It sometimes seems like the economic downturn hasn't affected sci-fi fandom.  Despite many having to tighten their belts each MCM Expo pulls in record crowds, in fact demand has been strong enough that not only has the twice-yearly London Expo become a three day event, but now the MCM Group have launched a new Expo event in Manchester.

The inaugural MCM Manchester Expo Comic Con was held on the 30th July 2011 in the Manchester Central Convention Complex, and like the MCM Midlands Expo held in February it was a one day event seemingly aimed more at younger fans and families.  In keeping with the Midlands event doors opened at 11am with adult tickets costing 5 on the door, whilst 11-14 year olds got in for 3 and under-11s got in free.  You could also buy 'early entry' tickets for 8 which allowed entry at 9.30am, and gave an opportunity to scour the stalls and get autographs before things got too busy.  The event was on a far smaller scale than the London Expo, with less media and games companies in attendance and fewer guests too.  It was far more in line with the Midlands event, with the biggest corporate names being game companies Nintendo, Namco Bandai and THQ and only four media guests - Red Dwarf & Eastenders

actor Craig Charles, Willow & Harry Potter actor Warwick Davis, Star Wars & Time Bandits actor Kenny Baker and Sarah Jane Adventures star Anjili Mohindra.  However, to add a bit of a local twist the event also offered fans the chance to meet and get the autographs of several ex-Manchester City and Manchester United footballers, including legends like Bryan Robson, Denis Law, Peter Barnes and Norman Whiteside.  Usually signings like this are limited to specialist collector trade shows like Memorabilia or Collectormania, so their appearance at an event with more general appeal like this was an unexpected bonus.

Other than this though the Manchester Expo was much like the Midlands one, with the usual collection of retailers and anime companies in attendance.  Unfortunately the central location and consumer demand led to a massive influx of crowds, causing the Manchester Expo to be busy from the word go.  The event hall was also very small (smaller than the Telford venue of the Midlands Expo), as only part of the hall was booked out.  Attendees which had also been to ...... were commenting on the day that the latter event made use of the full hall and was much better for it.  The overcrowding on the day of the Manchester Expo made the it very uncomfortable, but that certainly didn't stop a huge queue spiralling out of the building.  MCM had quite obviously underestimated the interest a northern Expo would garner.

Despite the crowds the Manchester Expo was still a fun event to attend, but the main positive to take away from it was that it will almost certainly be bigger next time.  Given how busy it was, it is likely it will become bigger then the Midlands Expo and will only be second fiddle to the mammoth London Expo.  If the small venue size was due to first-time experimentation, than it will be interesting to see if MCM try that experiment elsewhere in the UK given this success.  It would be great to see the experiment happen again in Cardiff for instance, or locations such as Belfast and Plymouth.  Events in these cities may suit the size of the first Manchester Expo, but there

is no doubt the Mancunian event has to be bigger next time.  It would be an insult to the organisers to say that they to do not realise this, so attendees can surely look forward to a much expanded event next year.