A day in the life of Comic Con with Martin Ballard!


We were absolutely delighted to welcome The Huddersfield Comic Con to The John Smith’s Stadium back in July – and we loved seeing so many of you in attendance! We’re taking a look back on this fantastic event as Martin Ballard, Comic Con organiser, walks us through what really goes on in:

‘A day in the life of… Comic Con!’

Being asked to put a blog together based on a day in the life of an event organiser putting on Comic-Con was a challenge in itself… mainly because each and every day, and every event is different! The truth is Comic-Con (short for Comic Convention) planning for the following year starts at the current year’s event – so my planning for 2023’s event in July started last September when I held my first event at The John Smith’s Stadium. 

The building logistics are quirky, and safe to say the dullest part of putting an event together, but the most important… If you can’t carry John Kreese’s Cobra Kai dojo up four flights of stairs, or fit a dancing Transformer’s BumbleBee in a passenger lift, then the whole event could be broken before it’s started!

So what are the fun bits? Building new sets for each event – this year’s event saw the Breaking Bad scene debuted, working with different costume groups on bringing the biggest and best characters to the day – we brought Transformer’s Barricade up from the South West of the UK to join our locally based friendly Autobot BumbleBee.

However, one of the best bits is liaising with the actors and other guests to see what it would take to get them into the building – this is the bit that takes the most planning; many are working actors so their diary can change at any point, some do it for the love of meeting fans and one of this year’s challenges was working around a late planned train strike… but this is where the organiser of Comic-Con gets to have some fun, because the day itself is often a blur. 

Over the years around various comic-con events, I’ve ended up with Danny John-Jules (Red Dwarf & Death in Paradise) singing in a bar (him singing not me!), picked up Christopher Ryan (The Young Ones & Doctor Who) from the train station and brought Noah Hathaway (Never Ending Story) to The John Smiths Stadium and got him pitch side the day before the play-offs in his own Town shirt!

This year’s highlights saw us feed Leigh Gill (Joker film) and Brian Wheeler (Return of the Jedi) at Nawaab before taking heavy metal fan Leigh to Parish for the night and arriving home at 5am Sunday morning….

As for the stadium itself; setup starts the day before – constructing scenes such as ones we had this year from Game of Thrones, Pokemon, Stranger Things, Cobra Kai and Breaking Bad in the suites. Then we creatively used each of the executive boxes to bring the Netflix series Wednesday to life. Managing 60 traders setting up in the building prior to opening is the key to a smooth event – all this is the stressful side of the event, ensuring everything is ready for a 10am opening on event day to the public.

Once that final walkaround is done and Ian the Stadium Manager has given his blessing that I’ve conformed to all the Health & Safety requirements, the doors are opened to the public. 

Having an impressive movie car line-up is important to ensure there’s a good flow of people in all areas of the event – so this year we pushed the boat out and brought the likes of movie used police cars, Hopper’s Truck from Stranger Things, both BumbleBee & Barricade from Transformers as well as a few quirky ones like Postman Pat’s van and Del Boy’s three-wheeler.

Combining the day with Q&A sessions, and talks from authors as well as the all-important Cosplay Competition to determine this year’s winners, makes for a fun day for all – if not for me as the organiser if I’m not running around making sure every area is working well, that guests have their dinners and drinks, staff are looking after the public well and doing the occasional sun-dance to try and keep the clouds away (you shouldn’t have to do that for a summer event but we had the worst weather I’ve ever seen at the opening of this year’s event.)

When you see so many people engaging on social media excitedly before the day, on the day turning up in costume no matter how bad the weather is, excitedly meeting their heroes from childhood and having the chance to be their favourite character, to put on a mask (metaphorically if not physically) and to come out of their inner self – it makes any stress of the day worthwhile. 

With Comic-Con is done for another year, we’re eagerly planning 2024… but we’ve still got an event to bring to The John Smith’s Stadium before the year is out!

We are very proud to be bringing the man himself, Santa, to the stadium along with Anna, Elsa and Olaf for a Christmas party like no other! Sunday 17th December is set to be a fantastic event – find our more and book your tickets here: https://www.redcapeevents.co.uk/santaandfriends

If you would like to discuss holding an event of your own here at The John Smith’s Stadium – get in touch! Drop us an email at catering@ksdl.org.uk or give us a call on 01484 484 116.

Photography by Andy Steer Event Photography 

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