Next weekend I'll be selling at UK Ponycon, which is a convention that has been going since its debut in 2004 and is dedicated to all things My Little Pony! The con started as purely a collector's con, way before My Little Pony had its viral resurgence in the form of the new cartoon, Friendship is Magic. There, collectors would trade and sell their extras and generally use the weekend as a chance to meet other like-minded fans. In 2010, the new cartoon would bring a whole new group of people to the convention, fans of the show who called themselves 'Bronies' and who shared our passion for silly colourful horses.
Since then, UK Ponycon has grown into a mid-sized convention that collectors and new fans alike flock to from all corners of the globe. People dress up in pony cosplay, sell sell handmade art and customised ponies and take part in all the fun events Ponycon annually has to offer. I have attended nine of the thirteen (!) Ponycons so far, and I'd like to think I've got a pretty good handle on what to expect from the event, so I thought I'd write up a little guide detailing the sort of thing you might expect to experience if you attend UK Ponycon!
Yeesh, I don’t think I’ll ever get used to calling it ‘MCM London Comic Con’! For the longest time this convention was called MCM Expo and that’s the name that’s forever stuck in my mind!
With another May over (hello, June!), it means that yet another London Comic Con has come and gone. For those of you who don’t know, London Comic Con (or MCM Expo) is the largest nerd con in the UK. It covers movies, television, comics and anime and it’s just getting bigger and better each year.
I’ve been selling my art there since 2010. I first started out in Comic Village, which is an area that used to be called ‘Artists Alley’ and used to be the place independent artists could sell their work. Over the years, as the con has morphed and changed, Artists Alley turned into Comic Village with a focus on independently created comics. A whole bunch of artists who sold mainly prints and crafts decided to move into the dealer’s area, and I have to say the move has been pretty favourable for me! The tables in the dealer’s section are a lot more expensive, but you certainly get what you pay for. The extra money buys you a table that is twice as large, and you get so much more room behind you for storage and movement (believe me, space at this con is a luxury!) The dealer’s section also gets way more footfall from people desperate to part with their cash, and - most importantly - you can sell pretty much whatever you like there.
This was my second time behind a dealer’s table at London MCM. I wasn’t in the best location in the world (mainly because tables sell out super fast and we had to book mine while on the Eurostar headed for Disneyland Paris, woops!) but I did well despite that! The dealers I was next to were lovely - one even gave me a little Delorean toy car as a thank you for being such a nice table neighbour! And it’s always so wonderful seeing my friends again as they come by. (Another awesome thing about having a table at conventions is having a sort of ‘home base’ that people can locate and plan around!) Friday was quite scary as sales were very, very low, and I was so worried it would be a trend for the whole weekend. Thankfully, Saturday picked up and by Sunday I had actually had one of my most successful conventions!
As usual, I didn’t take nearly as many photos as I wanted to, I didn't get to leave my table much apart from to get lunch and attend a couple of panels while Luke kindly watched the table for me. Usually, I manage to escape to see the League of Legends cosplay meet, but this year it clashed with a panel for 'Being Human' which is a show I used to adore! And they had the whole original cast there, which was pretty neat! Sarah and I went to a panel for that, and then I also went to an 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D' panel, terrified the finale might be spoiled (Moose and I haven't seen the last few episodes yet, eep!) Fortunately, the cast are all utterly professional and they didn't let anyone ruin anything for us (though a fan did manage to hint at what happens in the finale, which was annoying enough!)
This year's MCM was super smooth. Entry didn't seem like the mess it usually is, organisation was pretty much on point. Luke, Sarah, Moose and I all stayed in an apartment down the DLR line which worked out so well for us - we used to cram a bunch of us into a local hotel to keep things affordable, but the hotels have started cracking down on that and last year we got caught out. The apartment only took twenty minutes, door-to-door, and worked out not very much more than a hotel would have been. Plus, it meant we had somewhere to hang out and play games in the evening and somewhere to make bacon sandwiches in the morning. Brilliant!
A few weeks ago now (eep, how time flies!), we went to Kitacon! Last time I went to Kita, I was behind a table in the dealer's room and business was pretty slow, but the little I saw of the convention made me yearn to go back as an attendee! When they announced that Kita was going to be the Big Summer Con of 2015, we all jumped at the chance to go!
The con was incredible! It was just such a lovely, fun, relaxing, silly convention. I didn't get to as many panels as I'd like to have, but I did get a chance to catch Ashley Burch talking about her career in video games and on Youtube. I must admit I spent most of mine time in the games room - they had a retro gaming section and there was a copy of Chuckie Egg I just had to get my grubby paws on! I think I got a little obsessed, haha. I used to be really good at Chuckie Egg - back when I was five.
