The Day The Geeks Came Out
Or my day at the first MCM Expo in Manchester, Saturday 30th July 2011
Saturday 30th July 2011 will be known as the day I officially became a geek as I attended the Manchester MCM Expo at Manchester Central (the venue formerly known as the G-Mex). It was the first time the comic convention had been staged in the city. There have been successful events staged in London and Birmingham for a number of years, so it was only a matter of time before the North of England got one of its own. I went there with my sister, her partner and my nephew (it was a surprise trex eat for him) and at £5 for adults and free for children under 10, it was a pretty reasonable price for a day out.
I had never been to a comic con before, but various posts on the internet from Twitter to Tumblr gave me a good idea as to what to expect from such an event. I was also expecting there to be a big turnout, seeing as it was the first time the event was being staged here. What I, and I am sure the organisers didn't expect, was just how big. The queue outside the venue seemed more than a mile long when we got there. We spent our time in the queue (which did move very quickly), admiring the many cosplayers outside dressed as everything from Hogwarts pupils to Stormtroopers and random Japanese Anime characters. My nephew was enthralled and puzzled in equal measure by them.
When we got inside, it was absolutely heaving. It seemed that the organisers had only booked part of the venue, which is sort of understandable (better to book a small space and have a high turnout than book a large space and have few turn up, after all). We were all moving slowly around the venue, at times squashed up like sardines, but it didn't matter, as there was lots to see, do and buy. My nephew enjoyed playing Earth Defence Force at the Xbox 360 stand and spent ages deciding which Star Wars, Lego and Doctor Who figures he hasn’t got yet he should ask his parents to buy him. Meanwhile, my sister and I ended up spending more than we intended to on stuff (however we did get a couple of free comics) and, upon visiting the Cybercandy stand, discovered Coconut M&Ms, which are quite possibly the nicest sweets ever invented. So much so, that I want to start a campaign to get Mars to make them over here.
The range of guests at the event was impressive too. We saw Craig Charles, Kenny Baker and the girl who plays Rani in Sarah Jane Adventures. We didn’t get their autographs or photo with them as there were too many queuing up. Plus we would have had to purchase a "qualifying item" from the relevant merch stand to have the privilege of an autograph from Craig Charles, which would have been about £15 at least. We missed Warwick Davis, which was a bit of a shame, while we didn’t go near the Sports Memorabilia area so we weren’t too fussed about missing the City and United legends there.
The good and bad points.
While the event was good, we did have a couple of gripes. The aforementioned relatively smallish space it was held in was a bit of an issue. There were a few things that we missed out on, in particular the events that were happening over on the stage. You couldn't get near to see what was going on, and we definitely couldn't get a seat. However, the success of this event means that if it is staged here again, (which I am sure it will), the organisers will make it bigger and better than this one. It would have also been nice to know before the event what times the guests would be making an appearance, as you only knew from signs that were up in the venue. Gutting for people who turned up later on in the day. Again, this is only a minor gripe.
But what made the MCM Expo for me, was the friendly atmosphere. Before I got there I initially feared that it would be a bit too "cliquey" and only for the real sci-fi and comic enthusiasts, which looking back at it, was a bit silly of me really. There was something for everyone and as a family day out, it was good value for money. It must also be said the standard of the outfits many of the cosplayers were wearing was pretty high. I was especially impressed with the girl who was dressed as the Tardis, and the group of lads who were Ghostbusters. They all brought a smile to your face even after the event was over. And it was quite amusing to see the "WTF?!" looks on the faces of shoppers laden with Primark bags as some of them walked through Piccadilly Gardens.
Overall, the Manchester MCM Expo was £5 very well spent. I look forward to more events like this being staged in the city in the future.