Forest City Comic Con: London’s Next Big Thing

As in most things, the roots of good ideas come from experiencing bad ones. Such is the case with Maggie Pajak and her team behind London’s largest celebration of nerd culture, Forest City Comic Con.

FCCC - Organizers
Co-Founders (L-R): Gord Mood, Carol Vandenberg, Jonathan Houghton, Maggie Pajak, Emmanuel Guerrero

After years of struggling and tying to get their own independent comics published and running smaller more genre focused events, the group of them realized that collectively they had the experience, the knowledge and the passion to do it better. So in 2013 they launched Forest City Comic Con.

Maggie for her part (pictured below) is a veteran of Toronto’s FanExpo team and has several years of mixing it up with fandom. She is strong, intelligent and determined which on first impression seems formidable because she happens to be striking as well. It takes only seconds of talking to her however before her warmth and compassion oozes out and you feel at ease and at the same time entranced by her resolve. She is not a solo act however and praises her co-founders and volunteers openly for their hard work and dedication to creating something special in the city of London, their hometown.

FCCC - Maggie Morgue

In its fourth year, Forest City Comic Con has done nothing but grow. Their inaugural event was held in a much smaller venue which they realized almost instantly that they had under estimated the passion in London’s nerd community…

The first convention we saw 2,500 at the Centennial hall, it was crazy, we kept every single ticket because we couldn’t believe it! At one point we were standing at the front doors and couldn’t even handle the traffic. It was an incredible experience to see that much passion from London, to see that it was possible. I was expecting like 300 people but it was insane.

A redeeming quality and one that is only afforded to those who operate in a DIY atmosphere, is that the team’s focus is promoting local businesses while ensuring the fans in attendance get the right amount variety. Like most Cons, it all begins and ends with comic books but there’s something for everybody there and a strong focus is on gaming. With more gaming stations than most events, every seat was filled with eager gamers trying out the next thing in video, RPG and tabletop games.

While nice and operationally understandable, larger events can offer rows upon rows of the same thing and every product under the sun in a thousand different variations. This is something Maggie and her team are keenly aware of…

What we do every year is a couple of things. Variety and we also want to make sure people are doing really well. So part of our job is to check the floor, its one thing we do a lot of checking in advance. We want to see that people have the right products and their products are good quality as well. We also don’t want to have the same things, we don’t want like 5 tarot card readers. We do cap it in a sense.

With the large events filling massive spaces to capacity with a frenzied humanity, there’s something calming almost zen-like about Forest City. It’s an intimate affair (if 5,000+ people can be considered intimate) where you can get right up close and personal with the celebrity and artist guests and there’s a real sense of just being there makes you part of their extended family. All the co-founders have a shared sense of loyalty when it comes to the local businesses and aim to make their experience as pleasurable as the fans in attendance…

We are vendors, we have that experience, we know what a shitty load in looks like, we know what over charging for tables looks like, we know what poor attendance looks like. We see it from the other side of the table too, so its nice to have that experience and afford that to our local vendors.

With the numbers only increasing, the event as early as next year will inevitably outgrow the London Convention Centre and regrettably have to move to a larger space. The two have enjoyed an affable partnership these last three years but with expansion comes tough decisions and leaving the LCC will likely be one of them.

ForestCityComicon1

Along with a larger space comes the added pressure to fill it. But bringing in bigger names could mean higher ticket and vendor prices, something Maggie feels is unfortunate but necessary. But will they be able to maintain their earnest approach in spite of the machine getting bigger? For her, it boils down to trust…

The more the people learn to trust us, the more they see that we’re working really hard that we’re really trying to get all of our shit together and that we have it together. Then the companies will learn to trust us and sponsor us, then we can bring in the big names and keep ticket prices down.

Compared to the chaos and crowd inducing anxiety of the larger events, Forest City Comic Con is a welcome annual breath of fresh air. The jaded old nerd in me wants things to say personal and meaningful, two things that naturally get set aside in favor of success and profits. But after attending this year’s event it occurs to me that as the FCCC continues to grow to larger levels, and it will, this team seems to have the right sensibility and philosophy to keep it a grounded and meaningful one.

Till next time…

For more information visit Forest City Comic Con

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Author: gizmorubiks

I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.

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