We’re getting into the convention season here in the United Kingdom. This is probably true for where you are too, if you know where to look for your local scene. It’s an exciting time for fandom, as it’s a chance to meet up with people you would only get to see maybe once a year, or to meet people who are actually important to you from a media perspective. It’s fandom, for crying out loud, or as I call it: Geekdom! For those of you who are uninitiated in convention activities, let me break some of the usual goings on down for you:
- Very strange and random moments
- Necromancy… In Cosplay!
- Much junk food/sweets to consume
- Merriment abound
Does this sound like a bit of a blast to you? Well it sure is a lot of fun to the thousands of people across the world who flock to these massive events. But alas, that doesn’t mean it’s all fun and games. Behind every great convention there are a dedicated team of staff, often known as crew, who work tirelessly through the convention to bring the content the fans deserve. It’s not an easy job, it’s not even a paid position, for the record. It’s something people do for love of the community and I’ve had the pleasure of being a member of crew. This is just a few pointers and even some opinions of what it’s like to be one of these tireless workers.
Applying for Crew
It’s hard work, labour intensive and somewhat stressful work. There’s no payment involved with crewing and you will have to get used to listening to people who want to tell a member of crew about a bad situation that’s happened to them. Does this sound awful? I bet it does, but don’t let this deter you.
When I applied to be crew, I was told I would be put on the registrations team. My team were wonderful but the first day of the convention was hard work. So much had to be done, it wasn’t even funny. A queue of hundreds of people adorned the streets, many costumed people, some of whom were freezing cold as it was a decidedly cold morning. We had to get people inside as quickly as we could, without breaking ourselves in the process. I legitimately had to run back and forth down a massive queue several times, full fledged running to find people and help payments get sorted out, as well as disputes. We also had to come across as legitimate members of staff, by telling members of the general public what the event was and how long we were around for, etcetera.
I’d recommend that if you apply to be a member of crew that you be of reasonable fitness. You don’t need to be a runner like myself: That was just because I have pent up energy that I’m always needing to exert. Ask our dear Kevin here and he’ll probably be able to confirm my boundless energy… and ability to put away beers like no other. Still, I would recommend that you’re able to move around quite quickly and able to work for many hours, as usually, depending on your terms, you’ll be working for what’s equivalent to a full working days shift. It’s not easy, there’s so much you need to do – but the rewards comes from the community you help out.
What did I get out of crewing?
What we were rewarded with was a fantastic community spirit. Whenever you apply to be crew, although it varies from convention to convention, so please check out the terms of crewing for an event before you do so, but you will usually get some benefits from it. For me, I’m all about bringing a geek community together and seeing people flourish together. I also had some costumes of my own that I would wear around the event when my shift was over. I decided to do extra time, which was a very long shift indeed. But when I was off shift and took my crewing shirt off… I was just a member of the community we pulled together. A community that had been brought together and were now in the partying mood: Cheering, dancing… Happy!
Nevertheless, because of my work on the crewing team, I was able to go into the event and also act as a member of press. I was able to go back stage without having anyone shake a finger at me, I was able to talk to people who I’ve been following for a while (Check out Mayamada, as an example). When people saw that my crewing shirt was off, even if they knew I had been crewing that day, they didn’t come to me looking for more help – They came to me as a fellow member of the community. It was a mutual respect, a sort of “thanks for providing, now it’s time for you to join in.” Also, the convention organiser gave us all a freebie and a free drink to finish the last night off. A nice gesture, considering most of these events aren’t very profitable.
Difficulties of crewing
This was exceptionally hard work. Would I do it all over again? You bet. But let me stress this to you quite clearly here. As I was part of the registrations team, I was dealing with finances for the event. If you can imagine this, that’s not exactly an easy job. There were different rates for different circumstances, such as a day ticket, a day and night ticket, a weekend ticket and so on. We had to mark people off a list of who had pre-paid and some people would even say “I’ve pre-paid” then you’d find out they’re not on the list, we’d check all e-mails an there’s no mention – They’d then look through their e-mails and they confirm they hadn’t paid. It’s tricky.
I’m not insinuating people were lying, as that’s a harsh thing to have to say about anyone. I think sometimes, the excitement gets to a lot of people, so they forget to do certain things. So long as people remain civil and treat you with respect, it’s in your interests to help them out, no matter how tricky they’re being. When it was quieter on the Sunday afternoon, I went off to do work for other sections as our section was crowded. So I helped out with a wedding that was taking place inside of the convention! I had to once again be the runner: I had to find a specific box, then find where the event was and I had to get it all there and help set it up quickly.
At one point, I won’t lie… I thought I’d never finish and I was feeling frustrated. On the Sunday night, we were packing the event away… and it felt like I was left alone doing a specific section. But that was because all of the other sections were being dealt with and I had the fitness level needed to work through an area by myself. What I was rewarded with in the end however was a last night party that was absolutely phenomenal. Also, I got a big section of the crew to do the Macarena and if there’s one thing that I love, it’s a giant spontaneous Macarena group.
What to take away from this
This post was mostly to whet your appetite, or to help you appreciate what a convention crew member does. They aren’t paid to stand around and tell people where to go. They aren’t paid at all. They do things because they want to see a community thrive. They want to see people be free to express their love for their fandoms and they want to see people enjoy the event. After all, if you were in charge of an event, wouldn’t you prefer seeing a group of happy people rather than a group of angry people?
I’d like to just take a second to thank the wonderful community over at AnimeLeague. They’re a great bunch of people, the regulars and the convention goers. The crew I worked with were fantastic and I learned a lot about what I can and can not do as a member of crew. I learned about the insides of a convention, as well as having attended many. When you’re at your next convention, spare a thought to the wonderful people who make it all happen. Just say a small thank you if they go out of their way to help you. It’ll make their days that much easier when they get back what they put in.
You can see all of the pictures I took of London Anime and Gaming Convention, the convention I crewed for, over on my site by following this link!