EVENT REVIEW: Scardiff Horror Expo

I popped down to the Scardiff Horror Expo last weekend to meet up with the good folks from Knightwatch Press for… reasons. Anyway, whilst this wasn’t my first taste of the horror-con scene, it’s the first one I’ve been to that isn’t focussed on film. I really didn’t know what to expect from an ‘all-ages’ horror event, but I was heartened to see Iz McAuliffe working her organisational magic. If the team behind the Cardiff Comic Expo were behind this then it was bound to go off well. This was only Scardiff’s second year, but it buzzed with confidence. The venue was the Cardiff Masonic Hall, a delightfully queer old stone building full of odd angles, which set the tone of the expo nicely. Walking in, I immediately felt spun about by the height of the roof, the intriguing decorative touches and the myriad doorways leading off to who-knew-what mysterious rooms. It inspired curiosity and tickled the imagination.

I didn’t get around half the things I wanted to, but here’s my top 5 things I did experience.

1. The people: I’m not sure if I’ve ever been to a con that felt as immediately welcoming as Scardiff. Sometimes you can walk into these events and feel like there’s a competitive edge or a cliqueness to navigate, but there was none of that here. From what I saw it was stuffed full of lovely people: Joe public mixed happily with cosplay queens; fans rubbed shoulders with film-makers, authors and artists; and if everyone didn’t know everybody else, they were pretty soon introduced.

2. The SFX Duel: This had to be seen to be believed. Make-up/special effects artists Jenny Jackson and Jodie Gibson spent the morning trying to out-do each other on the main stage, turning models into very (very) dead horror movie victims.

3. Stiffs: This is an indie comic about Don, a call-centre worker who spends his nights hunting zombies, accompanied by a talking monkey called Kenny. It’s funny, brutal, a little bit gruesome and whacking great dollop of awesome. They’re up to issue 3 now and working hard on the fourth. Gutted I only bought the first issue.

4. Red Maiden Art: Kate Evans was selling and raffling her amazing art, including some very special magpie themed paintings. She also offered to do zombie portraits while you wait. Gave me a big grin.

5. Zombie Shop: As a table-topper I was chuffed to bits to see a stall devoted to zombie games in the trading zone. They offered gaming demos at various points in the day, and were very very patient. I’m definitely gonna have to pick up Zombiecide and some point in the future, but my little girl will put a shotgun to my head if I don’t get her Zombie Munchkin for Halloween.

Hmm, it occurs to me that this isn’t the most representative mixture of things that were on display. Also, I seem to have a preoccupation with zombies. Like I say… I had other things I was there to do. My biggest regret was missing the Film and Filmmaking Workshop, along with the (world) premiere of Kerb-Crawlers. Still, it’s rare you can go to a con and see everything you want to. All in all though I was very impressed by the experience. The organiser Wayne Simmons went out of his way to showcase the vast spectrum that horror encompasses – from film and literature to art and costume – and he did so in a way that was, for the most part, family friendly. My daughter was absolutely goggle-eyed when I took her on a quick tour, but she didn’t get the least bit upset. She found it fascinating and fun. It did seem pretty heavy on traders, but I’m glad to say there was little in the way of hard-sell. It was more about sharing their art than grinding for cash. Nevertheless, I hope that future years will see a shift in weight towards more panels, live shows and interactive experiences.

Roll on Scardiff 2015. I have a feeling I’ll be there.

GS Blogger: Dion Winton-Polak

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