This was Antwerp Convention 2015
For as long as I can remember I’ve always had an interest for stuff like fantasy, videogames and anime. And for the longest time I felt like I was one of the few. But after my interview with cosplayer Lilskittle I can definitely say that geek culture is out in the open and catching up fast. So as a follow-up I went to Antwerp Convention, A-con for the palls, an immense annual celebration of Sci-Fi, fantasy and horror. Right here in Antwerp.
As the alarm of my phone goes off I’m just about to bash it in for doing this to me on a Sunday morning. Just to realize A-con is starting in an hour; also my phone is probably worth more than all of my organs combined so there’s that. Anyway I meet up with my friend and together we head for the Antwerp central station. On our way there we see two kinds of people: those dressed for the Ten Miles and those dressed for A-con. While both probably have been preparing for months, we are following for the latter.
We arrive at the Antwerp Expo, thinking we’re early so we can avoid the queue. Dead wrong though, hundreds of people are already lining up just as the doors open. Oh well, I’m press so I don’t have to wait in line anyway but damn I did not expect to see this many fans lined up this early. As soon as we enter the first hall we grasp the vastness of this event. I don’t even know what to do or where to go first. I see a Lego exposition this side, robot wars that side, old arcade games on the left and horror props on the right. Including my childhood nightmare Chucky, thanks for sleepless nights again A-con!
After spending the last two hours gazing at everything there was to do and filming a time-lapse for the aftermovie, it was time for a stop at the main stage. After all, this is the place to be because 30 minutes from now there is going to be a group picture of all the cosplayers. Very soon the entire main stage area will be teeming with Harry Potters, Deadpools, stormtroopers and whatnot. Slow but steady it’s starting to sink in that it’s not the girl with the silver wig and papier-mâché dragon that stands out, but it’s me in the boring ass hoody with the boring ass skinny pants. There’s just that many people who are dressed up and it is absolutely magnificent to see.
Game of Thrones in the flesh
After witnessing the Avengers assemble we head up to the panel room upstairs for a Q&A with actors Ellie Kendrick and Ian McElhinney, also known as Meera Reed and Barristan Selmy from the immensely popular TV show Game of Thrones. Both of whom I had talked to earlier for a cameo in our Antwerp Convention aftermovie. What followed was a delightfully funny and at times even informal panel. With all this awesomeness around I forgot myself and my stomach for a while so first thing to do after the panel was head for the cafeteria.
With renewed body fuel and already my second battery in the camera we head for round two through the halls of A-con, making another stop at the main stage when we see the cosplay contest is about to start. Imagine a pageant but instead of beauty queens and kings you get your favourite characters prancing around on stage, which is wondrous to see of course. The acts differ from lip-syncing songs and dancing to actually re-enacting the character, this all in front of thousands of people. If anyone were to ask me before if I would like to see young adults dressed up as Pokémon dancing around, I would have been like “no way in hell anyone would watch that”. Yet here I am, surrounded by an entire crowd and every single one of them enjoying it more than the other.
Free hugs & wrestlers
Once the contest was over we went back to strolling around but this time slower. Just so we could pay more attention to all the merchandise, celebrities and more importantly, the visitors. Don’t get me wrong there is some seriously cool stuff you can buy here like vintage movie posters, geekshirts, fantasy swords, rare comics, etc... If my cash flow wasn’t as handicapped as it is, I probably would have gone on a mad shopping spree. And then there’s the guest speakers; actors from Doctor Who, Star Trek, GoT, comic book artists like David Lloyd (V for Vendetta), you name it. But really it’s the people and the community that amaze me the most.
There’s all different kinds of people of all ages and all backgrounds, speaking more languages than Siri and Google Translate combined. That makes no sense whatsoever but you get the point. Everyone is extremely friendly and excited to the point it almost, but never really, gets creepy. I’ve never had so many free hugs in my life, or any hugs for that matter. What makes it even better is that almost half of these people are dressed up, some of them with such an elaborate costume I had to check twice for the camera and the director. So I spend the next two hours staying at the same spot and just talking to people, taking pictures and filming them. And I can honestly say that that was the best part of Antwerp Convention for me.
As the last hour goes in we rush for the wrestling ring, just in time for the final fight. Seeing these guys (and girls) throwing people out of the ring and bashing each other with chairs was probably one of my favourite things on TV as a kid. And apparently I’m still not tired of it, even though my bubble got burst violently when I found there’s a lot of acting involved. After the match we see the shopkeepers gather their goods while the remaining visitors scavenge around to spend their last bucks. Even though I wasn’t able to get that Pikachu onesie, I’m walking towards the exit fulfilled and content.
The doors close, the last Darth Vader walks home hand in hand with Lara Croft and I put away my brimming camera. It was my first A-con but I can say with confidence that it won’t be my last. The Geekdom will rule the world and Antwerp convention will be one of its prominent bases. See you next year!
Text by Kevin Lau
Pics by Kevin Lau