October 2018~ Destination Star Trek Birmingham

This was the fourth official Star Trek event run by Showmasters/Media10 and the second to be held at the NEC in Birmingham.

If you read my blog post on the 2016 event you will recall that I was hugely disappointed with the whole thing. From the lack of things to do to the layout and the quality of some of the prop shoots that were available. I bitched, I moaned and with good reason. At one point I even refused to go again up until I had a chat with one of the organisers. That chat, and the temptation of meeting the Discovery cast was enough for me to give them another chance and I’m honestly glad I did. Life is too short to be holding on to grudges and I wanted to have some fun.

Most of the hotels were either fully booked or overpriced so I decided to stay a bit further out at the Travelodge Maypole. The crew of the USS Iceni were also there so I was able to grab a lift in with them.

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Things began on Thursday evening when Larry Nemecek (Trek Oracle and all round nice guy) and The Trekkie Girls organised a “Landing Party” quiz. There were about 10-12 teams, and my team came second. We won a bag of goodies provided by various people.

Friday morning arrived and we headed off to the NEC. Doors would be opening at 2pm but we had to put the finishing touches to the Iceni table. Once that was done I was able to have a look around.

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Hall 5 was bigger than the hall used previously and the layout was far, far better. The photo shoot areas were all along one side which greatly helped. In between each main shoot area you had the museum, the Discovery mirror universe exhibition (which was awesome) and the various green-screen shoot areas. This meant that there was no congestion around these areas and they were all well organised.

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The three stages had a corner each with the main Enterprise stage being right by the Iceni table. There was also a covered screening area with a set programme of episodes being shown over the weekend.

There were a number of prop shoots around such as a transporter, Borg chamber and a Horta with her eggs- I do feel that she could have been positioned better. There were also two bridge sets- the classic Constitution Class bridge from the original series and the Galaxy Class bridge from the next generation. I hope that they eventually make another bridge set. Maybe Voyager or the NX-01 bridge. Finally there was a Klingon captains chair and a replica of Quark’s bar on DS9. Lots to do!

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There were a lot more dealers than in previous years and the quality of the dealers was better too.

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The European Space Agency were also present, doing talks, giving away freebies etc.

Lastly, there were two gaming areas. One for board games and one for console/computer games and pinball machines. I got to have a play before the con opened.

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Matt Irvine, designer and model maker was also on hand with many of his pieces.

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John Eaves, Starship Designer was also present. It was good to talk to him about what influences his art. He was also signing and giving away a limited edition print of the USS Shenzhou from Discovery. He was a pleasure to talk to.

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The event itself ran smoothly. I only managed to get to one talk on props and model making as I was busy having photo shoots. I did however manage to get nearly all my autographs done on the Friday which made Saturday and Sunday even easier. I used my Discovery poster that I was given at the Netflix event last November.

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So in general there was much more to do this time around and the layout was better. Moving forward, I would still like to suggest dedicated seating areas for people as I did see lots of people struggling and not everyone is able to sit on they floor. Also, the fold up chairs that are used are not very comfortable. But that’s a minor gripe. I also think the fan zone needs work with a dedicated coordinator as Zoe was rushed off her feet!

As you can imagine there was lots of cosplay going on with many people making Discovery costumes, both prime and mirror universe.

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I had an absolute blast meeting the Discovery cast, especially my favourite, Sonequa Martin-Green who plays Michael Burnham. She loved my #Bonkers4Burnham shirt, which was inspired by the #Silly4Tilly shirt that Shazad Latif wore to a con. This inspired my friends and I to come up with a range of hashtags and have them printed on shirts. I have promised Doug Jones that I will come up with a suitable one for Saru. Mary Chieffo also liked the #Longing4L’Rell shirt but I didn’t get much of a reaction from Mary Wiseman over the #Krazy4Killy shirt by comparison. Just a “nice shirt!” In her defence, they all looked tired having just flown over from set. I got the impression that I, being a big chap, scared her and Anthony Rapp. I do hope not!

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I also managed to have a good chat with Astronaut Fred Haise who was part of the Apollo 13 mission, and Sandra Lee Gimpel who played a Talosian and a Salt Monster on the original series.

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They have announced a 2019 event for late October. Will you be there? I think I will.

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Showmasters, if you are reading this can we please have Rekha Sharma as a guest? Thank you muchly! I have a hashtag shirt to show her…..

September 2018~ An Evening With Anthony Daniels

An Evening with Anthony Daniels took place at The Chickenshed Theatre on Saturday 8th September 2018. It was a charity event with all funds raised going to Chickenshed.

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The evening began with Anthony retelling the story of how he got the part of C-3PO, after initially turning down a request by ‘some American’ filmmaker. He went on to talk about how the costume was made, the problems he encountered and the improvements made of the years.

