Justin does Sexhibition Expo 2016
Sexhibition Expo 2015 was without doubt one of my fondest memories of last year. In terms of events, functions and the like it was by far my favourite. It was by no means flawless, it had its issues that I noted in my write up but overall I felt that it was a resounding success and enjoyed myself immensely. Sexhibition Expo 2016 which took place between the 19th-21st August in Manchester, UK had me both excited and worried – would it be as good as last year? More importantly – Would it stand as the self proclaimed “erotic event of the year” on its own merit or because it has no challenger to the throne?
Welcome to the Warehouse
A few months before the event the Sexhibition team had announced that there was a change of venue and that the event would be held at the Victoria Warehouse and not Event City. I know this had caused a few issues for some people who had booked their hotels based upon the previous venue and paid in advance, meaning that the change had them further from the venue than planned. Not an issue for myself but announcements or lack thereof became a bit of a theme over the weekend.
Last year the Friday had been reserved as B2B only with the Saturday being the first day for consumers to attend. This year Sexhibition Expo opened it’s doors to everyone on the Friday which for these type of events is always going to be a hard sell as people are still at work or just returning. I arrived about an hour after the doors opened and I’ll be honest, before I got inside had a sinking feeling overall. The main reason for this was due to going to pick up my press pass from a rusty shipping crate masquerading as a booking office.
You may think it better described as rustic chic, I would disagree and say shitting crate is more apt. However I did receive my press pass and was happy to find that this year we were given lanyards clearly indicating that we were press which was a ray of hope that opinions from the previous event had been taken on board. Before the entrance there was a token booth where you handed over cash for tokens to spend on drinks within the venue. £10 would get you five tokens which would pay for 5 cups of tea.
The entrance to the building proper was through two sets of flimsy plastic doors that I don’t think I touched the entire weekend and weren’t helping with my initial impressions. Once inside I was…underwhelmed to put it nicely and my initial feeling was that of being in a dark, dingy sex shop whereby I was seriously missing my trench-coat and trilby. As far as first impressions go I don’t think it could have been worse for me and I imagine for newcomers to these events probably did nothing to dismiss the idea that what they enjoy is dark and seedy.
Doing The Rounds
As with all events I spend the first hour or so just wandering around and getting a feel for the place, locating things that I eventually want to go to etc. The stage area was huge and well positioned, plenty of seating available with lines of stalls leading towards it. As I walked around it was easy to get a little lost, the venue was open plan but with lots of different rooms and as most of them all looked identical – finding your way round was troublesome. There was no obvious way for the foot traffic to flow and I often found myself back where I started unintentionally.
It has to be noted though that while doing the rounds I had to give the Sexhibition crew more points for fixing issues that cropped up last year. There were a number of bars and they were of a decent size with plenty of staff to man them which was a nightmare last year. The toilets were very large which again was far better than last year though the ability to see directly into them because the doors were always open may be an issue. Particularly for the guys as from the right angle it was very easy to see dudes pissing in certain urinals.
Several times I passed a set of stairs that seemed to have the odd person using but had no idea where they went or if I could use them. Eventually I passed by while a guy was sticking a hand written note at the bottom of the stairs to indicate that there was indeed more to view up there. It was for the most part dead but then people wouldn’t know it was there. As the weekend progressed this area became quite busy which was great to see.
I stopped by to speak to a few people that I already knew and had a good conversation with Lee Schofield from ETO, KinkCraft, Sheets of San Francisco and Victoria Blisse who had somehow wrangled the most comfortable chairs in the whole event for the Author Corner. It was very evident to me though that a lot of the familiar faces that you see at these events weren’t there. Most of them in the sex-toy field.
That didn’t really surprise me either. Where last year I think Sexhibition Expo had cast its net as wide as possible to try and cater to as many tastes as it could, this year its focus seems to have narrowed. Focusing predominantly on fetish, kink and the alt scenes with a greater emphasis on clothing and specific equipment relevant to the cultures it was catering to.
