Coming Home: A Con-Goer’s Perspective

London Film and Comic Con. Photo courtesy of the author.

London Film and Comic Con. Photo courtesy of the author.

A Dragon Queen, a Red Priestess, and an Ice Zombie walk onto a train: it sounds like the start of a bad joke. But it isn’t- it’s real life.

It’s Saturday, the second day of London Film and Comic Con. Every year, thousands flock to the Olympia Exhibition Centre in Kensington, London, to meet their heroes. To dress as Daenerys, or a superhero, or just have a great time. LFCC, as it’s known, is the biggest gathering of nerds in the UK. I was the Red Priestess at the start, ready to begin my third year. Followers of the Watchers on the Wall Twitter likely saw my photo of Pilou Asbæk:

Yesterday an article about the convention written by Liz Jones was brought to my attention. She attended the first day of LFCC. How did she describe this Disneyland for nerds? Not nicely, to say the least.

“It’s for saddos who self-medicate with fantasy. People with no real lives of their own. Who never grow up. Spectators, not doers. Passengers.” Jones asks a man dressed as the Green Lantern if he has a girlfriend. No, he doesn’t. “See?” she says. “Saddo.” She goes on to say “Everyone is grotesque. Ugly. Exhibitionist.” Damn! Is that necessary? What did we do to deserve that? Aside from being – shock – different.


“This is my first con. And it’s the first place I’ve felt like I belong.” I stood outside, taking a breather after a busy day. I got to talking with a girl and her boyfriend; she was dressed as Daenerys, the boyfriend as Anakin Skywalker.

We got talking; that’s what you do at cons. No one is a stranger, we’re all one big, nerdy family. You talk to people in queues – British rules of never talking to anyone while in a queue do not apply here. She wanted to come to meet Kristian Nairn. He was lovely, she said. They were both having a great time, and they’d be back. They felt at home. I know what they meant.

Natalie Dormer and @WightsKing.

Natalie Dormer and @WightsKing.

I started doing comic cons three years ago. My first was LFCC 2015; Charles Dance was due to be there, I had to go. Followers of my Twitter will be familiar with my battles with mental illness. I’m not quiet about it. I have depression, anxiety, and PTSD. But when I’m at LFCC, I walk alone, without any fear – something I can’t even do in my home town. These are my people. For example, once while waiting for one of my photoshoots, I was approached by a man who began talking to me. All fine – we were discussing costumes. Until he got angry, and began ranting at me. Within moments, I was surrounded by women, guiding me away from him. I felt safe. It’s the same for many. It is a place where we can let our freak flag fly without judgment. We can meet our heroes. We can become our heroes. Go to enough cons, and familiar faces start to become friends. We are family.

Kristian Nairn with artwork by @WightsKing

Kristian Nairn
with artwork by @WightsKing

You may have seen the photos of some of the Thrones cast with artwork. I was there when they were given that artwork. It was my best friend, the hugely talented @WightsKing, that made the artwork and gifted framed art to Kristian Nairn, Daniel Portman, Gemma Whelan, and Pilou Asbæk. The former three are familiar with us now – we’ve seen them at a few cons, we always go and say hello. We chat for a while. We’re all part of the Thrones family, and the con family. Pilou was new. His laugh at seeing the “Finding Theon” artwork was the same you hear when he’s on screen as Euron. He’d never done LFCC before, and he couldn’t stop talking about how much fun he was having. He talked to every single person that met him as if he’d known them forever. I walked away from him, giggling like a schoolgirl because he was so nice, and so charming. At the end of Saturday, his gift was still on the table for all to see.

Gemma Whelan with her 'Finding Theon' artwork. Artwork and photo by @WightsKing

Gemma Whelan with her ‘Finding Theon’ artwork.
Artwork and photo by @WightsKing

I’ve met people from every walk of life at comic cons. Doctors, army veterans, teachers, lawyers. You have the elderly, you have children, and you have everything in between. It doesn’t matter how old you are, what colour you are, what gender you are. Everyone here is equal in our united love of all things nerd. There is something for everyone there. But what we are not here for is judgment. The comic con is our place to let go, to be whoever we want to be. A little girl wants to dress as Arya? She can. A man wants to be Ned Stark, post-beheading? He can. I want to dress as Melisandre, and joke about barbecuing children? I can.

Dead Ned, Lady Sansa, and Lady Olenna cosplayers. Photo by @WightsKing

Dead Ned, Lady Sansa, and Lady Olenna cosplayers.
Photo by @WightsKing

I love London Film and Comic Con. I get to meet old friends, and make new ones. I dress up, I meet my heroes, I go home and start planning for the next one: the next con, the next costume, the next group of people I want to meet. I feel like my life has changed for the better since I started doing cons. Cosplaying gives me confidence I never thought I’d have. I know so many people that feel the same way. We do this because we ARE doers. Because we have lives, we have things we love and we glory in it. We have what Ms. Jones will never, ever understand. We have passion, and we aren’t grotesque or ugly. We are nerds. It is who we are. It is what we do. It is what we love. And we don’t judge anyone else for that. Perhaps she should try it.

