MCM Comic Con London is one, if not the largest conventions in the UK. It is held twice a year at the ExCel.
This is the convention that most cosplayers gear up towards and is the convention that most comic collectors with gaming, film, and stars of TV.
Entry into the center was a steady flow from before 9 am which was the official opening time. People just generally milled around in the eating areas waiting for either side of the huge shutters themselves that would allow entry into the show. These entry points were located at various points down either side of the central walkway. This worked well as it kept the crowd moving, stopped any bottlenecks and meant when it rained ( which it did for a while), people were not left milling around outside. Also with it being really hot and the ques being rather large outside water coolers were provided at various points.
Once the press passes where obtained we tried to locate where the carers wrist bands were being handed out for the extra help. After asking around some very helpful staff found out where this was. The desk was situated by the main entry into the convention even though on the map that was handed out the disabled entrance was indicated as the west entrance the same as the press.
Upon asking about the extra help/ carers wrist band we were informed that unless we had registered with them at least a week previously than we could not be given one. I did ask what would happen if there where tickets to purchase on the day and I had decided to attend last minute what would happen. I was informed that I still would not be able to get one with it not be pre-booked. This apparently was due to the system being abused in the past. The person I spoke to was very abrupt and pointed out that it is all clearly stated on their web page, which when I looked prior to attendance did not see, now this could have been an oversite on my part not finding the information and does not mean it wasn’t there.
Once the shutters were opened there was no huge surge or rush but a steady stream of people heading into the exhibition area on either side, this was due to the various entry points up either side. The most congested area was down where entry was as people were milling around waiting on friends. This use of space by MCM was fantastic and at no point even on the busiest day which was the Saturday, there was no pushing and shouting nor people stepping over or falling into me. However, it was extremely busy and very stop and start at some points most of the time, especially around the more popular areas such as the gaming, Japanese stalls and memorabilia guests signing area. There was plenty of places though when it got too much on a Saturday and even I was feeling a little frazzled, to step out and take a break, ever at the side of the exhibition.
All staff from frazzled pit bosses who worked for MCM to stewards who were volunteers for the weekend, all kept there cool, stayed friendly and maintained eye contact with myself as well as my carer. When asking for any help or assistance all staff were approachable, friendly and helpful. The wheelchair was maneuverable between the vendors and all seemed happy to assist if necessary.
MCM had a lot on after for everyone’s tastes. There was plenty of cosplayers in some amazing and colorful costumes dressed up as everything from Disney princesses to characters from popular anime, from Negan in the walking dead to superheroes and everything in-between. All who were more than happy to pose for photos as long as permission was asked first As well as the amazing cosplayers wandering around you had a comic book village with self-published, independent artists as well as names from 2000AD, Marvel and up and coming comic book writers and illustrators. There was your usual collectable stalls that no convention is complete without as well as your more niche market areas such as anime and Japanese stalls selling everything from anime animal plushies, to lucky boxes, wifu pillows to manga comics and films, anime games to Japanese and Korean pop music, tableware and food including a Japanese Karaoke bar.
If you are a gamer then you would be happy as well with lots and lots of games on offer to try out. Including a DS chill out area which consisted of lots of seats and bean bags, with small tables holding DS’s each with different Mario games on them to play. All free. The games available were numerous from cooking mamma, Zelder, trying out the new Nintendo Switch, Tekken 7 and Play station giving you the chance to try out their new VR systems. This gives you the chance to try VR out on Farpoint, Grand Turismo, and Batman and to actually man the starship Enterprise. The one snag was ll of these things had to have been pre-booked at least three weeks before the event. However do not dishearten as there were time slots available on a first-come-first-served basis where you would be given time to return, the downside was you got the luck of the draw with what you got to play on. So best advice if there are any of the games you would like to have a go on going onto MCM website for that convention at least three weeks prior to the event and pre-book your slot.
As well as these fantastic games there was a children’s section with free glitter tattoos, balloon modeling, face painting, and a minion tattoo parlor. Again all free and included in the price of admission.
All panels such as the Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow talks where free and lasting up to an hour as well as the small zone MCM Buzz talks which lasted maybe thirty minutes. Both panels and the smaller talks had Q and A sessions with the audience and both were accessible. There were no designated wheelchair spots, but plenty of room to join the end of the row. The smaller guests have stationed a good distance away from the main signing which helped to stop any confusion and the ques were well defined with plenty of staff on hand if help was needed.
The main guests you had to purchase vouchers for at a separate kiosk. Once purchased you headed over to the main signing area and ask or look to see what was signing. If was a bit confusing at first but once you went through the main section then joined whichever queue was the one you wanted the autograph for, once at the front hand over the voucher to pick your print and get it signed by the guest. Again all the ques were separated by rope so well defined with plenty of room for the wheelchair.
The photo area was a little more chaotic but again there was the main entry point and upon production of your ticket, the staff directed you to which queue you needed. All ques again separated by rope. People with carers pass and in wheelchairs were directed to the front and allowed through first. The photo sessions were over in a blink and you moved on to collect your photo that was printed out by one of the banks of printers that where there, the person behind for assistance and there was also free slips to put your prints in then you were done! Very efficient and it kept the lines moving so that there was no confusion or backlog. Like any other large convention it had its hiccups, but overall I cannot fault the running of the weekend. Yes on a Saturday there was some confusion over lines for the autographs between the ques to get vouchers, people trying to get in for autographs and others just generally milling around hoping to catch a glimpse or snap a shot of someone famous.
There were a few exhibitions where there was no accessibility for anyone with mobility issues or a wheelchair such as The Game of Thrones experience which as no ramp or access for a photo opportunity on the throne, as well as both the car racing simulators.
Overall a very enjoyable weekend for all the family. Plenty to see and do with 98% of it covered in the admission ticket. Fantastic use of space and great help and access for someone like myself who is in a wheelchair. The atmosphere was one of the best I have experienced and am really looking forward to the next one in London which I believe is around October time this year.
Funny enough my biggest bugbear was nothing to do with the convention itself but the press interviews and how things where handled. MCM was holding round table interviews with guests throughout the weekend. This was great. So I replied as requested to the email stating who I would be interested in talking to but also explaining I was in a wheelchair and asking if it would be accessible. No reply was received. So schedules where released. Late and hour and a half into the convention but with no direction on how to get to the room the interviews were taking place in. .Eventually, we found where the room was and made our way there to take part in some of the interviews that were taking place to be faced with a choice of either stair or an escalator to get up to the room, unfortunately, I haven’t mastered the art of floating yet. It wasn’t until late on Saturday we discovered after doing some looking around, a lift to take us up to where we needed to be, however unfortunately by this time we had missed all the interviews that were taking place. I tried contacting the press team by email and texting but to no avail, no one seen fit to reply. We even went to the press office on Saturday but nothing, although I was assured my message would be passed on and I even left a card no one got back to me with answers or explanation.
So all am left with is the opinion, my opinion, that yet again an assumption that someone in a wheelchair, maybe even of my age, could be a journalist and might just need that little bit extra help or information in order to do their job properly and have available to them what is being made available to everyone else. Tut tut MCM press office should never judge a book by its cover.