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Wrexham loses huge Comic Con event to Telford in multi million pound blow to local economy

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Tuesday, May 14th, 2019.

An internationally renowned comic con event that was founded and built up by a local entrepreneur is moving to Telford, with Wrexham not doing enough to keep it local.

Organisers of Wales Comic Con, which has been the biggest bi-annual events to take place in Wrexham, have confirmed today that the December event will be the first to take place in a new venue in Telford.

A statement released this afternoon says they’re going on an adventure, adding: We’re very pleased and super excited to announce our new event, just over the border – Wales Comic Con: Telford Takeover!

“As you know, the past few Wales Comic Cons have been the biggest ever and our traditional Welsh stomping ground has become a little cosy.

“You’ve asked for a new and bigger venue (preferably one out of the rain), and we’re thrilled to finally be able to deliver as we head to the Telford International Centre for our winter event.

“More details will of course follow, so make sure to keep an eye on our website and social media. As soon as we have further announcements, we’ll be sure to let you know!

“Please note that this will replace the normal winter Wales Comic Con, but not to worry! We’ll be working with the same awesome team, so you can still expect everything that you’ve come to love about WCC, but bigger, better and more indoors than ever!

“So it’s hwyl fawr for now, Wales (we’ll see you soon!) and here we come, Telford!”

Wales Comic Con has been calculated to bring a £1m per event boost to Wrexham’s economy, and over the past 11 years has brought thousands of fans from across the world to the town.

The event – which for the past few years has hosted conventions in both April and December – has seen local hotels and venues booked up months in advance with bookings already made for the now altered event in December.

Held on various parts of the Wrexham Glyndwr University campus, Wales Comic Con began as a small event with both question and answer sessions and signing sessions taking place in the sports hall.

As the event has grown in popularity, so have some of guests who attend, with the latest being one of the first Con’s Harry Potter star Rupert Grint attended, along with top names such as Kiefer Sutherland.

As well as an entry fee visitors have the option to pay various stars for autographs, selfies and professional photographs – however recently some attendees and non attendees have been critical at the pricing. Despite a large amount of online negative noise, the £130 fee did not deter a fully booked set of sessions with the Harry Potter star.

Last month’s event also saw ‘Storm Hannah’ affect the Saturday offering, with strong gusts and heavy rain putting a dampener on the day and also drawing criticism for long queues outside and a lack of shelter / leaking marquee. Sunday’s event was a much drier and happier affair – you can view our coverage from April’s Comic Con, here.

We understand such negative online and print coverage has been a minor contributing factor to the decision to move, with the effort put in to make such anger-bait articles noticed and contrasted to efforts previously to promote the events wider benefits to the area.

We are told other influencing factors include a feeling of lack of support for the event in contrast to others, with organisers mentioning how Wrexham Council and Welsh Government support is visible for some ventures yet there appears to be a lack of interest over the last decade on such a self-started event on Wrexham’s doorstep.

Parking at the latest event was criticised, with local councillor Phil Wynn asking for ‘common sense’ in the future due to Wrexham AFC having a home game on the same day as the event, and Techniquest retaining a section of the university carpark for their own use.

We are told the Comic Con event was booked in advance of the football fixture release. Other events in the town – including the newly relaunched food festival last September – have benefited from free parking in council car parks, similar initiatives have not been as forthcoming for an event just a stones throw away from the town centre itself.

Other issues prompting the move include issues with the site location, with the event effectively outgrowing the university space along with excessive costs meaning an alternative venue has had to be sought. We are told future bookings could clash with existing dates at the university’s William Aston Hall venue, meaning even less space for the the ever growing event.

Many strong ongoing partnerships have been formed with local hotels, restaurants and other service areas who mutually benefit from the huge numbers attending, however there has been disinterest elsewhere or occasional interest if there was some one-way benefit to be had. As we have documented online Wrexham.com has sat in numerous Town Centre Forum meetings over several years where the largest event in town was not always on the circulated ‘whats on list’ – meaning we verbally mentioned it at the end of meetings.

Earlier this year Cllr Terry Evans, Wrexham Council’s lead member for economic development and regeneration, said: “There can be no doubt Comic Con is one of the leading events in the area’s calendar and brings with it the exceptional economic benefits to the area.”

We have asked Cllr Evans what practical work Wrexham Council have done with Wales Comic Con to help develop the event, and what steps were taken to attempt to keep the event in Wrexham. We have also asked the Council Leader and Cllr Phil Wynn for comment We will publish a new article with the full details.

Cllr Terry Evans, Lead Member for Economic Development and Regeneration told us this afternoon, “We are all very disappointed at this news but we do wish the organisers well for the future of this event.”

We also asked Cllr Phil Wynn about the parking issues in his ward coming into focus at the latest event and cited as a partial reason for moving to Telford, and why is that not something that has been sorted over the last decade rather than an ongoing issue.

Cllr Wynn said: “I’m disappointed to learn of the news that ComicCon are moving their event away from Wrexham as it’s been a great credit for the town’s reputation.

“Following their recent event and the issues of visitors parking up in the Mold Road side streets I was looking forward to working with the event organisers to discuss alternative parking arrangements for their December ComicCon.”

The move will be an upgrade for the Comic Con, with the Telford International Centre doubling the capacity of the event and giving a near 10,000 m² of floorspace in three huge halls with adjacent conference suites ready for use too.

The local parking issues will likely evaporate with 1500 car parking spaces onsite, and Telford Central Station less than a mile away with regular buses also mentioned.

A model of what a much mentioned ‘proper venue’ in North East Wales could look like is also given in Telford (population similar to Wrexham), with strong air and rail links – less than an hour by road from Birmingham International airport and the obvious rail connections from Birmingham International Station, which is accessible directly from the airport, or New Street.

The venue is next door to three hotels, and a multiple scale Eagles Meadow style development including the usual fare of Zizzis and Cineworld plus an ice rink.

The growth of Wales Comic Con has been obvious for those who attend and there have been ongoing fears that eventually the lack of alternative options in Wrexham would mean it would relocate. Sadly the town will now be without the biannual tourism boost to the tune of a million pound and thousands of people visiting Wrexham, as well as the random A-list celebs popping up showcasing the area to their international fans.

Regulars who support and love the event will of course travel wherever it goes, but to Wrexham and for those who have enjoyed such big names on the doorstep and the pride of having something so unique and special, it will be a big loss to the area.

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