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

April 2017~ FCD Out of the Ashes 2.0

I honestly don’t know where to begin!

Video courtesy of Mr Vestek

Once again I was part of the team behind the organisation and running of the event. As one of the management team, my role was to be responsible for the dealers, talks and main rooms alongside one other manager (Fudge). I arrived at the venue at around 1pm on Friday and made my way to the venue (The International Centre, Telford) to help with setup. The bulk of the work was being done by TIC staff so it was down to us to set up our own areas. The dealers were in setting up their tables. The chairs and sound system were all set up in the talk area. This just left the main event room. The guest tables were ready thanks to Karen, the charity tables were almost ready which meant it just left the props and the Carrie Fisher memorial to do.

Kevin Chapman arrived with his Tardis and TOS Captain Kirk chair and began setting them up with the help from our guys. Phil Cocking was setting up his Battlestar Galactica rag-tag, fugitive fleet whilst Steven Cockings (no relation I think!) was setting up his Stargate props display. Our Cylon Raider was already in place so all we needed were the two TV police cars courtesy of Stephen and Mark. They would arrive just before the opening ceremony at around 6pm.

Adam had finished setting up the photo area upstairs, the Blue room (staff chill out area) and the Green room for the guests was also finished. Alison and her team were busy organising reception. I began work on putting together the Carrie Fisher memorial. Adam came to help and we got it finished at around 4.45pm.

We then headed back to our hotel to freshen up before the evening’s events.

The team made their way back to TIC ready for the opening ceremony. At about 7.30pm we began letting people in to collect their passes and take their seats. The ceremony began shortly after 8pm with our host, Neil leading the way. Our guests for the weekend were John Carrigan (Star Trek), Aron Eisenberg and JG Hertzler (Star Trek: Deep Space 9), Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager), Rainbow Sun Francks (Stargate: Atlantis), David Blue (Stargate Universe), Claudia Christian and Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5). Once the welcoming speeches were out of the way we all moved upstairs for the buffet, followed by the group guest photoshoots. The first day came to an end at around 11.30pm. Luckily, The Holiday Inn was only a two-minute walk away.

The next day began bright and early. After a good breakfast I arrived at the TIC at 8.15am. We made sure that everything was ready and, after a short team briefing by Wil, we opened the doors!

Over the course of the day we had guest talks (both single and groups), a quiz (I won!!), autograph signings and photo shoots with the guests plus a dealers room and variety of props to look at and play with. In the afternoon, Claudia held an auction with all the proceeds going to The C3 Foundation.

Doors closed at 6pm and after making sure that everything was ready for the next day we went back to our hotel to get ready for the evening.

Saturday night was party night and the theme was Icons! There were so many people who were dressed up as iconic characters, but I was too knackered and wanted to wear my Princess Leia shirt as a way of honouring Carrie Fisher. John Carrigan gave a short talk about mental health and then the party got going. It ended about 1am but I gave up at about 11.30pm. I wanted to be as fresh as possible for the next day.

Sunday was pretty much a repeat of Saturday although the talks were a bit different. Sundays are always quieter at cons but it was still nice and chilled. We had a charity auction at 4pm to raise money for our charities (MIND, Macmillan, Help for Heroes) but I left to go and begin breaking down the main room.

Once everything was done the event closed. There was only one final thing to do: The crew after party. Luckily this took place at our hotel so there wasn’t far to go. The team, guests and attendees with Phoenix Plus or Jeff passes were also there. Wil and David gave a ‘short’ (50 minutes!!) speech and then things got going. I spent some time chatting with Aron and his girlfriend Malissa, plus Bruce’s wife Verena who was lovely.

All in all it was an absolutely awesome weekend. The team worked their butt’s off and the guests were amazing. The attendees were equally as awesome and friendly with a great amount and variety of costumes on display. Our aim is to bring back the family-friendly cons of the past where you could chill out and relax with the guests and I think we can safely say we managed that!

I really hope Wil and David do another event in 2019 and hopefully I’m still a part of the team!

March 2017~ Walker Stalker Con London

This year’s event was announced shortly after last years event ended. I purchased a General Admission ticket and got another free which I gave to my mate Mags.

I have to say I had an absolute blast at Walker Stalker London 2017!

Yes, I’ll be the first to admit that they are a tad pricier than other big events, but when you consider they used the same space than one of the country’s biggest event organisers but they cap the number of attendees to around 8000 (as opposed to the 25,000 in one day at one of the summer events last year) I honestly don’t mind paying. I also think that being a US based company they will have higher costs and there may be additional taxes involved. (I don’t know for sure, I’m just speculating)

I met loads of amazing guests, including the lovely Alanna Masterson (Tara, who I have met a few times and she remembered me) who gave me a little birthday present (pictured below), Seth Gilliam (Fr Gabriel), Scott Wilson (Hershel), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan), Katelyn Nacon (Enid), Lennis James (Morgan) and Nestor Carbonell (Richard in LOST).

None of the guests were rushing and you got to have a good chat with them. I chatted with Seth about being a tourist in London and his upcoming Poland trip. Scott and I spoke about the short-lived show, Damien and how it deserved a longer run. I spoke with Nestor about the LOST finale and Richard’s story arc. Finally I spoke with Alanna about lots of things including my Tara T-Shirt I had made and our previous day’s photo-op.

