Daisy Brookes – Ekko Cosplay
For many, MCM Comic Con, which is held at the Excel in London twice a year, is the biggest convention of the year. For cosplay in particular I agree with that statement as it attracts the largest collection of cosplayers and photographers from all over the country.
I’ve been attending MCM London for the past five years now, for many of which I’ve attempted to apply for carer passes to no avail. I vaguely remember one year being able to turn my three separate day passes into a weekend pass when I argued that making guests walk all around the building each day was a huge access issue, but this was no easy fight and I ended up in tears, with Beyond Believing Cosplay having to step in to argue my case.
This year, thanks to the lovely folk at The Cosplay Journal giving me this regular blog, I was able to apply for a Press Pass, which I received pretty much no questions asked, a stark contrast to the usual fight for access and extra help. So this got me thinking, would the benefits of a press pass actually be better than those of the access pass?
I know that being able to test this out requires a huge amount of privilege, and I in no way want to come across as ungrateful for the press pass either. I just couldn’t help but wonder how different this “special” treatment might be and how it would compare.
Immediately I noticed how much easier it was to pick up the pass. I walked straight through the front entrance, was handed my pass with a smile and ushered in to the hall. The smoothest entry to MCM that I’ve ever experienced.
I spoke to a couple of people who had been given access passes and talked to them about how entry was and it sounded a lot more stressful and manic, as some guests still had to queue through the zig zag gates that were laid out through the halls. Others who reached out to stewards were shown to the front of the queues but this seemed to be at each steward’s discretion, and wasn’t a set rule for access pass holders.
Once you get in to the con, it’s pretty much total chaos. MCM is such a huge event and it’s always manic. Although the Excel is one of the biggest venues in London, it still doesn’t seem to hold enough space for the number of attendees MCM has. The halls are perpetually full, a never ending shuffle of feet from stall to stall. If you’re unfamiliar with the con walk shuffle, you’re a lucky soul, because as someone with pretty severe leg issues, it’s one of the worst things to have to do.
Every alleyway was jam packed, and near every hall in the Excel seemed booked out for MCM. I’m not sure what the capacity for the building vs. the number of attendees they get is but those numbers sure would be interesting to see. As someone with an ambulatory disability, huge crowds who shuffle, stop walking mid aisle or barge around are far from ideal. That being said, this year was definitely better than the previous ones, with things seemingly laid out with foot traffic kept in mind.
One thing I can say is that when the rain started to pour on Saturday and everyone scrambled inside, there was plenty of space for people to be, with halls left totally empty in preparation for this. All that would have made this better would have been chairs that could have been left at the side of the empty halls so that people like myself who can’t stand long term could sit and rest from the weather.
As well as the preparations made for the weather, another thing I noticed that had definitely improved was signposting. With multiple maps all over the venue, big banners, signs and detailed signs at every hall entrance, every area was explained in detail making it much easier to manoeuvre around the crowds.
However from what I understand and those who I spoke to, an Access Pass at MCM doesn’t actually grant you all that much help. In some situations it can help you skip a queue or ask for a seat but not all. Again, like the queuing for the entrance, it seems to be down to vendor or steward discretion, which for those who “don’t look sick” means you’re left to the judgement of someone who has no idea what you are going through, and the wristband, once again, seemed to mean nothing. The press pass on the other hand managed to get me pretty much anywhere I needed to go, with absolutely no questions asked. It makes you wonder why the press are being treated better than paying disabled attendees?
It’s getting tiresome to have to mention it but, once again, security at MCM were far from helpful. Often rude, dismissive and callous, disabled guests were met with the usual snide remarks and rolling of eyes. It’s almost as if the security don’t believe we deserve common respect. I am so sick of having to repeat this but please, for the love of Christ, train your security in some compassion! I get that they have to be tough, but a little bit of understanding goes a really long way.
The weekend before MCM, EGX was held at the same venue. I talked in my review of EGX about how accessible the Excel is. With multiple exits, plenty of disabled loos and ample seating (if your event isn’t jam packed). That being said, I was hit with a slightly traumatic stoma disaster on Friday because I couldn’t find a disabled toilet near the front of the venue.
Without going into waaaaay too much detail, I’ll explain what happened and let your minds fill in the details. Unable to find a disabled toilet, I was left with no choice but to use a middle stall in a public bathroom and upon taking off my costume, was mortified to find my stoma pouch had unstuck. A panic and a cry later I was rescued by a couple of wonderful friends who helped me back in to my costume. But this whole experience really made me realise just how reliant I have become on disabled toilets and how absolutely terrified I have become of regular cubicles.
Still, we charged on. I was worried that going home for the day would set me off so badly for the weekend that I wouldn’t want to come back at all, so I chose to stay and carry on, even though, as I’m sure you can imagine, I was no longer feeling all that great about myself or my situation. Tired and feeling much worse for wear, we eventually called it a day and I was able to go back to the hotel, shower and have a little more of a cry so I could process the nightmarish day.
I’m pleased to report that for the rest of the weekend, we had no other stoma disasters. And bar the usual leg ache, we managed to tackle the rest of the con fairly well, health wise. Initially, after this happened, I wasn’t totally sure how to compute it or if I wanted to share it, but me being who I am, I’d rather that people know just how hard and messed up it can be for us disabled folk, and that the worst circumstances really are pure nightmare fuel.
It’s without doubt something that able guests take for granted. These minor things that can turn in to huge mountains that seem impossible to deal with. We can’t just go to a con and have fun and come Monday be ripe and ready to go back to work. I didn’t leave my bed for two days straight. It’s taken me three days to get enough brain space to write this thing. It’s incredibly taxing and draining to attend a big event like MCM, but it being hard doesn’t mean we can’t or won’t. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t, it just means that for us to enjoy these things we have to work ten times harder. We have to plan days further and think about every possible outcome, including the apparent possible chance that you’ll end up covered in your own stomach output.
So, on that charming image, I’ll leave you all. On a whole, MCM continues as usual, just skating along doing the bare minimum, like most other events I’ve attended this year. I very much look forward to the day when I can say that they have gone above and beyond for their disabled guests, and I’m still hopeful that day will come, but they’ve still got a long way to go yet.
Next time: The Access We Need
Read more of The Access Review: