On Saturday, July 16 and Sunday, July 17, thousands of visitors attended a Comic Con at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, England. The convention appeared to be a success, until the organisers suddenly disappeared on Sunday – so what happened?
The first indication that something was wrong came from Claudia Wells, the actress who played Jennifer Parker (Marty McFly’s girlfriend) in Back to the Future. I took this photo of the lovely Claudia at an event in Los Angeles.
Claudia posted this on her Facebook page:
That was pretty shocking news – has anyone heard of a convention organiser running off and not paying anyone?
Claudia mentioned ‘Wayne and his wife’ – but who are they? They are Wayne Lee Streak and Jessica Rose Hambley, who run HTF EVENTS LTD – easy to find this information on the companies house website. HTF stands for ‘Hampshire Toy Fairs’ – it sounds like they had previously run some successful small toy fairs and then stepped into the big time with this event.
Hampshire Toy Fairs has a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Hampshiretoyfair – on July 20th, they posted an update:
The full statement is below:
Our statement about the events surrounding Southampton Comic Con First of all, we would like to make it clear to everyone that this event was run by just two of us and a handful of volunteers.
We would like to issue out an apology to all those that were upset or affected by the events this weekend, things became a bit too much for us and we decided it was safer to leave, don’t get us wrong, this may have been the wrong way to go about it, but at the time, we felt it was the safest option. We are very sorry and will try and fix as much as we can.
It was our dream to put on an incredible event that everyone would enjoy, unfortunately it became a bit too much and spiralled out of control and unfortunately it reached a point of no return where either the event went ahead and we hoped and prayed that we had enough walk ins, or we cancelled and owed the public thousands of pounds. Unfortunately because the flights mounted up for all the American guests, we could no longer afford to cancel and offer refunds out. It wasn’t helped when Johnny Green didn’t issue his refund on flights after he cancelled because he forgot to renew his passport. We are still awaiting that money back but don’t imagine we’ll ever see it, so his agent can take that off his bill.
We then had the issue where the agent kept adding on extra days, we had contracts in place that we would pay for 3 nights, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and for a lot of them it turned into ‘this guest won’t be happy about not having a hotel room on Thursday’ and ‘this guest won’t be happy flying back on Tuesday if he has to pay for his room’. This scenario happened multiple times that in the end, we were so stressed by the thought of all the guests cancelling that we had to agree. In the end the hotel bill for just the guests alone was almost £8,000. And then halfway through the event we were told that the guests were refusing to go back to London via train and that we would need to cover taxis/chauffeurs for them, this would have added on a massive extra cost and we already had no way of covering this.
Perhaps it was a bit naïve of us to believe that it would all be fine, but unfortunately it was too late to think otherwise.
To those who believe we should have stayed, I ask you this, if you had seen a man threaten and raise his fists at a man in a wheelchair on Saturday night, would you stick around with your 3 month old baby when you know he’s angry at you? No. Of course you wouldn’t, if a man can threaten another man in a wheelchair (who has just got over cancer), you can only imagine he’s going to do worse to you. How he can even think he can get away with saying he was almost banned after being verbally abused is beyond us. He was verbally abused because he raised his fists at a man who had just survived cancer.
We were being intimidated and we were scared. We had already been moaned at by certain people who are now inciting violence by sharing our address to their thousands of followers, and we knew it would be coming from loads more. So for our own safety, we left. And that was after advice from a lot of other people, some of who have been saying some nasty things about us. Rob Turner, we’ve seen your comments, we remember you telling us to leave and that your skin was thick enough to take the abuse.
The venue also kept adding on costs, we found out 3 weeks before the event that we would have to pay £3,300 on some really cheap felt to cover the main halls floor. We paid £3,300 to cover the floor of a room that cost us £800 to hire for the weekend. (That’s only one room as well, the venue in its entirety was almost £15,000, and we lost half of it to them adding in extra stands at last minute. We didn’t get any money off for that. And then we got told there were no food vendors, so we started booking some in, and then 2 days later we were told this was wrong, they had food vendors and we weren’t allowed to book any in, and suddenly, we had to refund all that money back again.
