The end of this month will see the return of Em-Con, back for its second year after launching in 2014 the film and television convention has upgraded to a bigger venue and has more guests that ever, keen to avoid the problems that hampered last years launch event, the team behind the convention have been working hard to ensure something special this year and, we have to say, it’s shaping up real good, as one of the team, Development and Publicity manager Chris Harding told us when we spoke to him about how things were coming along.
“Everything’s on schedule and the last pieces are being put in place.”
The key behind a convention of course is the guests and while there is no doubting last years Em-Con guest list was pretty impressive the team have surpassed themselves this year with a stunning line up of film and television talent past and present – including the stars of one of science-fiction best loved shows.
“We’re really excited about having Nichelle Nichols coming over from LA.” refering to the actress who played Uhura in the original Star Trek series, “It was a really special moment confirming her as a guest, but so hard having to wait before we could announce it! She’s a true legend so having her at EM-Com is incredible.”
They’ve also lined up a trio of former Time Lords from Doctor Who.
“We’ve also got three Doctors; Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy, which is great news for fans of Doctor Who.”
Add to that the full main cast of Red Dwarf returning after proving a hit last year, plus guests from the likes of Atlantis, Game of Thrones, Torchwood and more.
The process of booking guests for a show is a long, complex process and can make or break a convention, so how do the team go about choosing the guests they’d like to appear?
“We approach everything as fans. Everyone involved in planing EM-Con is really passionate about film and television so we start by thinking about who we’d like to see at conventions we go to. From there we make approaches and see whose schedule fits in with EM-Con.”
Once the guests are booked the team then look at what events they can put together for visitors to enjoy.
“Once we’ve booked a guest, we think about who would work well alongside them – that gives us great opportunities to arrange really strong extra features like photoshoots and Q&As that combine multiple actors from the same show. So this year for example, we’ve lined up three Doctors who’ll be on stage discussing their time in the role, as well as meeting fans in a joint photoshoot.”
Of course being a film and televison convention the scope is huge, with multiple genres and areas to cover, getting the right balance of guests to appeal to the largest possible fanbase is hugely important to ensuring everyone has a great time.
“Absolutely! Thankfully between us, we’re fans of a number of shows so we have an idea how the fanbases will respond and who people want to see. We can’t cover absolutely every show, but I think we do a good job of covering a wide range.”
The Q&A panels are always a popular feature at conventions, the Red Dwarf panel last year proving a huge success, and so it’s hardly a surprise that there will be even more this year and they look pretty exciting.
“This year we have seven panels, Game of Thrones, Red Dwarf, The Three Doctors, Doctor Who, Atlantis, Torchwod and Star Wars. They’ll be hosted in the two media rooms at the arena. They’ll be ticketed as he venue has limited seating, and the cost for each seat is £1, which will go to a charity linked to each panel. This is where fans can ask questions and get to find out the stories behind the shows they love . We’ve got a crew filming every panel so anyone who is unable to get in will be able to see them later on the EM-Con website.”
You can see a list of who is appearing on each panel, as well as the charity each panel is supporting over on the official Em-Con website here.
Em-Con was launched last year in a bid to offer a quality convention in the East Midlands, taking place at the Albert Hall the event was a huge success but found itself a victim of its success when issues over the ticket allocation meant that large numbers of people couldn’t get in, with queues seen around the venue – leading to much criticism and complaint both online and in the press. For the Em-Con team this was a tough time, but they could well understand the feelings of those that missed out on the event.
“That was difficult but of course the anger was completely understandable. It was especially disappointing because as convention goers we also understand how frustrating a situation like that is and it should never have happened.”
Facing much criticism the team responded as best they could and resolved to learn from the experience and come back stronger, ensuring that they presented a bigger, better event this year. As Chris tells us there was a real determination to prove how successful Em-Con could be.
“We were definitely determined to come back stronger because we knew EM-Con has so many strengths. We got a lot of great feedback, but that wasn’t good enough when so many didn’t get it. We wanted to show that EM-Com was committed to Nottingham for the long term and committed to making sure people coming would get value for money, which of course was the opposite impression many got in 2014. This year I think people will see EM-Con in a totally different light.”
One of the key factors this year will be the move to the far bigger Capital FM Arena, a move that had already been announced before last years event, this offers the potential for a much larger event, while the team have also taken on board a number of lessons following last year.
“One of our first meetings with the arena involved a tour of the venue. The space is amazing. They’d had a concert the night before which was attended by thousands and they’d been able to get everyone in and out quickly and safely – we’re using that same entry system at EM-Con. That was obviously a priority for us. We worked with them to set a suitable limit on ticket numbers too, so entry won’t be a problem. Aside from that, we’re using the space to make sure people can get around easily. There’s a lot to see and it’s spread out nicely.”
