The first day of a convention is generally pretty quiet, with most of the panels and activities saved until the evening and the Saturday. However, Alcon - somewhat ambitiously - tried to hit the ground running with a full schedule of panels from 12pm onwards.
In fact things started even earlier, with a pre-con meetup on the
Thursday evening and anime screenings starting at 10am. The
games room, artists alley and bar opened their doors at midday, as
did the cosplay café, whilst calligraphy and cosplay panels were
pencilled in for the same time. Further panels were scheduled
throughout the afternoon and evening, including an origami workshop,
Japanese language lesson, Gundam building panel, our very own
Animetion website panel and the now commonplace yaoi panel.
The bar went from screening anime music videos to the web series
Dragon Ball Z Abridged, and the plan was then for the opening
ceremony, karaoke, screenings of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Abridged
series hosted by series creator LittleKuriboh, a live set from rock
act the Skull Branded Pirates and the party. It was
certainly an impressive opening on paper, unfortunately though the
problem with hitting the ground running is that it's very easy to
stumble, and stumble Alcon did in a big way.
We later learned that in order to keep costs down for attendees the organisers book the venue for the minimum amount of time possible. Whilst this makes Alcon the cheapest convention in the UK calendar, it also means that there is a lot less time to set everything up than most conventions have. As a result the committee and gophers were still running around trying to get everything sorted after the attendees had turned up, and whilst the games room, bar and screenings were largely unaffected by the lack of preparation other events did take a hit. The biggest issue was caused by the delay to the opening ceremony, which started over an hour late
because not all of the committee were available. This had a knock-on effect to all of the evening panels which were delayed by an hour or re-arranged. What made it worse was that some of the people running panels weren't informed of the change, and those that were (including us) found out from gophers rather than members of the committee. On top of this the projector promised for our and the World Cosplay Summit panels was 'not available' but magically turned up the following day. The lack of a projector left the people who attended our panel having to huddle around a laptop to see our presentation, and caused a big problem for the World Cosplay Summit panel who intended to include videos of the event. All of this disruption meant that the evening panels pretty much fizzled out as most of the attendees stayed in the bar, leaving the Queens Building largely deserted. It also overshadowed some of the more impressive innovations Alcon had to offer, and was a pretty disappointing way to kick off the convention.
Alcon has always been pretty strong when it comes to ideas,
and despite the issues that marred it later in the day it started
quite well in this regard. The Anime Breakfast Club was excellent,
giving attendees the chance to eat free crumpets, toast and cereal
whilst watching the Bleach movie. Considering the
majority of the people at the con would spend the weekend drinking
beer and eating junk food it was not only a good way to chill out,
but just about the only way most people would have a decent meal!
The two cosplay panels held in the morning also went well, their
lower reliance on technology helping them avoid some of the same
issues the later panels had. The Cosplay for Beginners panel
was a short but sweet presentation that told you all the information
you needed to know to start cosplay, from buying materials to
finding ready-made outfits. It was followed by kii chan's
Posing in Cosplay Panel, who showed how to make the most of your
cosplay when posing for photos. It covered posing in character
and showed a variety of different personalities from cute to mad
scientist. Each example personality was followed up with
example photos showing the most effective ways to pose, and kii-chan
also included plenty of games to involve the audience.
Overall, it was a fun and informative panel to attend, but of all
the events on the Friday it was the Cosplay Café that was the most impressive, and not only
through its huge selection of cakes and drinks. Most
conventions run cosplay or maid cafés where you pay a few quid and
get a cup of tea and a cake served by volunteers in fancy dress.
However, the one at Alcon was different in that you paid once
and got a wristband that allowed you to return as often as you liked
for that day. It made the café into a second communal area
where people could chill whilst waiting for panels to start without
having to wander down the road to the bar, and proved superb value
for money too. The fact you also got free chocolates and
sweets in the café was the icing on the cake! Events like this
showed that the convention was not afraid to try new things, and
it's interesting to note that 2010's Kitacon will also be
running an Anime Breakfast Club. It will be intriguing to see
if anyone else follows suit.
Due to the delays caused to our panel we missed several of the things going on in the evening, including the opening ceremony and several other panels. After this the main remaining events were the Yaoi Panel or the evening's party, and given the choice and considering how the evening had gone so far we opted for bar. Parties at conventions are generally pretty good, and the Friday Night party at Alcon was no exception. Unlike some of the hotel-based conventions the bar prices were reasonable, with the price of beer pitched between £2.50 and £3 a pint, and the bar was exclusively hired by Alcon. The music was a great mix of anime themes and proper cheesy
party tunes and we were very impressed that the DJ would not only take requests but also would take music from iPods and memory sticks brought by attendees. This meant that the music was what people wanted to hear, and the atmosphere in the party was great. The fact the bar also had the excellent ale Hobgoblin on tap was a definite bonus too!
The party was a massive redeeming feature for us on a day that had gone wrong in many ways, but could the organisers learn from these mistakes and deliver on Saturday? Well, read on to find out...