Pilou Asbaek and Paige. Photo by the author.

Pilou Asbaek and Paige. Photo courtesy of the author.

20 responses

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    1. Lovely article, you hit the nail on the head when you pointed out that it’s a place where even people with anxiety can feel safe. I feel safe at concerts oddly enough as I’m always invested in the artist I’m seeing.

      Comic Cons can be a strange concept to outsiders who don’t get it, but when you boil it deep down there’s nothing weird about it. On 31st October you would be adored for dressing up like this. Just because it’s a con and not Halloween people feel it’s weird, which I don’t really get.

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    2. Depression, ptsd and anxiety suck man. Sorry you have to deal with it but don’t let articles like this get you down. Not everyone gets things that make other people happy.

      I like sports too and intellectually I know it’s ridiculous but I still like it. Not everyone else does.

      Keep you head up mate

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    3. I actually read the article to the end. She actually ends on the note she was the nutty one after all, and her conclusion is fairly similar in some ways to yours. Should be careful to treat everyone visiting the same way I suppose.

      Even if they write for one of the world’s worst newspapers. Ones were I usually give up on the article after two paragraphs. Which would actually have me miss the whole point in an article like this…

      At the same time – I admire you being so open on your difficulties in life. I am sure it helps many others with handling their struggles!

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    4. Liz Jones is a very peculiar woman. Some years ago she wrote a regular column in a Sunday magazine about her day-to-day life. I genuinely thought it was a spoof, and it was quite some time before I realised that it wasn’t. I don’t think anybody here in the UK takes her seriously.

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    5. Thanks for writing about the deeper aspects of nerds and comic cons. I’ve never been to one, but would love to go. I feel fortunate that my family is full of science fiction buffs. (We all seem to share the anxiety strain as well. ) To me, everyone else seems rather dull and unimaginative in comparison.

      I’m one of your twitter followers, and I’m delighted to see your contribution here!

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    6. Blimey… Olympia !!! Brings back a few memories. Probably the last time I was there was in 1970 on a college outing to attend the ‘Electronics and Automation’ exhibition’ 🙂

      No comic cons in those days! No smartphones or PC’s. A computer was about the size of a large chest freezer and needed an air-conditioned room to stop it overheating!

      How the times have changed, huh 😉

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    7. Thanks Paige… Such a feel-good article with very good points and personal insights from these events! Enjoyed reading all of it 🙂

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    8. Pilou is such a hottie. Damn.

      Loved your article!!! So nice to read something with sincerity, enthusiasm, and heart. The Daily Fail should take note. 😊

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    9. I’ve linked an article by Clive James from about September last year about how he joined the fold (i.e. people watching Game of Thrones). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tv/2016/09/02/why-would-anyone-both-adult-and-sane-watch-game-of-thrones/ (Linked it because it is more positive than Lady Liz’s). I know there are some folk who have become disenchanted as book and show versions of the tale diverge so I can’t say how he feels now. I haven’t attended a Con myself but I always thought they were supposed to be a bit of fun and I’m glad Paige got to enjoy herself with friends both old and new.

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    10. I can’t imagine a better introduction to Watchers than this wonderful op-ed. Welcome, Paige! I loved your article. I felt the same way at Con of Thrones, my first con experience. Being around so many like-minded people was such a gift 🙂

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    11. Congratulations Ros! Been following you on twitter for a few years. You are one hilarious lady. I agree about fandoms being places where people connect from all over so easily! I’m in GoT fandoms and LOST fandoms. I’ve never been to a convention though. Maybe one day!

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    12. What a wonderful, witty, beautifully sincere write-up. Thanks for sharing, Paige – it sounds like a fantastic time! That photo of you and Pilou is adorable ❤️

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    13. Thank you, Paige, for your candid and personal report.

      It chimed with me because WorldCon will be held in my old hometown, within walking distance from my parents’ place, next week (9-13 August). GRRM will be there for a couple of days, D&D will be there for the Hugo Awards ceremony (GoT is nominated in the best fantasy TV category).

      I thought I might attend, WorldCon at my doorstep, GRRM, Hugo Awards ceremonies etc. Unfortunately, it’s just too expensive, after my summer of everything breaking down. First it was my laptop, then our boat (leaking, so potentially sinking = boatyard work) and finally my car died (start motor dead). So 45 euro per day for 4 days is a bit salty for me atm. Aah, in another life…

      If I went, I’d go as “generic Braavosi woman #4”. Wide skirt, bolero jacket, hair braided forward.

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    14. Bravo Paige!
      I’ve never been to a Con but always wanted to go. Looks like you had a great time at LFCC.
      Shame! Shame! Shame! on that Liz author for judging!

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