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The evening continued in such a fashion with Anthony telling stories from his time on all the Star Wars films as well as discussion on spin-offs such as the animated show ‘Droids’, an anti-smoking commercial he wrote and more recent activities such as the Star Wars LEGO cartoons. There was also some discussion on merchandise including some very strange items! The whole evening was accompanied by behind the scenes images and videos. Some never seen before.

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There was a lot of audience interaction and the evening ended with a raffle, autograph session and photo opportunity. All proceeds again went to Chickenshed.

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Limited edition large-size trading cards were sold for £5 each and it was these that Anthony signed. Only 200 were made and luckily for me not everyone wanted one so I was able to buy extra for my brother and nephews.

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November 2017~ Netflix- Star Trek: Discovery Fan Event.

In late October, Netflix began sending out emails to Trekkies inviting them to a fan screening on Sunday 5th of November at Millbank Tower, next to the River Thames in London. I initially didn’t receive an invite, so I emailed and asked to be put on a waiting list. The following day I received my invite.

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It came with the additional information that there would also be an exhibition of props, as well as a Q & A with some of the talent- Aaron Harberts (Showrunner), Sonequa Martin-Green (Michael Burnham), Shazad Latif (Lt. Ash Tyler) and Jason Isaacs (Capt. Gabriel Lorca). We were told that doors would open at 12pm.

Knowing what Trekkies (including myself) can be like, I decided to arrive early. 9 am to be precise. Shortly after I arrived, some friends also turned up. They too were also decked out in DISCO tops, all sourced from an unofficial, popular online auction site.

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We tried to get a coffee at a nearby hotel but it was jam packed so I headed back to the front of Millbank Tower to wait for another friend. Whilst there I met up with a guy from Netflix (who I would later find out seemed to be running the whole event) and he was surprised to see us there so early. He pointed me in the right direction and told me where to wait and that he would see me at noon.

Lots of friends arrived and as time went on, the crowds grew. It wasn’t really a line at one point, more of a loose assembly, but the guy I saw earlier came out, said ‘Hi’ and had a look around. He then told someone else to sort out a line, starting with me. After that I must admit I got a bit snappy if anyone tried to jump in front of me and my friends.

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12pm came and we were let in. We all received a Netflix wristband and the first 25 of us would be allowed to meet the guests and get autographs. This was an amazing bonus!

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An express elevator ride to the 29th floor deposited us in the Altitude 360 restaurant which had been transformed into an exhibition hall. At one end we had the Captain’s chair from the USS Discovery as well as props such as phasers, Klingon blades, uniforms etc. The other end had been transformed into a room holding the spore drive and console.

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As fans we could wander round, take photos and interact with the items on display and each other, all the while enjoying the vast amount of refreshments generously laid on by Netflix.

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At about 1.15pm we were directed down to the theatre to watch the 8th episode ‘Si vis pacem, para bellum’ (If you want peace, prepare for war).

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Before the episode was shown, Jamie East (of Thronecast fame) who was presenting the show, introduced the guests. The four of them said a quick hello before settling in to watch the episode with the fans.

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Once the episode was over, a hilarious Q&A followed. There is a video somewhere which I will post later. The highlight for me, apart from hearing all the behind the scenes gossip, was Jason Isaacs getting Jonathan Riker Frakes’ name wrong! All of them were extremely humble and a joy to listen to. Jason was amazing at praising his fellow actors and the creative team. Hearing the gorgeous and very talented Sonequa tell us her own backstory for Michael Burnham was equally awesome and she brings a fresh outlook to the Trek universe. Shazad was very cagey about his character and I think there is more than meets the eye to Ash Tyler. It’s also quite clear that Aaron Harberts wants Discovery to be groundbreaking but also honour all the Trek that has gone before.

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After that, it was back upstairs for a meet and greet with autograph and selfie opportunities. It was an awesome day and I would like to thank Netflix for putting on such an amazing event!

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March 2017~ An Audience With Gareth Edwards

BAFTA occasionally host “An audience with” type events. This month it was to be with Gareth Edwards, director of hit movies such as Godzilla (2014) and the latest blockbuster in the Star Wars universe, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This event was organised in conjunction with BAFTA Cymru and took place on St David’s day.

The evening began with a showreel of Gareth’s work, including some unused footage from Rogue One. Gareth then went on to talk about his work, his life in general and things that had influenced him. He then took questions from the audience.

I particularly enjoyed hearing about his work on Rogue One and how he filmed it in a very organic/fluid way. Indie hour also seemed an interesting concept where any idea, from any crewmember was considered and most likely shot.

Only one thing spoiled it for me. The day before, we received an email from BAFTA saying that Gareth would sign autographs for about 10 minutes afterwards. I took my Rogue One book just in case. There were a group of autograph hunters (more likely dealers) who shoved their way to the front and in many cases had 15-20 items each to get signed. It’s just very inconsiderate when you consider the fact that there were about 50 people wanting autographs and that he was only doing 10 minutes. Luckily, the man is a trooper and stayed long enough to sign for everyone.

