Thursday, 15 October 2015

UK PonyCon 2015 report: Friday/Saturday

UK PonyCon 2015 merch haul
The obligatory "What I bought at the convention" photo
I'm feeling a little under the weather at the moment, but this year I left the con crud until I'd got home! As I've mentioned briefly in other posts recently, UK PonyCon 2015 made for an extremely enjoyable weekend. It was by far the largest in the con's history, selling out for the first time with a total attendance of around 600. Unfortunately this did mean that the planned on-the-day sales had to be cancelled very close to the event, which caused some people to be disappointed. I wouldn't be surprised if the 2016 con was advance-only.

For the first time in its 12-year history, UK PonyCon 2015 was held in the same venue as the previous year's event: the Mercure "The Grand" Hotel on the edge of Leicester city centre. We won't be back there next year, partly for reasons I'll get to in the next post, but in purely geographical terms it was a winner: close to both Leicester station and The Last Plantagenet, a Wetherspoons which was welcoming despite our con clashing with the Rugby World Cup! Mentions of "the pub" refer to this place.

I stayed out in Loughborough as it was much cheaper and allowed me a three-night hotel stay. I went to the Travelodge, which turned out to be a good choice: I got a room at the back, on the top (fifth) floor, which was generally very quiet and had a nice view over the Loughborough Canal Basin, rather than the busy A6 at the front. It was an easy 15-minute walk from the station, and there was a large Tesco very close by, so finding food at odd hours was no problem.

Loughborough Central Travelodge
Loughborough Central Travelodge. Thrilling, eh?
After a late-afternoon check-in and some minimal unpacking, I went into Leicester for one of the pre-meets at the pub. This was being organised by Nekky, whom I already knew reasonably well from the regular Leicester meets. I was still a bit nervous, as I usually am – but it all went very well. I was at a table with several people I also already knew, but I did get to meet some more for the first time. It was certainly nice to be back among pony people!

I went back to my hotel after about three hours (8pm-ish) to unpack properly and get prepared for the morrow. I was meeting another existing friend at the station and we travelled in together. We made the venue in good time, and sat around in the ground floor bar for a little while until the queue began to form. Registration was considerably quicker than last year, and we can't have spent more than 15 minutes before we got in.

After the usual flick through the (rather minimal) conbook, a preview of some of the vendors and finding some more friends, it was opening ceremony time. Archer, the con committee chair, knows what she's doing and realised how impatient everyone was to get ponying. She kept things short and sweet and the formalities lasted all of five minutes! I was hoping to find Idris, who I'd never met in person but who had a wonderful cosplay, but he was elsewhere.

The Kuuru Pop stall
Kuuru Pop's stall; note the Suri Polomare and Double Diamond plushies
Instead, a group of us pottered around the large number of vendor stalls, spread over two and a half rooms. One of the con sponsors was Kuuru Pop, and they had a big stall containing most of their extensive MLP plushie range. They did excellent business all weekend, and a lot of con-goers could be seen carrying one or more of their ponies during the con. Including me: this is where I got my adorable Mailmare Derpy. I also picked up a few Jowybean prints.

I wasn't interested in the CCG demo/contest (apart from anything else, it's horribly time-consuming when you only have one weekend!), so I had a brief look at the Rainbow Dash Attack challenge – which I half-wish I'd entered! – and the quiet(ish) room showing episodes. Then it was back to the main hall for the cosplay contest. I'm not any sort of cosplayer so it was hard to judge, especially as there were so many kids taking part, but it was a fun way to pass an hour.

We had intended to go to the pub for lunch, but it turned out to be so packed that there wasn't a single table to be had. So, we set off on a quest to find somewhere else with more appeal than the local Subway. After a mini-trek that took us well out of the "pony zone", we were rescued by a Caffè Nero. We had to sit in the basement, but it wasn't too bad. Just like a Worcester meet, really! I even had what turned out to be my one and only muffin of the weekend.

Plushies lined up in Wetherspoons
My Derpy does look a little worse for wear...
Back at the venue, I really wanted to attend Dr Ewan Kirkland's panel. He's actually presented an academic conference on MLP, so I was disappointed that the hall's poor acoustics meant I could barely hear his talk. Happily, the Ponyville Live! crew came to the rescue: here's the panel in question. (Some attendees may also have recorded the panel, but I haven't seen such videos myself.) I also bought a few more cute prints, this time from MistyDash, as well as the con T-shirt.