Moose spent a lot of Sunday in a Magic the Gathering draft, which he won (of course), while I hatched my own little plan. His birthday was two days after Kita and I really wanted to do something. Unfortunately, every plan I had sort of fell through and it became a bit of a scrabble despite my attempts at forward planning. I asked my friends Sarah and Luke to buy a cake as I'd have had no way of hiding it, and we decorated their hotel room while Moose was busy playing MTG. By 'decorate'... I mean, we blew up some balloons and draped some paper over the pictures, haha. It wasn't the most sophisticated affair, but we put candles on the cake, put some presents around and gathered all of Moose's friends! An awesome touch was that our rooms (Sarah and Luke's, where we had decorated, and the room I shared with Moose) were right next to each other, and attached by a little balcony we could walk between! So, when Moose was done with Magic, I told him I needed to go back to the room to grab some money while everyone else waited in the other room, and then we walked between the two and SURPRISE!
Okay, so it wasn't the most perfectly executed plan, but it meant a lot to me that I try and do something to acknowledge his birthday! He and I already had plans to spend the actual day together at Secret Cinema (The Empire Strikes Back!) - so this was just a little something I wanted to do with his friends as well. It was important to me that we do something as a group, and I think he appreciated the effort and thought if nothing else! I'm looking forward to when he and I live together and I can throw proper parties for his birthday, but for now the little things will have to be enough.
The evening parties at Kita were also pretty great. I'm not all that into parties normally - you'd never find me in a nightclub! - and I'm not interested in J-pop and J-rock really, but they had a proper rock night and Sunday evening featured a beautiful formal ball, complete with a string quartet playing appropriate songs like the Jurassic Park theme and music from The Lord of the Rings! It was lovely! I really enjoyed the chance to dress up and see all my friends dressed formally - it's not something any of us do all that often (sadly!).
Kitacon was incredible. Moose said it was probably his favourite time at a con, simply because it was just relaxed and fun all the way through. Really, my only criticism of Kitacon is about the venue - or specifically, its location and the lack of available food nearby. Kita is held at the Birmingham Hilton Metropol, and it's bloody expensive. I'm talking £15 for a sandwich. They put on a few deals - pizza, mainly, and they offered some 'street food' for the convention but it was just ridiculous. (£7 for a tiny hot dog with a spoonful of chilli on top). We ended up walking all the way through the NEC, to the airport just to get a Burger King meal because the food was so expensive at the hotel - and we weren't the only convention attendees who did this! I really like the hotel, and the pool and spa was a lovely touch and great way to unwind on Friday night, but the food is such a downer it's actually a huge turn off, for me. For example, it doesn't compare to the Warwick Arts Centre, where Ayacon used to be held, and where Amecon is being held next year. Warwick is my favourite venue for conventions - with several places to grab food, including a nice studenty pub and an actual affordable corner shop! Warwick also seems better suited for conventions in other ways, too - it features proper tiered auditoriums for panels and shows, which solves a few of the viewing problems I had over the weekend. Of course, the limitation is that Warwick is a smaller venue, but frankly I think I'd rather a smaller convention with better dining options, even if it doesn't offer a pool and spa!
Aside from the food, I really loved Kitacon. I'm not sure if I'll be back next year because it's on in March (taking the Spring slot and swapping with Amecon for the Summer slot) but I'll definitely get back when it comes back as a Summer convention!
I'm nearly all ready for MCM London Comic Con! I've spent the past few months working hard on stock for this convention, and I can't wait to just relax and get there, now! MCM is a wonderful convention I look forward to every six months (there's one in May and one in October!) and I just can't wait to get set up and see all my old friends again!
As always, I have a table in Comic Village! It's probably going to be my last time in the Comic Village so I've gone all out and stretched over to two tables! You can find me on J8 and J9, right on the end of the aisle!
I'm going to be selling my usual array of prints, badges, bookmarks and posters, as well as original art, ACEOs and woodburned boxes! Here's a sneak preview of some of the new prints I'll have on offer!:
Anyway, I have to get off the PC and head out for some last minute supplies before I finish up here and pack up ready for the con! Hopefully see you there!
