How Comic Con Africa is planning for Eskom’s rolling blackouts

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The banner of Comic Con Africa about to go up. Photo: Muhammad Hussain
The banner of Comic Con Africa about to go up. Photo: Muhammad Hussain

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As rolling blackouts continue to ravage South Africa due to Eskom’s load shedding, major events such as this weekend’s Comic Con Africa (CCA), at Nasrec in the south of Johannesburg, have already put in place measures to mitigate the interruption of electricity supply. The event has managed to secure nine generators to power up the Con.  

Organisers told media that they had prepared plans “B, C and D” for the event that starts on Thursday and ends on Sunday, including for the loss of electricity.

READ: Tati Gabrielle will no longer headline Comic Con Africa 2022

The CCA brings together all things pop culture, including gaming, streaming and international celebrity guests. 

Asked what would happen if, during a gaming competition, the lights were to go out, CCA marketing manager Clair Wright immediately lit up and said: 

We've got a lot of generators around the site and we have UPSes [uninterruptible power sources] for all the big stages, especially the gaming hall, where we have top-of-the range UPSes.

The one challenge with generators, though, is that they take up to a minute to kick-in when the scheduled blackouts are effected. But “this is something we cannot control,“ Wright said.

However, the battery-powered lights and the many UPS systems they have in place will help fans and festivalgoers – and gamers in competition – navigate the space throughout. 

This has added an extra cost to the staging of this event, and they have dipped into the budget they originally planned as they had to reallocate funds. But Wright was grateful to the sponsors of the event, who have helped them find alternative solutions. 

She said: 

I think load shedding has become even worse now, so the diesel and petrol [used in generators] have become more expensive.
 

Speaking to some of the technical support staff, most said they had “made a plan” to secure the electricity they need, with one telling City Press that they were “immune to this load shedding thing”. But that didn't stop the mumbling and grumbling about the blackout, which could be heard all around as exhibitors and service providers set up their stands.

BEHIND THE SCENES OF COMIC CON AFRICA

With a core team of only 14 people catering to an expected 50 000 to 80 000 people, Wright was quick to mention the cohort of volunteers who have come on board and helped get things set up. Previous Cons saw about 100 volunteers each, with some coming back this year from the last Con held before the Covid-19 pandemic, back in September 2019. 

Below is a gallery of what the exhibition hall looks like ahead of the weekend:

The grayscale graffiti wall at Comic Con Africa 2022. Photo: Muhammad Hussain
The banner of Comic Con Africa about to go up. Photo: Muhammad Hussain
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Final touches applied to exhibition stands at Comic Con Africa 2022. Photo: Muhammad Hussain
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The stage is almost set for Comic Con Africa 2022. Photo: Muhammad Hussain
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The Stranger Things interactive section has been kept a secret with fans set to experience something special. Photo: Muhammad Hussain
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Comic Con Africa is adding final touches to the event scheduled to start on Thursday at Nasrec. Photo: Muhammad Hussain

Planning the Con usually takes place a year in advance, and includes reaching out to celebrity guests, securing sponsors and making sure that the venue selected is fit for purpose. However, since the last event was in 2019, the planning was even longer this time round. 

Wright says: 

When you choose a venue, size is important, as well as health and safety. So, we spend months and months poring over site maps and working on where the exits will be and what medical and fire equipment is needed.

 Once all the stands have been confirmed and the Con is ready for roll-out, a final sign-off is needed:

All the stands are signed off by an engineer, and an electrical engineer signs off on the distribution boards. There is also a health and safety sign-off by the joint operations committee of the City of Johannesburg.

With most of the heavy lifting done in the last five days before curtains up, exhibitors, brands and those who've partnered with the CCA this year were adding the final touches when City Press visited.

Find more details on Comic Con Africa 2022 here.

PS: There is a Stranger Things surprise that fans can expect. Below is a sneak preview:


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