In recent years, I have made numerous visits to ExCeL London, for numerous reasons, but it is my most recent trip to date that stands out the most for me. Having attended Comic Con back in May, I was all too happy to be do it all over again on Saturday, the 28th of October, 2023, but it was the first hour of being there that would stand out the most for me.
If you’re expecting a mad half hour where a sudden happening occurred, resulting in a chance encounter with one of the many huge celebrities attending the event, perhaps I’ve set the bar too high, but please stand by because if accessibility is a subject close to your hearts, this is something you could be interested in.
With a background in being a human being and security, I am not indifferent to the importance of accessibility, but when I sustained an injury earlier on in the year that greatly affected my mobility and still has me doing physiotherapy to this date, accessibility became more important to me.
I am recovering to the satisfaction of my doctors and physiotherapist and should eventually make near enough to a full recovery, but for the time being, after four and a half months, when out and about or on grand day outs, the aid of a crutch is needed to prevent unwarranted falls or I get to fatigued that I struggle to remain standing up with just the “one good leg” to support me. While an operation and physiotherapy can help with my knee’s recovery, it doesn’t do anything to help with the plantar fasciitis I have in both feet.
Still, plantar fasciitis and right medial bucket handle meniscus tear aside, that’s enough background history for one day. Let’s get back to that first hour of MCM London Comic Con. The time had just turned 11am and after a two-hour journey, we were finally in the vicinity.
As we were walking out of the Custom House station, in my head, I was planning our approach. Remembering the long West Entrance walk, we have walked many times over, going round the ExCeL center and then into one of its many halls, following the crowds as we passed through bag checks and grabbed our badges. Instead, we wound up having an entirely different experience.
There I was, walking beside my family, with a crutch in one hand and my partner to my left, pushing a buggy, when we reached the point, we would normally be instructed to turn left, we were waved on by security to proceed forwards. With an accessibility entrance set up by way of the West Pyramid Entrance, anyone with crutches, canes, walking sticks, wheelchairs, buggies and mobility scooters, were presented with a different way of entering the event that was entirely effortless.
With a much shorter path to take, from Custom House to being inside the ExCeL center, only mere minutes had passed and once inside, all we needed to do was join a small queue, passing through metal detectors that had been placed in front of the doors before we were guided over to our left to three little kiosks where visitors, press, content creators and exhibitors could pick up their respective badges.
It was a surreal experience. Within ten minutes, we had left the train station, got inside and had our lanyards around our necks, ready to explore, but what’s more, I appreciated the fact that among the members of the security team, there was personnel wearing white hi-vis jackets, signifying that these individuals have had additional training so that they are better-abled to assess those with accessibility needs. I also appreciated the use of metal detectors and that greater precautions seemed to be taken this time around, versus a couple of weeks ago when certain events transpired during EGX.
Instead of making a run for the show floor though to get our con on, we made the decision to find a nice little quiet place so we could sit down and go over our plan of action. So, we opted to check out the Press & Creator lounge, upstairs on Level 3 in Platinum Room 4. One quick elevator ride upwards, immediately followed by a 15-meter walk, there it was.
Guarded by a large set of double doors with one door wide open and the area clearly signposted, we entered an expansive room with ample seating and large spaces that could be easily navigated. With Halloween decorations here and there, snacks and drinks and a nice, chill vibe, content creators and press of all variety, had their own little slice of paradise they could retreat to, where even kids where permitted, given the number of families encountered in said lounge.
Now, I would like to point out that while this room was one intended for Press and Creators, this wasn’t the only room where peace and quiet could be enjoyed. This is because event organizers ReedPop, had also saw to it that Quiet Rooms were set up so that attendees can also have their own place to escape to when the madness of Comic Con proves a little too much. These rooms were located in N1 Lower, S5 Lower and S10 Lower, with moderate signage to go with them.
Then once we were two coffees in, with smiles all round and all stress alleviated, it was time for us to get in on like Comic Con. The first hour was utterly magical for the simplest of reasons and we couldn’t wait to see what would come next.
As you would expect though, space would still be an issue on the show floor. No matter where you turned, there was always someone stepping in your way as you and your group are trying to make your way politely round, with the occasional, “coming through,” but it was still a good time none the less.