This year’s LFCC took place between July 27th and July 29th, in the vast halls of Kensington Olympia. Transportation to this venue was surprisingly straightforward compared to previous years, and even when travelling from the depths of northern England we still found our way there easily.
Split over two giant halls, there was the usual myriad mix of merchandise, comics, funkos, anime and geek clothing stalls. Regarding that, this year’s event was sponsored by EMP Clothing, who had a surprisingly moderate presence, with only one medium-sized stall and the occasional banner. Highlights tended to be stalls that were nestled between others, hosting indie authors (such as L. L. McNeil and Mark Cassell) an entire array of swords/axes, jewellery, and even a selection of shoes! Although busy, there was plenty of time to browse and look at everything on display. Most stalls seemed to be embracing the twenty-first century, allowing payment via card; this prevented the horrific log jam at the ATM of previous conventions. Staff, although helpful, were stretched a little thin here, and the information stand was always busy. However, there was a neat and concise timetable of activities, from photo sessions to talks from celebrities. The size of the venue made it difficult to attend multiple timetabled events, but staff were helpful in trying to avoid clashes. This is, however, definitely a convention you will want to plan in advance. There were also the usual slew of last minute cancellations and additions, so it is highly recommended that you check the official website prior to your arrival.
Other highlights included a gaming zone, featuring everything from classics on N64, Sega Saturn and NES (if, like me, you remember the ‘good old days’ of gaming) to modern consoles like the PS4, through to cutting edge VR technology. There was an area dedicated to cosplay, featuring guests (such as the very talented Kamui Cosplay) and a place to change, repair and modify outfits. There was also, thankfully, a dedicated area to sit and rest. This did not stop all the quiet corners from filling up with exhausted convention-goers, including the occasional napping child.
There were a massive range of guests at LFCC 2018 this year, including, but not limited to, an avalanche of Dr Who cast members (Peter Capaldi, Pearl Mackie, Matt Smith, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant and more) Jason ‘Aquaman’ Momoa, the star of I:Zombie Rose McIver (with most of the supporting cast too) Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) and even a surprise appearance by Zachary ‘Shazam!’ Levi. The upper floor of the Olympia played host to the comic book guests, both artists and writers. This year it included (amongst others) writer Dan Slott (Iron Man, Amazing Spiderman), artist Sara Pichelli (Guardians of the Galaxy), writer Ram V (Paradiso, Ruin of Thieves) and artist Amrit Birdi (Username: Evie, Assassin’s Creed). The Artist’s Alley also played host to a large number of indie artists and illustrators, ensuring there was truly something for everyone. Guests, artists and fellow convention goers were all friendly, approachable and the atmosphere was positive. This is an improvement from other conventions I have been to in the past, which occasional felt a bit mechanical, pushing people through at high speed. This venue also seemed to make it more likely that you would accidentally run into a celebrity: it’s not a proper convention until you nearly get run over by Meatloaf on an electric scooter!
Unfortunately, as with a lot of the larger conventions in the UK, the volume of people was undoubtedly the biggest concern. The queue to enter, although managed well, was enormous, and even with pre-bought tickets it took the best part of an hour to enter. The floor space in Olympia was more than adequate to maintain pedestrian flow, even with the massive numbers of people and the wide selection of stalls; however, this faltered slightly when it came to the guest areas. The majority of the special guests and all of the photo areas were above the main halls in the galleries, and there was a tendency for certain sections to bottleneck. The staff deserve praise here, as they managed for the most part to keep things semi-organised, and although there was a reasonable amount of queuing involved, it seems that most people got to meet their guest of choice. My personal experience of the photo sessions was positive, with large visitor queues managed well, and ensuring everyone got their photograph inside the allotted session time. On Saturday, there was also only one functioning exit, presumably for crowd control, but it did make actually leaving the venue difficult. On a more functional level, the venue had a large number of toilets, and did have a café selling food and coffee. This was often packed and had long queues trailing out onto the convention floor, but was not bank-breakingly expensive. Bringing your own food and drink (especially water) seems to be the way to go. None of these concerns undermined the whole event, and hopefully these issues will improve by next year.
So, the all-important question: should you attend LFCC 2019? In a word, yes. This convention smoothed out a lot of the problems in previous years, despite retaining a few annoying niggles and made it far more suitable for little ones or those with mobility concerns. With a truly staggering number of guests, artists, writers and stall-holders, there was a selection guaranteed to satiate your geek needs. The sheer size of this event might put some people off, and maybe smaller conventions might be a good starting point. Personally, we cannot wait to see who they book for next year.
What did you think about this year’s event? Leave your comments and stories below.