Em-Con (East Midlands Convention) was a new convention that I spotted being advertised towards the end of last year. It was being held in Nottingham at the Albert Hall. As well as having all the Red Dwarf cast they also had some Game of Thrones cast going too (amongst other guests) which I was super excited about so I bought my ticket at the start of November.
I bought an early bird ticket which gave you early entry to the event and priority seating for the Question and Answer guest events. I arrived at the Albert Hall for about 10:15am, early entry was from 10am. The queue was fairly long but I wasn’t too worried as that’s usual for con’s, it takes time to get people in. I joined the back of the queue and after a few minutes it became clear that people were very confused about if it was the correct queue or not. People with early and standard entry tickets all seemed to be together, but that’s how they were told to queue by staff. Some storm troopers walked around the line to entertain people and pose for photos. A staff member was going around the queue checking if people wanted any water or food saying and as it was queue service you could stay there. I had only just arrived so I was fine. A bit after that maybe at around 10:35-ish a staff member was apologising for the delay and said the doors would open in around 10mins or so. People in the queue were chatting, discussing cosplays that they spotted it was fairly warm as were stood in the sun so it was quite nice. Another member of staff then came around from the back of the queue telling everyone with early entry to head towards the entrance as they had now started a separate queue. This new queue seemed to be next to the original one and was being let in first even though there were still early bird ticket holders in the other queue who had arrived earlier than us which was unfair. The whole thing was chaotic and confusing. Anyway the queue moved fairly quick and I think I must have been inside for maybe 11:15am or something which wasn’t too bad.
I got in, wondered around, I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t have many stalls or much choice of items to buy but I bought some t-shirts and went to chat to Sam Stone and buy her book (photos of shopping below). I also bumped in to a friend and chatted to them. I didn’t take any pics in the convention as it was just too busy plus I didn’t take an extra bag so I was loaded up with shopping!
It was chaotic in the main hall space. All the guests were located in there in the middle as well as stalls around the edge so you had people queuing to see the guests, people looking at stalls and then people trying to get through the middle of these which was roughly a person wide. You had to wait until people were heading one direction and then follow on behind. I would imagine it was terrifying for children being surrounded by people taller and the people in wheelchairs looked like they wanted to give up as even though people kept trying to let them through there just wasn’t the space. It was crazy! It was also very warm and claustrophobic. As a result of this I spent most of my time more around the rooms at the edge of the hall as there was generally more space plus I didn’t want to pay £10 or £15 for a guest photograph/autograph and the stalls in the main bit didn’t interest me so I had no real need to go in there.
I went to the Q&A session with Red Dwarf at 1pm which was really good. You didn’t get priority seating though like it said you would. A few of us asked staff about that and they said no its just first come first served so you just followed on and filled up rows where the staff directed you. Luckily I could see fine from where I was sat but I was a bit unhappy that I didn’t get priority like promised as that’s part the reason I bought the ticket. Anyway, it soon became clear that the hall wasn’t going to get that full so they told people they could now move and sit wherever. Bit annoying as I was sat in the middle of a row in the stalls at the edge so I couldn’t get out anyway. My photos didn’t come out great as I wasn’t really close enough and I had to really concentrate to hear what was being said but I still enjoyed it and heard most of it.
I then went to get some lunch afterwards from the bar which was a bit tricky as the photoshoot with Red Dwarf was queuing along there too so you sort of joined that in order to get to the bar. I got a tuna mayonnaise sandwich in a bap which was £2.20 and a bottle of water for £1.30 (not too bad really). I sat on the floor in a corridor type bit to eat it as it was out the way and the only place with any space. I then wondered around a bit more until 3pm when I went to watch the Game of Thrones Q&A which was awesome and they just let you sit anywhere this time. I still didn’t get the best seat though as people from the talk before stayed behind and got those. When that finished I went home as I’d seen everything in there and didn’t want to fight through the mass of people again. I realised afterwards that I missed the Cosplay comp! doh.
My Views on Em-Con: Overall I had a pleasant day, it wasn’t a great convention but they had amazing guests and the Q&A sessions were really good. The main downstairs hall was badly planned and laid out, they are lucky no-one got injured or passed out as it was quite dangerous in there with the amount of people. They are holding another one next year in a much bigger venue so hopefully that will fix some issues. I just hope they get better stalls too.
Extra Information: Little did I know while I was enjoying my Red Dwarf Q&A session and looking around that there were still 100s of fans queuing outside to get in. I had overheard that some people were still queuing and that it was taking ages to get in but I had no idea of the scale until I got home and went online. It took a lot of people that arrived just after 11am around 4 hours to get in, which of course means they will have missed loads. Also a lot just left once they realised the Red Dwarf Q&A session had already started. I feel so sorry for them, its an appalling situation and could have easily been avoided. Some had travelled from really far or even stayed over in Nottingham just to sit outside in the cold (it didn’t stay sunny plus in the shade it was quite cool even to start with). I feel so very lucky as I didn’t even queue for a full hour and I got to go to the things I wanted. I’m so happy I bought an early entry ticket as otherwise I would have joined all the others that spent their day sitting outside. I really hope they apologise to everyone, give a full refund and maybe offer some discount on next year’s tickets (should anyone want to risk going) as compensation.
^They have since apologised (though they do a lot of blaming others too) and have booked the Red Dwarf cast again for next year, frozen ticket prices and are giving refunds – as they should do!!