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MalkieriCon Top 10

Updated: Oct 9, 2022

The Best and Most Unique Aspects of Europe's First Wheel of Time Convention

Jim from Way of the Heron stands with arms stretched out and sword pointed forward in front of a circle of participants in his sword form workshop. Jim is in the foreground, wearing a tunic and leather accessories. He has short red hair and glasses. The participants are blurry in the background.

All photos by Laura Spires Photography unless otherwise specified

What a year for Wheel of Time conventions. In April, JordanCon resumed in full capacity. Less than three months later, the first WoTCon was a smashing success. And then there was MalkieriCon, the first ever European Wheel of Time convention.

Produced and hosted by Malkier Talks, MalkieriCon was held on September 10th and 11th at the Holiday Inn in Manchester, UK.

A small crowd of 54 in-person attendees (and 38 virtual participants) spent the weekend together in one main convention hall, located across from an adorable downstairs lobby area of the hotel, equipped with plenty of tables, couches, and hot beverages at their fingertips (more on that shortly).

A group of 4 MalkieriCon attendees stand in the lobby socializing. Someone is using an espresso machine in the background. Electric lights decorate one of the columns behind the group in the lobby.

With only one track of panels and events, the Con had a cozy, intimate feel. In just two short days, folks from all over Europe who had never before attended a Wheel of Time convention were completely hooked, marveling at the sense of belonging they felt and already planning for next year’s convention.

They didn’t have to wait long for more information about 2023. Just last week, MalkieriCon tweeted a Save the Date for next year’s Con, which will be held on September 9th and 10th at the same location. Thinking about making the trek to MalkieriCon next year? Here’s 10 reasons you should.

Close up of an espresso machine pouring espresso and milk into tall white mug.

If you’ve managed to get through a Wheel of Time convention without caffeine, you are either a robot or you are lying. Between traveling, staying up late talking to friends, and/or hitting the hotel bar a little too hard, it’s nearly impossible to get through a day of panels without a kaf or two to keep you going.

While there are plenty of options for procuring coffee at other Cons (including the most adorable Starbucks ever next to The Crowne Plaza in Atlanta where JordanCon is held), it often means leaving the Con space and spending extra money.

About 20 MalkieriCon attendees sit in rows of chairs in the conference hall. Two women in the front row are sipping from white coffee mugs.

MalkieriCon had the best approach to this problem: free and unlimited hot beverages from not one but four self-serve espresso machines right outside the convention space. This meant fast and easy drinks without having to leave the lobby, so you could get your caffeine fix and get right back to the next panel.

9. The Official Artwork

Digital art of a golden crane flying through a foggy mountain valley into the sunrise, glinting through a narrow gap between two mountains in the distance. The light of the sunrise is reflected in the dark clouds above.

Original art by Tree-x-hugger

Tree-x-hugger’s glowing rendition of the golden crane flying toward Tarwin’s Gap was the perfect artwork for the inaugural MalkieriCon. Not only does it perfectly capture the symbol of Malkier, it evokes a sense of anticipation for a journey into the beautiful unknown—exactly the feeling one might have when attending a brand new Wheel of Time convention, especially those for whom it was their first.

A small white 3-d printed nightlight with the MalkieriCon log etched onto it, with a light shining through from the back.

The art was printed on badges, t-shirts, mugs and other merch that could be purchased specifically to support the artist. One Con-goer, Nils, was so inspired by the artwork that he made it into a 3-D printed night light.

8. Friday Night

About 6 or 7 MalkieriCon attendees sit at a long rectangular table in the lobby. A man with a long beard and a blond woman with glasses smile in the foreground. Behind them is a pillar wrapped with electric lights.

With MalkieriCon being a 2-day Con, Friday night became like the Thursday nights of other Cons—people started to arrive and mingle in the lobby, buzzing with anticipation. Normally folks break off into smaller groups as the crowd expands, but the MalkieriCon early arrivals remained in one large group for most of the night. One of the many perks of having a smaller Con.

The MalkieriCon channels in the Discord server helped break the ice, as newcomers posted their names or photos before arriving in the lobby. Several people shared about feeling nervous or socially anxious, and were met with reassurance and encouragement from the group.

Although the Con had not officially started, Rob from Malkier Talks naturally assumed the role of Master of Ceremonies, warmly welcoming and orienting everyone. Later, he took the Malkieri on an unofficial tour of the nearby restaurants and pubs.

A group of 5 MalkierCon attendees stroll down a street in the Manchester City Centre. They are all smiling and laughing

Photo by Kitsenugari

The group ended up at a pub where Rob used to work, which made a convenient party spot. After chatting with the staff for a moment, Rob signaled for the group to head straight for the back of the place, where a Tetris game of connecting tables ensued.

