THE organisers of a convention in Basingstoke have further responded to criticisms raised by attendees, saying they are 'deeply sorry'.

As previously reported, Basingstoke Comic Con was held at The Hampshire Court Hotel from May 10 to 12, and saw celebrities Jason Momoa, Richard Armitage, Rhys Darby and Richard Dean Anderson attend.

The organiser of the event, Jane Lowther, published a statement on social media, as well as the convention's website, this morning, May 16. It reads: "The Basingstoke Senior Team are heartbroken by the events of this weekend.

READ MORE: Basingstoke Comic Con criticised as fans faced 12-hour long queues and access issues


"Having spent over 10 months putting the event together, we were hit by the perfect storm of problems that led to an event causing people to feel let down.

"It also left two members of staff physically attacked, some physically threatened, and almost all verbally abused. We truly apologise to everyone, whether a customer or staff member, who came away from the weekend unhappy.

"So, what happened? The vast majority of the problems we have heard loud and clear and came down to the fact that we unexpectedly lost 30% of our staff. We don’t use volunteers; all our staff are paid.

"We expect natural fall out and losing 10% of our staff in the week running up to the event was manageable, however on the day another 25% just didn’t turn up. They didn’t email or call to advise us of this, they just simply didn’t turn up.

"I am not one for conspiracy theories, but it was so odd as anyone who runs events know losing 35% of staff unexpectedly is the perfect way to damage any event. On top of this, with what the staff faced on Saturday, a number couldn’t face returning on Sunday.

"We ran Sunday on the barest minimum of staff that we thought was safe and I am so proud of them, as they faced overwhelming odds as we had to juggle and firefight throughout the day for the event, we had worked so hard for.

"Yes, there were members of staff who didn’t know things, but most likely they had been pulled from the areas they had been trained for, to deal with areas they didn’t.

"Because we had lost so many key team members such as runners, radio operators and actor handlers’ people had to move to other areas to interface with visitors.

"Thank you to everyone who has messaged us with positive feedback about our staff. I know they all greatly appreciate it."

Addressing concerns about the queues for autographs and photos, the statement said: "Communication is key, and we hear you loud and clearly.

"We had a communication plan in place to manage queues and give people the chance to enjoy other areas of the event rather than spend time queuing.

"As you may have seen every ticket was numbered, except for the ones which were brought on the day and they were, for example, 1-50 Orange VIP or 51-251 for the Stargate VIP.

"Our intention was to call people in batches. We were planning to accomplish this by the Tannoy system, the stage, and staff carrying whiteboards with the latest information who would also be able to deal with queries and questions.

"They would cover all the areas which the speaker system didn’t including the marquee. With the lack of staff, we lost the ability to do this.

"People who attended our event last year will remember we had a huge area for autographs. Some visitors commented they felt it was just too big.

"So based on the feedback we received we tried to make better use of the arena and clearly made the mistake of going the other way and unfortunately making it too small.

"This smaller area for groups of 50 plan, not the amount who ended up queuing. Added to that the barriers were laid out incorrectly and I am currently investigating to see how that occurred.

"It all amounted to a gridlock in the autograph area. With hindsight, we should have cleared the whole area, sent everyone away with times for each group to come back, but again because we were lacking the staff, we did not make this happen.

"We know people queued for hours and were hot and squashed and we are so deeply sorry. It was absolutely not the plan and devastating for us. The very last thing we wished to see is people who have looked forward to an event, saved for it and travelled long distances not having an enjoyable time.

"We are also aware the queue sizes led to far from ideal accessibility, something we take seriously. After the problems on Saturday, we created room by reducing the space of Artisan Alley, but this could not solve the problem by itself.

"On Sunday, because we had so few staff, we were very limited in what else we could put in place. Staff members were having to fulfil a dual role of actor handler and queue management.

"And because of the events of the day before, people were fearful of getting their autos, which I completely understand, and it meant many people were not prepared to leave the queue and come back later which led to more crowding and people standing for long hours.

