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!

November 2016~ MCM Birmingham Comic Con

It has been a couple of years since I attended an MCM event as I had a few issues with the last one, but they had two guests I had to meet. Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Gary was also in the pilot for Star Trek as Gary Mitchell.

I had my Godson’s sister, Safiyah with me as she has been wanting to attend a con for a while now. We set out early and arrived at the NEC about 20 minutes before opening time. When the doors opened, we got in quite quickly.

The event hall was well laid out. Lots of space to move around and a nice variety of dealers. There was also lots of Pokemon stuff which kept Safiyah happy!

The autograph lines were well organised and I managed to meet Gary and Keir early on. Both were lovely guys!

My main gripe last time was twofold. Firstly, the staff at MCM seemed to be very young and in some instances very immature. I was pleased to see that it seemed to have changed. Yes, there were still a lot of young, immature volunteers, but the big jobs fell down to more experienced people. Second was the photoshoots. Last time they ran very late (2+ hours) and getting the photo afterwards was a free for all. This time it ran much more smoothly. On time for one thing. Once you had your picture taken you simply walked out and went to one of the many photo printers to collect it!

Lots of good cosplay on display too. Will definitely attend again as will Safiyah.

The only thing that let us down was the terrible Midland Train service on the way back!

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….

September 2016~ Star Trek 50th Anniversary

star-trek

September 8th 2016 was the date that Trekkies all around the world would be celebrating the 50th birthday of our beloved show. Yes. it means a lot to me and I felt I had to put it into words. I had to say something. It was a fairly long post so I have added it to the end of this page.

People were celebrating in various ways. I was going with 4 amazing friends to The Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. It is known for showing classic, cult movies and for the 50th they had an original, 1982 70mm print of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Prior to watching the film we met for dinner and drinks at TGI Friday’s who had a special green ‘Spocktail’ which was delicious. After a few of those we hit the cinema for an awesome experience. I felt 10 years old again! It was great seeing TWOK back on the big screen at this special time!

Sorry for the dodgy pictures!

FB status below:-

Tomorrow is a very special day for me and many of my friends. I feel I cannot let this day go by without me saying something as it means so much to me.

50 years ago a TV show first aired that changed the lives of many people. Set in space, it was billed as ‘Wagon Train to the stars’ and dealt with many of the current issues at the time such as racism, equality, drug addiction, the cold war and much more. It addressed some serious issues and continued to do so through all of its various iterations.

It told of a future where humans had finally made the journey into space and followed the exploits of a ship and her crew as they explored the galaxy, meeting new alien races and visiting new planets.

That show, of course, is Star Trek. The original series spawned 6 spin-off series (if you count the new Star Trek: Discovery which starts in January), totalling 726 episodes. 13 movies, hundreds of books and comics and a huge amount of merchandise which is too numerous to list!

Many fans of the show, Trekkies or Trekkers (depending on your preference) were drawn to the show for a specific reason and have been fans for a long time. I first saw the show in 1975 and to this day I still get reminded by my dad about how I used to duck when the Enterprise came flying towards me during the opening credits.

I, like many of my friends, have suffered over the years because of our devotion to the show. People make fun of those of us that attend cons, collect memorabilia, meet the stars and so on and are quite often told to grow up.

Why?

We have found something we enjoy and which means so much to us. What is the difference between what we do and say someone who collects stamps or follows a particular football team and spends money on kits and other memorabilia? The answer is nothing. There is no difference. This leads me to believe that the people who mock really do not understand what Star Trek is about.

Every Trekkie has their own perspective on the subject but they are all similar in some respects.

To me, Star Trek is not just a TV show. It is a way of life. It tells us of a future where the people of the Earth are united in peace, freedom and equality. It tells us that no matter who we are, what our abilities are, our gender, our age, height, weight, skin colour, religion and anything that currently divides us, we are all equal. No one is better than anyone else and no matter what, if you believe in yourself you can accomplish many things. Trek also teaches us that life comes in many forms and that we should appreciate the wonderful variety. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.

With all the crap going on in the world it is a light in the darkness. It’s something to turn to when you feel life is too much.

I’ve made many amazing friends because of Star Trek and the many events I have attended over the years, some are regular Trekkies like me and some are those amazing people both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes that made the show possible.

At this time of celebration for us I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for being a friend (even if we never see each other except at cons) and if you are one of the amazing people that helped the show to be what it is an even bigger thank you!

Enjoy the 50th and Live Long and Prosper to you all!