Gradually, the tables began to accumulate more and more Malkieri arriving in Manchester. Table after table was added to accommodate newcomers, until it became a legitimate banquet-style dinner situation. Highlights included Dark Fruit Cider, servers carrying around pre-made Jägerbombs, and the arrival of the charming Aemon’s Heir, who could not have been more enthusiastic about his first convention.

7. The Lightfriend/Darkfriend Social

A group of 5 women sit at a small round table in the lobby at MalkieriCon, with drinks on the table in front of them. They are all smiling.

Saturday nights are generally the time to play dress up, head to a fancy dinner, hit the dance floor, or attend a rollicking “after-dark” panel. MalkieriCon’s version of this was the “Lightfriend/Darkfriend Social” in which partygoers identified themselves as friends of the Light or Dark based on the color of their ribbon, or in some cases, how they were dressed (spoiler alert: Lanfear's costume is highly misleading).

Highlights of the party were an assortment of delicious appetizers and access to a cash bar designated just for the Con. The photographer, Laura, set up a photo booth area for attendees to pose for group photos.

A selfie of 7 people dressed up in various costumes at MalkieriCon.

Photo by Zireael

Any good Saturday night Con party needs an after-party, so when the downstairs lobby closed, the Malkieri migrated upstairs for more drinks and late night pizza.

This is where things get a little fuzzy, but I remember a lot of laughter and vibrant discussion, flirtation, hilarious photos from a Russian dating website, and the distinct feeling that no one wanted the night to end.

6. The Costume Contest

Sulin, a pretty young woman, dressed as the Lady Selene, wearing a long white dress and silver belt with stars and moons. She wears a black wig with a silver moon headband around her head.

Similar to WotCon, the costume contest was held during the Saturday night festivities. But MalkieriCon’s runway show was much cozier, with audience members nearby in the downstairs lounge, at eye level with the contestants—a less intimidating arrangement than the catwalk at WotCon (though it was still one of WotCon’s best moments).

Being up close and personal with the costumes gave the audience a better appreciation of the details on each one. The entrants came up with a lot of amusing names, too, such as "Very Hot Asha'man," "Definitely Not a Shaido," and "Younger, Sexier Gleeman."

There were also costumes with backstories, like Mr. and Mrs. Z's "Double-bonded Yellow Sister and Asha'man" and the winners of Most Creative Costume, Triyan and Chrises as a “Malkieri Aes Sedai and her accidental Warder.”

Chrises and Triyan wearing intricately designed fantasy costumes with leather detailing. Chrises wears a brown dress with a laced up bodice, and Trian wears a red leather tunic and pants, with lots of fur and leather accessories. They both wear hadori headbands of the Malkieri.

Sulin, winner of Best Overall Costume, made a stunning Selene (Sulene?), and Funniest Costume went to Matthew, dressed as a picture perfect TV-version of Rand al’Thor with a Lews Therin doll held up to his ear.

4. The Charity Auction

Various prizes for the charity auction on display on a table. Most prominent are framed watercolors of Wheel of Time cast members, as well as signed headshots of some cast members.

Charity auctions are the ultimate form of guilt-free spending. Sure, you dropped £200 on those Trolloc-embroidered booty shorts, but you did it for a good cause.

The MalkieriCon auction was small but mighty, spotlighting artists within the fandom like Uno’s Art Station, who donated several prints of watercolors depicting Wheel of Time characters from the TV show.

Triyan generously donated several intricate leatherwork creations, including bookmarks, pencil holders, and dice cups (which actually contained dice—a nice touch by the MalkieriCon team).

Close up of the leather goods designed by Triyan, including dice cups (green white and orange), two pencil holders (red and tan), and several bookmarks

Sadly, there were no booty shorts at the MalkieriCon auction, but there were these hand-knit booties by Wise One Shelly. You can view a full list of the auction items here.

One claim MalkieriCon can make that no other Con can to date, is that it had the support of a Wheel of Time actor. Juliet Howland (Natti Cauthon) contributed several items to the charity auction, including an official Wheel of Time first-day-of-shooting swag bag (just the bag, not the swag), a bottle of Two Rivers Riesling signed by Howland, and signed headshots of several cast members playing characters from the Two Rivers.

Close up of several headshots of Wheel of Time actors. In the foreground is a signed photo of Helena Westerman as Laila Aybara and Christopher Sciueref as Abel Cauthon.

The auction raised £686.50 for Fresh Start for Hens and Chicken Rescue UK, charities that rescue and rehome commercial laying hens. On brand for the cozy vibe of the convention, auction winners were named and prizes bestowed in front of the crowd.

Larger auctions, like the one held at JordanCon, typically require a more pragmatic and unceremonious individual prize pick-up format; while that format is convenient, the announcement of MalkieriCon’s winners had a fun, celebratory feel.

