that a lot of convention organisers would love to be in!
The change of venue meant that the event felt friendlier and less clinical – and was a welcome change in atmosphere from when I attended the first event back in 2016.
All in all, I am glad that I was able to attend and see a lot of comic book friends that I would not otherwise see. While it is not an event I would recommend to my rabid comic collector friends, I would recommend it to any fan of Science Fiction.
And with that I am going to finish on one final positive. I am so old that I watched Vision On first time round, so I asked guest Sylvester McCoy – was artist Tony Hart as much of a great guy as he appeared to be on the show? And I swear that Sylvester lit up, because someone was asking him about one of his earliest experiences in TV, rather than the same tired old questions about his favourite Doctor Who scripts. He was so relaxed and happy to say that Tony Hart was just as lovely in real life as he was on the show.
And if that doesn’t make anyone’s convention, I don’t know what will.
A life-long comic fan, specialising mainly in UK adventure comics, Colin did his very best to support his passion for the comics of his youth, Commandos (still going!) and any small press that interested him. Sadly, Colin passed in March 2021, an invaluable downthetubes team member, much missed by us all