Last weekend, I attended Eurogamer's Rezzed in Tobacco Dock in London, and it was one of the most inspirational conventions I've ever attended. I'm not a game developer myself, of course, I went there entirely to play games and have fun. Armed with a 'weekend' wrist band, I had no idea what to really expect from Eurogamer's smaller convention. I spend pretty much all my free time playing video games, but few of the big boys were on display, there was no eSports section, and I hadn't even heard of half the games I'd be seeing in action over the next couple of days.
Instead, Rezzed is aimed entirely at independent developers and smaller companies, and that's precisely why it was so inspiring. I came out of the event buzzing each evening. Each day was packed with games I'd never played before and talking to the creatives behind them. Nobody I met was there because it was 'their job' to be there. The passion everybody had for their products was contagious. For example, Moose sat down to play 'Flame Over', a fun little fire-fighting Roguelike, and as he struggled with one aspect (using a different sort of extinguisher to put out electrical fires), we overheard the developers behind us discussing how to make it more obvious, or whether the electrical fire element should even be in the first level of the game. They were there to generate interest in their game, and we, the gamers, were there to help. Rezzed was a gaming con for people who genuinely care about games, where you really felt that your input was valued, however small.
I didn't get to play as many games as I'd have liked (I think I'd have needed a full week to do that) but there were a few we managed to get a go on. In the next few days I'll discuss them all properly, because they cover every genre from twin-stick shooter to dungeon crawler, platform game to simulation, and they really are worth talking about.
Inspired by You Fancy Me Mad's recent 'Everyday Cosplay' post, I thought I'd post some old photos here of one of my favourite cosplays! I absolutely love cosplaying, but I'm really bad at making the clothes (not to mention really bad at the time management needed to make really good cosplay outfits!) so I don't get to do it as often as I'd like.
However, when my friends and I first started watching Gravity Falls, we all fell in love with the characters, animation and amazing stories. I realised instantly that we should do a little cosplay group! We went to MCM London Expo in October 2012 and were spotted by the lovely RavenBlakh Photography, who offered to take some wonderful photos of us all!
Mabel was so much fun to cosplay as! She's so goofy and fun, I spent the entire convention just bouncing around and enjoying being a complete dork (so, not much different to the norm, really!) Her cosplay was super easy to make, I found a second hand jumper in the perfect colour, bought some felt strips to make her trademark rainbow motif, salvaged a purple skirt from another cosplay I once had, and wore a pink headband! So simple!
The rainbow was super easy to make, though I admit I had my Mum's help a little bit since I can't use a sewing machine to save my life and my hand stitches weren't all that tight on the stretchy jumper! I simply cut three stripes to form the rainbow and cut out a yellow star, easy as pie.
I also put together most of Moose's Dipper outfit, since it was literally just a blue vest top and orange shirt, both salvaged from a second hand shop somewhere locally. The only bit of work I had to do was draw a blue pine tree on his trucker cap, which I bought super cheap from eBay. Like I said, I'm not very skilled at complicated cosplay!
And last but not least, my buddy Luke created his own Grunkle Stan cosplay, complete with eyebrows over his fez - authentic!
MCM Expo comes but once a year! Well, twice a year. Well, actually, there's a whole load of MCM Comic Con events now, dotted around the country - but the biggie is the London one, which happens twice, and the biggiest of them all is the London October one.
And it was big.
MCM has had issues with crowding and queuing in the past, but from what I could tell they really managed to resolve it this time 'round. This was the first time MCM actually made full use of the entire building, with both halls spread out and filled to the brim with fun things to see and do. There was also a much larger gaming presence this time around, with plenty of sit-down-n'-play consoles and setups. Sadly, it looks like we've seen the end of the DDR-UK setup with Rock Band, Smash Bros and Street Fighter etc., which is a pity, but can safely say I really liked the direction the whole con is going in.
From a Comic Village point of view, where I had my little table, it was a quiet one for me again. I say this fully aware that I think I do as well, if not better than a lot of the folks in Comic Village, simply for the sheer bulk of stuff I sell, but this year sales have been less than half what I've taken in the past. I'm not sure why, though I've got a few theories. One think I'm tempted to try out is shelling out towards a dealer's table. It'd position me away from other artists and right in the fray amongst the merchants and wholesalers. I'm thinking about this as a good thing - so much of my art is popculture and I think it might appeal to those not necessarily in the market for prints. The dealers area gets so much extra footfall from people who aren't necessarily interested in comics and artwork, and I'm wondering if a table there might just catch more people's eye. Who knows!
When not at the actual convention, my friends and I spent the evenings at the local pub and wine bar, playing Belle of the Ball, a really fun little game I kickstarted a while back, Loveletter, Coup and Magic the Gathering. Oh, and Smash. There was a lot of Smash Bros. played this weekend.
