Home­grown hero

With more than 60,000 pop cul­ture fans ex­pected to at­tend Dubai’s Mid­dle East Film and Comic Con this month, we meet Arafaat Ali Khan, the man who helped make geek cul­ture cool in Dubai

Good (UAE) - - THE GOOD LIFE -

Tell us how Comic Con got started

My­self and co-founder Ben Caddy are mas­sive pop cul­ture fans, and we were chat­ting about the lack of a Comic Con here. We knew there was in­ter­est in the re­gion and lots of tal­ent, so thought why don’t we do it our­selves? It took a year or two of re­search, and a lot of peo­ple told us ‘This is crazy, it’s never go­ing to work’. But we were adamant it would.

Was there a mo­ment when you re­alised you’d made it?

In our first year, 2012, at Dubai In­ter­na­tional Marine Club, we had guests lined up but we didn’t have a sin­gle big spon­sor. Our first press con­fer­ence lasted an hour and a half, and we were dy­ing to get out and see if any­one had turned up. Then we found out there was traf­fic all the way down Beach Road with peo­ple try­ing to get into the event. In the end, we had more than 15,000 vis­i­tors in our first year.

What do you think has been the se­cret of Comic Con’s suc­cess?

I think it’s the fact that we’re pas­sion­ate fans, just like our au­di­ence, so we look at ev­ery­thing from the per­spec­tive of ‘Will this ex­cite us?’

What’s the big­gest mis­con­cep­tion about the event pro­gramme?

Peo­ple don’t think that there’s some­thing for ev­ery­one. They think pop cul­ture is very niche and they pic­ture lonely geeks read­ing comic books in their mom’s base­ment. But ac­tu­ally, pop cul­ture has gone so main­stream these days, thanks to shows like Game of Thrones, the Marvel movies and Harry Pot­ter. There’s a fan in ev­ery­one.

What ad­vice would you give other en­trepreneurs?

Keep your pas­sions alive and stay com­mit­ted to them, even if you have to do that out­side of your day job. Whether you’re a banker who sketches or a jour­nal­ist who loves comic books, make time for the things you love.

What ad­vice would you give to some­one who’s at­tend­ing Mid­dle East Film and Comic Con for the first time?

Pre­pare to have your mind blown. There’s such a buzz around the place and the pos­i­tiv­ity is pal­pa­ble, but do your re­search be­fore­hand. Know what you want to see and what you want to do, be­cause you won’t be able to do ev­ery sin­gle thing.

April 6 to 8

Dubai World Trade Cen­tre, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai, Thur 11am to 9pm, Fri and Sat 10am to 10pm, Dhs100 to Dhs500. Tel: (04) 3321000. Metro: World Trade Cen­tre. mefcc.com

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