Today, the country’s first and arguably biggest festival for nerds began: Fantasy Basel. Here are a first thoughts about the good, the bad and the awesome.
It doesn’t matter if you’re into movies, video games, comic books or TV shows or even Cosplay, Fantasy Basel is the place you want to be. The festival happens, as the name suggests in Basel near the German border and unites a number of popular subcultures under one roof. There are fans of medieval clothing, among them Imladris – the guys who amaze Switzerland regularly with the Mittelerdefest – , people who offer photoshootings in period clothing, ranging from Victorian (of the non Steampunk variety) to the roaring 20s, lots of anime and manga ans and dealers as well as people selling and buying US comics such as our friends at Kabooom.
In addition to that, there were a number of walking acts, such as the amazing Swiss Ghostbusters whose Proton Packs are a thing of beauty. They do everything you see on screen except for actually shooting lightning. There are people teaching Elvish and a woman named Claudia Rindler who uses make up to give people horrible and bleeding wounds. Sometimes with shards stuck in their faces.
That’s not even all. Want a sword? You can buy it. From Blade’s Daywalker sword to Ichigo Kurosaki’s Bankai. Blue Kit Kat chocolate bars that taste like something undefinable? Sure thing. It’s right there. T-Shirts, furs, necklaces, video games, statuettes, et cetera.
A Country’s Introduction
An event of this magnitude is new for Switzerland. While there are regular Cosplay meetings and the JapAniManga night is a fixture in Swiss Nerds’ calendars, nobody has done a festival of this magnitude.
There’s a number of things that you should pay attention to when going:
- Wear a Costume: To get the full experience, dress up. It doesn’t matter if your costume isn’t on par with the Cosplay professionals. But, seriously, wear something outlandish. It’s so rewarding.
- Bring Cash: There might be an ATM somewhere near the Messe Basel but we haven’t found it. Most dealers take cash only, so make sure you’re stocked up.
- Talk to People: We realize talking to strangers is something the Swiss avoid like the plague, but here’s your chance to talk to people about interesting things. Be open minded. Try the blue candy, talk to strangers, laugh. You think you’re not into anime? Go look at their stuff anyway. You might find.
- Watch the Schedule: There are no indicators or reminders of your favourite things happening, such as the daily Cosplay contest. So you have to watch the time yourself.
- Use Public Transport: We don’t know where the parking spaces are, so use the trams that stop right in front of the Messe Basel.
But even if you don’t do any of these things, you’ll have a good time. Seriously, it’s a lot of fun.
The event is well organized. Everyone has their place and knows what goes on. There are so many things to see and to buy. The physical size of the event really plays to Fantasy Basel’s strength here: The event was sold out today but it never felt crowded or claustrophobic. Toilets were always available and there were chairs on the sidelines where people could rest their feet as there is a lot of walking about to do.
Somewhat hidden are the bars. There are a number of bars, all presumably by Piratenspelunke that don’t charge you an arm and a leg to get something to drink.
Before you go in when dressed up, people will check your costumes for forbidden weapons. Those checks happen quickly and efficiently, while the staff remains friendly and cheerful. It’s obvious that they’re having fun, too.
By far the best thing about Fantasy Basel is the atmosphere. It’s relaxed, open and tolerant. It’s a nice escape from everyday life. There’s lots of laughter, lots of fun and for that alone, Fantasy Basel is totally worth it.
Of course, there are some things that can be improved on, especially given the fact that the concept of a con like this is new for the country. However, it’s quickly obvious that the organizers of the event have created other events in the past. Because nothing that is done by complete newbies runs this well.
Basically, once you’re at Fantasy Basel, you’re left to your own devices. There are no reminders when something will happen or where it will happen. There are no indicators of where what is and what you as a visitor can do there. This is all fine and dandy, but let’s assume you want to be there for the daily cosplay contest: You will need to remember the time and know the place. There are no reminders, no public announcements and not even billboards with the timetable on it. While there are plenty of info booths, you will have to get to your events yourself.
Whose panels do you want to see? What events do you want to go to? Just a few screens near the entrances would help with orientation. Or announcements over some kind of loudspeaker system or even a con radio streamed live into all the halls run by a radio crew. It would work.
Fantasy Basel is a very good event. It’s fun, creative and gives people who don’t really have much exposure to a broad audience just that. They meet each other and new people join in on the fun.
After a day at the festival, your feet will hurt as there’s quite a bit of walking involved. But it’s worth it. Nowhere else will you be able to see that many costumes and have that many interesting conversations about pop culture.
A big thank you goes out to the organisers and let’s hope there will be a second Fantasy Basel!
There still might be tickets around, so head over to FantasyBasel.ch and have a look.
Update, May 20th, 2015
An earlier version of this article mentioned that the team behind Fantasy Basel was the same team that organizes the dance festival known as Street Parade. This is untrue. There are some people on the Fantasy Basel staff that help organize both Street Parade and Fantasy Basel, the two events are not related in any way, shape or form.