HeroFestival Marseille: The Convention Made in France

©Julie Escurignan
On the 12th-13th of November, Marseille’s Parc Chanot hosted the third edition of the HeroFestival.

HeroFestival is a 2-day convention dedicated to Heroes. The con hosted cosplayers, artists, actors, Youtubers, illustrators and E-Sport players for a weekend of fun and geekiness. The two guests of honor were Hunger Games and Vikings’‘ actor Alexander Ludwig, as well as Game of Thrones’‘ actor Dean-Charles Chapman. We couldn’t talk to the latter due to the security measures enforced by his agents, who apparently believe he’s not old enough to be approached. Most of the guests were open to discussion with the public and fruitful exchanges took place both days. However, the fact that the majority of the guests were French really anchored regionally and nationally the HeroFestival, the main spoken language on site being French.

The Star Wars Cosplayers parade on Sunday (©Julie Escurignan)

Also present at the HeroFestival were the 501 Legion and the Rebel Legion, and with them, many amazing Star Wars cosplayers. The Jedi Fight Academy proposed demonstrations of laser fighting, for the pleasure of all the fans. The R2D2 builders displayed beautiful fan-made replicas of the famous robot. Manga and anime weren’t forgotten in the Konoha section, as well as steampunk cosplayers who could gather in the Broceliande area in the Steampunk village. HeroFestival even provided entertainment outside the buildings, where guests could wonder around a medieval village or train in sword fighting and archery. One of the highlights was the possibility to approach and pet Loki, a wolf dog that reminded us of Viking beasts and Game of Thrones’ direwolves.

Sunday’s Cinema/Series Cosplayers’ parade (©Julie Escurignan)

The main strength of this convention is, without a doubt, the place given to cosplayers. Whether they wish to walk around in cosplay, parade on the stage or participate in a contest, each cosplayer can do what suits them the most. World-leading cosplayers were present to chat with fans and fellow cosplayers, as well as judge or participate in the competition. HeroFestival hosted a French regional cosplay competition qualifying one cosplayer for the French national cosplay contest. For cosplayers only willing to get on a stage without competing, cosplay parades were organized by areas and themes: cinema and series, video games, and manga/anime. In each parade, cosplayers were grouped by universes and franchises: DC Comics, Marvel, The Witcher, Disney… All except for Deadpool, who always does as he pleases! Numerous people surrounded the stages to have a glimpse at their favorite characters as well.

Cinema/Series Cosplayers (©HeroFestival)

There is no doubt, HeroFestival is a nice con with a friendly atmosphere and lots of worthy craftspeople and it keeps growing (41,500 attendees this year). However, the French con still has room for improvement at the organizational level. Despite the friendliness of the staff, volunteers seemed a bit overwhelmed. The place felt extremely crowded due to the closeness of all the stands: HeroFestival is not for agoraphobics.

In addition, all the stages and places where panels, contests and parades took place were included in the same space as the booths and other demonstrations. This was a problem on both sides: people on stage didn’t get the fixed attention of the public, while attendees visited the place with sound disturbances. The lack of space was especially a problem during the guests of honor panels and the cosplay contest (even more so when League of Legends players were screaming just near the stage). There were no seats for people to rest on and no displayed screen to see from afar, which prevented more people from attending these events. If the exteriors of the con were agreeable and filled with entertainment, it did feel like there was a lack of free space for cosplayers’ meetings and gatherings. Attendees felt squeezed, which is never a good feeling to have during a con. Perhaps a reorganization of the (good-sized) space and more international guests and attendees would bring a refreshing breeze to the city of Marseille!

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