November 18th, 2016 at 9:44 pm
AUTHOR: Killian O'Boyle
Whenever the words “Irish Convention” are mentioned, “Eirtakon” is typically not far behind. Started by the Anime & Manga society in DCU, Eirtakon has ran since 2005 and attracts thousands of die-hard geek culture fans to the event in Dublin every November. Each year has seen the number of attendees grown exponentially, requiring Eirtakon to move from within DCU to The Helix in 2010 and then finally to Croke Park in 2013. From international cosplay competitions to big-name guests like John Romero or Steve Blum, it seemed like nothing was going to stop Eirtakon. Which made it all the more surprising when 2 months before Eirtakon 2016, it was announced on their Facebook page that this would be the last Eirtakon.
Most fans took the news with reluctant acceptance, sad that this would be Eirtakon’s last year but ready to end the convention on a high note. Others, however, were more suspicious. Eirtakon had stated in previous years about how successful the convention has been, with one past Eirtakon being marketed as “Ireland’s biggest Anime and Manga Convention.” How could such a successful convention now be closing? Another red flag was the lack of any real explanation as to why Eirtakon was closing. The announcement of Eirtakon’s closure on their Facebook page is filled with thanks to the community, fans and everyone who has helped out in Eirtakon’s past but the only explanation given as to why it’s closing is one sentence at the very bottom that reads “Eirtakon has been running for over 12 years now and we believe it has run its course!” When asked in the Facebook comments why the convention was closing, Eirtakon replied saying that a full explanation would be available soon. This comment has since been deleted.
While it may be the biggest, Eirtakon is not the only Irish convention to announce its closure this year. Both Nom-Con and Pokecon have stated that they will not be returning, with ArcadeCon currently on hiatus after not running in 2016. Out of all these conventions, Pokecon was the only convention to announce why they would not be returning, citing budget cuts due to new management of clubs & societies within their college. Could it be that a similar situation was happening to Eirtakon due to the event being ran through DCU? Were current committee members losing the drive to run Eirtakon every year? Or was the announcement simply a way to drum up publicity? To try and get some insight into this situation I sat down with Cillian Lambe, the director of this years Eirtakon.
InsideTheBox: You’re the director of Eirtakon, what are some of the responsibilities that come with that?
Cillian Lambe: I’m in charge of choosing the committee members, and leading them of course. Heading committee meetings, liasoning with the Japanese embassy in DCU with matters like getting funding and insurance and that. Generally making sure everything’s going off without a hitch.
This is Eirtakon’s 12th anniversary, that is 12 conventions in a row, a pretty incredible feat. What do you think made Eirtakon so successful? Why has it been running these 12 years?
Back then I had no idea of this kind of gaming, geeky culture. I suppose there was one but it was a lot smaller back then. Then with the emergence of Eirtakon, people kinda found this spot where they can nerd out. It kinda grew off of that. As nerd culture grew, so did Eirtakon which brought it up to be the convention giant that it is today.
This is Eirtakon’s last year, what do you think you’re gonna miss most about Eirtakon?
The fact that its possibly the last convention, the last Dublin convention, the last big one. The closest thing to it now is Q-Con in Belfast. There is a few other ones in Ireland as well like Kodoku con and I think there’s one opening in DIT as well? So having a big convention there is.. its gonna be very different so it is. Like the con scene will.. well, I wouldn’t say fall to tatters but its going to take a long time to resurface to the point where it was in the last few years. Apart from that, just kinda having a place where you can go and just have a bunch of nerds and geeks and freaks, just whoever around y’know? It’ll be very different I suppose.
I know you mentioned on your Facebook page that a lot of time and effort goes into running a con, and you wanted to end Eirtakon on a good note. Is that why Eirtakon is closing? That the organizers are feeling burnt out?
Yeah, in a way. Its entirely run through peoples own time. Its a student run event so there’s a lot of rules and regulations that we have to follow on DCU’s part. DCU do a lot for us but we have to follow a lot of guidelines that they set which does limit us in some ways. And because of how much its actually grown, the senior members that give their time year-after-year for the last 12 years, they’re all adults now. Full time jobs with lives outside of Eirtakon and Eirtakon is almost like a full-time job without pay. There’s so much work to be done particularly in the lead up to it and throughout the year. It’s very very hard to ask someone to make a commitment like that year-after-year. The fact that they’ve kept it going this long is incredible to be honest. So it’s partially because its a student run event and its kind of outgrown that, and also because its time for some of our more senior members to move on.
I think there is. Honestly something could definitely make a comeback. But even Arcade con is on hitaus last time I heard. The guy who ran it, Declan, said that is was kinda going under for awhile, so I don’t know if he plans to remake it. Now would be a fantastic time, it’d be the first big one coming back y’know? Even smaller conventions, because there is nothing out there at the minute really. If a small convention was to come to Dublin and run an event even for a day or a two day event at a weekend, it would get a huge reception and I honestly think it would grow like wildfire. It’d be absolutely huge in 3 years I would say. Just because there will be a con famine, in like a year and people are going to be sick of it. So I would imagine someone will take up the torch and build something from the ashes of it.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank that helped you out with this years Eirtakon?
The entire committee. They’ve been absolutely fantastic. Honestly, I’m a figurehead. They’ve been the ones that do the vast majority of the work. Also Croke Park, they’ve been a fantastic venue to us year after year, staff are always lovely to us, never had a complaint about them. And I suppose that’s it.
Attending the final closing ceremony of Eirtakon felt bittersweet this year, as committee members and convention goers took the stage to share their favorite memories of Eirtakon. As each of them shared their fondest moments, I noticed that none of them actually mentioned any of the panels or events that took place during Eirtakon. For them and most people who attended Eirtakon, it wasn’t about the guests or the cosplay competitions or the live music performances, it was about the people they met and had fun with. It didn’t matter if Eirtakon was the biggest or the smallest convention in Ireland, so long as they could meet like-minded people that they could geek out with and feel comfortable around. Even if Eirtakon was closing due to senior members wanting to leave or tighter restrictions on DCU’s part, the Irish geek community was happy to have had a space like that for 12 years. As long as that community lives on, its hard to see conventions in Ireland going away anytime soon.