Updated: Oct 9
The Best and Most Unique Aspects of Europe's First Wheel of Time Convention
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
Photo by Anxiety and Books
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.
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
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.”
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
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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