Collectormania Birmingham

Another showmasters “showpiece” events but sorry to say I was not impressed. This time there was me, my husband who is also my carer, my eldest daughter who has anxiety issues and one of my younger daughters.

Although access to the venue was on level access it seemed to bring us into what looked nothing more than a huge hanger, nothing to indicate that this was a film and comic con or that there was even an event taking place. We asked where the carers and press passes could be obtained from and we were immediately ushered through, however, no bags were checked – at all, this being days just after the Manchester arena bombing! We even asked them if they wanted to check the bags and we were told: “no it’s all right”.

The carers table was next to the ticket and the entrance ques was well organised to get into the event. However no signs to indicate that this was the case, no sign of a separate queue for disabled ticket holders and their carers as this would have helped to reduce waiting times for both ques.

Once our bands were issued, tickets and DLA letter checked we went through. To say we were underwhelmed is an understatement. No colourful banners, no atmosphere just lots and lots of empty space.

In fact so much that they used backboards to block off most of the hall. On the plus side due to it being nothing more than a huge hanger, there was lots of space to get around and the stalls were well spread out. Although in my opinion space could have been put to better use.

All the stalls were easy to get to as even on a Saturday it w a not busy. Unfortunately, it seemed very lacking in atmosphere and although people who were there seemed happy enough, most, unless they're for the cosplay masquerade which wasn’t until later in the day, got what they came for and left.

There was plenty of goods to choose from with restrooms and food/catering areas at the top of the venue. The cosplay stage was tucked out of the way, almost forgotten about to some extent near the entrance/ exit out of the way of all the main activity.

There were some props for you to have your photo taken with such as the car from Ghostbusters and the Tardis console which were both chargeable and props from Terminator 2 which were not something you could touch or handle and the car from the last Mad Max film which was outside the entrance/ exit.

I may be wrong and am sure I will be corrected, but Collectormania has mainly in the past been geared towards sports memorabilia. This year they had a huge mix of Sports stars and stars from TV and Film. The two did not mix very well. On one side of the venue, you had the photoshoot areas which were cordoned off alongside the signing tables for the sports stars such as Pelé and Harry Redknapp. This area just seemed to be a mass of confusion most of the time. At the top near the food was where they had set up the area for the talks to take place. The other side of the venue played host to one photoshoot area for the film and TV stars and their signing tables. In between this was the vendors.

The toilets were at the top where the food court area was. This is also where the restrooms where including only one disabled toilet. This did not need a radar key and was clean however very tight to maneuver in a wheelchair and there was no way of being able to get a wheelchair side by side to the toilet to enable a safe transfer. There also appeared to be no adult changing places either. There was another toilet block in the hanger but showmasters had blocked this off.

Getting up and down the aisles was not a problem and most vendors were happy to give assistance when needed if asked.

There was plenty of staff on hand, but once again, as with other conventions especially showmasters, there was confusion as to what assistance an extra help wrist band offered you.  Virtual queuing was available but some staff was happy to add you to a queue as the state would be the case other staff, however, was not. Pit bosses did seem to all know what they were doing at this event.

Yet again there was no organisation at the autograph ques for either side with most ending up in total chaos with no idea which queue was for which guest. Some volunteers were unable to keep control of the ques, especially for the bigger and more popular guests such as John Barrowman and Dean Caine. With no idea on what time guests would be back etc. This, in turn, made it difficult to get through the milling mass of people never mind looking at the stalls that where facing the signing tables, especially if you were in a wheelchair!

The same problem occurred when trying to sort out interviews with some of the stars. Some staff was happy to let you approach the star if their table was quiet and ask whilst others you were told outright that no one was giving interviews that weekend to others going off to apparently ask managers if they could interview and told no they were not giving interviews. I would have had more luck getting blood from a stone than gaining interviews with the guests and it appears to have been across the board for all members of press begging the question why have to press passes if you or none of the guests had any intention of allowing interviews?

Needless to say, the same chaos that happened at the autograph tables happened at the photoshoots again with no discernible lines to show where to queue or what was the queue as little white lines on the floor were just not doing it.

The talks were better organised here than at other Showmaster events attended. The area was screened off using backing boards and there was plenty of seating added. The staff here were professional and well organised making people queue for the next talk in an orderly and sensible fashion that was easy to follow and not a white line in sight!

People with a carers pass queued at the other side away from the main queue along with gold pass members. This queue was allowed in first and people with extra help wristbands were allowed to use the first two rows which were also designated for gold pass holders. There were no designated wheelchair spaces you just joined the end of a row. However, the screening did not go all the way up to the wall for the talks so did not block it off altogether. This meant that unless there was staff up there, which was not always the case, people could just join the talk. This may not seem like a big deal but if you are queuing to get in and someone just jumps in through the back or you have paid for a talk and that person at the back hasn’t then you are going to be a bit annoyed seeing as some of these talks can cost £20 or £30.

The food area was accessible, however, the food trucks were difficult to use so unless you have someone with you it kind of rules them out.

There was a gaming area which was popular but wasn’t fantastically up to date and held mainly retro games. Some of the areas were difficult to access or maneuver around, but all of them were accessible to use from a wheelchair.

The cosplay stage did have space next to it for anyone in cosplay or in a wheelchair that could not access the stage, unlike other shows. However, the judging did seem to be a little unfair as it appeared that the cosplayers who had been asked to attend the event by Showmasters , who was judging the cosplay, favoured the people they knew and friends with most of them winning the bigger prizes.

The overall opinion was that there were some great guests in attendance both for sports and film and TV although I didn’t think the people in attendance for either “section” of the event mixed well which did not help the atmosphere either. In fact, there was some tension as we did witness some hostility towards cosplayers for the first time by other attendees. The venue was accessible but once again seemed that all Showmasters was interested in was your money. It appeared that no effort had been made or put into creating a fun and lively atmosphere as people were sitting around waiting either for their next photoshoot or talk to take place looking bored and fed up.

Yet again no quiet space or chill out zone which again resulted in a lot of people sitting on the floor around the sides of the building or up around the eating area.

We did the whole weekend and was hard pushed to keep ourselves busy for the full two days and we did end up leaving earlier then attended on Sunday to travel home. So unless you had a lot of photoshoots booked or autographs to get and had spread them out over the two days, there was very little to keep you engaged in the event other than spending money.