The Inaugural Universal FanCon is Postponed (Updatedx7)

Conventions can be a tough business and while the past decade has seen an explosion of conventions focused on geekdom the quality and success rate has been all over. While some new shows shine, others have been utter disasters. One new upstart convention, Universal FanCon, was to take place the weekend of April 27-29 at the Baltimore Convention Center. An ambitious three day start at a rather large convention space that also houses Baltimore Comic Con and until recently Otakon.

Focused on inclusion, highlighting women, LGBTQ, the disabled, and persons of color, Universal FanCon was to be part of the burgeoning focus on inclusive conventions that wear that inclusiveness on their sleeves and geared towards the broader fandom space.

After a Kickstarter that raised $56,498 from 1,187 individuals, the convention is “postponed” with confusion from attendees, guests, and vendors. An email is believed to have been sent to backers, but no word has been sent to other attendees, guests, and vendors, yet.

We talked to guests who said their flights had not been booked and details such as hotel were not available. Just yesterday the convention had posted the schedule of events so that’s one hell of a change in not even 24 hours. While we’re not sure exactly what’s going on, there’s reports of resignations, we’ve asked for updates directly from the convention and will have more as this develops.

Update 1: The convention is currently not listed on the Baltimore Convention Center website. We followed up with the convention center for clarification and the person we spoke to said the convention was removed as to not create confusion that it was still occurring on the original date but they have also not received an official notice of cancellation.

Update 2: The email sent to what we believe are Kickstarter backers (and based on grumblings the email was a cc, not a bcc so sharing addresses around).

Update 3: Executive Board Member Melanie Dione resigned from Universal FanCon this morning.

Update 4: Universal FanCon’s full statement from Twitter.

We see your tweets, messages & concerns. We will have a full update later today on the status of the convention. We realize the immense severity of the situation and our teams will be working to address everything as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

It is with a heavy heart that we must announce that FanCon has been postponed until further notice. We deeply apologize for the disappointment, anger and feelings of lost trust due to this decision. We are taking the steps to reschedule the convention & will provide an update/

We know there are lots of questions regarding what happened and how it happened and why this happened at this stage–all of this will be addressed in full detail later today and will be posted on our site and our social media accounts.

We recognize that people have poured time, effort and money into making this convention a success and many are in precarious positions as to their plans for the next weekend. We will do all we can to help establish some resolutions.

We are devastated to make this postponement decision–but most importantly we recognize and take on any pain we’ve caused to our guests, our backers, our affiliates, the attendees and anyone even remotely involved.

What happens next: 1. Again we will provide full insight into the situation later today 2. We have a contingency plan for people who still will be in Baltimore/can’t change their travel plans; to be shared later today.

3. We will address all questions about ticketing, booths, & any other involvement in our communication to be posted across our sites/social later today. We will also be addressing concerns on the individual level as efficiently as possible. Please email: info@universalfancon.com

Update 5: The Hollywood Reporter has picked up the story and said there is a “financial deficit” according to their source which is what we believed the issue to be and explains some things like lack of booking flights and hotels for talent and guests.

Update 6: One of the cofounders Tweeted is thoughts about the situation.

Update 7: The convention has released a longer statement and a FAQ on their website. Below is the text which can be found on their website.

FanCon Has Been Postponed Until Further Notice

TL;DR: There is an FAQ section at the bottom of this statement that provides answers to many of your questions.

As many of you may have heard, Universal FanCon has been postponed until further notice. It will not be held as previously scheduled on April 27-29 at the Baltimore Convention Center. This is an incredibly heartbreaking decision. Based on an evaluation of all the information available, it was decided that it would be irresponsible to move forward with our plans. Although we worked diligently to preserve the vision of an event that fosters true inclusion, diversity, and safety for all of our guests, exhibitors, and attendees; despite working tirelessly for close to two years, we fell short in delivering the event we envisioned.

To provide further context, FanCon began as a dream held by a few and grew in size as we spoke with like-minded people in the pop and geek culture space. Our members encompass many intersections of marginalized groups and we wanted to do what other cons would not — give us a true voice and platform on which to build an incredible event that catered to all of us. To facilitate that, we launched a Kickstarter in late 2016, to which we received overwhelming support. We built up our internal teams, comprised mostly of volunteers who still held full time jobs while supporting families. We spoke with various experts to gain insight into how to produce a convention and better understand the activities that needed to take place in order to execute this event.

As we built out our floorplan, invited guests, figured out lodging/travel arrangements, and confirmed activities, our costs started to grow exponentially. Unfortunately, the support we were anticipating in terms of ticket sales and sponsorships did not materialize. Accordingly, the organizers of FanCon made significant personal investments in order to ensure FanCon’s success. In addition to these investments, we worked to scale back the number of guests and limit the convention space to create a leaner and more efficient show. Sadly, this was not enough. If we were to have moved forward, the event would have been significantly diminished.

The strength of the chorus of unique voices that represents FanCon is of great value and we are devastated we couldn’t keep the convention on as planned. Further, we’ve made mistakes in the process of trying to inform all of our stakeholders (guests, exhibitors, panelists, attendees, kickstarter backers, etc.) and have caused significant inconvenience to many who trusted us. The announcement that originally notified everyone of the “cancellation” of the convention was due to a miscommunication from one of our partner hotels and was in no way supposed to be communicated in that manner. We are deeply sorry that the public did not receive information regarding what was happening with the convention from us first.

