The sleepy market town of Melksham in Wiltshire might not seem like the obvious place for a comic convention, but it has become one of the crown jewels of the UK convention scene, thanks to a friendly inclusive atmosphere and a great emphasis on small press and new UK creators. We head down to the West Country to check out Melksham Comic Convention 2016 and celebrate their Fifth Anniversary, but will it live up to it’s billing of being bigger and better than ever?!
Event: Melksham Comic Convention
Date: August 28th and 29th 2016
Location: Melksham Assembly Hall
Our rating: [star rating=”4″]
As we approach the Melksham Assembly Hall, we’re greeted by a fairly small queue and a lonely De Lorean blasting out Huey Lewis. Fortunately on the inside things began to pick up as the tiny Melksham Assembly Hall has begun to fill up nicely with comics fans, creators and cosplayers.
Catching up with organiser Hayley Spencer, she tells us how this years event had been curated rather than the ‘first come first serve’ of previous years, which has allowed them to be more particular about allocation of space and allowed a more eclectic group of creators to exhibit.
This means new names like Reckless Hero‘s Chris Jenkins and Chris Imber, Merrick’s Tom Ward, Doc Dino’s Chris Welch and Attic Studios Dan Harris and Jim Bampfield were able to rub shoulders with Melksham regulars like Vince Hunt, Shaun Dobie, Sam Webster and of course Big Punch Studios. But did mean a few familiar faces were absent, which was a shame.
Fortunately these creators all brought some fantastic titles with them to help wow the West Country’s indie fans. Reckless Hero came with Last Sheriff and Operation Boom (but also showed us a sneak peak of Last Sheriff #3 which looks absolutely incredible), while Tom Ward and Chris Welch continued to travel the country to show off the excellent Doc Dino and Treves, plus the sensational Merrick and our first look at Ness. Attic Studios had new copies of Bruce Outback, while Vince Hunt had issue 3 of The Red Mask From Mars (which he launched at Bristol), while his colouring cohort Shaun Dobie was debuting the increasingly confident Descending Outlands #3. Finally, Sam Webster was showcasing Unfamiliar Skies for the first time since his successful Kickstarter, but perhaps our favourite guest was Andrew Pawley whose Galaxafreaks was a real draw with the kids who loved his weird and wonderful neon coloured creations and Andrew used his teacher skills to entertain and enthrall!
As well as maximising the small press talent on show, this newly curated show also meant that everything felt very equal for exhibitors, with none of the name creators having a bigger or better space than the others. Although this helped give added kudos to the indie gang, it did mean some of the bigger names were a bit tricky to find – especially Dylan Teague who it took two laps of the hall for us to find in order to see his amazing sketchbook work from Codename D.
As with previous years, panels were held in the town hall opposite with a small committee room set up downstairs and the larger room upstairs for bigger events – such as the PCG’s Comics In Just A Minute which was the highlight of the day as a packed house saw Sam Webster win in dominating fashion. The downstairs room was a great addition and allowed for smaller more intimate events – such as the launch of Jon Lock’s Kickstarter for Afterlife Inc volume 4 – however it was a bit tucked away and not always staffed, so for a while we feared it might just be just a few of us having a one on one with Jon.
The third and final destination for events was the Kings Arms Hotel opposite which hosted the table top games area. We left this till the end of the day to check out though and when we did, some pint swilling locals outside glared at us a bit too sternly and so we scampered back to the safety of the main hall without getting a chance to test our Sandwich Masters skills.
The event carried on into the night and with the Sunday featuring even more great cosplay and panels, it was apparently another very successful day – albeit a bit on the quiet side. This relative quiet was one of the few downers for the weekend and we weren’t sure if it was caused by the torrential downpour at lunch time, or people doing other things for the bank holiday weekend or perhaps the proliferation of other events in the area – with both Bristol and Frome holding events in the past month.
Fortunately, the lack of punters didn’t detract too much from the events activities. What makes Melksham such a great Con is that it feels like a group of friends coming together to celebrate comics, so if you throw yourself whole heartedly into the event, then it is a really great day out. However for the first time, this year felt as if it lacked a bit of star power, without a big name or two to give the day some pizazz. Although it means more time and space for our favourite indie names we’d like to think a couple of bigger name creators might help bring in some more casual fans to help fill out the aisles.
This is perhaps a minor point though, and one that didn’t stop this event from being a huge success. So if you want a local con run by passionate people who care about comics first and foremost, Melksham remains the best little comic convention in the UK and a brilliant day out for indie fans of the West Country!