Let’s Discuss! YALC Positives + Negatives

Hi readers! I know a lot of my recent posts have been about YALC, but after seeing a few posts around about the event, I’ve decided this one is too important a discussion not to have.

I want to start by saying there is absolutely no way I’m sh**ting on YALC or London Film and Comic Con as an event here. I had one of the best and most enjoyable weekends of my life there and I will definitely be attending next year. But, having had time to reflect on the event, it is no where near perfect. A lot needs to change to make the event more accessible and all around smoother in the future. If, instead, you want to find out what I ended up doing at YALC, read this post!

I’d also like to point out this post is highly inspired by Jenniely’s post about accessibility at the event. Go and check it out here!

The Positives

Virtual Queuing

This year, YALC adopted a virtual queuing system where you collected a numbered ticket each morning and used that to attend signings. I believe they handed these tickets out for the first hour and a half of each day, and at the end of the lines afterwards. The whole idea is that only 20 or 30 people will be physically queuing at one time, as they’ll start by letting in people who have tickets with numbers 1-30 and go up in 10’s after that.

Personally, I found this system worked pretty well. Depending on the speed of the author themselves, it meant I got to see everyone I wanted to, never got fully turned away after queuing, and never stood up for a prolonged period of time. Although it was a little annoying checking with the staff practically every 5 mins which number they were up to, it’s definitely more effective than just a normal queue, which they wouldn’t have the space for.

However, the whole VQ system itself wasn’t perfect. For example, we missed out completely on the whole thing on the first day because I’m pretty sure YALC didn’t Tweet about the system even being a thing until the morning of. Luckily we still managed to meet all the authors we wanted to, but only because Alice Oseman stayed for so long after she was scheduled to finish signing!

The Staff

Personally, I found the staff very friendly and helpful. I felt very welcomed when staff at both Penguin and Waterstones recognised me on the second day of the event, even saying hi to me by the last. But also, the Showmasters staff were very helpful in general and mainly very friendly and approachable.

The Schedule

The schedule and author list was definitely one of the most positive things for me. They were released early enough for me to properly plan and enjoy the event.

The Stalls, Authors and Panels

I couldn’t fault much about the stalls, authors or panels! Like I said above, I even had some staff recognise and say hi to me, and they helped me feel so welcome at the event. The stalls were so enjoyable to look around, and I only had one major issue which is discussed below. Every author I met was so friendly and I know at least a few stayed way behind to finish signing. Although I didn’t attend as many panels as I’d have liked to, the ones I did attend were brilliant, and I really enjoyed them!

The Negatives

The Stalls

As I’m sure you know if you attended, Simon and Schuster released ARCs of Infinity Son on all 3 days. The fact I didn’t manage to get one of these was my biggest disappointment of the whole event. For one, I don’t believe they ever announced a time when they would give the ARCs away, meaning I missed out on them the first day.

I arrived at 9:15am on the Saturday to find them all gone, so our group decided to get up at 6:15am on the Sunday to try and grab a copy. Then, they announced because of people stampeding to grab a copy, they would be raffling them on the Sunday. My main issue with this is that (forgetting it shouldn’t have even been organised like this in the first place), is it should have been one way or another. You can’t change halfway through, surely! Also, unfortunately unless they track who picked up an ARC on the separate days, people will try to grab more than one if they’re attending for all 3 days, meaning those of us who didn’t manage to pick one up lose out on our chance.

Organisation

I’d just like to quickly cover the organisation before the event. Although it was mostly great, the Instagram Q&A was, although helpful, full of spelling errors and things that just…looked bad on the organisers. The floor plan also never made it to the website itself, only appearing on social media like a day before the event, and only in good enough quality to read/print on Twitter.

The Queuing

I’m not talking about the signings here, instead I mean getting into the venue. To be fair, I found the system pretty good in many ways, especially on Sunday when I had all of my luggage with me from the entire weekend. But once we got inside, the positives ended. We were so crammed in, I accidentally nudged the woman behind me as I put my rucksack on, and she shoved me back so hard I actually stumbled. This very person proceeded to climb over my friend’s suitcase to reach the first lift, separating my friends from one another. I know this can’t really be helped as it is going to happen at events like this, but I felt like it should be mentioned.

When 9am rolled around, no one even took the barriers down and eventually we let ourselves through. Then came the stairs, which we had been told by staff that morning would be quicker to go up if we wanted to reach the YALC floor first. I, along with a few other people, went for this option, to find they were locked. Fun.

Accessibility and Disabled Access

I would just like to point out I am writing from the POV of a fully able bodied person, who still found issues with what should come as standard at such events. The major issue, which has unfortunately always been the same at YALC, is the lack of seating. Although there is a Chill Out Zone, I would be exaggerating to say it had 10 chairs in it. And those chairs were mainly blow up, very low, and had mostly gone down by Sunday. As someone who has absolutely no problems with sitting on the floor, it wasn’t exactly fun to sit on the floor for 3 days. Seating should be the easiest thing to organise at an event such as YALC, and I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it is for people with disabilities and health issues.

Water and other necessities

Yes, I have a whole section for water. But again, I’d like to point out water coolers should also be the easiest thing for such a big venue. Yet, water was not readily available, and you had to go to the cafe to have water bottles refilled (by what I’ve heard were grumpy staff who were not happy about this little arrangement). On the grand scheme of things, this was a very small issue, but it’s also one that shouldn’t be an issue in the first place. Otherwise, the venue is very hot. Especially seeing as it has a glass roof! Luckily, this is something YALC has realised, and they included a fan in the goody bags, which I thought was a brilliant idea.

God, I admire you if you made it this far in my post! You deserve a pat on the back and a medal! Although this ended up being super long and negative, I’d again like to point out that this event is absolutely vital to my calendar and I had endless amounts of fun. I’ll definitely be attending next year, with hope that these issues are sorted!

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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