“Our main goal is to get through the weekend with a room full of smiles, and a stack of great feedback!” Hayley Spencer on plans for Melksham Comic Con 2014
The latest in our series of interviews with local UK Comic Conventions we catch up with the team behind Melksham Comic Con 2014. After the success of last year’s event (which was our favourite Con in the year) founder Hayley Spencer and her team of volunteers (affectionately known as the Brians) are expanding the event to two days, with a host of new events and activities that are set to takeover the sleepy Wiltshire town for a whole weekend. We caught up with Hayley to find out how the preparations are coming along…
So, it’s been almost a year since the last event, how have the Brians [Melksham’s nickname for their volunteers] been coping with the last 12 months and how are preparations going for this year’s event?
HS: We’ve really not had a break! Due to the overwhelming popularity of last year we’ve had to crack on right away with planning for this year to make sure we deliver! We’ve expanded to two days and two venues for the 2014 show, so it’s meant work has increased too! As a result of more space, we’ve had to recruit more volunteers from the local area, put more policies in place to ensure the safety and well-being of all attendees, guests and exhibitors, as well as all the fun stuff we add on top! There’s a lot behind the scenes always going on!
HS: We knew it would be tough doing a second Kickstarter campaign, and the 30 days didn’t let us down in that respect. It was a struggle to be perfectly honest. We all love Kickstarter and what it stands for, it’s a fantastic platform for creative opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t see the light of day, and we are one of them.
Being a second-time project, we expected to have some questions asked about why we needed to do it, and then finding people to back us, or in some cases back us again wasn’t something we took lightly.
We just about managed our goal, something we are eternally grateful for to those who supported us. It hasn’t meant that it’s been easy for us financially since then, we are still just about scraping by – but that’s what these community-based events are about really – we’re not wanting a huge pot of cash left over at the end (as nice as that would be!), but we do need to finish with a decent bank balance to help us start again next year.
The video was lots of fun to make, and something that was mostly improvised by the great “actors” you see in it, on a drizzly, grey day in Melksham – really, that wasn’t put in during the editing process!
How is this year’s event going to be different from last year’s? Obviously running across two days is the major change, but what are you hoping to achieve this year that you weren’t able to manage before?
HS: Stretching across two days isn’t our only challenge this year – we’ve taken on a second venue to host all our Panels, Workshops and Competitions too! This means that we can hopefully alleviate the congestion we had last year with approximately 80-100 people queuing for panels that could only seat 25!
This year, our main panel room can seat up to 150 people, the secondary room about 40-50, and we also have a side room for some smaller competition sessions that will hold about 15-20 people at a time.
On top of that we have the Convention Hall itself running as it ever did, so we’re hoping to ensure a steady stream of foot traffic across both venues, meaning over-crowding could be a thing of the past – but that all depends on the attendee numbers!
This expansion is very much a trial run for future years. We’ve not done it before, but we have made the decision to give it a go based on feedback received. It’s come at a high cost to our budget though, so we’ll be watching it all carefully to make sure it works well. If we can’t make it work, and it’s too much, then we’re not too proud to revert back to our original set-up if it means we can manage it more efficiently!
Who is attending guest wise and what can fans look forward to in terms of event? Any surprises or extras planned this year that you can let us know about?
HS: We’ve got a great guest line-up this year, and you can find the full rundown on our website –www.melkshamcomiccon.com – make sure to scribble down notes ahead of time and plan your weekend accordingly – a lot of our guests are taking part in one or more panels, so you can catch them throughout both days doing all sorts of things!
The big extras we have this year is the Art and Cosplay Competitions! We’ve got an Under 16 and 11+ Art Competition sessions where you can win a whole host of prizes and put your skills to the test! All entrants will be displayed in Melksham Library for the two weeks following Comic Con too, as well as being published on our website for much longer than that!
The Cosplay Competition is something that we had a lot of feedback about in previous years, so we’ve decided to go for it this year! With some professional cosplayers on board as our judges, we’ve got trophies and prize bags up for grabs too! Cosplayers can register throughout Saturday as well as Sunday morning for the Sunday afternoon competition!
We’ve got such a great range of panels this year it’s almost a shame that people won’t be able to attend them all as they’re split across different rooms and run alongside each other! Our big, new, brave panel this year is Comic Books and Mental Health – a topic close to the hearts of many of our volunteers, and we have been very lucky to gain the support of Wiltshire Mind too. We’ll be talking about mental health issues and how this can affect working in the comic book industry, in both positive and negative ways. Wiltshire Mind will have a drop-in centre on site for a good few hours, before, during and after this panel for people who wish to talk more about how they can get help and support either for themselves, or someone they care about. We really want to break the taboo of talking about a subject that affects so many of us, and it could be a real eye-opener (in a good way!) to many people. It’s worth getting yourself a seat.
Finally what are your goals for this year and any plans for next year starting to brew or are you just hoping to get through this one first?!
HS: I think our main goal for this year is the same as all the other years – to get through it and have the event close with a room full of smiles, and a stack of great feedback! We work all year round to deliver this event, and being that we all work full time and have families to manage, as well as giving up personal time for this, it’s the very least we can hope for!
We have a few ideas for fundraising events for next year, as we had some really great ones earlier in the year, so we’re building on those for sure – it’s not just about the convention, we hold a few great evening events as well as working with KomiX in Melksham on Free Comic Book Day each May – it all helps us to reach our audience, chat about our plans for the convention, and make more people aware that we exist!
Melksham Comic Convention is running on August 30th and 31st, for more information and to purchase tickets visit their visit their website or find them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @melksham_con