Starcom still has a few kinks to work out.

Starcom Ghent Belgium
Steampunk enthusiasts at Starcom, Ghent, Belgium, July 5 (Hilde Heyvaert)

Starcom is the new popculture convention in Belgium, focused primarily on sci-fi, fantasy and comics, even though their website and flyers promised a whole other slew of other things.

As a first edition convention, of course things didn’t run as smoothly as they could have, but that’s ok, unless you can throw an immense budget at things, conventions are an uphill learning curve. Everyone that was at the convention seemed to be having a good time, so clearly they got the atmosphere down pretty well.

We only got there in the afternoon of the convention, and even though that time of day generally means that a significant amount of people has already left, there were still loads of people lounging on the grass and benches outside of the ICC and having a good time inside. A graffiti artist was painting a canvas and the food truck alley seemed to be quite popular.

The organization was friendly, and made sure that everyone was given a Starcom Gazette (the program), either when they bought tickets, passing past the check point, or on the convention proper where staff was asking people whether they needed one and handing them out.
It had a great overview, making it easy to find things, as long as they were on the premises. Because Starcom apparently also had some things going on in three different secondary locations, which wasn’t very clear if you hadn’t (like me and undoubtedly many others) paid close attention to all social media involved. Additionally, a lot of people come in from outside of Ghent, are unfamiliar with the city and that doesn’t help things along, especially as they weren’t all very nearby.

Obviously I would have loved to report on the Steampunk Cuisine vs Mad Max BBQ section of the event, but apparently it was off site and I didn’t find out where it was exactly ‘till after it had closed. It also didn’t help that apparently it was in a secondary location. Hopefully better luck next year if they do it again!

But missed steampunk dining aside, there wasn’t that much steampunk going on at the convention itself. Which hadn’t stopped several guests showing up in steampunk outfits. Aside from that, there was something for dieselpunks (and others too of course), I had never seen before: a proper barber shop!

And that barber shop wasn’t the only thing setting Starcom apart from other conventions. They went out of their way to at least distinguish themselves from other cons of their kind by things such as a cosplay message party, a treasure hunt which could allow you to significantly expand your spending budget at the convention, a superhero burlesque show, queue entertainment in the morning and some other little fun bits and pieces that definitely contributed to the fun feel to this first timer event.

Of course, there was shopping, and while several things were things you see at every convention, there were some wares on offers that you actually don’t see anywhere else, so for collectors especially that was a good thing. A definite bonus to Starcom being small, was that you could actually take the time to browse the shops, without any pushing and shoving you see at events like FACTS or executing a lot of patience before it’s your time to see things on sale.

The main downside for me personally, even though this was a fun little convention and I’m sure that if the organization takes critique to heart they can grow and become an awesome event on the pop culture calendar in the future, was definitely not the size, but the over advertising on the program and the spreading out of the locations.

A food truck alley with three trucks is not worth the name and a Japan Corner so small it drowned in the rest of the convention was a bit silly. Especially seeing it wasn’t actually catering to many a Japan fan’s needs, instead peddling the kind of thing you see everywhere. I get that the convention wanted to cater to as many people as possible, and while it’s great that they are doing that, it feels to me that they would do better to focus on a few things and present them really well in the future, rather than throw everything together as that can be a bit chaotic.

I also feel, and that impression has been confirmed after talking to people on the convention, that they were suffering from timing as well. Starcom clashed with Japan Expo, THE J-culture convention of Europe. But not only that, it was also on just outside the Ghent city center on a shopping Sunday, with perfect shopping weather and to top that off, the Tour the France was in the country. So it’s probably a good thing to not over advertise next time and chose a date that clashes with less things.

But that critique aside Starcom was a fun way to spend a sunny afternoon, it’s a small scale convention that puts up a variety of fun things to participate in or watch and provides a good event for all ages (with exception of the burlesque show, which understandably was 16+). I look forward to see what they have done with their next edition.

More photos, including those of the cosplay competition, can be found here.

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