EXCLUSIVE: MCM Community Manager Joe ‘Granny Gertrude’ Black Speaks To ICN

Earlier this week, ICN was very kindly granted an interview with MCM Community Manager Joe ‘Granny Gertrude’ Black to discuss the two MCM debut events that took place in Ireland this year in Belfast and Dublin. We discussed how MCM came to host events in Ireland, their reactions to the two shows, the online response to the date change for the 2015 Dublin show and more. So read on…

ICN: Hi Joe, many thanks for joining us.

MCM: Happy to be invited.

ICN: MCM made the foray into the Irish convention market in 2013 with shows in Belfast and Dublin. What indicators did MCM identify that shows in Ireland were potentially viable events?

MCM: It was as much about MCM being in the position to do these events at last as anything else. One of the MCM Directors has run events in Belfast before to a warm reception & great success, the other MCM Director has long wanted to bring his show to Dublin where he was born and raised. Both became possible so both happened!

There has also been a lot of pressure from fans to bring the show over- indeed, if anything those first two shows increased the pressure with people wanting more than one show a year from MCM in these locations, plus requests for more locations too!
ICN: Post event indicators from MCM after the Belfast show indicated that MCM were delighted with the turnout of over 16,000 people over the weekend with the promise of an expanded event in 2015. There was a quote from a guest of MCM’s in Belfast, Chris Barrie, who said ‘that Belfast was starved of this kind of event for far too long’. How does feedback like this shape how you want to plan next years show?

MCM: Negotiations were had that very weekend with the venue about how to increase the physical footprint of the show. The main King’s Hall buildings are sadly out of service at this time but the hall on the grounds that MCM used remains the largest in Belfast in terms of exhibition space.

The attendance and comments from guests such as Chris suggests that the show’s format is a good fit already so the shape is good and 2015 should bring a bigger more polished event to Belfast.

ICN: The reaction from first time attendees to Dublin was strong but people who have attended other MCM shows in the UK who attended Dublin lamented on the smaller scale of Dublin lacking some of the companies and features that are common of other shows. For a first time event, how do MCM look back on the Dublin show? A success?

MCM: Dublin certainly was not the smallest MCM show! I know that Bryan was genuinely happy at the end of the weekend, having run the show with so much of his family who still live in Ireland around him. From my point of view, the vast majority of attendees had never gone along to an event anything like this before and anything that grows the community that I love to be a part of is a success. I don’t doubt that some of those companies who did not commit to the first Dublin show will reconsider in 2015.

ICN: In announcing the dates for 2015 in Dublin the date has been moved to the end of August with a barrage of comments to the MCM Ireland facebook page showing concern that the date change risks overcrowding the summer convention schedule in Dublin with several already established events like Arcade Con, Dublin City Comic Con and DICE taking place in weekends in July, August and September every year. Do MCM take other convention schedules, though dates not announced concretely but established, into account when planning and how will that impact your planning of the event?

MCM: It is certainly an important factor, but one of a few important factors which are also among many smaller factors. The date was not the first or even second choice for MCM if I recall correctly. Fortunately the MCM event is fairly different to other shows- some people state this as praise, others to explain why they prefer different shows. What is a fact is that in the UK, MCM’s success has boosted the visibility of all shows and enlarged the event going market considerably. It would not surprise me if in 2015 like in 2014 that many of the attendees will have never been to a show before that caters to any of the wide range of interests that MCM cater to.

ICN: With an obvious and clearly successful emphasis on all aspects of pop culture and various entertainment, comics are now only a bit part of large scale shows that use the term ‘comic con’. Events like the large scale original comic con events (San Diego etc.) grew out of what were initially comic book events. In the end it appeared to be a successful weekend in Dublin for the comic village, though there were early worries that the comic village was ‘put in a corner’ and comments that genuine star guests like Glenn Fabry, Simon Bisley and John McCrea were not being afforded the same ‘star quality’ as the TV & entertainment guests. How much does post event feedback factor into the planning of subsequent events.

MCM: I’m not involved with guests & the Comic Village myself at the show, but feedback from the community has always shaped my approach to everything I’m involved with for MCM. There’s a pretty big change I’m planning for one area in 2015 which will likely be exclusive to the Dublin show  born entirely from customer feedback, so fingers crossed it gets approved!

ICN: With dates already announced for 2015, is it a case of deciding year on year if having two Irish events is worth putting on or are there any long term plans to keep MCM in Belfast and Dublin?

MCM: To be honest with you, the idea that both shows would not be permanent fixtures had not crossed my mind, so I have never raised the question with the directors!

ICN: Thanks very much for your time Joe, I greatly appreciate it.

MCM: No worries. If anyone has further questions they are welcome to get in touch.

Our thanks to Joe for speaking with us and if you want to know more about MCM’s slate of events just jump over to http://www.mcmcomiccon.com/ to find out more.