The Convention Centre - Avcon

It’s the wintry Saturday morning of Avcon 2015. A spectrum of individuals from the most angelic pastel of magical girls to the grungiest green-grey zombies stand in front of you in a line which meanders onto North Terrace. Their appendages, be it fluttering fabric, tails or swords, get close enough to graze your jeans or poke you in the face. The anticipation is almost as stifling as the pong of sweat from the fur-suited attendees who had hurried from the bus stop. At a convention, daily life is set aside as you immerse yourself in the worlds of fictional characters.

I’m exhibiting in the Artist Alley with help from my mom. I wear a long lavender wig, pink skirt and a battery powered headband which imitates twitching animal ears. This is my Reisen Inaba cosplay, from an esoteric series called ‘Touhou’, I expect few to know who I was. We flash our exhibitor passess while rolling our suitcase dubbed ‘Big Red”. I try to play it cool as we set up shop, but can’t help but glimpse at the other artists. Every stall has glittering trinkets featuring that hot new sports anime, crocheted Bulbasaur hats or 3D printed Minecraft miniatures. I place a plastic stand with my original character art right and centre. My short animation Disconnected had surpassed thirty million views on YouTube a few months back, so I entertained the notion that someone in little old Adelaide might recognise the character. 

The alley takes the form of a lopsided crescent, curving alongside the centre, with stalls lining either side. The narrow end of this shape is closest to North Terrace and also the closest to where the eager fans squirm in their hordes. Finally, the fated hour tolls and the menagerie of con-goers are unleashed. As an artist, one ideally doesn’t want to be positioned in the bottleneck opening to the alley, as the writhing crowd cannot pause long enough by your stall to take in your offerings. In the wider spaces, the clunky cardboard armour cosplayers with their bulky arm cannons can find the space to manoeuvre for their wallets. There is a dark hall adjoining the alley overwhelmed by the racket of aspiring game creations. The devs fidget, hoping the playtester evades ‘that’ bug where they get stuck in the dungeon walls. A girl with a Studio Ghibli tote bag points at my plastic stand.
“Is that a Disney character?”
“No, they’re mine actually.”
They buy a handful of badges before moving onto the next stall. We were bringing in the dough with my merchandise, so I swallowed down the discontent broiling in my belly. I scooch the plastic stand further forward on the table
“Are you a hentai character?”
I look up to see a man leering over his bushy dark beard, dominating my stall with his flab. I felt a gaze that was undeniably ogling the area around my thigh-highs. My black velvet jacket was cute, but the tightness around the armpits threatened to rip. I had just been called the cartoon equivalent of a porn star.
“No, Reisen is a stage 5 Touhou boss.”
Who will kick your ass, I could say, but instead sulk. My mum bugs her hazel eyes out and tightens her lips. Respect the customer, this face says. He buys some keychains of some Charmanders and Gokus, characters which are as mainstream as it gets. The rush time is fading and the prolonged exposure to the shrill screams of highschoolers going berserk over Steven Universe charms has done me in. A mother with her daughter in a pink parka approach, the girl's nose barely reaches over the table. They point at the Touhou girls.

“Can we have these ten as stickers please?”
The fandom sugar high kicks in.
“I haven’t seen many people that like Touhou today!”
“Oh, she really loves Touhou. She plays the games all the time!”
The games are famous for their difficulty. The girl nods as her long black hair splays over her face. This girl is legendary. We hand over a bag of stickers and the two are on their way. I adore Touhou, but it was yet another exchange between pretty stickers and gold coins. I decide then and there that this fanart selling business is as nutritious as binge eating a bag of gummy worms. 

It’s three thirty now. Mom is shuffling the stock around in preparation for packing up, and the robotic headband is hurting my temples. That is when a big brunette girl approaches my stall. She glances over my products before stiffening in shock, jabbing a finger at my work.
“You shouldn’t sell fanart of indie things.”
The aggravation from before snaps back.
“Unless you have their permission, you shouldn’t sell their characters.”
I huffily lean over to see what she’s pointing at.
“But, that’s my character. I’m Leafydragon.”
The girl jumps back with her mouth quivering.
“You made Disconnected?”
I nod. The girl fans herself as all her blood flows to her face.

