|An opinion piece on #convention organisation in #Belgium/ the cancellation of @AntwerpCon
||[May. 17th, 2016|06:33 pm]
For the longest time, Belgium was a one convention country. Or at least: one convention that mattered: FACTS in Ghent, which traditionally happened each October. With a handful of much smaller conventions during the rest of the year, which came and went over the course of time, as these things go.
FACTS was the sole big name for absolute ages, over a decade in fact, before Made in Asia showed up and became the country’s premiere Asiamania convention, held annually in March.
Since I started BCM, 5 years ago now, I’ve seen many conventions come and go. Some were small ones, some of those, like Retro MiA and Atsusacon are stubbornly sticking around. And good for them! Some others, like Starcom, were one year things only. Which, in some cases, was really too bad, but it’s the nature of the thing alas. On rare occasions, big conventions such as Japan Expo Belgium, seemed to become fixed names on the yearly schedule and still disappeared. For reasons that in the end boiled down to: we can’t expand to big enough venues and thus can’t make more money than we are already making with our successful formula.
And it is this kind of greed that is ruining the convention landscape in Belgium.
Late 2014 it was announced that everyone’s favourite pop culture convention, Antwerp Convention, was taken over by the conglomerate behind FACTS. Considering that FACTS has been over its heyday for years on end, this of course worried many fans of the convention quite greatly.
When FACTS announced its first “spring edition”, pretty much simultaneously with Made in Asia and the new Brussels Comic Con, it became clear of their intentions: to use their brand name to draw away visitors of other conventions and make them disappear. Antwerp Con was strategically placed the weekend before Japan Expo and on the weekend that was reserved for Starcom last year.
Coincidence: I don’t think so, and neither do most convention goers with a working brain.
And now, today, it was announced that Antwerp Convention was cancelled. No real reason was given, but surely timing can’t be it. Because everyone knows that Rock Werchter happens at the tail end of June/first thing of July. Everyone knows Japan Expo happens around that time. Everyone knows its summer and people are busy, on holiday, etc etc etc. These are ALL things that everyone, including the organisation, was aware of when the convention was planned. I’m not saying that the organisation orchestrated this. I know Lode, who started Antwerp Con together with a bunch of friends, personally, and he’s an A+, AWESOME guy who is extremely passionate about the convention. There is no way I believe this cancellation was made with bad intent on the part of him and his fellow organisers of the original team.
No, I believe that it was forced on them by the Collective (yes, that’s a Star Trek Borg reference) known as FACTS. That this was simply all a clever way to get rid of their main competitor when it comes to pop culture events.
Because clearly: getting their act together and organising a better event is too much effort, they need to simply get rid of the competition so people have to come to them to get their convention fix.
Well guess what, I’d rather go to Geekopolis in Paris than go to FACTS ever again.
I’d rather NOT go to a pop culture con than go to FACTS ever again.
This all aside, Antwerp Con hasn’t been the only convention that has been cancelled, but at least MGM Comic Con Belgium properly relocated to another date (because they are British and thus didn’t realise they had planned smack in the middle of the exam period, there’s something to say about that but I’ll refrain, because they put on a good show in the UK and I’m actually looking forward to their first edition). Which can’t be said about Antwerp Con, who are NOT presenting us with a new date (which does NOT bode well for the future of the convention, sadly).
Basically, the hope of PROPER and GOOD pop culture conventions now lies in the hands of MGM, and if the Gods of Geekery are smiling on us, it’ll happen and it’ll be awesome.
Of course, if these deities exist and are so willing, Antwerp Con will be saved and all will be well with the world of nerds again, but I think we’re all realistic enough to know better :(
Still, hope for the best I suppose.