Interestingly enough, lots of items signed by him appeared on a popular auction website the following day! Some starting at £50….

April 2016~ FCD ‘Out of the Ashes’

I honestly do not know where to begin. This has to be the best event I have been to in years!

FCD 2015 was a great event. I volunteered at the event and was asked by Wil and David to join the main FCD team shortly afterwards. Many months were spent in planning and preparation. At one point we did not think we would have an event to put on due to some complex issues but after changing the venue and making it a one day event, we were ready.

The team members arrived on the Friday afternoon. After unpacking we began setting up. I began by helping to construct the Klingon bridge but then went into the main event room to assist with the setup there. Once setup was complete, we had a team briefing and then chilled out for a while.

Later that evening we had a team meal along with our guests and media partners. Then I decided to hit the sack so that I was ready for the next day.

I woke up early and went to the event rooms. We had a very quick meeting and once breakfast was over we got ready for opening. We honestly had no idea about how many people would turn up after all the trouble the event had encountered. We had enough chairs for 100 people to sit and watch the various talks etc. It was nowhere near enough…..

The doors opened. Shortly before the opening ceremony it became clear we needed more chairs so some of the team set about quickly putting more out, but still people kept coming. 483 in the end…….way more than expected.

The opening ceremony took place with Wil and David introducing the guests (Claudia Christian of Babylon 5, JG Hertzler, Aron Eisenberg and John Carrigan all from various incarnations of Star Trek) and so began the day.

What followed was a series of hilarious talks by the guests, a charity auction that raised lots of money for charities and a surprise marriage proposal by team member Simon to his partner Sheridan who was also a team member. JG Hertzler helped Simon with the deed by setting up an elaborate ruse and asking Sheridan for her help. It was awesome to watch and congrats to both!

Whilst the various talks were going on there was also the chance to have a professional photo taken with the guests as well as wander around the various dealer stalls.

The main event ended at 5pm and we had to quickly clear the room ready for the evening. It was to be a meal followed by a disco with karaoke. The theme was Spy vs Spy. There were many fine costumes on display and a great time was had by everyone. The party continued into the small hours……

Sunday was spent having a quick, final tidy up before chilling out and saying goodbye to old friends and new.

Overall, the whole weekend was a blast! It was like being at one massive family party! The energy in the main room was amazing and the constant smiles on everyone’s faces said a lot. It was knackering but absolutely worth it!

Roll on 2017 and well done to all involved but especially to Wil and David, and a HUGE thank you to all the FCD team members that made me feel so welcome!

May 2015-MCM Comic Con

I hadn’t been to one of these for years but the lure of some NCIS and Agents of SHIELD guests was too much for me and my dad. I was hoping things had changed. Boy was I wrong. Whilst getting in was easy and so was getting autographs, the chaos that was the photoshoots was beyond a joke. We waited almost 3 hours for a shoot. No information was passed our way. One overly happy crewmember almost got pounced upon because sge kept telling us to stop moaning and be happy and that we should feel privileged. Never again…..

May 2014~ Collectormania 21

I wasn’t planning to attend this time around as it normally means staying over and lots of cabs etc.

However, someone I know was announced as a guest, and as I was the one who suggested he hits the con circuit and I built his website I thought I should put in an appearance.

Whilst there my plan was to meet a number of Game of Thrones guests, plus a Star Trek guest. I also decided last minute to meet two others; one from The Walking Dead and the other Doctor Who.

My first port of call was to go and see DeObia Oparei. I initially met DeObia when he came to work at our school for a short while and ended up helping me with our production of West Side Story. He seemed to be enjoying himself and we had a good chat. Funnily enough, he was sat next to Noel Clarke of Doctor Who fame, who was an ex-pupil of our school and at one time was DeObia’s personal trainer before the acting bug bit!

Next up was to get some more signatures on my Game of Thrones canvas. It now has the following names on it:

Mark Stanley- Grenn
Luke Barnes- Rast
Alfie Alan- Theon Greyjoy
Charles Dance- Tywin Lannister
Gethin Anthony- Renly Baratheon
Nonso Anozie- Xaro Xhoan Daxos
Dominic Carter- Janos Slynt
Anton Lesser- Qyburn
Ross Mullan- Whitewalker
Joseph Gatt- Thenn Warg
Noah Taylor- Locke

Once finished, I headed over to meet Robert Beltran, who played Chakotay in Star Trek: Voyager, followed by Jeff Kober who has appeared in many shows including Buffy, Trek and The Walking Dead. Finally I went to meet Ingrid Oliver who appeared in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special.

Overall it was a very quiet Sunday and this made the guests very relaxed! I like the fact that Showmasters are using more space at Stadium:MK. It made it much nicer!

Roll on LFCC 2014!