May 2017~ Heroes & Villains Fan Fest

Heroes & Villains Fan Fest is run by the same company that run the awesome Walker Stalker Cons that also take place at Olympia in February/March. I planned to go to this event from the day it was announced and it would also be the first event my brother would attend with me in 4 years, so I was hoping it was going to be good.

I knew how Fanfest ran their Walking Dead events, and yes, whilst they are pricey compared to events run by UK based companies, you have to take into account a variety of things. Such as the fact that they are a US based company so would be liable to pay some sort of business tax in the UK, they actually pay their staff (yes, they have some volunteers) whilst most UK event organisers run on volunteers alone (except for “management”), they bring a lot of their own equipment with them from the US and they cap numbers and still use two halls in Olympia. Personally, I’d rather pay more for a pleasant, organised experience rather than attend a cattle market, one such event was set to take place the exact same weekend!

Looking back at the guests they normally get for their US based events, it seemed to be a good mixture of people from DC and Marvel Superhero TV shows and Films plus guest from other popular shows thrown in for good measure.

The final line-up was announced over a series of months, with Stephen Amell from Arrow and Melissa Benoist from Supergirl headlining the event. My brother was interested in meeting both, whilst I wanted to meet Melissa, plus a few other of the other guests. 31 guests were announced in total. Unfortunately, 5 had to cancel for various reasons, including Melissa Benoist.

About 3 weeks before the event, someone introduced me to a new show. Designated Survivor. It stars Kiefer Sutherland (from 24) and also Italia Ricci who was attending the event as she had appeared in Supergirl as Siobhan Smythe/Silver Banshee. Now I don’t normally like political dramas but this was like The West Wing meets 24. I was hooked and polished off the whole series in about 5 days. I then made the choice to add Italia to my ‘to meet’ list and, as you will read, it was a good choice!

The week of the con arrived. An event occurred that could potentially cause problems. A terrorist set off a bomb at a music concert in Manchester, killing 22 (including children) and injuring many others. The UK threat level was increased to its highest level-critical. Would HVFF back down, or show these people that in the face of terror you never give in and let them win. Rather than cancel, HVFF beefed up security, and whilst it would mean things might be a bit slower, it would hopefully keep us all safe. It was the right thing to do. Show these people that no matter what, you can’t keep us down.

The day of the con arrived! I arrived with my brother at around 10.30am and he was finally able to meet my mate Fudge as she was there to satisfy her Stephen Amell addiction (which she did). I had a few photoshoots (as you will see below) and then my brother and I spent the day browsing the vendors, watching some panels, including the cosplay contest and meeting guests. My brother met Emily Bett Rickards from Arrow and Shantel VanSanten from The Flash. I think he preferred the latter! I spent some time chatting to Richard Brake who plays the Night King in Game of Thrones and was fascinated to hear how his costume and makeup (which takes 6 hours to put on) actually causes him to bleed when he wears it and, if not careful when using the toilet, he could lose an important body part!

We left at about 4pm after an awesome day.

At this point I would like to give a big shoutout to the HVFF disability team. My brother is disabled and uses a mobility scooter, and at the moment am unable to stand in one place for extended periods. The whole setup for disabled people was awesome. From line access to guest booths, to queuing for photo shoots and the quiet room. It was all awesome. I made sure on Sunday to take some cupcakes to the ladies (Steph & Anne) running the quiet room as they did an awesome job.

Day 2 came and I had a couple of photo ops left plus I wanted to watch the Captain America panel with Stanley Tucci (Dr Erskine) and Hayley Atwell (SSR Agent Peggy Carter). The panel was great! Both guests bounced off each other very well and the host did a good enough job not to be too intrusive and get in the way.

Apart from my final photo ops and autographs, my final task was to meet the awesome and very lovely Italia Ricci (and her husband Robbie Amell, who wanted my tee-shirt). I’d had some pins made in the style of a Presidential Election Campaign and had put her character from Designated Survivor (Emily Rhodes, White House Chief of Staff) on as you can see below.

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I also had a matching shirt made, which Italia first saw in the photo-op (see below) which she thought was awesome.

Italia Ricci A

Italia liked the pin and said she would have liked one for the director and for Kiefer Sutherland. Luckily I had more. I then had a quick chat, grabbed a selfie and off I went! Both Italia and Robbie are awesome and make a lovely couple. Plus, Italia loves pizza so HAS to be awesome!

