During the day, I had the chance to speak with coordinators of stalls and the workshops, about their motivations and thoughts of the event. Before long, it was clear a common viewpoint and goal was shared with almost everyone there: to encourage inclusion and community through the medium of anime, gaming and comics.
One particular stall stood out, run by Love Life Projects, a small community interest company. They had created their own Easter and Mother’s Day themed crafts as part of their craft activity days they hold twice a week in Aberaeron. Jane, who moved to the UK from Zambia twenty three years ago to support her son who had disabilities and was a proactive member of Mencap Ceredigion, started the company to allow a safe, productive space for vulnerable members, often excluded from such activities because of their disability. She focuses on craft and creative based activities, which not only foster inclusion, but allow a social outlet for those who struggle to integrate into the community. The craft days also include planning what they will eat that day, doing the shopping, clearing up afterwards, and engaging with the local community by selling their products.
Mencap Ceredigion held their stall beside Love Life Projects’, offering badge making, face-painting, and their own raffle for a comic-themed hamper. As a fundamental part of the organisation and facilitation of Abercon, they had offered free travel for members to Aberystwyth Arts Center for that day. One volunteer mentioned that whilst they often host workshops and small events, Abercon was on a much larger scale, but was more than worth organising.
Artist Hannah and filmmaker Jcob had created a series of workshops for hand-drawn stop motion animations, working with Mencap members within the community of Ceredigion to create a short animation about the then upcoming convention. This series of workshops acted part of a collaboration between the creatives and WOW Film Festival. During Abercon, they held a workshop, which ingeniously, used pins, paper cutouts and an iPad app to create simplistic animations. They clearly inspired many to try out their own animations for the first time.
This inspiring animation was shown before the filming of Mirai, which drove many more attendees to try it for themselves.
Nestled in the corner, was the hub of all things table-top and comic paraphernalia, Robin’s Nest Comics. Originally based in London, and often attending London’s MCM Comic Cons, they decided to open up a brick and mortars shop in Aberystwyth in 2016, and have been thriving ever since. The stall held a range of table top extension packs, dice, and various props, as well as a broad range of indie comics. Even stocking 20 sided die shaped bath bombs, complete with a hidden set of poly dice inside.
Robin explained the core values of the shop focused on diversity and accessibility, they actively make sure that excluded and minority communities are represented in their comics. Whether LGBT, disabled, people of colour or women. They also stated that, despite Abercon being in it’s very first stages, it was comparable in atmosphere and enthusiasm to some of the largest conventions in the UK.
Near the entrance, Game Park (based in Aberystwyth), held the centre of attention for virtual reality gaming. Jace Hope, who purchased the shop just 8 months ago, has developed a small second-hand game swap, into an up and coming community area for gamers. Since taking ownership of the shop, he’s worked to create a social space, mixed with a swap shop and console seller, and is currently planning a games convention, set to take place within Aberystwyth Arts Center in 2020. Game Park also plans to give working opportunities to more disadvantaged people within the community, offering them the chance to gently push themselves with support.