The Thought Bubble Festival is returning to in-person comic conventions this November, a week before San Diego Comic-Con does the same. Located in Harrogate in the North-East of England, with Frank Miller as their big draw (I really want to see a Sin City version of Betty's now), they have just issues their social distancing plans for a safe Thought Bubble 2021. That is, of course, if there is one. How many other conventions will follow suit with such detailed contingencies?
We want to reiterate that the 2021 comic convention will only go ahead if it is safe to do so. We will also only go ahead if Thought Bubble feels like Thought Bubble; if the risk of infection is high enough to mean that social distancing needs to be enforced and visitors can't interact with exhibitors, can't freely browse a table, pick up and flick through a comic, hang with friends, sit in a panel room, or socialise before or after the convention, then Thought Bubble will opt to postpone for another year. We really hope you support us in that stance. We want the next Thought Bubble to be AMAZING, and we don't feel we can fully do that should it mean we need to keep people apart. We are, however, absolutely dedicated to bringing you a safe, comfortable convention, which is why we wanted to share with you some changes you can expect to see at the convention in 2021; some we will keep in place regardless of how the covid-landscape is looking, as we are sure people will appreciate the additional space and the extra cleanliness, some we will pull back if no longer required.
Changes you can expect to see at Thought Bubble Comic Convention 2021:
- In the first hall we have cut out the central island of exhibitor tables to create much more space for visitors to move more freely.
- We have widened the exhibitor space in the centre of the islands too, meaning exhibitors will feel less crowded
- We are using the whole of the third hall (rather than just half as in 2019), again to give more space to exhibitors and visitors.
- The signing area will be a dedicated space at the back of the second hall to allow for much greater queuing space, and minimise queuing near to exhibitors or in aisles.
- Hand sanitiser will be provided for all at multiple points throughout the convention centre.
- Every fire exit to each hall will be opened for a 15 minute period throughout the day to allow for better air circulation (we will provide exhibitors with a schedule for this).
- A one way system for visitors to browse the halls will be considered if necessary, to reduce crowding in congested areas. We also have the option to have a separate entrance and exit if this is required (both on ground level, and fully accessible).
QUEENS SUITE – PANEL / WORKSHOP AREA
- Panel and workshop schedules will be staggered further apart than before. The two panel room start times will differ by 30 minutes so that two queues are not forming at the same time and people are not leaving the panels at the same time.
- The workshop start times will also be staggered to reduce queue build ups.
- There will be more time between the start and finish of panel /workshops to allow for additional cleaning after each session.
- The workshop space will be larger than in 2019.
- Bub's Lounge will be larger than in 2019.
FEWER TOUCH POINTS
- Wristbands will be handed to you rather than attached by a member of staff
- We will print maps and programmes, but these will not be handed out by volunteers, rather collected by the visitor themselves from a table. We will also have LARGE maps on display around the convention centre.
- Volunteers and core staff will minimise all touch points throughout the convention, e.g. less handing out of paper, and visitors and exhibitors can put on their own wristbands (unless they're really struggling and would like a hand!).
- The wonderful cleaners at the convention centre will be cleaning public spaces much more frequently.
- Volunteers will be wiping down signing tables and any other areas used by multiple people.
- We will provide exhibitors and guests with antibacterial wipes to use on their own space. We will also provide exhibitors with hand sanitiser.
- The convention centre also has the option to mist the entire halls with disinfectant at the end of the day (we're testing out whether this will affect stock).
Specific changes and requirements for exhibitors, guests, core staff and volunteers will be provided closer to the convention dates to ensure that we are as up to date with the current Covid landscape as possible, however, you can expect to see things such as:
- Staff and volunteers providing exhibitors with antibacterial wipes to enable exhibitors to easily wipe down their space as often as possible, particularly at the end of the day.
- Exhibitors provided with hand sanitiser.
- Exhibitors, guests, core staff and volunteers wearing visors, or masks.
More specific requirements for visitors will be announced closer to the time dependent on government guidelines, however you will expect to see:
- Visitors may be required to scan the NHS track and Trace QR code upon arrival.
- Visitors provided with hand-sanitiser upon entry, and at intervals throughout the convention
- Regardless of the mask rules by November, if visitors want to wear a mask we encourage it.
ADDITIONAL NOTES ON ACCESSIBILITY
- Thought Bubble is dedicated to be an accessible space for everyone; though touch points are being minimised, we know that some of our visitors will need things handed to them, will need help attaching wristbands, and of course, we are happy to do this for anyone that requires it.
- We are leaning towards visors rather than face masks for core staff, volunteers and exhibitors, to allow for clearer communication for visitors who are hard of hearing, who lip read or those who feel more comfortable reading a persons entire faec. However, regardless of the mask rules by November, if visitors, exhibitors, volunteers or staff want to wear a mask we encourage it!
- We are still be working with Specialist Autism Services to provide a quiet space for anyone feeling overwhelmed/looking for a break.
- Also note, for visitors and exhibitors alike we are flexible with cancellations if you feel for any reason you are unable to attend, let us know and we can arrange a rollover or refund. Please note, any changes requested after October 1st (approx. 6 weeks before the convention dates) may be processed after the convention dates, this is due to staff workloads.
I'll be there – if there is a Thought Bubble to be there for…