“I just…I can’t. Can I get a hug?”
I sneak through the gap between my stall and the next to hug her. She appears to be mouthing words that escape into nothingness.
“Your animations have helped me so much.”
She looks at me shyly through teary eyes. The look sears into me and I can only mutter something stupid.
“Yeah, it’s weird how it got so popular.”
“ I mean, a lot.”
She buys five of the same sticker, while fidgeting with her bag strap she begins to leave but turns back repeatedly.
“No really, I didn’t think I was ever going to get out of depression. Thank you so much for making it.”
To such a compliment, I think I’m the one that should be grateful. We hug for one final time.

With the cold curtain of twilight, the multicoloured mob trickles out of the centre. My mom drives onto West Terrace as I ceremoniously yank off the itchy wig and collapse into the passenger seat. My mom, the eternal businesswoman, recounts the successes of the day in her American accent.
“You sold a lot of those Toohoo thingies. You’ll have to print up more tonight.”
I trace a smiley face in the condensation on the car window.
“Wasn’t that girl sweet, how many times did she hug you?”
“Around seven.”
I look back at the convention centre glowing behind us. Snuggling down into my seat, I take home a souvenir more memorable than anything that can be sold. 


The focus of my piece is to highlight the emotional power of artistic creations. The Adelaide Convention Centre can be the vessel for both simple and meaningful interactions. Since I’ve exhibited in the Alley nearly consecutively from 2012 to 2016, as well as at other “cons” interstate and overseas, I have my fair share of convention stories. I believe this constitutes travel writing as drawing people towards the pop culture convention called Avcon, can bring about more attendees and participants and maybe make for it becoming yet another event to put Adelaide on the map. 

I was inspired by Jan Morris’ description of Sydney as a not ”generous, confident, serene city, not a city of any warmth and splendour.”(Morris 344) I interpreted this as a somewhat bittersweet longing for the city to be greater than it is. I have also felt this way too about Adelaide’s creative scene, knowing it has many talented people, but wanting it to flourish even more. I also was influenced by the last line in the foreword of Delia Falconer’s piece, ‘Sydney’. “The distinction is hard for outsiders to grasp”(Falconer 6) leaves the reader with a sense that they can’t understand this city unless they have lived there. Having lived and worked in the heart of Sydney for a few years, I identify with this feeling that any city has inside jokes only locals can understand. I however, didn’t want to write an “Adelaideian only” piece, instead aiming to make my story mostly accessible to someone unfamiliar with Adelaide. The purpose of my piece is for anyone who wants to know what it’s like at a convention on the other side of the Alley stall, and there is also assumed knowledge that the reader is familiar with elements of pop culture such as cosplay, Minecraft and what a bulbasaur may be. 

Peer feedback was very helpful, firstly, it was consistently mentioned within my group that the perspective voice of my piece wasn’t solid. I worked on this by removing parts written in other perspectives in order to stay within the first person, but ultimately decided not to resort to framing it through using ‘picture this’. Secondly, peers mentioned my story could focus more on ups and downs in the story. As accurate to the true events that I tried to be, in order to better emphasise the irritation with people not recognising my characters, I altered the temporality of events to make it stronger. 

Lastly, peers challenged me to consider what the convention centre means to me. This feedback helped me reduce it down to what matters, namely, the interaction with the fan, rather than superfluous detail elsewhere in the centre. The convention centre simply acts as the venue which encapsulates some unpleasant but mostly wonderful moments. This story initially appears to be about being torn between being a fanart vendor and more of a ‘true’ creative. The need to be true to yourself and not masquerading as anyone else is something I imply with the growing discontent with my cosplay. I wanted to express more than that conflict, so I attempted to distil the message into one thing. That being, I believe the desire to connect with others as your true self is the real reason behind all art. 


Morris, James. “Sydney.” Cities, by Jan Morris, Faber and Faber, 1963, pp. 342–44. 

Falconer, Delia. “Foreword.” Sydney , UNSW Press, 2010, pp. 1–6.

All works copyright Vela Noble 2020-2023