3. The Walking Tour

Rob from Malkier Talks wearing jeans and a leather jacket, gestures at a sculpture of a red bee perched on a rock painted like honeycomb. In the background are some bushes and trees and a sign for Sackville Gardens.

Photo by Bain & Chiad

One of the best things about MalkieriCon was the location, which was very different from JordanCon and WotCon (both about 14 miles from downtown Atlanta and Columbus, respectively).

The Holiday Inn where MalkieriCon took place is located right in the Manchester city centre, within walking distance of Piccadily Gardens and its eponymous train station, one of the biggest transport hubs in Manchester.

Canal Street, a narrow street line with tables and chairs on the right and restaurants on the left, paved with cobblestones. In the center are pedestrians including a blonde woman with a backpack. Above, hanging over the street, are multiple colorful umbrellas with the colors of the pride plus flag (rainbow, black, brown, and pink blue and white).

Photo by Bain & Chiad

This created the perfect environment for a mid-day stroll through the city, visiting historical landmarks and other notable sights. Highlights included the colorful, bustling Canal Street in Gay Village, the Alan Turing memorial in Sackville Gardens, an adorable Bee in the City sculpture, and Dale Street, a popular filming location for movies, including Captain America: The First Avenger.

A crowd of people stand in line in front of a street food vendor. The sign reads "Burritos Tacos Nachos"

By far the best stop was Piccadilly Gardens Street Food Market, and it’s what makes the walking tour so genius: not only does it get a bunch of hotel-bound introverts out into the world for some fresh air and exercise, it provides several quick and easy options for lunch. I can’t speak for the other attendees, but my falafel and halloumi wrap was to die for.

2. Way of the Heron

Jim from Way of the Heron kneels and wields a practice sword above his head.

If you ask Malkier Talks, the sword forms workshop led by Jim from Way of the Heron was the one event that made MalkieriCon like no other Wheel of Time Con before. Not only is Jim a professional swordsman and stunt person, he and his partner, Dylan, have developed an entire repertoire of sword forms based on those named in the Wheel of Time.

Jim quickly won over the crowd with his effortless demonstrations and sense of humor. Perfect for a sleepy post-lunch crowd, Jim kept everyone entertained with hypothetical fight scenes (defending his brother from Trollocs, but only because he owes him money) and clever analysis of fight choreography from the books that would not work IRL (10/10 he does not recommend rolling on the ground with a sword–even if it does help you dodge an attack, you’re just as likely to stab yourself).

Jim from Way of the Heron instructs a bald man wearing a green hoodie, crossing his practice sword downwards against the man's foam sword, held straight forward. Behind Jim is Charlie, a curly brunette wearing a red Aes Sedai costume and a hadori. She's observing the demonstration.

Even without the humorous moments, the workshop still would’ve been a hit. It was fascinating to hear about WOTH’s "10 year long Sudoku" process of determining what the sword forms in the Wheel of Time might actually look like, based on only one clear description in the books and their own knowledge of how one form might counter another.

Jim also spoke about how he modifies the forms to reflect each WoT nationality’s culture, traditions, and type of sword used. For example, he compared the defensive, dodgy Carhienin fighting style to “a political debate” versus the brute force of a Borderlands-trained blademaster.

Speaking of blademasters, it was impressive to see Jim demonstrate each sword form in its most basic version, then a second time, upgraded with the flourishes he thinks a blademaster would use. It all shows an immense level of care and respect for the source material.

Jim from Way of the heron crossing foam swords with Lada, a participant at MalkieriCon.

Then there was the hands-on workshop, in which MalkieriCon attendees got to try their hand at sword forms like Swallow Taking Flight and The Rose Unfolds, the latter of which Jim swears makes you feel like "an absolute boss" once you learn to execute it.

Working in pairs with foam practice swords, the Malkieri got to know each other better and filled the room with laughter. It was actually quite an effective way to break the ice and generate new connections among WoT fans, which is really what Cons are all about at their core.

Jim from Way of the Heron suspended in the air as he performs an acrobatic flip while holding a spear.

Oh, and it's probably worth mentioning that Jim took some time to demonstrate fighting with a spear or quarterstaff, pulling off a very Aiel-like acrobatic move in the process.

1. The People Running It

kayla with long dark red hair and Katie with short brown hair, sit behind the registration desk at MalkieriCon. Rob, tall with brown hair, stands behind them. All three are smiling and wearing MalkierCon t-shirts.

In an effort to circumvent the inevitable but generic “the people were the best part” (and truly, they were), I am going to single out the people responsible for running MalkieriCon—the ones who created, organized, and executed such a perfect environment in which to meet all the other best people.