As usual, I didn't take many photos. I rarely get chance to when I'm behind the table so long, and when I do escape I spend so long running around trying to do everything instead! But, here's a few. Mainly League of Legends cosplayers again.
I've wanted to attend Eurogamer for a very long time! It's the largest gaming expo in the UK but unfortunately it's always clashed with Moose's university terms and we've been unable to attend until this year, which is kind of prophetic since this is the last year it'll be held in Earls Court, London. The expo is moving up to Birmingham in 2015 which is a bit of a pain (Moose currently lives in London and has family there) but I'll definitely be back next year if I can make it, because we had a really great time!
On Saturday evening, we bought tickets for a Eurogamer after party that was being held at the Namco Funscape arcade on Southbank in London. It was pretty... poor, to be honest. The tickets were only £6 so we didn't lose much, but the main attraction was the offer of free games and bowling, and the sheer amount of people meant we didn't get many goes on any games, and the bowling was a complete no-go. The bar was so busy that it took us about half an hour just to get to the front to order, and a lot of games (the ones that gave prizes, understandably) weren't free anyway. It was nice to say we did it, but I doubt we'd bother again.
We actually only scored tickets for Sunday afternoon so we had to cram a lot into not much time. Because the big blockbuster games were so popular (with really long queues to match), we mainly stuck around the Rezzed (indie gaming) and retro sections, and I finally got a go on an Oculus Rift! I played a bunch of indie games, my favourite of which being Haunt the House: Terrortown, a cute size scrolling puzzle game in which you play a little ghost, where the goal is to scare away (or, y'know, kill) people. It was super addictive and fun. I also spent a ridiculous amount of time on a mobile game called Kitty Powers' Matchmaker - which I started playing for kicks and actually got really into. The humour and sass behind what at first glance was a typical dating game was absolutely hilarious.
Eurogamer was a proper expo, not a convention, and as such it had a really different (and really nice) vibe to it. Don't get me wrong, I obviously love conventions, but this event was a lot calmer, laid back and, frankly, far more my cup of tea. I'll definitely attend again, probably on a Thursday-Friday to avoid the crush so we can actually get a chance on some of the larger games. It's a shame its leaving the Earls Court venue - but sadly I guess it's necessary; Earls Court is being pulled down in the next few years to be turned into flats or something equally vulgar. The building itself is gorgeous, with proper 1930s art deco architecture. I've been there a couple of times now and always loved the event space it housed, and I think it's a great shame that yet another piece of history is being demolished for housing (despite a huge campaign to save it, sadly).
Oh well. Wherever Eurogamer takes us, I'll be there next year, with far more time to spare so I can get my grubby mitts on even more video games. The UK doesn't have many gaming cons, so for now Eurogamer is getting all of my love.
I'll be honest, I was a little apprehensive about this year's BUCK. I've been quite vocal in my opinions about their choice of venue, ticket prices and attitude towards the convention's rising costs, and I was worried the whole thing would bellyflop. As a vendor, I was worried the hugely inflated ticket prices would harm sales, that people would either have no money to spend at the con, or outright wouldn't be able to afford the con at all. I was grumbly the convention fell on Doctor Who weekend, and also the same weekend as Insomnia, a big ol' LAN I wanted to attend too. In short, I was quite worried and grumpy about the whole thing.
Gotta say, hand on heart, I take it all back. BUCK was, from my perspective, pretty danged awesome!
As a vendor, most of my convention happened behind the table, so I didn't get to party, play games or attend panels, but the people I encountered were lovely, passionate and fun. The staff were extremely helpful, offering to carry my stuff, offering to help me set up, and asking during day if everything was okay. The vendor tables were set up in a little island, actually cordoned off between tables so the public couldn't get in easily. We had tonnes of room behind the table, something most conventions do not offer!, and I was seated directly behind two Ponycon friends of mine, so it felt like we had our own little Ponycon island!
The situation at BUCK is unlike any other con I've sold at. We weren't in a separate dealers room - in fact, our room was the thoroughfare between the outside and the evening parties, which meant we had to make the decision to close up shop and have our stuff unmanned all evening, or buckle down and vend through the night. It's a situation that could have made a lot of people very angry, I was fully prepared to go up in arms about it, but as the con drew on, the idea became more and more appealing. We got to sit around, experience the party atmosphere (I'm not one for dancing anyway!), hang out with other people, and make a few bucks (hur) here and there doing it. It shouldn't have been okay, and it shouldn't have worked, but there was something about the atmosphere at BUCK that made it really fun to vend through the evening. It was hard work, though! Friday was a 'half' day, starting at 6pm and sticking around until 12:30am, but Saturday marked the only 14 hour vending day I've ever experienced! Don't get me wrong, a lot of (sensible) vendors left and had dinner, but I was soaking up the atmosphere. It helped that my table was directly opposite the party. We had a lot of traffic to and fro, and I got to experience the music (for better and worse!)