Italia Ricci B

I had a final wander around the stalls, managed to avoided buying a very expensive Captain America shield and left at around 4pm.

Overall, it was an absolutely awesome weekend. I could not honestly find fault with anything. The organisation was spot on and there was so much space it was great! You could move around without problem.

My final guest list was:-

Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy/The Walking Dead)

Brandon Routh (Chuck/Legends of Tomorrow)

Sean Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Stanley Tucci (Captain America/The Hunger Games)

Richard Brake (Game of Thrones)

Maisie Richardson-Sellers (Legends of Tomorrow/Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Italia Ricci (Designated Survivor/Supergirl)

I can’t wait until the 2018 event and I’m hoping that all of my brothers family are able to attend as well. The kids would look great dressed as Superheroes!

If you’d like to find out more, then head over to:- heroesfanfest.com

May 2017 ~ Disney Ways Of The Force Day

Disney Stores across the UK announced that the May Day Bank Holiday weekend would be Star Wars Weekend in the majority of their stores.

Most of their Star Wars products would be on sale at 50% off and there would be activities for kids in-store as well as members of the UK Garrison/501st Cosplayers present as well.

I took my niece and nephews to the Westfield London store and they had an amazing time (and spent a small fortune- my own fault!). They bought a number of Star Wars items, had fun with the Stormtroopers and took part in Jedi Training which involved learning the Jedi mind trick, how to use a Lightsaber and then helping to blow up the Death Star. At the end they were given a medal.

It was an awesome little event and I hope now that Disney own Star Wars, they do something similar every year!

May 2017 ~ Rogue Events- Telford Fanzone

I’ve been attending conventions since 1989. I’ve been to some amazing events and some really sub-par events.

Over the years, many of my con-buddies have advised me to avoid Rogue Events and, up until recently, I had done so. Then someone told me that they had announced 3 guests for their new event, Telford Fan Zone, that I have wanted to see for a while. Elizabeth Henstridge and Adrianne Palicki from Agents of SHIELD and Chyler Leigh from Supergirl. I’ve wanted to meet these three ladies for a while and get their autographs for my collection so I thought I’d give it a shot so I checked out their website.

Initially, I had a few concerns so I decided to email the organisers. I did not receive a reply. So I took to social media and tried both Twitter and Facebook. Again, no reply, even to questions posted in the groups. I was emailing about access requirements for those with medical conditions. I also checked the help section of the website and it was, in a word, ineffective at best.

As the event drew nearer I began thinking about photo shoots as I would love to have one each with the ladies. I looked at how to purchase and was slightly shocked to find out that it required a bank transfer. You filled out the online form, it gave you a reference number and then they would eventually reconcile it with their records. If that didn’t happen you could apparently turn up with all the paperwork to prove it. This didn’t seem a very safe and reliable method for me and I didn’t want to turn up at the event and find out I had nothing. It also doesn’t really offer the buyer much in the way of purchase protection. This seems weird when you can buy entry tickets through Eventbrite. Why not photo shoots too?

I had also read many horror stories of recent events also run by this company as well as being told by some people at another event I had attended that they had been shoved around by Rogue Events staff and nothing was done about it. Also I was told examples of photo shoots being oversold and carried over to the next day which would not work for me as I could only do the Saturday.

I recently posted on their social media sites that I was unhappy with everything and was intending to not attend, thus wasting my entry fee and my train fare. I was hoping this MIGHT get me some kind of response from these people. Yet again, nothing.

Last night they announced that at 12 noon they would be announcing something special for Telford Fan Zone. That never happened and the fans cries for an answer seem to fallen on deaf ears. This was the final nail in the coffin. As much as I want to meet these amazing ladies, Chyler Leigh especially, I can’t risk that my hard-earned money might go astray and I miss out on things I thought I had paid for and also that I might be treated as badly as some of my con buddies.

Thanks for nothing Rogue Events. For the fans that are attending I really hope this event does actually work. I do believe the organisers need to take a close look at themselves, their customer service and their financial procedures as to me it all seems a bit odd.

To the guest I’m going to miss, I hope I do eventually get to meet you and I hope they event organisers don’t mess you around!