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StageCon labelled a ‘Con’ by angry musical theatre fans

For the first time ever in the UK, StageCon, a convention for theatre fans throughout the UK and Europe, will be held over the weekend of 3 & 4 November at Shoreditch Town Hall in London. But theatre fans are confused by the high ticket price and lack of information about the event.

The weekend event promises fans an opportunity to come together in London to celebrate the magic of theatre and says those attending can expect to enjoy a diverse programme of 100+ hours of events and performances from everyone’s favourite artists, theatre makers and shows – from the West End to London’s Fringe and beyond.

StageCon says it intends to represent all aspects of theatre, from musicals to plays, opera to dance, and will include not just those on the stage, but those who make, shape and develop theatre. Confirmed to be in attendance so far are Christina Bennington, Cameron Blakely, Samantha Bond, Sharon D Clarke, Louise Dearman, Sophie Evans, Alice Fearn, Carrie Hope Fletcher, David Hunter, Debbie Kurrup, Scott Paige, Steph Parry, Stuart Matthew Price, Caroline Sheen, Cherrelle Skeete, Charlotte Wakefield and Michael Xavier.

Unfortunately there is no detail on who will appear on which days and at what times, or in fact what they will be doing there, so it is all a little unclear.

Events are to include live performances, sing-a-longs, discussions, cast reunions, panels, games, exclusive previews, workshops, meet and greets, and showcases. A ‘Village’ of stalls sharing and selling a range of goods, merchandise and theatrical services will be housed within a ‘back stage experience’ specially crafted in the basement of the venue. Vendors and exhibitors already confirmed include The National Theatre Bookshop, Zeat Art, SIMG Records, WhatsOnStage, The Royal Theatrical Fund, Theatrical Rights Worldwide and MX Academy. Shaftesbury Avenue staple The Theatre Café is confirmed to operate a pop-up out of Shoreditch Town Hall’s on-site café.

This all sound nice but ultimately is this not the same as West End Live (a free event every year with a weekend of live performances and stalls). The only difference seems to be an opportunity to attend Meet & Greet sessions to meet the stars. Although this is included in the ticket price, you are required to book a slot in advance and it doesn’t seem to guarantee access to the stars. So fans of huge names like Carrie Hope Fletcher may be left disappointed if they spend £160 on a ticket and don’t even get to meet their idol. Also, the selection of stalls announced don’t appear to offer anything special and I certainly wouldn’t be rushing over to them.

What would be great would be to move the free West End Live event to a bigger venue, with rooms for panel discussions and meet and greets and have stalls full of signed posters and merchandise from shows with all money raised going to charity. Wouldn’t that be so much nicer than spending £150 on a ticket that says it “will be donating a portion of profits to The Royal Theatrical Fund’. What does that mean? 1% or 20% – there is a big difference and when people aren’t upfront about what they are donating it feels like they are jumping on the ‘charitable’ bandwagon so that ticket buyers feel there is some additional good coming from it.

Like New York’s successful theatre convention, BroadwayCon, the UK’s StageCon says it intends to establish itself as an annual event in London’s theatre calendar to promote and celebrate the wealth of talent that exists this side of the Atlantic. However, UK theatre fans have hit back at the high ticket price (£80 per day – £160 for the weekend) when this has never been done before. Although ticket prices are comparable to BroadwayCon, that has proven itself to be a success. Asking theatre fans to pay out the same for something they have never been to before is a big ask and fans have complained online that it isn’t clear what they will be getting for their money. “I’d understand the price if they could prove what they can offer, but its only the first one” said one twitter used when the announcement was made.

One theatre fan tweeted “Sorry but “StageCon” charging £160 for a weekend ticket is actually disgusting. Big love to them for feeding the ‘theatre is for elitists’ movement. The fans of Musical Theatre already give so much to be proactive members of the community, and in profiting from ‘StageCon’, you’re shutting people out.”

So is StageCon really a Con? Well the truth is no one knows because it has never been done before and no one really knows what they are getting for £150. BroadwayCon is such a huge, successful event every year but it remains to be seen if the UK can pull off a similar success.

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