For the fifth year in a row, Antwerp Convention took up a significant part of Antwerp Expo. Quite a few people were already gathered outside well before the doors opened, which is a testament of how much people adore this event.
Last year, due to the sudden influx in popularity, getting in was a bit daunting and required rather a lot of patience, the organization promised that this year situations like these would not reoccur and they made good on that promise. Instead of using both doors on one entrance to the Expo, they set up one entire entrance for people that had not yet purchased a ticket, and another entrance, slightly down the road, was opened for those that already had their ticket, with another desk for press, vips and guests. It was all very clear and very well organized, and frankly this was the best set-up I’ve ever seen at a convention. Considering the amount of cons I’ve been to, that’s saying something. The info desk had moved this year, but was easy enough to find, and there people could take home a souvenir flyer and grab a program map of the event. Or simply ask questions. First aid was also well set-up and easy to find should people have need for it.
There were several toilets open in both the lobby and the halls and dressing rooms for cosplayers that didn’t feel like arriving and/or leaving in costume were also made available.
The organization doesn’t stop at providing utilities and facilitating entrance. They also make sure to set up the most well-rounded convention of it’s kind (and probably in general also) that Belgium has to offer. Antwerp Convention isn’t just an event that’s only fun to visit if you are intending to shop, or to meet a certain guest, it’s also somewhere where you can discover new things, hang out with your friends and see and experience all kinds of fun things without spending a cent more than your entrance fee and travel costs.
Sure, you can shop there, it is a convention after all. They have stalls that you see at many other events as well as some you only see there. Not only the current hype is for sale, but also vintage toys and comics and rare items are on offer. And if you look hard enough, you can find some real gems at very decent prices. There’s a very wide variety of shops, ranging from collectibles, toys, books and comics, costume bits and pieces, home decor and (Asian) food items.
Speaking of food, this is one of the few events where food is very decently priced. There is also an amazing offer spread out over the entire convention. You can get sandwiches, Asian food, hot dogs and burgers, ice cream, and both in vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. I’m not sure whether or not there were vegan options, but in any case, no one will look at you funny when you bring your own food and drinks. Because at a big event table space can run out fast, even though it is provided in both halls, they also cleared several mats to create a seating space for people that wanted to have a bit of a breather.
When not having a rest, shopping or having a bite to eat or something to drink, there was so much to do. Robot wars, wrestling, meeting guests (not all guests needed to be paid for autographs, at some stands you could meet people and have signed things for free, you also didn’t have to purchase on site, you were welcome to bring along previously bought copies also).
Or watching the cosplay competition, among other things. Star Wars groups brought not only costumed entertainers, but also a myriad of droids, who had their own photo opportunity location.
Belgian Whovians U.N.I.T.E.D. brought their TARDIS along and provided photo opportunities there, Marvel Belgium had set up their Marvel Bus, a Tolkien group did free hair styles of Middle-Earth, there were gaming rooms and then much more than I can sum up here, but it’s most definitely worth it for people to go and discover for themselves next year. Antwerp Convention keeps on growing and receiving more visitors, so undoubtedly there will be even more cool things to discover and participate in.
Sure, the convention was very crowded the first couple of hours, but while there were crowds and the pace of getting around was slow, it didn’t give a feeling of being trapped in a total mass of people. You could still see stands, it wasn’t so that you were pushed away by others that also wanted to have a look. Sure, sometimes you had to be a little patient, but people were friendly and cordial and even though it was busier than ever, that same friendly atmosphere that Antwerp Con had going for it the very first year was still present. Despite the growth, people still go to have a good time together and that shows. Once the lunch rush had passed, however, quite a few people went home, and it was really pretty easy to get around. So for those that don’t much like crowds, if you go around 1.30pm, you can still enjoy hours of convention time but get around much easier. Several shops also offered a pick-up service, and Antwerp Convention does a great job listing guests and shops on their site, so you can easily look them up and contact them to reserve items for pick-up, this avoids that people have to be there super early to snatch a particular item.
When it came to steampunk and dieselpunk, you could definitely find bits and pieces at many stands, but this year there were no steampunk specific stands present like last year (hopefully they’ll be back next year!). That didn’t stop a decent amount of guests of dressing up in steampunk and dieselpunk outfits, as well as come up with cosplay outfits with a steampunk twist. So if you are into ‘punk, you can definitely still find plenty to your liking and meet new faces on the Belgian and even European scene
Once again, the team behind Antwerp Convention proved why they are not only at the Belgian top, but quite possibly the European top also of popular culture conventions, with sheer outstanding organization when it comes to the basics, a great and varied program and fantastic, warm and friendly atmosphere. It didn’t matter whether you were a cosplayer, visitor in regular clothes, obvious geek of whichever fandom, you could find something to your liking. We’re curious to see what they’ll come up with next year, and which guests they’ll line up for their 6th edition!
More photos can be found here. Photos and reviews by Babs Barning and Hilde Heyvaert.