If you follow me on instagram you may have noticed over the weekend I volunteered at the Walker Stalker con in London. WSC is a zombie, sci-fi and horror convention although for London it was primarily for the walking dead cast.
How did it begin? It all started with the walker stalkers podcast with two guys called James and Eric, who were able to view the set of The Walking Dead and meet the actors from the show. From the podcast the idea of a convention came recreating the experience they had had with the cast and crew of the show along with other actors from zombie TV and films. It is not just a convention it is a place for fans to meet up and be apart of a zombie loving community. London marked the first time they did a convention out of America, it was also their 18th convention!
Why did I volunteer? When I saw the convention was coming to London I was planning on buying general admission tickets, the cost for the weekend was £72 or £36 per day, with general admission there really are no benefits compared to vips, gold and platinum etc. You can view the cost of tickets and benefits here. Since I didn't really have too much money at the time I saw the 'be a volunteer' sign up and thought that might be interesting. Convention and event work has always been something I have had an interest in and volunteering seemed like a perfect way to explore this. In the end I ended up volunteering on the panels doing 12 hour shifts both days (6 hour and 12 hour shifts are available) my reason for choosing panels is down to the fact if I was attending as GA watching the panels is the main thing I would be interesting in seeing.
What was it like being a volunteer? Was there any benefits? So each volunteer day started of with a seven a.m. orientation which was mandatory for both days. The first day was slightly disorganised with no working microphones it took a little while to get everything going. After around half an hour everything was moving along, we went through basic stuff such as who is everyone, rules, about the convention, how it got started etc. Here we were also given our volunteer shirts, wristbands etc. Once that was out the way we had a raffle and two lucky people won photo ops. Then we were split up into groups depending on our role. Prior to this a document saying what we all were doing was sent out. The second day of orientation was the same and it was slightly annoying having to get up at five a.m. to arrive at seven to go over the exact same thing as the day before. I've been reading a lot of feedback about the convention some good, some bad. A few comments have been made on the volunteers not having all the information or acting unprofessionally, we were not trained to do this, the majority of us spent 12 hours both days of our time to ensure guests had a good time and as far as I could see everyone tried to do this! Most of the volunteers who worked on line control went by whatever the management said of whatever line they were on. Another comment I have seen is that volunteers did this as a free day out, that is far from the case again it is a lot of time just for a free day out. I ached so much after both days and went straight to the hotel after both days to sleep, I had headaches it was a long, tiring day. On top of that I sorted out travel and a hotel for the weekend so there was nothing free about it, yes I did save money but I also paid to get there.
As for benefits if you was working a full day you were given a £6 lunch voucher to use, you were also given autograph cards for each day you worked so I got two in total these were to be used after 4pm on Sunday for a signing on your volunteer shirt only! Not all celebrities accepted these either. I ended up getting David Morrisseys and Christian Serratos. We were also allowed to skip to the front of VIP ques if we had any photo ops the reason for this is so we could get through quickly and back to work. We were given a wrist band for each day we volunteered so if someone worked Saturday but not Sunday they could attend as a guest, those working both days could give wrist bands to friends or family.
What was it like working on the panels? I enjoyed working on the panels but for both days I felt like I didn't really have a role. I was in the same spot throughout the day, standing near the exit from the panels. I wasn't involved in any of the line work. It felt slightly odd to me because when I am working I feel like I constantly have to be doing something or I'm not doing my job right. However, standing here I did get a lot of people coming up to me and asking me questions so I did feel like I helped a little bit. I also got to sort out anyone taking part in the cosplay competition into walkers or characters which was probably the most involved I managed to get on panels. The best part of working the panels was getting to watch all of them, they were entertaining and interesting to watch and plus I got to watch the Norman Reedus and Andrew Lincoln panel. I did read a few complaints about sound but for me I could hear everything the actors on stage were saying, the only trouble I had was hearing some of the questions coming from the audience through a microphone in the middle of the floor.
Would I volunteer again? Yes, I plan on volunteering again next year if they accept me. Both days were long and tiring but it was such a unique and interesting experience to be apart of.
Celebrities, photo ops and autographs. If you had volunteered and was on line control you get to work pretty close to whichever celeb line you are on. Meeting celebrities wasn't the reason I attended but I did get a little envious seeing volunteers uploading photos with celebs. I also have to point out that Team Bob were pretty awesome! I ended up sharing a cast photo op with 5 other volunteers, it made it way cheaper, however it was over in a second but Norman Reedus did make the effort to turn round and say hi to me as I was leaving which made my day. However if you had attended as a VIP or GA you had to pay for all photo ops separately along with any autographs or selfies you may want at the tables (Platinum and Gold had a certain amount of these included in their price) and they weren't cheap with some charging £60 for an autograph. I have also read a lot of reviews saying that lines were not organised that GA lines were closed pretty early on in the day meaning that some people didn't get to meet the celebrities they would have liked to have met. One thing I have to say is that the celebrities who attended were all so nice, seeing them interact with people was pretty amazing because they all had the knack of making each person they spoke to feel like they were the most important person in the room.
So other than panels, photo ops and getting autographs what else was there to do? In all honesty not a lot. This is were I can understand were the frustration comes from with people who had GA tickets, they paid to get in and had to pay more money for autographs or photos etc. But like I said before a lot of people didn't get to meet the people they would have liked, on top of that not everyone who attended may have come just to meet celebs. So if you weren't having photo ops or getting autographs, the free option was to watch the panels, the only other activity to do was a zombie style course which also had to be paid for and I've also heard not so good things about the company who ran this, the only other thing to do was look at the vendors who were there. There was lots of geeky stuff on sales but not as many stalls as I would have thought.
Organisation. This was also flagged up on reviews, but from were I was working everything seemed organised and not chaotic. So I can't comment too much on this. I personally think for the first convention in London and organising it all from America is pretty impressive and they did an amazing job!
If I had attended as a GA would I have enjoyed it as much? I don't think I would have and this would have come down to paying for a ticket then having to spend loads of money inside, quite simply I wouldn't have been able to afford it and meeting celebs would never be the reason I would go to a convention. I would go for the atmosphere, looking around but here there wasn't much to see or do. A comment I made on the first day to someone was exactly that, I thought there would be more stuff.
Ideas for improvement? Since this was the first convention in London and even though it went amazingly I would like to see some improvements especially for those attending as GA's. I feel like there should be more activities that aren't too over priced such as a zombie style shooting game similar to those you get at fairs or maybe props from the set. Just other things that can keep attendees occupied and happy.
Have you been to any conventions or volunteered before?