To help address the specific concerns that have been proposed, we’ve created an FAQ. This tool should help provide more answers and direction as to what happens going forward.

We are still incredibly dedicated to our communities, this space, and hope to come out stronger and wiser than before. We are here for you and we are available to answer any questions you may have that are not listed below at info[at]universalfancon[dot]com.

 

FAQs

Why are you postponing FanCon?

Currently we are in a financial deficit that will not allow us to operate the convention within budget. Accordingly, we have made the decision to postpone and reschedule FanCon so we can put forward the type of event our fans deserve.

Why did you wait so long to postpone the event?

The FanCon team worked really hard up to the last minute to put forward an amazing event. However, it became clear in our last team meeting that we would not be able to deliver the event the fans deserved without more time.

How long will the event be postponed?

Once we are able to fully assess our options, we will make an announcement.

Does this mean FanCon is canceled?

Not at all! FanCon and our mission remains the same! We plan to ensure that fans have a safe space to feel included and our goal is to make that a reality. We worked really hard to preserve the vision and experience that  our fans deserve. We wanted to be absolutely certain that we wouldn’t be able to live up to our shared vision before we made this decision. We looked at all options up to the minute we decided that it would be better for fans that we postpone FanCon and ensure a great experience than to move forward and not be able to. We are currently postponing as opposed to canceling.

Why didn’t you tell us sooner? I found out through Twitter/ my hotel / a friend / etc.?

Once we fully understood that we could not move forward, we immediately went into action in building proper communications, building our statement, and this FAQ so all of our guests, affiliates, backers, and attendees could be notified first. Unfortunately room cancellation emails went out to attendees in the FanCon room bloc before we could properly inform everyone. We had no warning that the partner hotel would share their cancellation notice in this manner, and resulted in us having to scramble to get something out to everyone as quickly as possible.

When you have an event of this size, there are a lot of moving parts. There is a protocol and process that has to be followed in order to get the word out to everyone that is even remotely affected. Unfortunately we were forced to share basic detail as opposed to our full explanation as quickly as possible due to the abrupt nature of the hotel cancellations.

On the day of the postponement, why was I still seeing ads for new guests, panels, and/or posts to buy tickets?

Unfortunately, we had scheduled posts that were not stopped in time, across our social media accounts.

I just paid for a flight. What happens now?

We sincerely apologize for the efforts and resources that went into your travel arrangements when you had an expectation to be at this convention. If you will still be coming to Baltimore next weekend, feel free to join us for the Infinity War movie screening. We would love the opportunity to sit down and meet with many of you face-to-face and talk through your thoughts about FanCon.

You may also have an option to recoup some costs–please contact your airliners directly as some will allow you to cancel your flight without penalty and/or use the ticket as credit towards future travel.

What happens to my hotel reservation?

If you booked with one of our partner hotels, your reservation may have already been cancelled. If you did not receive a cancellation notice or are unsure, please contact the partner hotel directly. If you booked with a different hotel or lodging service, please review your booking info and contact them directly.

Many hotels will allow for cancellations in advance of stay.

I took vacations days off of work already. What happens now?

We’re incredibly sorry that you have set time aside to take off for FanCon. If you decide to keep your plans to come to Baltimore, we are happy to still meet and connect with you.

What happened to the Kickstarter funds?

The initial funding received from our Kickstarter was allocated towards securing space at the Baltimore Convention Center, initial marketing, and convention operations. Additional investments were made by the organizers.

What happens to the FanCon ticket I purchased?
As indicated on our ticketing site, all sales are final. However, we will honor your tickets for the next FanCon event.

What happens to the movie ticket I purchased for the Infinity War screening?
That ticket is still valid and we are still holding the screening.

I purchased a gift ticket, how do I get a refund?
Your ticket will be donated and redeemable at the next FanCon event.

What happens to the guests? Will they be back?
While we cannot guarantee that the same guests will attend FanCon in the future, we will extend the invitation to everyone.

It’s too late to change my plans so I’m still coming to Baltimore. Where should I go?

We’re currently working with multiple organizations to see what alternate plans can be created for that weekend. We will have an answer for you by April 25th. In addition, we are still hosting our Infinity War movie screening on Thursday, April 26th, so if you already purchased a ticket, we encourage you to still attend.

I shipped stuff to my hotel/convention center how do I get it back?

Please email us at info[at]universalfancon[dot]com and share the exact details of (a) your name (b) provide full description of what you shipped and the number of items/boxes (c) confirm if you shipped your items to a hotel(please provide full name of the hotel) or the convention center (d) your carrier and tracking information

We will assist in getting your items shipped back to you.

Where will the next FanCon be held?

We will provide an update on venue once we have a better understanding of our options.

I’m a panelist–what happens to my panel now?

We believe our program schedule was an amazing reflection of our values and those of our fans. If you’re a panelist and still would like to host your panel at our rescheduled FanCon event, we will welcome you.

I am a Kickstarter backer, can I still attend at a later date?

Yes

I was a scheduled guest, what happens now?

Guests and management team have been contacted directly regarding the next steps. If there are still questions, please contact: info[at]universalfancon[dot]com

I was a vendor/exhibitor, what do I do?

Vendors/exhibitors have been contacted directly with further instructions. Similar to ticket holders, vendors/exhibitors have a guaranteed space at the rescheduled FanCon. If there are any remaining questions, please contact: info[at]universalfancon[dot]com.

I still have questions, who can speak to?

Please contact us at: info[at]universalfancon[dot]com

 

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