Manchester MCM Expo has been a great, smaller convention to attend in the past and this year was no exception. It may have nowhere near the epic scale of the London MCM event, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, quite the opposite in fact!
The event takes place at Manchester Central convention centre, which is a converted Victorian railway station. The venue is lovely, boasting high ceilings and plenty of natural light. The compact size of Manchester MCM means that it’s easier to do and see everything on offer and the organisation was top notch. Staff were friendly and helpful, ticket queues moved quickly, the temperature inside was bearable and there was no dangerous overcrowding (though it was busy!). It was especially packed on the Sunday when it rained heavily all day and everyone stayed inside.
There were two open halls; the main ‘shopping hall’ and the second ‘guest star’ hall that also included the main stage area and eSports section. Between the two halls was a large chill out area for attendees and cosplayers to crash out and sit down in after hours of walking. It looked like a geek airport terminal! It was full of seating and complete with stands selling food and ice creams to keep visitors fed and hydrated.
Re-entry to the event was easy and it was well worth having a walk around outside, many of the more impressive cosplay costumes were to be seen there. There were also a number of coffee shops and restaurants within a couple of minutes’ walk in case you wanted to get out and have a break from the con for a while.
Talking of cosplay, this year’s standard was exceptionally high! One of our personal favourites was an AT-AT walker from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, operated in the same way as a pantomime horse; one person was the front legs, another was the back. It was made with an incredible amount of detail, with moving guns, a side panel that opened to reveal Snowtrooper figures ready for battle and a tiny Luke Skywalker dangling from a rope underneath.
It wasn’t just the prop side of cosplay that was impressive; the handmade tailored cloth costumes were just as good. A pair of women had lovingly hand-stitched and embroidered their own ‘Game of Thrones’ gowns portraying Cersei Lannister and Sansa Stark. The level of detail was incredible!
Alongside the cosplay, there were many guest stars in attendance including Sylvester McCoy (Doctor Who, The Hobbit) who was on top form as always entertaining the crowds. All the usual stores were there too, selling everything from Funko Pop! vinyl figures to retro games, geeky t-shirts to high-end replica props. You could spend a lot of money at these events if you love to shop!
The only real downside to the show is the travel and parking, which is limited and expensive. Train stations are a tram ride away so there are other options for travellers, but they’re not that convenient for cosplayers in particular. Not all costumed people are brave enough to take a tram through the centre of Manchester on a busy Saturday morning! So if you’re planning to go in future, bear this in mind. There were also roadworks taking place all around the venue, which were no fault of the organisers, but made it a bit of a nightmare to navigate.
Also, tickets were limited and all Saturday and Weekend tickets sold out in advance. This kept crowd numbers well under-control. However, there is no more room in the venue to expand, so buy you’re tickets early if you want to visit next year.
Overall, would I recommend visiting Manchester MCM Expo? The answer is yes. The atmosphere is great, like a bite-sized London MCM Expo, and it would be a perfect first con to visit if you’ve never attended one before.