Antwerp Convention

Helped by guest Colin Baker, this year’s attendance had expanded exponentially.

Antwerp Convention Belgium
Steampunk enthusiasts at Antwerp Convention, Belgium, April 27 (Hilde Heyvaert)

It This year was the fourth edition of Antwerp Convention and lo and behold it was awesome! Undoubtedly thanks to the coming of guest Colin Baker, as well as the news that for the first time the convention would span two halls, and the program in itself, the visitor numbers expanded exponentially. Normally you could arrive easily between 10 and 11am and find only a couple handfuls of people in front of you at the ticket office. Not this time however, and queues to get in of 1-2 hours were not unheard of. Considering it is Antwerp Convention, we can rest assured that this sort of madness won’t happen again, as they’re one of those cons that is fabulous when it comes to improving on things with every edition.

Even though getting in was a serious show of patience if you hadn’t purchased your ticket beforehand, once you were inside it was all good as the convention was truly amazing this year.

Once people got in, it was easy to get your hands on a program (either they were distributed by volunteers or you could get them at the info desk) to find out exactly what was going on where.

The set-up was also pretty skilfully done, with one hall being filled with organizations and clubs, independent designers and artists selling their wares, the TARDIS photo set-up, some computer gaming and one of the stages.

The main stage, as well as the wrestling stage, were both set up in the other hall, which featured the guests, gaming clubs, board game area and commercial shops.

Both halls featured a good variety of foods, at reasonable prices, and drink stands. Getting drinks could be a bit of a nightmare, as you needed coupons that you could purchase at the entrance, which meant braving the queues from hell. That aside, the con ran out of drinks somewhere around 5pm, but the organization handled it brilliantly. Not only did they stop the sale of coupons immediately, in a true tour de force they managed to get extra drinks delivered 45 minutes before the end of the event. They could have just refunded everyone who still had coupons left, but no, they wanted to make sure there were actually drinks so no one would get dehydrated. So kudos to them!

Photo taken early on in the day before both stands got swamped with people 🙂

Even though there were stages in both rooms, they never got so loud they were an actual nuisance if you happened to be around in the area (I can’t speak for the dealers that were there all day of course, I imagine it was worse for them than for the people just hanging around for a limited time).

Dividing both stages over both halls was definitely a great decision to keep the noise down. Even though at times you had to talk a little louder, you didn’t have to shout at the top of your lungs to get heard or have a conversation.

The final stage, which hosted the panels and talks, was placed upstairs, so people attending wouldn’t be bothered by all the rest going on at the convention, personally I think that’s a great idea because that way you only get people that want to be there in the room and panels go on pretty undisturbed.

Aside from cosplay, panels, talks, gaming, karaoke, wrestling and all kinds of tournaments and competitions there was also a live taping of Belgium’s most popular podcast by stand-up comedian Xander De Rycke, Mosselen om Half Twee, offering the visitors the unique chance to participate in this special edition.

Shopping is of course a big deal, and while I found that this year there were less sellers catering to steampunks specifically, I did, once again, found Antwerp Convention to be the event where you can find more varied and often rarer things than at other pop culture conventions.

Steampunks were also, as is a bit of a tradition with Antwerp Convention, pretty well represented. Not only were there bits and bobs available at several stores, there was also the opportunity to play Ticket to Ride, a fun board game and the Artifakt stand. Artifakt one of the Belgian steampunk collectives, often getting together at little meet-ups, and this time they were around to display some steampunk bits and pieces (some custom made by members) and simply answer any and all questions that people might have. And it turned out there was a lot of interest indeed!

I understand that some people will wonder why there is a witch and The Human Being in this, well those are two members of Artifakt. They weren’t wearing steampunk, but that didn’t make them any less welcome in the Artifakt group shot 🙂

The biggest strong point of this convention though is the atmosphere. Even though Antwerp Convention is growing every year, it remains incredibly welcoming. First of all it caters to literally every kind of geek, and they’re all made feel equally welcome. In general people aren’t practically shoving each other aside to get to things on sale, people are courteous, it’s an awesome environment to hang out and even bring the little ones. More so than other conventions of its kind, this is really a family friendly and all ages affair. Added to that there are so many things to do to keep everyone happy and occupied for the entirety of the day, and you have the winning formula that is Antwerp Convention, and hopefully we’ll be able to enjoy this event for many, many more years to come.

You can see more photos here!

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