FACTS is one of those conventions that for the longest time just offered the same thing over and over again. The one year was better than the other but generally speaking it may have been one of the biggest Belgian cons, it was far from the best. Not this year though, this year FACTS got their act together. Whether this is because of the ever growing competition from new cons such as Japan Expo Belgium (happening a mere few weeks after FACTS) or Antwerp Convention I’m leaving up for debate, fact of the matter (pun intended) is that FACTS this year buckled up and presented a fun, well organized and far more original program than it has in years. Bravo FACTS!
First of all there was the addition of a whole new section: Little Japan. No doubt every J-culture fan rejoiced at least a little at the taiko drums, martial arts showcases, Japanese lessons for beginners, bonsais and as a convention closer: the awesome concert by Japanese Electro Rock group Galaxy 7 (you can also read a review of that concert and an interview with them in this edition).
Everything seemed far better divided this time ‘round, with clear maps provided at the information stand just at the main entrance. The artist alley was full of awesome young designers of all trades offering their wares, which were awesomely varied.
And as for the traditional merchants, for the first in many years you could again see rare merch at reasonable prices and a great variety of things to buy which was a lovely surprise. I had gone there expecting to find the current hype on sale at nearly every stand but was instead treated to obscure fandoms and a range wide enough to make pretty much every geek present happy.
Of course there were some things present that are present every year such as the cosplay competition (which wasn’t blearingly loud, a definite plus!), the video games, wargame painters and Star Wars groups. But those never get old and lot of people truly enjoy them. They were topped this time with special photo opportunity locations such as the Barbie display box and the Iron Throne (from Game of Thrones), which many happily took advantage of.
Even when it came to food and drink FACTS was pretty well organized this year: there was a nice and reasonably priced variety of both available at several concession stands. My only regret is that the seating was so limited, the convention could really do with setting up a far larger area for people to be able to eat and drink in peace and quiet, unpack and go over the things they’ve just bought or just sit and rest for a bit. And yes, there is ground, but let’s face it, that’s not always the cleanest option and many people rather not get their outfits/costumes dirty. So please FACTS: more seating space next year!
Also a very pleasant surprise: steampunk has _finally_ broken through at FACTS! Whereas at previous years you could count the number of steampunks present on one hand, you at least needed both hands and feet to encompass the number, a new Belgian record! You could also see that a lot of merchants have started catering to both steampunks and dieselpunks alike. I am certainly curious to see how this evolves the coming years!
In short, this edition of FACTS was pretty awesome, definitely the best one I’ve been to in the past couple of years. If they continue to keep it up and improve on the few downsides then I’m sure that they can really justify that self-proclaimed title of “biggest in the Benelux”.