Wednesday, November 13, 2013
The Hal-con Implosion of 2013
I always want to say positive things about independent local events. I think it's important to be a supporter of your city and anyone in it who is trying to make things happen which are new, different, culturally diverse or hell, just plain fun. Nova Scotia itself is a province sitting on the poorer end of the Canadian money train (not that there really is a Canadian money train..but we'd be sitting on the end if it existed). If we were on the Titanic, we would be sitting in the bottom of the ship in steerage. Unfortunately when it comes to creating a successful comic-con, we are a lot like the Titanic. We ran out of life boats so people ended up wading in the Atlantic Ocean (okay not literally but people were turned away!). I truly want to support Hal-con and I was really excited to be granted a press pass. I had requested interviews with two guest speakers. Neither of those happened. After several attempts on my part to contact coordinators and have the interviews set up, I finally threw in the towel. It was becoming clear that there simply was no interview schedule, at least none that considered independent journalist such as myself. I suspect the local news got their interviews scheduled although I suspect it was with some degree of difficulty.
Yet this is a simple gripe that I am willing to over-look and does not make or un-make a successful comic-con. However inconvenienced I was, a lot more people were inconvenienced in a very big way on Saturday at Hal-con 2013. It was clear to me early on that the Con wasn't executed properly. With Eastlink being Hal-cons largest sponsor, advertising hit all over the Maritimes. This meant more people from PEI, NB and surrounding areas were now aware of Hal-con. People booked hotels, arranged accommodations with friends and family in the city to be a part of Hal-con. Attendance of course was at an all time high.
At the Con:
When I reached the Con on Saturday morning around 11 am, the line was all the way around the Metro Centre and down to The Palace. My first reaction was: wow, they've come so very far in such a short time. My second reaction was: this isn't good. Although it was fairly simple for me to get my press pass despite the lack of signage within the building, everyone else suffered the massive line-up of registration. It was when we finally got up to the second level that the real problems showed. The space in the WTCC was misused to such a point that the hallways suffered from bottleneck behind every corner (and sometimes straight ahead). Proper consideration had not been made for the disabled in wheelchairs. Additionally, someone had the great idea of allowing strollers into the convention. I counted at least five double strollers. I know what it's like carting children around, I always used a sling so that I wasn't running people down with my baby SUV. But even this can be over looked. What needed to be addressed was the placement of information tables and advertising. Placing Eastlink's advertising table at the base of the escalators was the first big mistake.
After fighting my way out of the convention for some air, we were told that people were not being readmitted and that the Fire Marshall had done away with the line. I can only imagine the disappointed people. In addition, I over-heard the worries and concerns of volunteers who were mistreated by the angry Con-goers. I suspect the only really happy people were my friends up in the game room who had planned to spend the day with the board game library.
Perhaps I could offer some possible solutions, if I may be so bold. I made sure to see my friend Patrick, owner of Quantum Frontier Games & Comics on Robie St in Halifax. When talking about the line-ups he mentioned a possible solution that I think would solve most of the problem. Selling Con tickets at a lower rate as day passes for Friday and Sunday. By doing this it encourages people to go on the lesser attended days rather than everyone trying to pile in at noon on Saturday. We'll just skip the part about market research, understanding advertising and event planning 101.
Obviously I mentioned the poorly laid out floor plan. A lot of major issues could have been solved by taking more time to evaluate the space. Placing tables near the escalators showed poor judgement.
So, in the end I didn't get an interview and I didn't get to see a single presenter. I decided to make the best of it by speaking with the vendors. Down on the first floor you could find all the vendors. It was also open to the public, after all, who wants to pay money to go spend money.
I had a great conversation with Jay Paulin with Ink'd Well Comics. He told me all about their comic Infantasy drawn by Ariel Marsh which looks fantastic. It is a comic told from the eyes of an infant. You can check it out at Inkdwellcomics.com ! Dominic Marco was present with his awesome pin-ups and wicked Dr. Who art! You can check out his artwork at DominicMarco.com. I also got to look at some amazing fantasy art work displayed by Shawn Orne! He had two tables of beautiful pieces and prints. There were plenty of local handmade costume boutiques including Indigo Lily Designs and Romantica Nocturnis.
All in all, I think artist Ben Jeddrie said it best when he suggested coining the word Hal-controversy. Although, I think the real controversy is between the people waiting in line for hours hoping to get into Hal-con on Saturday and Sunday and those waiting for hours in parade square for their tickets to be refunded. In the end, I'd like to speak to someone about the financial impact the event had on the Hal-con and it's future. Maybe it's true that any press is good press.