Article: CamCon 2012 Convention Report
Programming, Dealers Room
The Camcon dealers room was my first port of call for the day, as I was unable to escape the siren song of rampant consumerism. The dealers room was set up in the J3 studio, which is a modestly sized wooden floored room and was honestly not large enough for the amount of furniture that was set up. The room was split into three aisles of wooden tables and there was around 1.5 people's worth of space in each aisle. This meant things were very "cozy" for shoppers and exhibitors alike. Add to this the fact that the most immediately popular stalls were bunched along the far wall and this meant that traffic was gridlocked for the first few hours. Some of the better supplied vendors were all-but standing on their wares due to the lack of available space, and despite the best efforts of most exhibtors to make room for people to browse there was simply too much furniture to allow for easy passage. The dealers room cooled off noticably both in number of visitors and room temperature from early afternoon onwards, allowing for easier browsing and interaction with vendors.
The vendors themselves were a nice mixture. Purveyor of Japanese sweeties Tofu Cute was there in full force right next to the door, a few anime figure sellers were also present although most people seemed to be holding off on such purchases until MCM Expo later on in the month. If you wanted something based on Vocaloid or Black Rock Shooter then you would have been very well served indeed. The main attraction and bulk of the tables occupied in the room was a very nice and broad selection of local and semi-local comic artists who had picked up tables for the event. The quality and quantity of independent/original comics content for convention visitors was certainly something that as nice to see, and was a recurring theme throughout the convention, as I'll revisit later.
The main events stage was held in the J2 theatre, a space that was ideal for the task due to its everyday use as, well, a theatre. I can't really think of much to add other than "Yep, this was a great space the convention used!"
Those managing the lights and tech on the day were particularly on the ball and added a certain amount of flair to the events presented, and in particular the MC was very engaging whenever he got his hands on the mic.
One thing both programming rooms shared, and which worried me in the days leading up to the event once the timetable was announced, was the sheer number of events and near total lack of spare time built into the programme. For both rooms, the programme was packed solid from 10am (half past for J2) all the way until 6pm. The J2 theatre had the worst of this planning oversight as it included a number of 30 minute long events that entailed large amounts of set-up and take-down, including most notably the cosplay Masquerade and a Mario Kart Wii tournament. The fact that the timetable only ended up running an hour later by the close of the day's events is, I have to say, a credit to the convention staff and their quick thinking and acting in making sure things moved swiftly and re-arranging the programme on the fly to suit.
Unfortunately this is contrasted by the lack of staff involvement in the secondary panel room, which was located on the first floor of the building. While it had a better spaced out timetable, the room and the events that occurred within were all but ignored by the organisers on the day, with staff only coming to assist when they were explicitly dragged in and promptly vanishing again shortly afterwards. While some of the issues were out of the control of the event (such as the remote for the TV/DVD combo in the room having been lost just prior to the event), the panel room was overstuffed with discarded furniture that meant for the majority of the day the audience had to squeeze into a small space and constantly re-arrange chairs when people arrived late.
This left a rather bad taste in my mouth, particularly as it became clear that the presenters in the room had been left high and dry and had no recourse but to struggle through with their events, which was to their credit.
But what about the events themselves?
The foremost thing I remember from the day were a pair of talks by comic Artists Sean Phillips and Leigh Gallagher, who provided frank, unapologetic and unflinching accounts of their careers, work, and what it is like to draw comics for a living. Both talks were presented with some very nice art and commentary by the artists themselves and the sheer frankness of what they had to say was refreshing.
In more anime and Japan-centric events, there was of course the cosplay masquerade, which despite a few hitches (including one that saw the convention head storm out of the theatre with a bloodthirsty look on her face), had a decent turnout and pace to proceedings, even if the announcer got a bit too enthusiastic with his comments.
I also attended a short talk on Shinto hosted by Akemi Solloway (whose events I have somehow missed in each preceding convention I have attended), which was hosted in the secondary panel room. Sadly, the event was rather weak due to frequent interruptions - first the room had to be re-arranged to remove or best adjust around the amount of tables that had been left inside (as previously mentioned) and also a convention staff member appearing to try and assist with the TV/DVD player in order to play small video segments that would accompany the talk. As a lot of time was taken up with these items, the panel never really got into any sort of flow and stalled at the introduction despite the best attempts of Ms. Solloway.
I also attended the convention's attempt at University Challenge (This convention is in Cambridge, after all), which was almost cancelled at one point and then had its time on stage harshly cut. Despite this the quiz was good fun, if very lazily paced and hampered by there being three people all up on the podium asking the questions and causing no small amount of confusion. The last two rounds of questions were much faster in order to cram as much in as time would allow, and were much more enjoyable overall.
The convention also had an evening events schedule (which also had its own ticket option if people wanted to attend just that), which I mostly missed due to having a very nice dinner with friends and an assorted gaggle of lovely people I had met on the day. I poked my head in at around 10pm to see the evening program and it appeared that the majority of attendees had gone home - while there was a respectable number of people in the J2 Theatre for the enthusiastically presented music events most were sticking to the seats rather than getting in the mood on the dance floor. The "Chill party" advertised for the second floor gallery was in fact four people playing Magic the Gathering, who were indeed very chilled out as advertised. It is worth noting that at around 10pm the public transport in Cambridge starts to wrap up and get scarce, so it is likely that people who did not live in the immediate vicinity had to catch buses/trains and could not attend up until the very close of the event at 1am.