Last weekend saw the first Thought Bubble comic convention in Harrogate, moving half an hour on the train from Leeds, but it seemed a world away. From all accounts however, it was a success. Some vendors I spoke to reported double their sales at the previous Thought Bubble, others triple. even if there was a slowing down on the Sunday. Though it no longer enjoyed the passing traffic from being visible in the heart of a busy city like Leeds, after a decade-plus, it had the reputation that drew Leeds regulars – as well as being far more accessible from other cities such as York and Manchester – and a marketing plan to match that.
The comic book focus of the show, combined with the camaraderie of attendees and vendors makes Thought Bubble so special, and that remained a constant in the new location. Possibly even more so. Harrogate, a bath town, is also very geared to dealing with tourists and business visitors for its Convention Centre, and the difference between the show's staff who didn't actually have to erect the buildings that the show took place in was palpable. There was less a Blitz spirit and more something relaxed. If there was a lack of natural light compared to the tents of shows past, there was also no rainstorms between display halls, or weddings to have to negotiate. I understand that past shows, every year as it grew became more Herculean in scope. This was more like walking up a hill on a windy day rather than scaling Everest and it showed, especially after hours. The beauty of the town also rewarded visitors from far-flung climes a little more than the urban concentration of Leeds. The good-natured feeling was catching, one prominent individual who appeared to have issues with me just a year ago, made a point of burying the hatchet. It was that kind of town.
And yes I bought so many comic books, which I have been reading the past week. Lots to say about them as well. More to come. I either have mentioned or will be mentioning them here.
The nearby Hotel Majestic, the official hotel for the show, also provided ornate fireplaces, chandeliers, mysterious one-legged demons carved with rock hard abs and gents toilets that exceeded the size and grandeur of some conventions I have attended. Kieron Gillen conducted a cosplay photoshoot with those dressed at The Wicked + The Divine characters, lined up across the cubicles that I am sure he will be sharing with you soon. And show founder and organiser Lisa Wood, also known as Tula Lotay, posed for Bleeding Cool across the urinals. in the hope that where her elbow raised, the gentlemen in question could not aim quite that high. For 2020, Bleeding Cool wants to run panels inside there…
I also discovered what a longstanding comic book town Harrogate is, with current comic store Destination Venus having a revival, placed on the ground floor of the independent cinema Everyman, right next to the bus station. And for many, as much a draw as the Turkish baths or Betty's tea rooms.
There was some talk at the mid-con party that the expense of the show might put off another event in the same place. But further conversation scotched that. Numbers were up. Costs were down. It was an absolute and unqualified success and Thought Bubble is expected to return to Harrogate for 2020.
And here's a look at when it all came down…