We’d also like to point out to Neil Fraser – We don’t even know what happened to your artwork, we haven’t got it, we left it behind. We didn’t steal any charity money either – ESPECIALLY AS, and believe it or not, HALF THE CHARITY MONEY WAS FOR WAYNE’S SON. Like we’re going to steal money from our son… Wayne’s son has Cerebellum Disorder, which means he is undergoing chemo again and now he now cannot walk, and we wanted to raise money to purchase him a special wheelchair so he can still go for long walks in the forest with his family. Unfortunately we didn’t even raise half of what we needed and have decided that it should all go to Ivy, the other charity we were supporting. A little girl going through cancer treatment at Southampton Hospital. How dare anyone ever, EVER, accuse us of stealing from charity after everything we have all been through with Logan (who was diagnosed with LCH cancer at 7 months old.) and our best friend Jay who beat cancer only months ago. How dare you. We will await your apology and if we ever do find out what happened to your artwork, we will make sure it is sent back to you, but currently we cannot even return to our home to find out.
Grant and Eva Perkins – We never ever told anyone that you were drunk, we said that unfortunately we had hit some hotel issues – Where we could not afford to pay for said hotel rooms. (Personally I would love how we have supposedly run off with so much money when we couldn’t even afford to pay a hotel!) The only person we said that was drunk was Chris Bunn, absolutely nothing to do with either of you, so we’d like to receive an apology.
Another word on Chris Bunn – We actually asked him to leave after he verbally assaulted a member of our volunteer team and when we went to sort this out, he turned up steaming drunk. We had been warned by other organisers in the past about his behaviour but had always given him the benefit of the doubt.
Sam Lockwood, we did not steal your comic, we put it somewhere safe for you, realised it was in our folder when we got home and immediately emailed you to send it back, please don’t make up lies.
Luke Kaye, before you go round spouting that we owe you thousands, we owe you £650… We are making plans to pay as much as we possibly can as quickly as we can, but we don’t even have enough money left from the event to pay for liquidation, so that tells you how much the event failed.
For anyone who is actually waiting for money, and we mean really waiting for money, not just jumping on a bandwagon, please email your OFFICIAL invoice over to firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can check how much we owe you and we can work out what we can pay right now and what we may have to pay in the future (If not possible to write it all off right now.) We will not be responding to any nasty messages, and if anyone does feel they have any nasty words to send our way, just note your payments will be going to the back of our queue.
The only thing we are really distressed about after this weekend is that we cannot purchase Logan his wheelchair that was promised and that we cannot give more to Ivy’s charity.
Any threats sent our way will be added to the Police Crime Reference that we have in place and anyone turning up on our doorstep will have the police called on them. Anyone who can threaten a household with 3 young children in it needs to have a long hard think about themselves.
We made a mistake, an event ran away from us, but we are doing our best to get back to as many people as we can. We are really sorry to anyone who was affected or upset by anything this weekend, we will try and fix as much as possible, but please remember we are only a family and can only do so much to make up for it, we will certainly be leaving the event world far behind us and the likelihood is that it will be very difficult for us to return to our family home after so many people have threatened us.
Apologies that this is so late, but unfortunately we have been speaking with police and business debt advisers all day to figure out our best solution. They wanted us to liquidate the company, but we didn’t want to let everyone down anymore than we already had.
Thank you to the few that have supported us and continue to support us, you guys will forever be our greatest friends.
So, what do you think? Did Jessica and Wayne have good intentions, but then costs spiralled out of control – or did they just run off with the money?
Note that nobody from BugAdvisor attended this convention and we have no idea what actually happened apart from the information discovered above. We aren’t inferring anything, just gathering what is known in one place – so don’t sue us!
https://www.southampton-comiccon.co.uk/ – for as long as the website lasts.