The Cosplay Journal cosplay uk access review disability accessDaisy Brookes / Ekko Cosplay

Following a manic busy week, I stopped by Reading Comic Con this past Sunday to check out the event and hang out with Team Cosplay Journal. A small, local run event, Reading Con was really relaxed. A simple day out for me and I had a really nice time, I was even lucky enough to do my first ever panel where I got to talk all things Access Review! The con is held in a local leisure centre and put together by CreedConventions who run local events all over the country. This was my first time attending one of their events and I had a really good time!

Applying for a pass was easy enough, I contacted the team through their specific Reading event on Facebook and a few messages later it was all sorted! Left me feeling really relieved as sometimes smaller events have been super stringent and aggressive but this process was the best way it could have gone! That being said, on the day the team with The Journal ran out with the pass for me so I don’t know how it would have gone attempting to pick it up, but I’m sure it all would have been smooth sailing.

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The Con Floor

An initial walk around the event showed a pretty simple layout; stalls and merch set about in the main court with separate rooms for photo ops, panels and the cosplay zone. The Cosplay Zone in particular is where I spent most of the day as that’s where our table was. In this little side room there were a few tables laid out for us and the other invited cosplayers, a small stage for talks and a spot to sign up for that afternoons cosplay masquerade.

I started the day by changing into my cosplay in the facilities changing rooms, which was a definite perk to the venue being a leisure centre. It was so much easier as a cosplayer to change at the con with big changing rooms and mirrors at hand. That and the fantastic lockers that centres have meant that cosplayers who got ready at the event even had somewhere to store their normal clothes. No painfully long queues for a cloakroom! The toilets were set near the changing rooms and lockers and were pretty clean and accessible, I didn’t venture in to the disabled toilet this time as I was having an okay day with my stoma and didn’t need to go to the bathroom that often during the day. That being said they were well sign posted and easy to find.

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In my Claire Redfield cosplay, repping my Cosplay Journal access badge!

Sadly, a few downsides came with this little perk that the venue provided. Being held at a Leisure Centre did mean that the rooms were all laid out a little awkwardly. Although it wasn’t necessarily an issue, it did cause a bit of a kerfuffle with foot traffic as it seemed, a lot of the time, people were a little too crammed to get to where they needed to go. Particularly, I noticed on the Sunday that the layout of tables meant that foot traffic was actually pretty restricted and didn’t really encourage people to enter the cosplay zone, a little nerve wracking for me with my first talk coming up. The layout of the tables was a little odd as well, with a mix of rows and columns it meant that people sort of got stuck in corners and were unable to move around the hall freely, a bit of a nightmare for those with crutches and wheelchairs.

The stage in The Cosplay Zone was pretty small and only accessible by going up a small set of stairs. I totally understand that this was probably down to the venue not being able to supply ramps but it led to a couple of inconvenient moments. Luckily for me I was having a pretty good day and didn’t struggle with them myself for the panel but it did pose a couple of issues during the cosplay masquerade. Some cosplayers struggled with the stairs down to their costumes and others had to perform somewhat out of sight down in front of the stage as they were unable to go up the steps. This could very easily be rectified by the venue or organisers sorting out some ramps in advance for both stages.

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The cosplay zone sign

Another issue I found that, again, I think was down to the venue more than the organising team, was the lack of seating and general “rest” areas. The centre had a canteen that was serving hot food throughout the day which I thought was great, but there really weren’t enough seats for everyone and you couldn’t walk three paces for people sat on the floor. A little bit of a safety issue as well, as people were perching anywhere they could, and mostly this meant the corridors were packed out. Without a particular recreational spot to eat and relax, people were hovering wherever they could, which also contributed to the foot traffic issues. The domino effect really picked up and we found that The Cosplay Zone was left pretty empty as the blocked doorway didn’t encourage people to come in.

I think, mostly, Reading Comic Con was a really great little local event. It was a hit with a few hiccups, but I genuinely believe that many of them can easily be resolved before the next one. The issues that seemed venue based could be planned and prepared for in advance to really better the con for all attendees. I for sure would happily come back for a day, any convention set somewhere with free, easy and accessible parking gets a little extra tick from me.

I also want to say that doing my first panel for The Access Review was amazing. I was so honoured by how many people came out and spoke to me afterwards. People’s kind words have really encouraged me and made me realise that right now I am on the right path. Hearing that what I’ve been doing has helped in even the tiniest of ways fills me with joy, so I wanted to take this moment to thank everyone who has read, shared or reached out to me because of The Access Review. This opportunity has really helped me grow and learn about so many things and I feel so lucky to have the platform I have to talk and spread the word on how we can better our community.

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My Cosplay Journal family and me!

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