I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I decided to head down to Enniskillen Comic Fest when I first heard about it.
I live in Carrickfergus, around 14 miles from Belfast and while the 1hr 30 mins journey isn’t huge, by Northern Ireland’s parochial nature this is an endeavour of herculean proportions. I usually have to have a good reason to haul (to us) such a long way. I’ve had North Americans laugh in my face when I tell them we think 80 odd miles is a long distance. Nipping down to the shop is like a two day camel hike for us for some reason.
So would it be worth my while to leave at the crack of dawn to travel down to somewhere I don’t know to try and find a place I’ve never heard of to go to a Comic Convention that’s being run for the 1st time?
Boy was it…
Enniskillen Comic Fest is one of the best Comic Con’s I’ve been to anywhere in the world. Definitely the best I’ve been to in the North of Ireland.
I’m going to take a look at some of the things I expect from events like these and explain just why Enniskillen Comic Fest was so good.
Well this is an easy one. Enniskillen Comic Fest didn’t cost me a single penny to get into. Nothing , nada, for free. I’ve been to ‘cons that I’ve had to pay £30 just to get through the door. To have an event that turned out as good as it was AND not have to even pay in is just astounding. I would happily in future pay, even just a nominal fee for entry. The free nature of this allowed for everyone regardless of their financial situation to attend and in this day and age that’s pretty special.
Again I didn’t know what to expect. These things go two ways. You turn up with five minutes to go and there is no one there, or you go early and it’s queued round the block. We arrived in Enniskllen around half eight and we went to the venue for around 8.45. We were the first people there. Not knowing the area we checked with some of the staff if we were at the right place to queue and we were. Unfortunately the weather was terrible on the day so we stood in the pouring rain, desperately trying to keep our friend who was cosplaying for the first time dry so her hair and make up didn’t get ruined. That’s our look out not the organizers, multiple umbrellas next year! By the time the doors opened around fifteen minutes later than the 10am advertised time we were soaked, but despite this the queuing was simple as could be, stand in line and wait. As we went in the queue had built up nicely behind us so despite walking around in soaking Converse for the remainder of the day I’m still glad we rocked up early.
For what I expected to be a smallish affair, Enniskillen Comic Fest turned out to have a fantastic range of guests:
PJ Holden, Phil Winslade, Michael Carroll, Ryan Brown, Eoin Convey, Clint Langley, Patrick Goddard, Peter Doherty, Lew Stringer, Glenn Fabry, Laura Howell, D’Isreali, Davy Francis, Hunt Emerson and others with the Guest of Honor Batman/ 2000AD writer extraordinare Alan Grant. The chance to meet Alan Grant, one of this generations greatest Batman writers was a real treat for me. To top it off? He was an absolute gentleman. Overall the balance between writers and artists was well struck. There was a little for everyone here. If your thing is American comics there was something for you. Ditto if you are a fan of the UK comic scene with genuinely some of the top people in the game at your disposal. Only two missing from the proposed schedule that I noted were Steve Yeowell & Ian Edington. Events like this are usually plagued with drop outs, fantastic to see that wasn’t the case here.
Prop Displays & Photo Opportunities:
I generally wasn’t expecting anything like this from Enniskillen Comic Fest. Again I was wrong. There were displays for Star Wars, 2000AD & a street scene for Super Hero backdrops. Also in the Star Wars area there were a range of costumes that both kids and adults could wear for photo opportunities which I thought was a brilliant Idea.
Something I didn’t even realize irritated me about recent conventions I’ve attended until my visit to Enniskillen Comic Fest is that they have felt like I’ve been paying an entry fee to go to Forbidden Planet. The Merchandise stalls outweigh absolutely everything else about other ‘cons. Not so in Enniskillen, The stalls they did have were local , small scale and some, heaven forfend were actually selling COMICS. Practically unheard of in so called ” COMIC CONVENTIONS” now. I thought this was brilliant, a breath of fresh air. If in the future some merchandise stands do creep in, It won’t be the end of the world but the smaller scale, and great range of stuff available really pleased me here. Great range of small press comics & graphic novels from local producers the likes of Revolve Comics, was really good to see.
Unfortunately a combination of me not knowing Enniskillen and the horrible weather stopped me attending any of the talks. We did try to go to Austin Flannagan of Comic Book Guys talk, but unfortunately we couldn’t find the venue. Entirely our fault, as all the event literature contained maps but we forgot to take ours with us. Particularly sad to miss Alan Grant’s, but honestly there was that much going on at the main venue that I didn’t miss getting to them.
The McArthur Hall was a great location for the ‘con. It was set up into distinctive themed areas, where different artists and writers were grouped together Sov Block etc. and this worked really well. Instead of trying to squeeze everyone into the same hall. Toilet access a thing that is usually at a premium at a convention was a breeze. Lots of seating if it was needed, and even at it’s busiest it never felt claustrophobic like some of the events I’ve attended in the past. Free car parking again was a massive bonus. we were there for nine plus hours and at previous conventions that has cost me an absolute fortune. One point I would like to see added for next time is the ability to buy tea/ coffee on the premises. That’s a small personal desire mostly again prompted by the rain which made nipping out to the local coffee shop such a pain in the ass.
The Staff & Volunteers were one of the show highlights for me. I’ve been to some conventions where the staff & volunteers couldn’t care less and treat you exactly that way. Not so here. Everyone I spoke to had a massive smile on their face, only too happy, despite being rushed off their feet to stop and talk or help with enquiry. It was obvious they really enjoyed what they were doing and by extension helped me to enjoy myself more.
Enniskillen Comic Fest had something for everyone. I literally saw people from 8 to 80 wandering around the venue. Kids especially were well catered for, with a Kid Zone, dressing up areas face painting, candy floss & Slurpee stall. People of all colours and creed, locals, tourists and people who had traveled down especially for the event like we did. Which is exactly how it should be. A fully inclusive event , like comics, for everyone.
It was only my second time in Enniskillen and it wont be my last. As well as what we saw of it being exceptionally beautiful the locals were really friendly. The coffee shop and Pizza Parlour we had lunch in were super friendly and welcoming. I can’t wait to go back, with my wife this time for a longer visit.
I’ve been to events like this all over the UK , Ireland and North America and I’ll say again: This was one of the best.
The two people who went with me had never visited a comic convention before and on the way home the two of them couldn’t shut up about what a great time they had. Well that’s when they could get a word in edgeways from the grizzled veteran doing exactly the same thing.
The staff and organizers of Enniskillen Comic Fest deserve nothing less than the highest praise. I cannot wait to see what next years show has to offer. I’ll be first in the queue again next year.
A small selection of the amazing sketches & things i got signed/picked up during the event: