October 2016~ Destination Star Trek Europe

So, Destination Star Trek Europe. Where do I begin? Please note that these thoughts and opinions are entirely my own and I represent no one else.

As a 28 year veteran of cons of various types I feel I need to get all my thoughts down on this matter so I am going to start at the very beginning…..

The event was initially announced by Showmasters on February 2nd, 2016 with these words

“Destination Star Trek returns in 2016 for a VERY special anniversary. Join us in Birmingham this October to celebrate 50 years of Star Trek, yes 50 years of seeking out new life and new civilisations and to keep boldly going where no one has gone before!
Set to be Europe’s biggest Star Trek celebration, Destination Star Trek Europe will offer fans the opportunity to meet the cast and crew, explore interactive exhibits, learn about Star Trek’s impact on science, space and technology, and enjoy parties fit for a golden anniversary“

In the months leading up to the announcement there had been lots of talk about a UK based 50th anniversary con. My initial thoughts on it were to avoid at all costs. But, I thought to myself, surely Showmasters can’t screw up this one as it’s a huge milestone. The initial guest list looked good with further promises of more to come.

I bought a ticket. The cheapest of the packages that would give me 3 day access, a couple of free talks, a goody bag and so on and I waited for the announcement of more guests and activities…..and I waited and waited.

Announcements were few and far between and SM were extremely bad at replying to messages on any of their social media platforms and I won’t even go into the unprofessional behaviour on their own forums by their staff and mods. Let’s just say that criticism isn’t allowed. Even guests were announcing their appearance at the event on Twitter before it was made “official” by SM.

Personally I was hoping that with it being the 50th anniversary, there would be lots of guests from the original series, both surviving main cast, background actors and guest stars. I even sent a list of suggestions via Twitter. Not a reply was received…

By August/September it seemed the guest list was complete. 30 guests in total with only 5 from TOS. People have argued that it should be a celebration of all that is Trek, and whilst I agree to a degree, there should have been more representation from the series that started it all.

I went ahead and booked my photoshoots. 9 in all which was a big change from the 20+ of the previous event. My hotel and train were sorted, all we needed was the final schedule and floorplan and we would be set.

For well-organised events, schedules and floorplans are normally released two to three weeks before the event but even with people begging for the schedule so they could plan their weekend, nothing was forthcoming. It was about a week before the event that the timetable was published. No floorplan though. We would have to wait until the day for that.

Once the timetable for photoshoots and talks had been published it was quite clear that there were some major errors. Overlapping times, guests missed off completely, that kind of thing. It was eventually fixed and I planned my weekend.

The day arrived and I set off for Birmingham. In previous years we were able to collect our passes from the venue early which would allow us to get in to the event quicker. Excel was setup up with multiple ticket booths to handle large queues. Upon arriving at the NEC and finding Hall 4 I was met with a huge line. This was at 12.40pm (the box office had been open since midday). The event opened at 2pm. My first photoshoot was at 3.30pm. I was a bit apprehensive as I had seen a friend who already had his pass and told me they only had 4 box office windows open. This was going to take a while…..

There were only a couple of SM staff on line duty. Eventually they started calling people by package which, if you had been in line a while, was very unfair. After queuing for a while they eventually called my package group (Lieutenant). This was around 2.15pm. We were moved into a separate line which I thought would make things easier. At about 3pm they suddenly let in all of the standard passes before us and we were left in the line. 3.15pm- an SM crewmember asked for anyone with an upcoming photoshoot to come forward. He only let in people who had a shoot within ten minutes. Mine was 15 so he refused, even though I said there is no way I am going to get to the box office in five minutes. He ignored me and walked away. I eventually got to the box office and got my pass at 3.45pm- three hours after joining the line and five minutes before my photoshoot ended. I made it to the shoot but I was already angry.

Looking around the place, apart from a big poster by the door and some banners overhead, there was no decoration. Nothing that screamed Star Trek 50th Anniversary Event.

I had a quick chat with mates before finding the floorplan and seeing how empty the place was. I managed to get all my autographs in one go which was one of the only good things about the weekend, but if you were not interested in autographs or photoshoots there was not a great deal more to do other than the talks (which there were none of on Friday). The advertised gaming zone was non-existent. The “Ferengi Bazaar” consisted of no more than ten dealers of varying quality and price (Filmwelt? WTF are your prices about? Rip-Off or what) and the fan zone only had about half-a-dozen clubs. The Klingon Zone had a few bits from previous years but otherwise it looked as though they had raided a car boot sale for décor and furnishings. The Borg regeneration chamber looked like it had been dumped and forgotten about and the Klingon Bridge was, to be honest, crap! The prop exhibition was a vastly reduced version of the past couple of years and doesn’t look like it has been taken care of. The art gallery was nice. The chill-out zone was a joke. No screening of episodes as in 2014, just a few bean bags around a large screen playing a ten-minute compilation clip on loop. In previous years we had authors, make-up artists, balloon artists and much more- this year, nothing!

I was suffering with a bad leg and as per usual at SM events, seating was sparse unless you sat by one of the stages or by the refreshment stands. I even spoke to a good few SM staff about my leg at different occasions and all were either rude or totally useless. Only one guy at Photo C was of any help. Queuing up for 3+hours had not helped and the line for the opening ceremony was equally as big. I decided to miss the opening ceremony as I did not want to make my leg worse. As it turns out it was 20 minutes late starting anyway…..I could not queue for that long again. I decided to go back to the hotel and rest my leg ready for Saturday.

I had a party ticket but decided not to bother. I heard mixed reviews about both parties but can’t really comment.

Saturday- This should have been the main day. I had a couple of photoshoots today. Wil Wheaton (whose autograph I got early on thanks to a friend) and then some bridge shoots. I also had a few talks to attend that came as part of my package. Did I get to see any of the talks? No! The photoshoots with Koenig/Takei on the original bridge and the Shatner on the original bridge were rearranged last minute. I complained and was told I had a choice talks or shoots. I’d paid for both so it was a total rip-off. Yet again it meant queuing for another couple of hours. I missed all my talks because shoots were rearranged with little or no communication.

When it came to my turn for the bridge shoot I noticed how bad this replica bridge was. It was later I learned for overhearing some crewmembers speak that SM had built and painted it. A crappy job. Anyway, we had about 7 seconds to get into place, have the photo and get out. I tripped going up and then again getting into the chair due to being rushed. I made the chair creak when I sat down because I tripped! I didn’t get time to pose and hated the photo. Tried to complain but yet again it fell on deaf ears. It also did not help that it was an open set and everyone was stood watching you……really off-putting! Same again with the Shatner shoot although it came out a bit better.

I eventually located the desk for collecting my goody bag. It had been moved. I told the guy I was a Lieutenant-level attendee and got really grumpy saying he would have to make up a bag for me. He did this by simply taking out an autograph from a Commander-level bag. The contents were rubbish. A trading card, a tiny badge, a cheap pen, a show guide and a crumpled up version of the poster. All in a branded drawstring bag.

On the whole, Saturday was spent in long queues and complaining to people who didn’t care. I managed to spend some time with friends on the USS Iceni stand and get some photos (see below) but that’s all. I refused to join another massive line for the world record contest. Another crappy Saturday at an SM event. I went back to my hotel feeling pissed off. Went to get some food in the restaurant and was going to meet some friends there but they had other plans. So I went to bed….

I woke up Sunday morning in a foul mood. I had had enough. Enough of being ripped off and enough of being treated like cattle so I decided to call it quits, miss the last day of the con and head home. I freely admit I was (and still am) really upset by the events of the weekend.

One of my friends said that it’s the fans of make the con. I have to disagree. We can do what we do as fans anywhere. A pub, hotel, park, wherever. We go to cons to meet up, yes but also to do other things that only a con can provide. Meet the guests, buy crap, have photos done etc. Yes, the fans help with the atmosphere and laughs but I don’t agree that the fans make the con.

It also doesn’t bode well when you hear guests apologising for the quality of the event. I overheard this a few times!

Overall the layout was poor, the guest list was poor (even though the guests I chatted with were amazing), the queuing was beyond poor, the activities on offer were poor leading to a sub-par event. I feel sorry for those newbies who, not knowing any better, thought the event was amazing.

It annoys me because SM have the potential to do great things. They get amazing guests and prop displays etc and the photoshoots normally work really well. They just need to consider some of the people who volunteer for them as they are quite unpleasant and think more about making it a better experience for the customer.

Photos follow….

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!

 

 

 

February 2016~ London Film and Comic Con Spring

After seemingly knocking their Milton Keynes show on the head, Showmasters have attempted to build on the “success” of their flagship summer event.

Although (for once) the event was quite quiet, and (downstairs at least) you could move around without wanting to punch people, there were still issues around seating etc. which did not help my back!

This was something that at previous week, Walker Stalker got right. They had manned seating areas for people with mobility issues and a dedicated quiet area. This meant that seating in cafes was freed up for others.

Also, busy guests placed near each other leading to bottlenecks!! This lead to lots of overcrowding at certain areas.

The guests I met were great. Billy Dee Williams, Denis Lawson, Greg Grunberg and Jessica Henwick, all from various Star Wars films (among other things).

SM get awesome guests. The best in the country to be honest, but if they don’t consider their client base a bit more they will eventually lose custom which will be a shame for fans.

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!

October 2014~ LFCC Winter

Last con of the year for me and a quieter event compared to the madness of the summer one.

As normal lots of costumes on display and I again helped with the charity stall for our Starfleet Chapter, the USS Iceni.

It was a chance for me to get a few more names on my Game of Thrones canvas and to meet Alan Ruck who played (among others) Captain John Harriman of the Starship Enterprise-B in Star Trek Generations…..such a friendly guy!

October 2014~ Destination: Star Trek London 3

This hugely anticipated event was announced mid-year with the promise of reuniting the entire Star Trek: The Next Generation bridge crew and have the chance to have your photo taken on a replica of the Enterprise-D bridge. As well as the bridge crew a plethora of other names were also announced. There were tickets available for all budgets and whilst many people complained, it was down to the individual as to how much they spent.

On the whole the event was an improvement on the first, though it was noticeable that the people crewing the autograph section had no idea what they were doing and were not Showmasters crew who, it turns out were only crewing photoshoots. Unfortunately, Jonathan Frakes cancelled which upset a lot of people and Patrick Stewart had to scale back what he would take part in due to him being unwell. Fair play to him as could easily have cancelled!

The event was laid out much more effectively this time and they even had a viewing area which I enjoyed very much. A trek museum was available for people to wander around and you could also have yourself turned into a Vulcan or Klingon as did my friend Mags. There were also 3 stages at which you could hear a variety of talks and displays.

I had a ticket for the first night official party on ‘Risa’ which took place at the Fox Excel bar next door. It was a big improvement and a couple of highlights were hearing The Enterprise Blues Band perform.

The bridge shoot was great fun and along with many of my friends we had a number of photos taken and had quite a crowd watching us.

Once again there were many great costumes on show, but unfortunately we did not manage to break our own world record for most people in Trek costume.

On the Sunday afternoon, a few of us (mostly members of our USS Iceni chapter) were interviewed by Tom Felton, who played Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series, for a documentary about fans and conventions that he was making.

As normal for me I had lots of professional photos taken with a variety of guests. See below!

Overall, I really enjoyed the event and am really hoping that another event is put on in 2016 for the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.

Since the previous DSTL event, many of the members of the Facebook group banded together to form another group….the USS Riker’s Beard, in honour of the character Wil Riker and the actor who portrayed him, Jonathan Frakes, who was due to be in attendance at the event.

The Riker’s Beard group grew out of those people who stayed (and partied) at the Custom House Hotel at the previous event. One member, James Dillon, painstakingly recreated a bridge set, captains chair and transporter set, all of which would be on display at the hotel, now named USS Riker’s Beard, for all to see and enjoy.