Saturday Sees Problems for Attendees at LFCC 2014

Running across this weekend is the London Film & Comics Convention, which has seen a number of stars descend upon Earls Court to meet fans, sit on panels, and sign all manner of items. Stars from Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Bones and Star Wars are all in attendance.

Also in attendance: people from the ‘comic’ part of the title. Although not many people seemed to know about that, to the detriment of the small-press tablers who attended the event. Saturday saw an overwhelming demand for tickets, beyond the ability of the convention to provide. Most people who arrived at the event without a ticket already to-hand were faced with a five-hour wait in queue before they could get in – with most giving up before they got in.

It seems as though Showmasters, who ran the event, hadn’t anticipated demand for tickets. And that’s somewhat surprising given that they had problems at the event even last year.

Now, it’s not like it’s particularly shocking that people who didn’t have tickets had to queue – if you don’t buy tickets in advance, you’re guaranteeing yourself a queue. The problem lay in the event communication, as staffers seemed unable to offer any advice or help to those waiting to get in. Several people have commented subsequently that staff were unhelpful and unable to properly advise attendees on what was going on.

Which meant people who had tickets were also in those five/six hour queues – people who had booked photo sessions spent the day instead sat in a queue, unable to find somebody who could advance them into the hall. The organisers seemed aware that there was a problem, and instituted a ‘one out/one in’ system to sort things out a little. But this isn’t exactly the strongest of tactics, and so it seems as though hundreds of people went home without setting foot inside.

Today they’re trying to fix this, moving the queue to an underground area. This does not seem to be going very well either.

Not exactly impressive organising, especially in a climate where everybody is aware of the demand for this sort of event. But worse still is that the second hall, was where the comics were being sold – and there seemed to be no signage to let people know that was the case. There are numerous reports on social media of comic-makers packing up early and walking out on the event, as they were so poorly located that nobody was coming to see them.

There have been issues with events like these for a long time – ‘film’ is so much more recognised and popular than ‘comics’ that conventions around the world have found that the former dominates the latter. It’s a problem which has meant several comic conventions have outright banned film/tv/wider ‘nerd’ guests so they can focus on the comics section. But it’s still surprising that a professional event like this would have so poorly trained the staff, and that attendees would find themselves in a queue in the middle of summer, for several hours, without anyone telling them anything.

If you are trying to buy a ticket on the day, sure, you should expect a delay, or to be told there’s nothing available. But to be told nothing is fairly appalling, isn’t it? Reports coming in so far today are suggesting that the convention is starting to improve a little – but the complaints about staff are still coming in.

If people who paid for tables are packing up by Saturday due to nobody attending, then the convention is failing them. There have been at least three years of this exact same complaint being levelled at Showmasters – will it be more of the same in 2015?

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