An Award Show I Didn’t Attend
On the Friday evening there was Sexhibition’s award show and your’s truly was nominated for Sex Journalist of the year. You’re probably thinking the same thing thing that I am – “how the fuck did that happen?” and I’ll be honest…I have no idea. As honoured as I am at the recognition for what I have done these last couple of years I never thought I was in with a chance, especially considering who I was up against. There were people on that list of nominees that were far more deserving to be there than me and one day hope to actually pose a legitimate challenge to.
I decided to not go to the awards for a couple of reasons, first I was never going to win, second – I didn’t know a great deal about the meal or anything leading up to the awards as I’m assuming the nominees weren’t informed because I wasn’t. Third was that it was a rare chance for me to get to the cinema and actually see a film, so I went to see Suicide Squad. If I could make that decision again…I’d rather have suffered the disappointment of not winning the award at the show.
That’s right, I didn’t win but as I said was never going to. I came out of the cinema to check twitter to see who had won awards but though Sexhibition had said they would live tweet the results…they never did. It took me til midday on Saturday to find out who had actually won in my category. Big congratulations to all the winners though, all very well deserved.
What The Fuck Do You Mean I missed Stoya?/Holy shit…That Was Stoya!
I rolled into the event on Saturday at around 1pm, the disillusionment of the first day was not helping my desire to get out of a very comfy hotel bed (thank you premiere inn). But most of the talks etc that I was particularly interested in weren’t happening until a little later in the day so I was in no rush. The most important thing for me was the Audience With Stoya which had been a heavily marketed selling point of this years event and why wouldn’t it be, it’s fucking Stoya! But as I grumpily walked into the event with cup of tea in hand I was met by a very nervous Lola and Anna of The Angry Kitties who had the unpleasant job of telling me that I had missed it.
I’m not sure how many times they had played that conversation over in their heads before telling me. Given my reaction to the news that it had occurred about 6 hours before it was actually scheduled with no announcement of a change on social media I’m sure at least 30 times is accurate. To say I was pissed would be an understatement but even I won’t print the language that flowed from my mouth for the following 20 minutes.
A little later I decided to go outside to smoke half a pack of tobacco to calm myself, heading out with my slave who was also in attendance. As I went to what I had picked as the prime smoking spot a lovely lady pointed out that she thought my t-shirt was cool as we passed and I thanked her. It took about three more steps before I stopped dead in my tracks as realization dawned on me and ”holy shit…that was Stoya!” blurted out my mouth. I have never turned around so fast, struggled to find words and piss poorly attempt to hide the fanboy as I made an arse of myself extolling her many virtues and asking for a picture.
We chatted very briefly about having missed her earlier in the day but she informed me that she was doing a meet and greet upstairs, thanked me for my comments and agreed that I may hold her waist while she stood with me for a picture.
Things Were Looking Up
Before meeting Stoya and with the knowledge that I had missed the rescheduled “Audience with” I had considered going home, such was my righteous fury at how the event wasn’t living up to my expectations. Afterwards I bounded back into the event with renewed vigour, made a beeline to the KinkCraft stall where I knew the guys from LoveSwingersUK were, having caught up and having the shit hugged out of me before my chance meeting with Stoya. Seriously, if there were awards for hugging…winners hands down. My mood was lifted, my perspective brighter and things were looking up.
After grabbing some cider I headed upstairs where I was stopped by a PETITE lady pointing at me and saying “Justin?”. Now, when this happens I still have this moment where in my head I think “Who the fuck are you? How do you know my name?” and “Whatever it is you think I did, It’s probably not true, probably.” I’m told this all occurs while I just glare at the person waiting for them to follow up with answers to questions I didn’t actually ask them. As it happens this was the lovely lady behind Bedroom Taboo who I have previously done a review for. We had a lovely little chat that was unfortunately a bit rushed but having spoken to her since I know that next year she plans on doing the whole weekend and look forward to being able to sit down and getting a drink to chat properly!
The upstairs area was a lot busier than it had been on the Friday which was awesome to see. That said the whole event was a lot busier with it being a Saturday and throughout the day that did seem to just get stronger. There was a queue gathering for Stoya’s meet and greet and I wandered around and saw some photoshoots being done, tattoos being done and people just generally having a cool time looking around and connecting, which is what it’s all about isn’t it?
