The Sherlocked convention is supposed to kick off this coming weekend, but it’s already off to a rocky start, with fans demanding their money back due to Benedict Cumberbatch not being on the guest list. The problem is that he was never on the guest list to begin with, so it’s unlikely anyone will be getting a refund.
Corrected 9/20/2016: Since publication we’ve been informed that Cumberbatch was added at the last minute for Sunday (believed to be due to vocal attendees). Please read this article with the understanding that this information was not available at the time of publication, but our criticism of many aspects of the convention still stand.
It’s an awkward position for me, having to defend the Sherlocked convention, because I’ve been highly critical of them before. A few weeks ago they made the claim that this was going to be Amanda Abbington’s first convention appearance, which is flat out incorrect. Two members of this website were present at her San Diego Comic-Con Nerd HQ panel, so she’s definitely been to a con before. The convention organizers made the case that there was a difference between a “con” and a “convention,” which is a silly distinction to make in the first place. Much of this argument has since been deleted from their Twitter account (perhaps they realized that “con” was short for “convention,” I don’t know), but the claim has obviously stuck with me because of how bizarre that Twitter encounter was.
Our friends over at The Collective had quite a negative experience at Sherlocked last year and it’s worth a read to see what the convention is like. Check out their article “Not so sure about Sherlocked” for a full write-up of their experience. Basically, the con seems to naturally court controversy and most of it is very much justified.
In this case, I have to defend the con on this one point: they never claimed that Benedict Cumberbatch would be on their guest list. While he did attend last year, he has never been announced for the 2016 con and as early as January his spokespeople were clear that he was not scheduled for the convention – they even stated that he would most likely be unable to attend due to Doctor Strange commitments. Yet attendees paid the ludicrous £3,000 VIP price without knowing who would show up. Of course that is unfortunate, but sadly it is a risk you take when you buy convention passes before they announce their full lineup.
The Daily Mail’s most recent article seems to imply that he was announced as a guest and then canceled, which is not the case. Had it been the case, the attendees’ ire would be much more understandable. But sadly, even if that were what happened, most cons have disclaimers that guest lists are subject to change and are not grounds for a refund. In this case, there was no change at all. He was never booked and chose to spend his last weekend before his marketing tour for Doctor Strange with his family. It’s clear that there was a lot of money spent on assumptions.
Make no mistake, with this particular convention the price for that assumption is extraordinarily high and I really feel bad for people who put a lot of money down on the off chance they might see Cumberbatch. They took a risk and it didn’t pay off. I’ve never seen a convention this expensive before and I’ve attended several Creation cons that have a reputation for high costs. Creation announces their primary guests months if not years in advance, usually adding surprise special guests as the con gets closer. But even they have unexpected cancellations from time to time. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a risk con goers are familiar with.
Essentially, this whole Sherlocked convention situation is a disaster. The convention is exorbitantly expensive and they’ve made false statements about their guests, just to name a couple of the many problems involved with the con. But the lack of Benedict Cumberbatch isn’t exactly their fault. It’s a common risk of con attendance and you can’t fault the con organizers for the attendees making an assumption about who might be in attendance. If you are going to be upset with the convention, be upset with them for some of their many other blunders. You have quite a few to choose from.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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