I wanted a different pose with Jeffrey Dean Morgan for his photo-op. I figured that most people would go for the Lucille bat type pose. I came up with the idea of buying a poo emoji cushion and dressing it up as Negan. I labelled it Negan’s Shit. I drew a fair bit of attention during the event and JDM loved it during photoshoot.  He said “I love that cute pile of shit!”. Amazing!

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There were amazing cosplayers as usual and some great panels too. Panel highlights include Katelyn Nacon’s singing interlude. She has an awesome voice! The Tara/Rosita/Eugene/Abraham reunion was also very good.

The organisers used much more of Olympia this year compared to last year so there was lots of room to move around without wanting to kill each other and the queuing system for autographs and photoshoots was spot on.

I left early before I became totally skint!

Roll on next year! A huge thanks to James and everyone else at Walker Stalker Con…

 

November 2016~ FCD Out Of The Ashes 1.5

After the success of 1.0, fans asked for an event nearer to Christmas. It didn’t have to have guests, it was just a way of getting everyone together for a party. It also happens that David, one of the bosses at FCD would be celebrating a big birthday around the same time so it was decided to combine the two and so Out Of The Ashes 1.5 The Monster’s Ball was born!

Two guests were invited. John Carrigan who had appeared at 1.0 and Rainbow Sun Francks from Stargate Atlantis. Both guests were amazing and took part in every aspect of the event, from the Friday night’s games, bingo and quizzes through to talks during the Saturday event and then finishing up by joining in the festivities of the Saturday party.

The Saturday event took place in The Langton Suite of The Hilton Leicester. The were a number of dealers stall and about 60ish people in attendance and Steven Cockings from Trekyards was also there with an amazing collection of screen used Stargate props. The were a number of talks by various people, including John and Rainbow. The event ended at around 4.30pm.

The theme for the Saturday party was Monsters (as Halloween had just past). There were around 70 people at the party and great fun was had by all. David and Wil did a live stream from the event announcing the guest lineup for 2.0 in March next year with more guests yet to be announced!

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July 2016~ London Film & Comic Con 2016

LFCC has not been great the past few years (see previous posts) and I was wary about attending but nevertheless volunteered to help on the USS Iceni stand to raise money for charity.

It seems Showmasters have finally listened! The layout this year was so much better than in previous years. They had actually hired the whole of the venue it seemed and whilst it took a while to get from A to B sometimes, it actually helped a lot.

I wasn’t really going to see celebs this year. Normally I see around 20. I had initially had 8 to see over a weekend but this quickly became 9 when the announced a young actress from a great new show called Stranger Things. I won’t go into what the show is about on here but I suggest you check it out for yourself. If you like the 1980s, ET, The Goonies, Stand By Me and Stephen King then this show is for you. All the kid actors were great but Millie Bobby Brown, who played Eleven stole the show. I’ve worked with kids for nearly 30 years and don’t normally get phased by them but her performance freaked me out. There has to be an award somewhere in her future and I really hope the show gets a second season. As for how she handled the convention itself well all I can say is that Millie did a better job at the event than some big, A-List celebs I could mention. She took time to interact and was doing awesome poses in the photoshoot. A lot of big names and regular con guests could learn a lot from her. I must meet the rest of the cast now. Hope they get invited!

There was some awesome cosplay on display as usual (pics below) and a really good exhibition of costumes from Suicide Squad.

Overall it was a great event. I ended up meeting Jack Gleeson (Joffrey in GoT), Fay Marsay (The Waif in GoT), Kae Alexander (Leaf in GoT),  Michael Emerson (Ben in LOST), Laurie Holden (Andrea in TWD), Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal and Galen Erso in Star Wars: Rogue One), Harold Perrineau (Michael in LOST), Millie of course and finally, the biggest let down of the weekend, Famke Jansen. I heard many conflicting reason as to why she seemed so grumpy but her photoshoot was a waste of money. As an actress surely you can act happy!

Anyway, photos below!

 

 

 

July 2015- LFCC 2015

Well, where to begin! This looked to be a promising event with so many great names on offer including Sigourney Weaver, Michael J Fox, Bill Pullman, Hayley Atwell etc.

Whilst it was nice to meet them and see old friends, in all my 20+ years of attending cons I have never felt so unsafe in my whole life. It was way too crowded. Stairwells were blocked, lifts failed and it was too hot. At one point I was trapped for over an hour on the top floor due to lift failure and stairwells being blocked. This lead to inevitable delays in photoshoots etc. Crew did there best, although there are a few in need of a serious attitude adjustment. One in particular reminded me of a hobbit in need of a shave and a shower!

On the up side, the guests were amazing. Probably the only real reason to go to these particular events if I’m honest.

June 2015- Collectormania 23

It was back to Stadium:MK for what many people believe to be the last Collectormania in MK. To be honest, I’m kinda glad. Personally, I don’t think the stadium is suitable. For the first time in a while I had my brother and his family with me. He is disabled and had great difficulty in getting around and with the photoshoots upstairs he was even more put off.

Whilst I managed to see a few guests and get some signatures on my various canvases, for me, the most fun was had watching my niece and nephews in costume. My nephew Charlie was dressed as Darth Vader, and once he had the mask on he thought he ruled the place. Even England footballer Jack Charlton had to get out of his way. My niece Jessica was dressed as Elsa and loved seeing the other Frozen cosplayers. Little Lewis was dressed as Captain America and flatly refused to have his photo taken with a rather attractive Agent Carter cosplayer. Will have to teach him!!

The rain, the building works and the incompetence of Stadium:MK staff led to a not so pleasant time for my brother and the family. CM:MK needs a rethink!