One of the great things about Em-Con is that it’s a truly family affair and the team have worked hard to ensure that the event will enjoyable for ages and have made sure everything is positioned to make the best use of the larger venue.
“We’ve made a real effort to put on a show that will be enjoyed by all ages, so I’d recommend checking a map on the day and making sure you get a good idea of what’s there. It can get busy, but we’ve spaced everything out to make full use of the size of the venue. If you can’t find something, ask one of the EM-Con crew and they’ll point you in the right direction.”
While the adults will be flocking to the guests and panels the younger visitors may well be more enticed by some of the other things going off around the convention – while this particular writer is rather excited about the fact that the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters will be in attendance, as will the B.A. Baracus’ famous GMC van from The A-Team, also outside will be other vehicles including Lightning McQueen from Pixar flick Cars and some Transformers, and that is just outside as Chris fills us in.
“Inside, alongside our dealer tables, we’ve got things like a Laser Tag Area, an invasion of Daleks and the TARDIS to get a photo taken with, the Simpson’s sofa, a gaming bus – there’s a lot to do this year!”
Yes, that’s right, you will be able to sit of the famous The Simpsons sofa.
Of course a convention wouldn’t be a convention without cosplay. For those that don’t know cosplay is where people dress up as their favourite characters from film and television, it’s a huge deal in the science fiction and fantasy world and is something that Em-Con is truly embracing, we asked Chris why he thought cosplay had become such a huge part of the convention world?
“I think conventions are a really safe place for self expression, a place to come and meet like minded people. It’s a great outlet for people’s creative energy and to really go for it. There aren’t many places you get to do that.”
Once again Em-Con will be holding a competition for the best adult cosplay, but it sounds like entrants will have to go someway to top last years winner Usman Mohammed.
“Usman, had an amazing costume. He’d built his own Halo suit and he was absolutely brilliant, he truly deserved to win.”
There is no doubting cosplay fans, with some even getting the whole family involved.
“A few years ago I saw a family who’d each come as Transformers, from the mum and dad right down to a baby in a pushchair! That was real dedication.”
If you’re one of those going along to Em-Con but still undecided about whether or not to get in costume Chris has some advice for you.
“Go for it! Everyone I spoke to last year really enjoyed their experience cosplaying at EM-Con – for a number of them it was their first time. I can’t think of a better place to jump in an enjoy! We’ve obviously got rules in place about weapons and not showing too much skin but there’s plenty of room for being creative.”
As well as the event itself there will also be an Aftershow party for those that wan’t to kick back and enjoy a few drinks after a day on guest meeting and Q&A panels. The party will take place at the wonderful Pitcher & Piano in Hockley (next to Nottingham Contemporary) and will feature a performance from NottinghamLIVE.co.uk favourites ONEGIRLONEBOY, who’s music featured on an episode of new DC series Gotham. It promises to be a fantastic night if last year is anything to go by.
“Last year we were treated to the sight of Hattie Hayridge dancing to a cover version of the Red Dwarf theme tune!”
Tickets for the Aftershow party are still available and priced at £6 – but will almost surely sell out ahead of the day.
As Chris has already pointed out the team behind Em-Con are all big fans, especially when it comes to science fiction and for Chris himself it’s a long running British classic that remains at the top of his list.
“I love a lot of sci-fi shows, but it always goes back to Doctor Who and the Doctor.”
It is, therefore, rather unsurprising how he answers when we ask him who his dream guest would be.
“Peter Capaldi would be incredible”
He’d also like to see Em-Con be able to mark the celebrations of an American science fiction heavyweight next year.
“Next year it will be the 50th anniversary of Star Trek so it would be nice to recognise that at EM-Con.”
While Star Trek and Doctor Who are both classics that have had long running series on worldwide television huge numbers of science fiction fans still mourn the loss of one particular show that lasted just a single series way back in 2002). That show is, of course, Firefly the show that came from the mind of Buffy creator, and director of upcoming sure-to-be mega hit Avengers: Age of Ultron, Joss Whedon. Like most fans Chris believes Fox made a mistake cancelling the show.
“Fans are often better at appreciating truly great shows than people who’re given the power to cancel them. Time has proved the fans right on Firefly as it’s quickly become a classic. We’ve got a fan group coming to EM-Con, the Beeston Browncoats, so it’s nice to know the show will never really die.”
So it looks like Em-Con is shaping to be something extremely special, offering fans a chance to meet the stars of some of their favourite shows, enjoy entertaining Q&A panels and even indulge in a bit of fancy dress. What is more Standard tickets are still available and priced at just £8.
That just leaves one more thing for Chris to say.
“See you at Em-Con”.
Em-Con takes place at the Capital FM Arena on Sunday 15 March 2015. For more information including details on tickets, panels and photoshoots visit the official Em-Con website.