The first weekend of March brings with it the first major anime convention of the year in the form of the granddaddy of them all, Minami Con.  The event is the UK's longest running anime convention, with the latest being its 19th - a stat that makes it older than some of its attendees!

The latest Minami Con is held as always in Southampton's Novotel hotel from Friday 1st March to Sunday 3rd March, and promises nothing more than it has always promised - a great weekend for anime fans to meet, drink and be merry!  Minami Con remains the UK's purest anime convention, avoiding recent fandom trends towards the likes of My Little Pony and

internet memes that have bled into other conventions to focus on anime and Japanese culture.  Many activities are unchanged from year to year, with perennial favourites such as the cosplay masquerade, charity auction, bring & buy and sake tasting session returning alongside a wide selection of anime and J-drama screenings held across the weekend.  The layout of the convention will be familiar to past attendees and many activities are held in the same place and often at the same time as they were in previous years.  Such returning activities include karaoke, Cookery Lessons, a Maid Café (this year run by Maids of England), a Games Room (courtesy of DDR:UK) and a

dealers room featuring convention favourites such as Neon Martian, United Publications, Genki Gear, Otaku UK and Gundam Nation.  Also returning are a number of contests and competitions including Gundam Speed Building, J-Pop and anime pub quizzes and the 'Iron Cosplay' competition, in which various teams attempt to make a winning costume on the spot from a pile of random materials!

This 'hands on' approach to activities and panels is evident throughout the weekend, with cosplay workshops covering everything from wig care to design techniques and convention regular Akemi Solloway leading classes in calligraphy, language and traditional dance.  The eclectic workshop schedule covers everything from using clay for cosplay (led by EuroCosplay winners Xaereal and Fat Kracken) to painting cels, photography techniques, puppetry, origami and even making traditional Japanese 'Hakama' trousers.  Other noteworthy panels planned for the event include talks on Anime Fan Culture, Cyberpunk, Famous Samurai, Gundam

modelling, Japanese Literature, Japanese Etiquette and a run through of some great anime titles you may have missed.  Whilst many cons revolve around a series of evening parties Minami Con only holds one, which is on the Friday night and follows an opening ceremony which combines a light hearted variety show featuring the committee with party games and a free buffet for attendees.  Notably absent are the UK anime distribution companies and any voice actor guests, but the event more than makes up for it with several unique elements like the buffet, snack and sake tasting sessions and the cookery lessons, all of which are free to all congoers.

Minami Con has remained small when most other conventions have expanded to meet demand, and that means that getting tickets is incredibly hard.  Not only is capacity limited to 350 but the convention is unique in that it sells tickets for next year's event at the end of the current one, locking in a sizeable portion of tickets to a core group of fans who come every year.  This means that despite having no age restriction the majority of attendees are over 25 and have been before, giving the event a more mature air than youth-orientated conventions like Alcon.  Nonetheless the event boasts plenty to do for all ages and avoids being too cliquey, maintaining quite an relaxed and friendly atmosphere due to its comparatively small size and the older demographic of its attendees.  Minami Con is easy to get to due to its proximity to Southampton's central train station, it's well run and has a packed schedule of activities that blends new and interesting panels and workshops with tried and tested ones.  The event's longevity hints at its consistently high quality and this year promises to be as good as ever.

 Registration for this year's Minami Con was filled some time ago out but if you're in the area you could always pop along and try to register for 2014's Minami Con 20 on the Sunday morning.  Fans who have not pre-registered for the event will not be able to access convention areas but can enter communal areas such as the hotel bar.  Registration costs £49 for the weekend and is open to all ages, although under 16's need to be accompanied by another attendee aged 18 or older.  Some activities, such as sake tasting and certain anime screenings, are age restricted.  For further details on what the event has in store check out the Minami Con website.