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Con Report: Kitacon II (2010) – Packed with People and Goodness

Kitacon II, held in Northampton March 25-27, 2010
Park Inn, Northampton, UK
Attendance: 650 (full capacity)
Official Site

AUTHOR NOTE: I apologize for the delay in presenting this report — a house move dragged out the editing process. –Elliot

First of all, I wish to give a small disclaimer. I am assuming that the majority of people who view this site are from the US and so I want to make obvious here that UK anime conventions are a lot smaller than what you may be used to hearing about.

At 650 attendees, Kitacon is a respectably sized fan-run con by UK standards, fitting snugly into the confines of the conference rooms of Northampton's Park Inn. (Sometimes a little too snugly, as with the exception of the main events hall many of the other event rooms were often packed out with attendees during panels.) The games room in particular was a victim of this, and while the staff running it (DDR:UK) did a stellar job setting up the room, there simply was not enough space for it to accommodate everyone who wished to enter.

Thankfully this kind of crowding never became a major issue, due in part to the 16+ age requirement that the convention enforces. This age requirement is starting to spread among fan-run conventions in the UK, and as someone old enough I heartily endorse this measure. It helped to set a much more mature, measured tone for the convention, as well as a marked lack of idiotic “Hug me” signs and random glomping. From talking to staffers it appears that this move was made in order to prevent insurance costs from crippling the convention, so don't think this was an act of ageism!

While some of the convention rooms were rather small, the events within them were excellent. The main defining event of the convention, and something I want to see stolen and put on at all anime conventions, was something called “Build-a-Mecha.” Provided with a basic set of materials such as cardboard, tape, pens and wallpaper, different teams were tasked to build a robot shell around one of the team members. The whole thing was great fun, with lively joking and a great sense of humor throughout. Not to brag, but my team won the event. Shout-outs to Zelly, Caroline, Chris, and Guy, my teammates! You can see our horrific entry, “Ravager, Warrior of Love”, below.

Ravager, Warrior of Love, our winning entry in the Build-a-Mecha panel

Another of the stand-out events was "Kita's got Talent?!," a send up of the recent trend of reality talent shows that are on UK TV. This differed from the usual "Omake" event at conventions as none of the sets were anime-based, and because it was actually good. I could write a whole additional review of this single panel, but it would just be a thousand words of me gushing about how pleasantly surprised and genuinely entertained I was by the event.

Some fan-run panels were available, such as the “Cosplay On the Cheap” panel, the “Metal Gear Solid Fan Panel”, and more than a few boisterous quiz events. All those I attended were good fun, well presented, and well received by the audience. Personally I would have liked to seen more on the timetable, but the practice of putting on a panel is not as widespread in the UK as it is elsewhere, sadly.

I also presented my own panel “Anime You Should See”, to introduce fans to a wide variety of well-regarded anime. (Credit to Geeknights for the name.) This was my first time putting a panel on and I was nervous as hell, especially as there were a few difficulties with the equipment and the timing of the event. Despite initial nerves the panel went over well, and at one point I remember mimicking the signature “Piston Punch” move from Big O to an amused crowd. Rather predictably, some experienced fans attended (not the target audience!) and after the panel gave me some very solid advice for developing the presentation. One kind person even bought me a drink, which shows you the friendly atmosphere of the convention.

There were a number of problems early on with event scheduling, including for my own panel, due to one simple issue: The printed con guides that staffers handed out at registration were out of date mere hours after the convention started. One inspired idea that the convention had was to provide a constantly updated copy of the timetable in xhtml format on the website, which was a great help when planning what events to attend. However as not everyone present at the event had a smartphone like myself, there was some confusion with events until halfway through Saturday. At this point updated color-coded printouts of the revised timetable suddenly appeared next to every set of doors and convention room and all confusion was dispelled.

The convention staffers handled registration (usually a horrific rigmarole at UK cons) with the utmost efficiency. The staff even put on an impromptu pre-registration session the day before the convention started, and I was one of the lucky 50 people who were present for this.

The hotel staff was helpful for the most part, with the notable exception of the cleaning staff. These brave souls were also acting as room checkers for the duration of the convention to prevent over-capacity hotel rooms. I am not against room checks in principle (and will admit I have stuffed a room with extra people at other conventions to lower the price of the stay), but they border on insulting when they occur at 7:45 in the morning. We were then told to vacate the room, along with our hangovers, so that the staff could start cleaning. There was no budging on this demand.

A good measure of a con is how willing people are to return next year. At the bombastic closing ceremony the staff announced next year’s convention date and venue to roaring applause. I have to admit that this is a masterstroke — get people when they are most pumped and sell them on the next event. Kitacon was, without a shred of hyperbole, the best convention experience I have had to date, and I cant wait for next year!

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