To say geek culture has become massive in the last few years is an understatement. This is no more evident than at the MCM Expo convention, held twice a year at the Excel centre in London. It’s the British equivalent of the world famous San Diego Comic Con and the crown jewel in any self-respecting UK geek’s calendar. It showcases everything from the latest movies, videogames and comic books to anime, manga and cosplay… Not to mention an amazing line-up of special guests from the world of film and TV. To top it off, this year the event was running for a full 3 days for the first time, so obviously we had to attend!
The last London MCM Expo we went to back in May 2014 suffered from typical convention issues; massive ticket queues, lack of seating, not enough aisle space inside and a confusing re-entry system. However this year, the organisers have outdone themselves and solved many of the problems that plagued previous events. It was one of the best conventions we’ve been to in a very long time!
Tickets and wristbands were given out super quickly, not one person we spoke to had a problem with queuing to get in. You could also enter from the underground car park, which was brilliant for those of us who chose to drive!
The event now takes up most of the Excel, with half of the halls housing the convention itself and the other half opened up with seating, tables and food vendors. No more sitting on the floor for a rest and so much more room to move around in, it was brilliant.
Inside the event there was more space than ever, with wide aisles and plenty of entrance and exit points. At busy times there was still a bit of a crowd, but it was never uncomfortable and it was easy to get back outside if you needed a breath of fresh air. This was an amazing feat considering the record attendance of over 120 thousand people.
There was plenty to keep you entertained as well; you couldn’t do the whole show in one day. There were hundreds of stalls selling merchandise from everything you can think of. Clothes, shoes, cupcakes, action figures, retro games, Lego, comic books, plushies, artwork… It’s a huge pop culture marketplace!
Talks and Q&As were held in enclosed theatres that kept the sound contained so you could really hear what was going on and feel involved and engaged. Some big names from film and TV took part in the panels too, such as Gillian Anderson (The X-Files).
As always, there were also stars meeting fans. Photo opportunities and autographs were available from geek culture icons such as Felicia Day (The Guild, Supernatural); Iain de Caestecker and Nick Blood from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; John Noble (Lord Of The Rings, Fringe, Sleepy Hollow) and Doctor Who’s Sylvester McCoy.
Big companies were showcasing their wares on the con floor. Nintendo had a large stall giving gamers a chance to try out their new WiiU game Splatoon as well as indulge in a round or two of Super Smash Brothers or a race of Mario Kart 8 with their friends.
Playstation were there too. Their real show stopper was a full size replica of the new Batmobile from the soon to be released Arkham Knight game. Attendees could have a professional photograph taken with the larger than life prop free of charge! They also had a number of systems set up with playable co-op demos of the upcoming Lego Jurassic World game, which was a whole lot of fun.
However, it’s not just the big names and Hollywood studios getting all the attention. A whole section of the event called VidFest was dedicated to British YouTubers such as The Yogscast, Tomska and Ashens. Brand new home grown web series such as Year of Spies, The First Musketeer and Wireless got to show off their work on a massive screen in a dedicated tent to the crowds too.
The fun wasn’t just contained to inside the halls. The weather over the weekend was good so the party atmosphere spilled outside, stretching as far as the eye could see. Large screens were set up playing the latest movie trailers, there was a stage with music and a dancing crowd, people chilled out on the grass areas eating food from stands and ice cream vans and cosplay photo shoots were taking place everywhere.
The biggest draw to this event for most geeks is probably the cosplay. MCM Expo has the largest number of costumers of any UK convention we’ve attended. It’s like being at the world’s biggest fancy dress party and it really contributes to the atmosphere.
For those unfamiliar with ‘cosplay’, it’s a Japanese term meaning ‘costume play’. You dress up as one of your favourite characters from pop culture and go have fun. The standard of the cosplays at this year’s May MCM was incredible, with build standards to rival any prop house or big budget movie production. There was a diverse range of costumes on show from Disney Princesses and superheroes to really obscure characters like Natalie Portman from Leon and Tom Hanks from Castaway.
The popularity and appeal of cosplay at the moment is so great that there are even celebrity cosplayers! You might not have heard of Jessica Nigri, but she has over 2.7 MILLION fans on Facebook and she had by the far the longest queue for her autograph out of anyone there, it was 3 hours long!
If you’ve never attended a con, we would highly recommend going to a London MCM Expo event. It’s not something you can fully take in on just one day, so a hotel is essential if you’re travelling from afar. We would also recommend going in cosplay for at least one day. You’ll have a completely different experience in costume than you would as a regular punter. It’s far easier to break the ice and you can meet so many amazing people! And at the end of the day that’s what makes a convention truly great… the people.