Looking back on this year’s reboot of the beloved event, Comic Gong’s future has never looked brighter!
Comic Gong debuted back in 2013 and has continued to thrive, even though hindered by a pandemic. According to the event curator Rosanne Travers, the event was created to coincide with the goals and objectives of the Wollongong Council and library, mainly to contribute to Wollongong’s Cultural Calendar, to deliver a diverse blend of traditional and innovative programs and events allegations and to actively contribute to the development of the Wollongong Arts Precinct. Ms Travers elaborated on the goals of Comic Gong “We don’t have a mission statement per se, as we sit under the library’s, and Council’s, strategic goals. However, as a Library run event, Comic Gong is unique as its focus is on bringing the community together and supporting artists instead of purely making profits”. Ms Travers went on to say “. It is this focus that differentiates it from its commercial counterparts, and it can be seen in all planning decisions for Comic Gong”.
After a two-year hiatus Ms Travers stated that their goal was to make it as traditional as the previous years, but also be cautious as the LGA had only recently been released from lockdowns and had the restrictions eased. Ms Travers stated, “the people who loved the event and had missed it the past two years, would be looking for the things they loved about it in the past”, she continued “also, we knew we would need to thin out the Town Hall – due to social distancing requirements but also to alleviate the crowding – so we extended the Exhibitor Spaces out into the mall”.
Today, people and fandom tend to be fickle, which can cause any creative team or content creator to be nervous going into any venture, let alone one that has been absent for two years. When asked about this Ms Travers replied “Absolutely! I worried that people wouldn’t come back, or would be worried about crowds in this climate, which was also a concern for us”. Ms Travers and the team she collaborated with for this event knew that this year’s event would have many obstacles that they had to prepare for, Ms Travers elaborated “I also had a lot of anxiety about the extension into the mall, as the weather would play a huge role in whether we could have Stalls in the Mall on the day, the logistics of organising all the marquees etc in the mall was crazy! Much more complicated than organising tables in the Town Hall. In addition, we were working with an almost entirely new team, who hadn’t organised an event of this scale before”.
When asked to look back over the day Ms Travers simply stated, “It was incredible!” She elaborated, stating that this year’s event was one of the biggest Comic Gongs to date, “nearly 13,000 people attended. I kept walking around the mall saying to everyone “I can’t believe we pulled this off!””. When asked about the events return Nathan Seabolt, an artist that has showcased his artwork on and off through the year at Comicgong stated “Coming back to Comicgong was great! Mr Seabolt continued “I hadn”t done any shows for several years, but this was my favourite experience when I did table regularly, so I was happy to go again”.
“Getting so much enthusiasm from the Exhibitors was also so cool…
everyone was so happy to be back, and those for whom it was their
first Comic Gong were so positive about it, it was amazing”.
Comic Gong could be likened to events such as Supanova and Comic-Con and have been running at this point for decades. So, looking to the future, where does this loved event go from here proving not even a two-year absence can shake its place in this community. Ms Travers said “We do worry about this. We know we must evolve at some point…no event can continue to be the same forever”. This is vital for anything to stay relevant, think of your favourite band or show, they change but stay familiar. Ms Travers continued “we consistently get feedback to make it a 2 day/weekend event, but the truth is we don’t have the capacity for that. The Comic Gong team all do this on top of their library jobs, and it is funded completely from the library programs budget, so making it bigger/longer is impossible at this time”.
MS Travers however did highlight that first and foremost this is a library run community event; and if the event tried to be Supanova it would suffer. “The most consistent feedback we get from all stakeholders is that they love the sense of community that Comic Gong has”. Ms travers continued “We didn’t/can’t manufacture that, the community makes it what it is, and that’s awesome”.
Mr Seabolt also agreed that the event was great however, he did have a critique, “the only change I could suggest is not really a change, keep the outside tabling section, weather permitting”. Mr Seabolt elaborated “I found the location provided a lot of additional exposure due to the increased casual foot traffic”.
The team behind the event are planning for the future and concocting ways that the event can evolve, as opposed to expanding. Ms Travers stated “I guess in a perfect world, if we could access more financial support, and event planning support in general, it may be possible to extend the event further out into the city, encompassing more of the mall and the Youth Centre, and possibly McCabe Park, and make it a weekend-long event. We could run more panels and creative workshops and cool stuff like that”. She concluded by saying “the success of this year also brings a sense of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.