A lovely thing happened, too, which goes to show how friendly and generous the people at the convention really were. On the Saturday night, things got a little silly. Sales were slow (everyone was in the party), so I decided to have a bit of fun. One pony I'd been asked for was Lyra, so I decided to draw out some awful, intentionally terrible Lyra sketches, and shoved them on my table as a joke for 20p each. I figured slightly tipsy party goers might get a kick out of the idea. Sure enough, my buddy Archer called a group over and they snapped 'em up. Someone even gave me a whole £1 for the piece! I was chuffed.
What was absolutely lovely though, was when one of the pieces was returned to me on Sunday. A guy came up to me, and said, very seriously, that he'd like to complain. He explained that last night I was selling 'bad art' on my table, and I was fully expecting him to ask for his money back or something. He went on to say that he realised it wasn't bad at all, and that I'd been falsely advertising my work. He then said he'd like to return it on that bases, and he handed me back the picture....
...Signed by every VIP and guest at the convention.
Guys! Choked up doesn't even cover it! He just walked away with a smug grin on his face while I was sat there staring down at this piece of paper he'd taken around to all the guests to sign for me. The gesture was just so danged lovely, and honestly I think this moment of silliness made the whole weekend for me! It was really just the sweetest thing. Gah! I love conventions.
Honestly, BUCK 2014 was one of my most favourite conventions to deal at! It was well handled, profitable and fun, which are pretty much the three most important things a vendor can ask for in a con! There are a few things that could be worked on, the venue was ridiculously large (the party room was running at 30% capacity, I heard) and the prices need to be tweaked to be more realistic for BUCK's demographic - £80 is just too steep when other conventions in the UK run at £50 or so. I've heard there were a few hiccups with the cosplay side, which thankfully the lovely cosplay guest Yami took time out of her own plans to fix. The average attendee wouldn't even know anything went wrong, which goes to show how well she patched things up.
There isn't going to be a BUCK in 2015. I don't know if another Brony-centric convention will take over, but I really hope so. There were a lot of people at this con, so it'd be a real shame if nothing happens next year. In future, I wish BUCK would take note of other conventions in the UK, who run on a far smaller budget, at size suitable venues. I know the committee doesn't want to sacrifice their vision of the convention in any way, but when that resolve comes at the detriment to the fandom in the UK, I find that a real shame. I hope something can be worked out in the long run, because this BUCK was honestly one of the best conventions I've sold at, and I'd be one of many people very upset if this really was its swan song.
(Sorry this report doesn't really cover any of the events at the convention! I was (thankfully!) too busy to leave the table for much beyond the occasional chocolate break!)
Tomorrow after work I'm driving 4 hours up to Manchester for BUCK! It's the third BUCK and my third time selling there, so I'm pretty excited to be back! For those who don't know what BUCK is, it's a Brony convention in the UK. For those of you who don't know what a Brony is, and you've somehow missed that phenomenon, it's basically an adult fan of the new My Little Pony cartoon, 'Friendship is Magic'. 'Friendship is Magic' kinda took off in a huge way when it came out a few years back, which for an old-school MLP collector like myself, was pretty weird! I mean, I spent my childhood being teased for liking My Little Ponies, and now they're the cool thing to like? Bizarre!
Anyway, suffice to say, the emphasis at BUCK is on My Little Pony merchandise and goodies, so I'm taking along a bunch of rainbow horse art. I'm also going to throw in some of my video game / pop culture merchandise too, just in case! I figure, if you're a fan of cartoons, you're probably into video games and sci fi, too, right?
I'm super pleased with these mugs I ordered, too! I used Awesome Merchandise, a company I'm forever buying badges from, and I was a little apprehensive because I've never ordered anything as substantial as a mug before, so I was worried the art wouldn't translate very well. I'm so happy to say they look lovely! I ordered 12 and I'm hoping to sell them all this weekend. Wish me luck!
I'm Selena, an artist, blogger and gamer - but maybe not always in that order! Dream Somehow is a blog dedicated to travel, geeky adventures, vintage style and a little bit of Disney Dreaming! If you'd like to learn a little more about me, click here.