It was a bit of a spontaneous decision to go to CosXpo this weekend. I’d heard about it via social media, Facebook mainly, and there seemed to be a great buzz happening about this convention dedicated to Cosplay.
I emailed them asking if I could book in to exhibit our work, but was met with an apology for being fully booked, but we would go on their waiting list.
On a whim the week before, I decided to grab a hotel in Reading for a couple of nights (Novotel Reading city center, most excellent!) and drag our Heir to the Empire, Jasmine, into going with me to check out the event and make sure it was going to be worth the effort of dragging our butts that far South next year (hopefully!) hahaha.
Initial response to the event as a whole is YES!
The organisers wanted to create a slightly different event atmosphere; This is not a comic con or convention in the sense of the overly saturated circuit we have in the UK, it is different and it is bloody genius.
Cosplayers have long been the unrecognised back bone of many an event, the organisers deny that they make any difference to attendee numbers (looking at you old MCM owners) but this event is ALL ABOUT THE COSPLAYERS!
CosXpo was about recognising the creativity and talents that are abundant within the community and bringing them together to share their costumes, their talents, tips and techniques. Like a showcase for everything that is inspiring in our world of costuming.
They cleverly did not try to stretch themselves too thin and made this a one day event which I think worked out perfectly for their first venture. They also managed to promote CosXpo so successfully that I did not even realise it was their first event until someone told me!
On getting our wristbands after a very short, quick moving queue, we were given a little bag with sweets, talk schedule and promotional cards from several of the traders and sponsor. It was a really nice touch, as was having all the staff in branded hoodies and tees which made them easy to pick out of the crowd if you needed any help or advice.
As part of the inspiring day there was a good range of talks planned, set out on 3 different stages and the topics covered everything from cosplaying on a budget, how to get paid as a professional costumer at cons, to practical help with styling wigs and make up tips etc..
I did not get the chance to see many of them, but the ones we saw were informative and well attended.
A sprinkle of cosplay guests were in the first room attendees walked into, set alongside a very professional photography area. Although they had the usual prints for sale, they were not simply glued to their table looking bored, it was good to see that they spent a good amount of time mingling, talking about the costumes they were wearing and I overheard a lot of brilliant advice on builds being passed on!
In the next room we explored we found the UK Cosplay group of volunteers manning a fully stocked repair station, compete with air brush kit!
We also bumped into our friend Danny who was showing off his shiny new 3-D printer, famed for his “I’ll print you one!” motto, you could check out the difference in print quality that investing a bit more into your kit can make and he is a veritable fountain of advice if you were looking into dipping your toe in the water in terms of printers.
Joined to this room was a separate area host to a small but varied selection of traders. The event focus was not them, but after chatting to the stall holders, they were happy with the balance of footfall and trader numbers and with the event itself.
We discovered the upstairs area after chatting to some cosplayers we knew and popped up there to find two amazing sets that had been created for the togs to show off their models in the best way possible, a cloakroom and a nice small but spacious room that looked to be where costumers were taking time out were also available.
The bar area downstairs was brilliant and did a fabulous range of bar food that was plentiful in size and easy on the wallet and there was plenty of parking. Staffing was not an issue anywhere in this event.
My list of improvements I would suggest to the organisers, based on the time we were there is small, but I think important for their potential growth. That’s not to say anything was spoilt for us, just that from experience, I spotted some things that could do with addressing.
Once you pulled into the university, it was a party atmosphere due to several rugby matches that were being played on the same day, this made finding the correct area of the grounds difficult as everywhere looked busy but there was no signage that we could see until security directed us to a turning off the main thoroughfare. A decent sized banner just on that turning point would have helped a lot.
On the signage theme, they had amazingly designed posters showing where everything was throughout the event.
Looking at the size and footfall, the event danced on that line between cosy and too small. I’m not sure if the afternoon got busier or quieter as we had to leave around 1pm, but even with the initial crowds, moving between the traders was very difficult and inside the first room was tricky due to bulky costumes.
Upstairs was a very quick visit as it was much too small for what they were using it for, there was no room for attendees to just stand and watch the fascinating photography process as we just seemed to constantly be in the way. If it was only for cosplayers and togs, then possibly it should have been signposted as such to avoid crowds of observers (equally, that would be a bit disappointing as an attendee though, so I’d go with giving it more space personally).
The talks that happened on the stages were within each of the main rooms. This meant that for me they had the issue of sound quality as there was a lot of background noise and chatter to block out, which I’m not brilliant at, so if anyone had any kind of hearing problem, I’m not sure how much they could make out from what was being said.
They did however have excellent video screens so demonstrations went down well as visually you could see what happened.
What I would love to see happen is for this momentum kept up for their next date and have some more sponsors so that they can hire more space and build on the amazing work they have accomplished in 2018.
I will certainly be in touch with them with some of the ways I would love Cosmic Workshop to get involved, but will give them a chance to breathe and wind down first!
Hearty congratulations CosXpo on a wonderful event and here’s to an even better future *cheers*
Jules and Jasmine x