Sadly, they didn't have sufficient cards for us to enter the pony bingo, so it was time for... group singing! You can't have a pony con without plenty of songs, after all. There was actually a piano available, but since most of us had no idea how to play such a thing with more than one finger, we stuck to a capella. We started off rather hesitantly, but soon got into the swing of things. Mostly we stuck to the simpler stuff: "Winter Wrap Up", "A True, True Friend" and (to my delight) "Shine Like Rainbows".

This took us up into the early evening, so our little group went for some tea at the pub. What became a con tradition of lining up plushies on our tables started there. The pub was less understaffed than last year, and food was served relatively fast. I allowed myself a cider, as it was a special occasion! It was great to have a relaxed chat with some fellow attendees over food, and to look forward to the episode that was going out that night. Little did we know

Ponies (and Starswirl's hat) on the piano
Piano tops make excellent pony (and Star Swirl's hat) stands
Back to the venue and disappointment that the advertised disco (oh yes) focused on 80s pop rather than pony tunes. Instead, we were collared by Jolly Old Cinema, who was doing a Source Film Maker panel. In the room, we read The Big Book of Equestria while waiting, then found out some SFM stuff. And yelled at a really annoying car alarm! The panel took a little while to get going, was interesting in the middle, but went on too long and trailed off at the end.

By sheer good fortune, my 9.48pm train back to Loughborough was three minutes late, so I just made it and didn't have to wait 35 minutes for the next one. It had been a pretty good first day, and I was hoping that Sunday would be just as much fun. That's for another post, but I won't keep you entirely in suspense: yes, it was just as much fun.


  1. And to think, this was only the first day! It would be fair to say that it sounds as if the day was as packed as the venue! They can certainly be extremely proud of managing to reach 600 visitors. Yes, it meant that people couldn't get in "on the day" which is a great shame, and it wasn't impossible that it might have included me. But as an actual *achievement* it is very impressive!

    And thanks very much for such a detailed report of the Saturday. Okay, so it isn't obviously ever going to compete with actually being there (if it did, you could have saved a fortune by not going ;) ) but even so, it's still great to read about how much you enjoyed it. Especially as last year wasn't ideal thanks to the cough or cold you had at the time. So I'm very glad it went so much better this year and that it proved even more fun. (Fun, fun, fun, fun, ad infinitum.)

    As for The Episode(tm) unfortunately I also found it slightly spoilered. My sister asked me to check something on Deviantart, and the DA front page showed a picture of the CMC complete with marks. So it was pretty obvious what was going to happen, but I didn't mind too much.

    Anyway, I hope you'll feel a lot better soon! And I'll look forward to reading about the Sunday. :)

    1. Yeah, despite picking up this cold, it was definitely worth it. Much more relaxed than BUCK, and obviously a lot cheaper! (Until I started buying things... :P ) Obviously I have no idea where the con will be next year, but if everything comes together and it's in a place and at a time when I can go, then I would love to return for the 2016 iteration.

      As far as episode spoilers were concerned, the person we were all impressed with was Alliminaro. He got through the whole of Sunday without being spoiled at all, in probably the most difficult possible environment for that! I didn't know everything that happened (eg Silver Spoon standing up to DT was a surprise) but I did know about the cutie marks. Still, like you, I didn't mind too much.

      and it wasn't impossible that it might have included me

      Also, don't think I didn't notice that line! :P I'm sorry you didn't have the option, and like I say I suspect it'll be advance-only in future... but I really hope you'll be able to attend one year. I won't pretend it's all calm and quiet, but it is a wonderful thing and I'd love you to be able to experience it for yourself. :)

  2. Hehe, well yes it certainly was an impressive haul of goodies that you brought, and the black t-shirt looks especially impressive. It sounds like the conbook was a bit lacking this time, but hopefully the next one will be better. :)

    Re the last paragraph in the above comment, thank you! I really hope it'll be possible at some point, sooner rather than later, but there are a lot of factors to take into account. But yes, hopefully one of these years it'll work out. To be honest, as I think I mentioned in emails (and I haven't forgotten that main email, honestly - I hope to get that finished next week) I'd much prefer to pre-book anyway, for various reasons, but I know there are people who much prefer to just go along on the day. I guess things change and the convention has become too big for that now, potentially. That said, I do wonder where it'll be next year!

  3. Awesome writeup :D Thanks for the link to the Kirkland panel as well - I was gutted I didn't get to hear any of that on the day, so I'll be checking that out in a bit.

    I kind of wanted to go for the card tournament, since I very rarely get a chance to play, but as you said it would've cut a big chunk out of the day. I'm glad I decided against it in the end. Hanging out and singing was much preferable :D