It can be easy to take for granted that if you have an interest in movies, TV, comics (especially the sci-fi genre) that you’re aware of conventions and know what they are all about. But I’m coming across people all the time that have TV shows, movies or related things that they really like and they don’t know what conventions are out there and what they are all about.
This is going to be a short guide to let the uninitiated know what to expect when it comes to conventions, I hope you find it useful.
The Basic Premise:
Conventions provide a venue where like-minded people can get together to celebrate their love or enjoyment of a particular show/movie/cartoon/comic/other and have opportunities to meet stars from shows/movies/comics and in some cases sports. There can also be opportunities to attend talks by some of the stars (normally referred to as guests) in attendance and have the chance to ask the guests any questions that you may have for them. Trader stalls are often a big part of conventions, and things will normally be sold that have some relationship to the theme of whatever the convention is.
For me, the best thing about conventions is the atmosphere: People go there to have a good time, they are family friendly events, people get excited.
There’s always plenty to do and enjoy, and all of those good feelings in one place leaves you with positive feelings afterwards.
Of course there will be people who will complain about this or that, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. In fact, there can be a lot of queuing involved at conventions, particularly if you want to meet a big star or see a popular attraction. However, that shouldn’t put you off, there are ways to beat some of the queues such as early bird tickets, tickets which have different levels of access, and my favourite: good forward planning.
Things to See and Do:
Depending on the type of convention you go to there can be various attractions to see such as cars or props from movies-sometimes they’re behind a rope, barrier or glass case, but other times there can be opportunities to have your photo taken alongside a prop or in a movie car. Another favourite attraction at conventions can be re-created movie sets, such as having your photo taken on the bridge of the star-ship Enterprise or in a Star Wars movie scene or star fighter.
Some may even have mini museums with collections of props, screen worn uniforms and other items.
If you attend a convention which has comic illustrators there, you can often buy sketches from them which they will draw from you on the day. You may like to have a hand sketched picture of your favourite comic book character or even buy a replica print of art that was used in a comic.
There will often be a “dealer/seller room/hall” or “stalls” which is essentially a big shop selling things which are normally related to the convention and sometimes things which are not. You’ll probably see things that you wouldn’t find available to buy in your high street shop. Examples of such items can be R2-D2 style high heel shoes, or hoodies with quotes from your favourite movies. Toys, art-work, ornaments, the list is endless of potential unusual or fun finds in these places.
Meeting the Stars:
How this is done or set up is dependent on the organisers, but there’s normally the opportunity to meet a guest to get their autograph and/or a separate photograph opportunity.
More often than not you’ll have to pay a fee for this privilege. This can be anywhere from £15-35, but in some cases can be as low in cost as £5 or £10 or in excess of £50 or even £100 although these tend to be the exceptions rather than the rule. Some conventions allow you to meet the guest free of charge, but again this tends to be the exception rather than the rule, and I have seen one instance where the guest simply asked for a donation to a charity.
A frequently asked question is “do I need to bring something to sign”. More often than not, the fee you pay includes being able to choose from a selection of prints that are provided for the guest to sign. These are often pictures of the guest working in their most memorable roles. This isn’t always the case though, sometimes you may need to purchase a print or bring an item you’d like to get signed, so if you’re unsure, do contact the organiser in advance for clarification.
Photo shoots will normally be done by a professional photographer in front of a background, you will should get a print of the picture almost instantly in most cases. Most of the time, photo shoots are very quick-get in, pose, click, move along for the next person. Sometimes the guest may say hello, exchange some brief pleasantries with you but it really does depend how busy they are.
Conventions in which you don’t have to pay to meet the guests will rarely have this professional shoot set up, but it’s normally not a problem for you to have you photo taken on your own camera with the guest, again do contact the organiser for clarification if you’re unsure.
Money, Money, Money:
Most conventions charge an entry fee to get in. For adults, this could be £15 per day or £30-£35 per day depending on the size of the convention. Some also have packages which work out more cost effective if you’re going for multiple days, and family tickets may also be available. Sometimes, you’ll get a goody bad too depending on the type of convention although in some cases these can be limited to only those who are buying packages.
Tickets are sometimes cheaper for children and/or people over a certain age.
As previously mentioned there are often dealer halls and stalls at the conventions and opportunities to have various photos of you taken with or in things and the opportunity to buy personalised art work or meet the stars, all of which costs money. As a result, it’s always a good idea to have a budget set aside if you think you will want to do any of these things.
Often you can purchase photo or autograph opportunities in advance to ensure that you won’t be disappointed on the day. This means that if you are planning on attending a convention in advance you can spread some of your spending out over a period of time as you book up the odd thing here and there. Do be cautious with this approach though as often such things are non-refundable or transferrable, so if for some reason you are unable to attend on the day, you may lose out financially.
I’ve been to some conventions for whole weekends which have required costs for travel and accommodation and have planned lots to do in advance, but I’ve been to others where I’ve turned up on the day, paid the entry fee and maybe spent £25 on top of that but still had a lovely day. More often than not, you can personalise your convention experience to your own needs.
Other things to consider:
Attending conventions has led to me meeting some good friends that I talk to most days and regularly spend time with. In fact, I’m writing this today due to an opportunity that came about due to attending a convention. Last year, I even got some Christmas shopping done at a convention! As well as the daytime activities, some conventions also put on evening entertainment or parties, so if you are staying for a weekend, there’s often lots of opportunities to be entertained, socialise and meet new people.
You can get as much or as little as you want from attending conventions. In general, it’s wise to plan in advance so you can find one that suits you and whomever else you may take with you. If you’ve never been to a convention before, I hope this article has clarified a bit about what they are all about. If you do decide to attend a convention in the future, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed the ones I have attended over the years!