Of Wolf And Whips
I had passed by the Whips By Wolf stall more than any other at the event but until this point never stopped. I had been coveting his floggers for a while and I knew I wasn’t leaving the event without one…at least. I also knew my bank account would seriously consider committing suicide to prevent the abuse it would inevitably take. The quality of the floggers speak for themselves but in all honesty that isn’t why I walked away with three of them, that was purely down to Wolf, Lithaya and Selene.
There were a lot of vendors at the event but none of them could hold a candle to the genuine enthusiasm and passion that you felt just talking to these guys. Not just about their products but the scene as a whole, they were warm, welcoming and most of all just good fun to be around. Wolf showed me some poy techniques, Lithaya was just a fucking ninja who kept randomly appearing and making me jump…though I caught her out once!
If I had to pick the one moment that defined the weekend for me it would be the time spent with these guys at their stand and around the event. If you didn’t get the chance to meet and talk to them then you missed out, you really did.
After heading back to the hotel for something to eat and a bit of a rest I got ready for the evening. There was a meal and a show that I didn’t go to but from what I heard, everyone enjoyed. Accompanied by both my slave and submissive we arrived to a great evening atmosphere that felt very much like last year. There were people in various stages of dress and undress, whatever they were comfortable with and everyone looked to be having a great time.
After grabbing more to drink I popped around a few stalls to see how people had been getting on. Again this year the poor vendors were having to man their stalls until the end of the evening as there was no way to leave them securely, which was a shame. At this time I had a good chat at The Kinksters who were the only ones to have the new Pokemoan dildos which looked both geeky and fun as well as plenty of ElectraStim products on show. I also had a really nice chat with Elektra UK who were selling many of E-Stim Systems products and was nice to see the Electro Pebble front and centre.
The main stage had been great the whole weekend with a variety of acts and fashion shows with Alix Fox dominating the hostess role as she did last year. The evening’s stage shows were entertaining to watch and gathered a sizable crowd with a lot of people in the wings trying to catch a good glimpse of what was going on.
An evening of fun and drinks wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to the playroom which had made a welcome return this year. My sub had already been in there and was just finishing up with Zak Jane Kier when I entered with my slave for some play with one of my new floggers. The playroom was larger than last year with a mixture of equipment and furniture for people to use which was great to see. My only complaint about the playroom would be that it was cordoned off for people who weren’t playing, this made things feel a little detached in comparison to last year. Needless to say I got her strapped down to a bench and gave the flogger a good thorough testing which we both enjoyed while seeing some lovely suspension work being done by JuJu Jezebel.
We stayed at the event until closing time before all heading back to the hotel where the fun continued well into the early hours of the morning but that is a story for another day.
Until Next Year
The Sunday was much quieter on the floor but still quite busy and I got to see a few of my friends from the local kink scene. I had to leave early in the afternoon due to some personal issues so didn’t get to stay and see Saffron unfortunately, which would have been cool. I spent most of my time doing some final catching up with people and watching the main stage before heading home.
Did Sexhibition Expo 2016 “wow” me? No, did it have it’s problems? Yes, did I have a good time regardless? Yes I did and here’s why – the people and the sense of community. Event’s like this bring a lot of people together, they make new connections, new friends and feel very comfortable. There’s no real judgement and everyone is cool, who you are, what you are into, how you identify is all irrelevant. You are part of the community, the culture, whether on the fringes of it or deep in centre.
The Sexhibition team have clearly tried to resolve some of the issues that were experienced last year from a consumer perspective. They have narrowed their scope and are showing a clear direction for where they want Sexhibition to go in the future, this isn’t a bad thing. A lot of the issues that I have pointed out here can be fixed, the flow of traffic, the communication issues, doing more with the venue to make it feel right etc. Sexhibition is still a very young event, it is still finding it’s feet but in order for it to be great what it really needs is a stable venue. They have already announced next years event will be at the same venue and hopefully this remains true. Given time at the same venue a lot of these issues can be worked on and eliminated all together making for a more cohesive event.
All that said, I still had a good fucking time while there and I look forward to attending again.
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