Upon first glance, The Bedford Blues Rugby ground at Goldington Road in Bedford a large, lavish ceremonial marquee by the field seemed like a wedding took place. Instead the place was a cornucopia of sketching, art, buying comics, a dash of cosplayers plus lively discussions on the four colour world.
For the past four years, NICE (short for Northants Comics International Expo), held at the Bedford Corn Exchange is seen as one of the highlights of the UK comic convention circuit. Yet, this year, it didn’t almost happen. Jeff Chahal, the organiser of the yearly event discovered that the hall wouldn’t be able to hold the convention, but fortunately a venue was found at of all places, a rugby field.
Aside from being held at a small venue, NICE 2015 proved that less is more. Things ran like clockwork as organisers ensured that attendees, who wanted to meet creators such as Garth Ennis, Brian K. Vaughan, and Top Ten artist Gene Ha went without any hitches a la large queues. All attending creators were there when the convention opened its doors for business at 10 AM. Looking back at this year’s show, Chahal spoke about the convention. “The show has thrived due to the support it has from a strong team of volunteers that make it happen every year. Without those people, we would have fallen long ago. The growing guest list is testament to how much professionals enjoy the show.”
Apart from such American guests, well known 2000 AD artists such as Simon Bisley, Glenn Fabry, and Steve Dillon were present. NICE 2015 had a European influence which included such creators as Esad Ribic (Secret Wars), Goran Parlov (Starlight), Stef Bartolic (Mudraci), and French artist Paul Renaud. This was Renaud’s first trip to the UK as a guest, and he commented about the convention. “I heard from a friend of mine, who went there, that this was a special show very relaxed and focused on comics more than the movies and all the peripheral stuff. And out of the blue, the organiser, Jeff, invited me to the show! People are very nice, and the guest list is impressive!”
The foreign influence was reflected in the fan as fellow Frenchman Julien Schantz, an organiser of Lille Comics Festival visited the convention. “Well, the thing is we don’t see how good is it organized…nothing is seen but everything is prepared well in advance. And it shows as the guests are well treated, and you can see it on the guests’ faces.” He also spoke about the venue change “considering the last minute problem I would say they did good to welcome fans and artists and creators in a nice place. Not too big, just fine for everyone.”
Despite the venue hiccup, the future for NICE is looking well.. Nice. Plans are being made for next year’s show, when asked about next year’s show, Shahal said “Well that’s simple, we do it all again.”