Jon al’Jenn from Visit Andor set up all the A/V equipment on site in the convention hall. His set up was so seamless and efficient, you barely noticed he was there, adjusting cameras and mics, or troubleshooting some minor problems that arose. Not only is Jon an incredibly sweet person, his presence at MalkieriCon helped ensure that the online ticket-holders could share as much of the fun as possible.

Laura, a woman with light blue highlighted hair pulled into a ponytail and wearing a white blouse and brown skirt, stands in a silly pose with one arm up and one arm down. She wears a hadori, glasses, and a professional camera on a strap around her neck.

Laura (The Daughters of Silence) captured all the important moments with her beautiful photography. She is also a very friendly and charismatic person, actively participating in panels and taking time to enjoy herself as a Con-goer in addition to being the photographer. Laura is definitely the type of person you would want to get into mischief with, frequently raiding the complementary candy jars and encouraging others to do so.

Kayla (Chief Events Organizer) and Katie (“Staff”) are more like one person than two. Cousins who could be sisters or even twins, the two of them stuffed gift bags, worked the registration table, and brewed several batches of homemade tea for their tea demonstration panel.

Using the very little information that exists on types of tea in the Wheel of Time, they attempted to create concoctions to match their descriptions in the books. Basically Kayla and Katie are to tea what Jim and Dylan are to sword forms.

Rob, Kayla, and Katie sit at tables at the front of the convention hall, running a panel about tea. They all smile out at the crowd. Four glass bottles of tea are on the table along with small paper cups. In the foreground are 2 electric urns and more cups.

Kayla in particular deserves a medal for her contributions to MalkieriCon, as she handled most of the planning and organization. But what’s most memorable about Kayla and Katie is that they are instantly likable people, quick with a joke or a funny story, and very generous with their time and resources.

Katie, visiting from the United States, has only read one Wheel of Time book and did not originally plan to be part of MalkieriCon, but she embraced it and quickly endeared herself to everyone there.

Special shoutout to the quick-witted and vivacious Queen Anna, an enormously helpful member of the MalkieriCon planning committee and the crafter of the leather braided hadoris you see everyone wearing in the photos.

The hadoris, thoughtfully made in two different sizes, were what made everyone feel truly Malkieri, and it’s exactly the kind of detail that made MalkieriCon so special. Anna was also nice enough to have a birthday during the Con, which made the Saturday night festivities even more fun.

Carolina, a tall woman with curly blonde hair, wearing jeans and a patterned shirt, holds out a small cake with 5 glowing candles on it to Queen Anna, a shorter woman with short red hair, wearing a black off-the-shoulder sweater and black pants. They're both smiling, and Anna looks very touched.

Rob from Malkier Talks, the creator of MalkieriCon and Master of Ceremonies, will insist that he was “just” the person with the microphone. But he organized almost all of the digital content, including livestreams, Discord channels, audio and video for use during panels, social media posts, and all the content for the charity auction website.

Not to mention it takes a lot of energy to be “on” in front of a crowd for two days straight, troubleshoot problems on the fly, and make sure everyone is having a good time.

Long view of an empty conference room lined with rows of chairs with an aisle open down the center. in the far distance, at the front of the room is a projector screen and some tables. Rob sits at the table resting his head on his chin, looking at his laptop.

Rob was the perfect host for Europe’s first Wheel of Time convention. He is one of the hardest working creators in the fandom. He has the determination and competence to pull off a big project like this, as well as the kindness and generosity to give it heart.

Amidst all of the prep work and stress, he took the time to bake 5 dozen homemade honeycake cupcakes in golden wrappers, so that everyone could get one in their gift bag.

A MalkieriCon gift bag, a small brown paper bag with some papers inside, resting on a folded up MalkieriCon t-shirt. On top of the t-shirt is a golden-wrapped honeycake cupcake, and a leather hadori.

MalkieriCon felt like a lighter, sweeter version of WoTCon, but in the post-Con blues, instead of missing all my old friends, I am now missing 50 new ones. The only solace is knowing we’ll meet again next year and bring more friends along with us (looking at you, Three Fold Talk).

It’s exciting to imagine how MalkieriCon will grow and change in 2023. Until then, check out some of the awesome memories captured in this photo montage.

Bain & Chiad (she/her) is a regular contributor and the creator of Maidens’ List, a weekly opinion column about the Wheel of Time book series, TV show, and fandom.

Selfie, from left to right is Uno, wearing a navy tunic with red hair pulled back and a nose ring; Bain & Chiad, with short brown hair in a black dress with red lipstick, holding onto Rob's shoulders. Rob is next, wearing a black tee and smiling goofily with eyes wide. Last is Aginor, a bald man with a red beard, also smiling in a goofy manner.


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