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!

April 2015- First Contact Day

This was my first event of the year and all I can say is WOW!

It was also my first time in a long while that I had volunteered to help out at a con. The last time I did so was back in the 90s at the Rising Star events.

The weekend began with a meetup at our hotel bar. It started early, around 2pm and went on until midnight. We chatted about geeky stuff, drank lots and played Cards Against Humanity. I left about 11.30pm as I had to be at the venue for 9.15am.

I woke early, got ready and set off, arriving at the National Space Centre on time. I met up with the crew members and other volunteers and we had a briefing from the Chief Steward, Tim. Then the doors opened and we took up our positions. Mine was to help control queues at the front and direct people to the correct place.

I stayed doing this for a fair part of the day but also managed to take part in other events such as talks by the celebrity guests, photo shoots etc as well as visiting the dealers room and other exhibits, including an awesome display of ships from the original Battlestar Galactica and larger props such as Captain’s chairs from Star Trek and a First Doctor’s Tardis console.

The Red Shirt challenge (Most number of people in one room dressed as a Star Trek red-shirt) took place on the Saturday afternoon.

As I no longer have a shirt that fits, I was asked by Wil to be an official adjudicator and help with the count. This year was 107, an increase of 50 from last year. All documentation will be sent to Guinness for approval.

The celebrity guests for the weekend were Garrett Wang (of Star Trek Voyager), Claudia Christian (Babylon 5), James Swallow and Una McCormack (authors of a variety of sci-fi books), Alan Flyng (Imperial Officer in Star Wars VI) and via Skype, Larry Nemecek (Trek Guru). Claudia arrived late due to ill health. She managed to stay for a couple of hours but then left. Luckily I got her autograph before she left. Hopefully she will return again soon.

That evening we had the Gold Pass meal and disco which was good fun. Garrett was a real party animal and we had a nice group photo with him. The music was great and there were a lot of con dances going on. I finally left around 11.30pm.

Day 2 was similar to the first day. I scaled back my duties a bit as I wanted to see what I had missed the previous day. Sunday also was not as busy with just over 300 people in attendance as opposed to over 600 on the first day so I’m sure my presence was not missed! The highlight of the day was watching Garrett Wang do his talk. The man is hilarious and does great impressions of various Trek alumni.

There were quite a few members of our Facebook group, The USS Riker’s Beard at the event. We arranged to have a group photo at the original series Captain’s chair. Luckily, we managed to recruit Garrett as our 3rd honorary member (Vaughan Armstrong and Larry Nemecek being the first two) and he joined our group photo and got to sit in the chair.

The weekend ended with the charity auction, farewell speeches and a promise of things being bigger and better next year. We all then departed back to the hotel bar and drank the JD dry!

It was an awesome weekend thanks to David, Wil and the crew and I hope to be asked to help out again next year!

February 28th 2015- RIP Leonard Nimoy

Yesterday, a little piece of my childhood died.

I’ve been a Trek fan for as long as I can remember. My dad still reminds me that as a three year old I would duck when the Enterprise came flying forward during the opening credits!

Spock was always my favourite, a position he shared with Scotty and Bones. One of the reasons that Spock was my favourite was that he was the odd one out. 400+ crew and he was the only non-human on board. Kind of how I felt going through primary school, the odd one out (and in some respects how I still feel now as an adult from time to time). I could relate to him in a way I couldn’t to most of the others.

Over time, some of his mannerisms rubbed off on me. A raise of one eyebrow when confused/perplexed, and a (somewhat annoying) need to carry out tasks in a logical order.

Finally, as an adult, I got to meet Leonard. I wasn’t suprised to find out that he was a warm, caring person. This just proved to me what a good actor he was.

Leonard Nimoy

A few years later, on Twitter, he offered his followers the chance to make him their honorary Grandfather. Many thousands of Trekkies jumped at the chance and the warmth towards his fans continued.

He retired from the convention circuit due to failing health but was still able and willing to do a live Skype chat at the last London con. I wasn’t able to attend, but friends who did told me it was awesome.

Even in his last days he was still posting inspirational quotes to his Twitter page. The world has lost a talented actor, singer and photographer and thousands of Trekkies have lost an amazing role model and honorary Grandfather……

Leonard Nimoy, your memory shall Live Long and Prosper in all that you leave behind. Thanks for everything you gave to myself and many others.

Your mission on this planet is complete….its time to stand down now. Rest now Grandpa Leonard.

LLAP