May 2018~ Heroes & Villains Fan Fest

This was the second HVFF event put on by FanFest in London. It’s a far better organised event than its sister show, WalkerStalker Con which had some problems this year. For me though the big difference is the fan base. The fans that attend HVFF are far friendlier than those who attend WSC- they seem to really believe they are in a zombie apocalypse and can act like arseholes!

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Like last year the event wasn’t oversold which meant you could move around without too much hassle. I’d rather pay more for that to be honest than pay a cheap entry/autograph price and be packed in like sardines.

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Over the last  year I have really gotten into Arrow- I already watch most of the other Arrrowverse show including Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow but quickly caught up with Oliver Queen and co. Just The Flash to do now. All of the guests I was interested in meeting were from one of those shows. They were Caity Lotz (Sara Lance- LoT/Arrow), Katie Cassidy (Laurel Lance- Arrow), Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity Smoak-Arrow), Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen/Green Arrow- Arrow), David Ramsey (John Diggle- Arrow) and Juliana Harkavy (Dinah Drake/Black Canary- Arrow).

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All of the guests were lovely to meet and its especially nice when a guest actually remembers you and your name. They do pay attention! (Thanks Caity Lotz!)

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I also attended a number of panels, including John Barrowman Unleashed which was absolutely hilarious. John came on in a Wonder Woman costume!

The Torchwood Panel, again with John and the rest of the cast which was equally as funny. Eve Myles paid a touching tribute to JB at the end, telling everyone how selfless he is and how giving.

The Arrow villains panel with Josh Segarra, Kirk Acevedo and Katie Cassidy gave a good insight as to what it is like to play a villain on the show and how intense it can be.

Stephen Amell’s Green Arrow panel was equally as interesting and was hilariously moderated by Aisha Tyler (of Archer fame). It saw Stephen’s young daughter come on stage and tell everyone about his secret identity. Stephen also came down into the audience to comfort a young child who was trying to ask him a question but was too overcome with it all to ask the question. A truly lovely guy!

Finally, I sat in on the Gotham panel. I’ve never watched the show but after hearing the actors talk I may just have to.

The photo op section was run like a well-oiled machine and I had my prints and FREE digital download within a minute. The print quality is awesome.

As usual, there were lots of people in cosplay. Some amazing, others not so but at least they tried!

A big thanks to my friend Fudge for giving me one of her BOGOF VIP tickets and letting me share a couple of her photo ops! Roll on HVFF 2019!

March 2018~ Walker Stalker Con London

This year’s Walker Stalker Con would be my third and my last.

I really wasn’t intending on going this year as I had met many of the cast before. But the addition of Sonequa Martin-Green, who had moved on to be the lead on the new Star Trek: Discovery, changed my mind. I met her previously at a Netflix event in November 2017 but the selfie we took was so bad I wanted to get a professional photo op. I also wanted to try and meet Emily Kinney who I had missed on a number of occasions.

One of the things that had always attracted me to Walker Stalker (and FanFest cons in general) was that they limit their numbers. Yes, that means that prices are a bit higher, but I didn’t mind paying more for a more relaxing time.

This year was to be completely different. Now, at this point let me remind you I’ve been doing cons for around 30 years…..

This year’s price list went up and it was a shock to everyone. All autograph prices had gone up considerably, some almost double. The excuse given by the organisers was that the guests set their own prices and it’s down to them. Having crewed cons I know that isn’t true. Especially when some guests would be appearing at a con in Wales a few weeks later for up to 75% less than at WSC. But that all became insignificant and quite trivial when the day of the event came.

Normally you are able to collect your pass/lanyard etc. the day before. This year we were instructed to come on the Friday only if we were VIP or higher, or had lots of photo op tickets to collect. I was General Admission and only had one op so waited until the Saturday. I wasn’t worried as in the previous two years it was easy enough to turn up at 10.30am and be inside within minutes. Boy was I wrong.

I arrived at 9.45am. I joined the queue in front of Gate B and the line ran down in front of the venue and into an old train shed that stood next to Olympia station. It then snaked inside the shed and out the other side. It took me 15 minutes to get into the shed and that is where I stopped.

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From then on it all moved very slowly. This was at 10am.

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I eventually made it out to the far side of the shed and the snaking continued. There was not a member of Walker Stalker Con staff in sight. Only the odd Olympia Security people who were no help.

Two hours passed and I started to panic for a number of reasons. I’m not good in crowds that don’t move, especially when I’m getting squashed, and two I had my photo-op with Sonequa at 12.25pm and had yet to get in and collect my ticket.

The line was poorly managed. A group of young guys decided to have some fun and try to skip lines which meant in a huge surge forward and lines combining. This was enough for me. The other attendees (not all, but quite a few) were feral and it was fast becoming unpleasant. I decided to break line and storm to the front. I would either find help or go home- as I was walking along I had other attendees yelling at me (some quite nasty) but I kept going. I eventually found a tall American lady (I think her name might have been Amanda) who listened, was not impressed with what I told her and then helped me get inside- this was at 12.15pm. I made it to my photo-op with Sonequa with about 5 minutes to spare, thanks to the help of WSC staff inside.

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Amazingly, Sonequa remembered me. I was greeted with “Hey you, its good to see you again.” She also commented on my shirt (which if you look carefully, is slightly different to the normal DISCO shirt) we had the photo and I left.

I was still quite anxious so I went to see my friends Steph and Ann in the chill out room. I left after about 20 minutes to venture out on to the con floor.

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It wasn’t particularly busy, I’ve seen busier, but  the attitude of attendees was shocking. Lots of pushing, shoving and general unpleasantness.

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I finally found Emily Kinney- the map they handed out was way too small for me to read so I had to do it the old fashioned way. Emily had a very small queue so I got to meet her quite quickly. Got my autograph and photo and was on my way.

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I’d missed most of the talks I wanted to see due to being stuck outside for 3 hours but there was one just about to start. It was ‘The Troublemakers; with Austin Amelio, Steven Ogg, Michael Traynor and Pollyanna McIntosh. I found a seat near the edge with ease and the talk began. I think I lasted all of about 10 minutes as the other people watching in my area were too busy chatting, plus they were still letting people in, all who were very loud and didn’t seem to care.

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I couldn’t hear so I left and decide to leave altogether.  I did manage to snap a quick pic of Zombie King, Greg Nicotero, Ross Marquand and the always lovely Alanna Masterson on the way out but that was it.

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I was anxious and frustrated. I was meeting friends to celebrate my birthday later that evening but due to the extreme prices inside Olympia I hadn’t eaten and I’d dropped my water. I headed off to get some food and drink and to calm down. This was at 2pm. I’d been at the con for about 90 minutes- the entry ticket was £45 quid.

I’m due to take my brother and his family to HVFF, run by the same organisers, in May and I’m concerned. My brother has mobility issues and my niece has autism. Neither would be able to deal with lines and attitudes like this. Shockingly, all of my tweets to the Walker Stalker account, the Celeb-Photo Ops account and to the guy that runs the show have all gone unanswered. I was tweeting from the line, asking for help but all I got was silence in return, even though they were busy tweeting from the show floor.

I’ll be contacting the Disability Services but I want some assurance from them that none of this will happen again. But I am worried, especially seeing as there has been little official response, without being prompted, about yesterday’s debacle.

 

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.

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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!

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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

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…