Daisy Brookes – Ekko Cosplay
This past Saturday I drove across the country to the lovely town of Bournemouth to attend the first ever Coastal Comic Con! A newcomer to the con scene, CoCoCon was held in a beautiful old hotel just off the seafront. Although it was a small con, it was fairly well organised and actually very enjoyable!
I want to start by saying that buying tickets for this con as a disabled patron was so refreshing! Disabled concession and free carer tickets were available from the get go, you just had to select them from the list. I know this isn’t exactly possible for huge events but it was just so nice to see it made easy. No impossible hoops to jump through to get a pass, just click, add to basket and done! Simple and inclusive, it gave me high hopes for the event.
As with any event there were good and bad aspects to it. I want to emphasise that for a fresh event, you could tell that near every effort was made to make things the best they could be.
However, as with all events, some things did slip through the cracks. The first hurdle I came across was parking. This is mostly down to the venue and its location, which I’ll get in to more detail in a second. Whilst there were plenty of pay and display car parks nearby, most of them were a bit of a walk and they were all pretty limited on their disabled spaces and very expensive. Not the end of the world, but not really ideal. I was feeling pretty well and strong on my legs but had I been more run down this would have been a much bigger issue.
Like I said above, the venue itself carried a few problems access wise. Unlike most cons nowadays it was held in a vintage hotel which meant a lot of stairs and steps. The con was held over three floors and spread out far and wide so it was a lot of wandering about to different places, but unlike other big name events everything was clearly signposted and easy to get to, regardless of how far you had to go or the access requirements you had.
Although there were lots of little steps all over the place, there were ramps installed at every single set of them. I even heard that the hotel didn’t actually have enough to cover them all so the organisers had managed to get more in, so that no part of the con was left inaccessible. It’s little efforts like this that bigger cons seem to let fall to the side.
With everything spread out so far and wide, foot traffic wasn’t too much of an issue when it came to access. The only spot I can fault was near the main stage which was, honestly, far too crowded. They’d clearly tried to fill the main hall with as much as they could but this meant that when it was time to hold the masquerade, maneuvering the crowd was near impossible and not ideal.
Another issue I did have was that the toilets weren’t very well signposted. I actually only ended up finding the one set of toilets, which were near the entrance to the event, and whilst they were very nice (they sported a very cute dressing table area which made changing at the con super easy), I never did find the female disabled toilets, as the only one I did spot was in the men’s. I’m sure there was one somewhere, but lack of signs meant that in my exploring I never managed to find it.
I spoke to lots of guests, as I wandered the event, about how they felt about the con. Most were overjoyed to have a new con so local and praised the efforts that had been made to make it work for all. The general consensus seemed to be that, yes, the venue wasn’t ideal but its individual charm and the efforts made by everyone working the event made up for it.
Moving on from that, I wanted to say that all of the volunteers I spoke to were incredibly helpful. Any question or query I had they worked to figure out and were happy to help at any given moment. If guests were struggling to get about, they were ready to lend a hand and seemed fairly well trained when it came to specific access queries.
However, sadly, like other big cons, it seemed the security weren’t all that well versed on how to treat and query disabilities. I feel different kinds of training and treatment need to be given to security working conventions. These attendees aren’t drunk and rowdy people leaving a nightclub at 3am and shouldn’t be treated as such. I witnessed firsthand the aftermath of some pretty severe mistreatment and it’s not something I want to see happen at future events. Care and compassion continue to go amiss when it comes to security, regardless of the con, it’s size and its location.
So, to summarise, a beautiful and individual venue posed a number of access issues that the organising team really fought to fix and cater to. I think this event’s biggest win was also its downfall, whilst it’s so nice to have an event held somewhere different, I don’t think they’ll be able to hold it there again if they wish to meet higher access standards.
I had a really fun day hanging out with friends and helping out at the Cosplay Journal booth. I even got a copy of my Volume 4 cover, which is still such a surreal thing to me! I think for locals and people within an hour’s radius, I’d really recommend giving Coastal Comic Con a look in next year, wherever they end up holding it. That being said, unless I’m living closer or have somewhere to stay, I think I’ll have to pass on eight hours of driving all in one day for it.