"Please do not feel like we are blaming anyone here, I understand why. Losing the ability to communicate with attendees and each other made things incredibly challenging as it meant we were unable to respond quickly to issues as they happened.

Speaking about the heat over the weekend, the statement added: "We watched the forecast, and we planned for warm weather and some rain.

"What we didn’t expect was for it to be 25c plus. I am aware that people were complaining that we didn’t provide water until later in the day and the simple explanation was, we didn’t have any.

"The hotel was unable to provide us with any, so we went out to buy bottled water and also tried to fill the gaps with jugs of water. We went out and brought fans and tried to think of every way we could to improve things for people with the event space we had available.

"I would like to give my absolute assurance that we were not ignoring people’s issues and concerns and we felt so bad that there were times when we just couldn’t give people the answers which they wanted."

Organiser Jane Lowther continues the statement: "I wish to address other points we have been receiving with the same openness and honesty. Not for sympathy or as an excuse, but I believe everyone deserves to know the truth.

"We had to sack two members of staff, one was behaving improperly with guests and the other, well I don’t know where to start. This person stole items and lied about his presence at the event, getting photos and autos when he should have been working.

"The same person is now spending time in Reddit spreading lies and misinformation. We will be taking action against this person.

"Regarding Richard Dean Anderson, we were advised in advance of the event that he was a slow signer and as such we limited the number of autos sold and calculated his signing time based on that.

"What we didn’t expect was for him to take 4/5 mins per auto. It would take him over 13 hours to sign 200 autos. Based on his actual signing time we should have only sold 45 autos a day which would have left many fans upset. We also did not force him to stay and asked:

  • Could he sign faster
  • If he’d like us to cut the queue and.
  • If he was happy to continue at the current pace and we would find the staff and security willing to stay while he continued signing.

"Regarding Jason Momoa, we have read a number of comments left by people saying Jason said that we changed his attendance to one day and also that we messed up his flight so he couldn’t stay two days.

"This is completely untrue; we would have loved Jason to attend two days.

"Also, if other actors made negative comments regarding the event, none of them came to me and wished that they had, so I would have been able to address it directly.

Some people commented that they saw the police attend the event and speculated that it was down to us, this is incorrect.

"The reason why they attended was because people were walking around Basingstoke Town Centre and swords.

"These weapons may have been fake, but members of the public didn’t know that, and they rang the Police worried and concerned. We spoke to the police and addressed this immediately via social media and Tannoy announcements.

"People have also speculated about numbers and said that we oversold, this again is incorrect, as while some areas were overcrowded due to queues, others were completely empty.

"When we put the Stargate VIP ticket on sale, it only had 7 actors on it and people were happy to purchase it at the advertised price. We should not have added so many guests as we now realise it created a logistical problem for people to get them all.

"We also should have dictated which day people went for autos rather than leaving it at the attendee’s choice."

For eventgoers that would like to request a refund, the statement explains: "If you have a ticket stub for an auto you were unable to get, please send a photo of that auto with your details and an order number to to accelerate replies and make refunds as efficient as possible so we can get money back to you.

"If your auto was part of the Stargate package, you will get a percentage refund based on the number of tickets included in the pass.

"We will not refund those who missed flights, had visa issues, or were delayed getting to our event as per our terms. We have detailed records of which tickets belonged to whom and who did and didn’t attend.

"All other refund requests will be considered on their merits, and we will be replying to those as quickly as we can in the coming days and weeks.

"We aim to complete this process by the 30th of June and will not respond to chaser emails, or those trying to FastTrack any request via other channels as we want to be fair and diligent in our replies to everyone.

"We are aware that some people are encouraging people to get a chargeback, and while they are entirely entitled to do so, it does complicate things and may delay any refund request."

The statement finishes: "We are deeply sorry that people didn’t get the experience they deserved.

"This was not the Comic Con we planned to run.

"To all those who have sent messages of support via email and social channels, it means the world to me, and we’ll be back stronger and better next time."