King Con! A dream come true

The previous two days had been horrendous. Melbourne insisted on cold and rain but we needed a nice sunny Autumn day. It was a chilly morning but the forecast for Saturday May 27 was favourable, as we gathered at the library to prepare the last few bits and pieces. It was going to be a beautiful day in more ways than one.

Everything was ready, we had worked hard for months to reach out to comic book creators, to games experts, to community groups active in different activities and fandom. We knew it was a good program with a good balance of events covering comics, games and pop culture.

We were confident of the program and the work that'd gone into putting it all together. But even the best program can fail. What if there was some other event that we didn't know about? What if only a little bunch of people showed up? 

Did we do enough to promote it? I looked at the poster and smiled.

As the opening time approached, any doubts we had quickly vanished in thin air replaced by a concern. There was an enormous crowd gathering outside, ready to storm the library. 

It was a rush, a wave, a flood.

Had we underestimated how many people were coming through the library's doors? Would we have to turn people away? 

One thing became clear. Our first, little library comic con was a resounding success. Our first King Con! and we had already outgrown the space.

But we have to go back to 2019. Fel, a children and youth librarian, and I thought of putting a comic con-like event at the library. Our dream was to have a totally free event at the library that would bring everything we loved together. Authors, artists, comics, video games, table top games, D&D, LARP, cosplay, pop culture, etc. An event that would bring different fandoms and interests together. And an event for everyone, from little kids, to young adults, to adults. 

We dreamed up the event, put a proposal together and it was supported by management. 

As we started planning the event and we started confirming festival guests, the pandemic arrived at our door. All doors where shut, we had to cancel the whole thing and put King Con! in the back-burner. That was such a disheartening day!

But no one can kill King Con!

Spring was in the air in 2022 when we started receiving some positive signals from management. They said there was a budget, they talked about 2023, and they wanted us to revisit our old plans and start again.

A committee was set up. Fel and I presented our idea and plans. Most of the event was already there, the main events we wanted, the authors, the games, who to contact. The work we had done previously paid off. 

Organising an event like this at the library takes months and even though we started planning in November 2022 for a May 2023 event, and we had an incredible committee of hard working library staff, we all wished we had a bit more time.

More time would be better. Sure. But as more and more people burst into the library, dressed as a Jedi, greeting everyone as they came in and directing them as best I could, I knew that we had created something special.

Libraries are there to serve the community, to cater for a diverse range of people and interests. While I'm proud of what we do every day and the fact that we continue to be a space that offers access to information and entertainment for free (an incredibly rare thing nowadays, where everything has a price tag). It's events like this that I have long wanted to see at libraries. And I have looked with envy from a distance, at Comic Con-versation in Sydney, Comic Gong in Wollongong, Dandy Con in Dandenong and the Comic Con events at YPRL in 2019. 

I've always felt that libraries are really good at having programs for babies, primary school children and adults. But I've always wanted more programs for young adults and programs that bring everyone together.

As the event unfolded, surrounded by characters from Star Wars, superhero comics and movies, manga and anime, fantasy and sci-fi books. 

As I saw a group of teenagers cosplaying Demon Slayer and other anime characters. 

As children laughed with Andrew McDonald and Ben Wood's Real Pigeons talk. 

As people of all ages joined Dean Rankine's comics workshop. 

As people gathered to see the Exodus LARPers battle each other and the Southern Rogue Saber Corps demonstrate their lightsaber fighting skills. 

As people of all ages gathered around tables to have a go at different table top games, Minecraft and VR games, and to go on a D&D quest. 

I knew that the dream Fel and I had was worth it. That the hard work the committee put into putting the whole event together was worth it. 

I didn't have time to feel the emotion in the course of the day. I was busy running around ensuring that everything run smoothly. That I was where I had to be. But at the end of the day, when I arrived home, totally exhausted and wrecked, I couldn't help but shed a few tears. Good tears, of joy and relief. 

We put an event together and the community joined us to party. King Con! is here to stay and we can't wait to start preparing next year's event.

A massive thank you to Fel (my co-conspirator), the whole King Con! committee for putting in 100% and then some more, for management for believing in our idea and supporting it, all the festival guests for fully embracing the event and being amazing all day, and the community for joining the party.