Monday, 5 September 2016

Film & Comic Con Bournemouth 2016 - A Detailed Review

Guests met and discussed in this review (with the franchise I most associate them with personally) :-

• Ray Park (Darth Maul from “Star Wars” & Toad from “X-Men”)
• Maya Stojan (Tory Ellis from “Castle” & Agent 33 from “Agents of SHIELD”)
• Angelina Love (Wrestler)
• Danny Webb (John Jefferson from “Doctor Who”)

Two quick notes before we get started...

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With that being said, let’s dive in...

This past weekend was the second event under the “Film & Comic Con Bournemouth” banner. Less than 48 hours removed from the event, it’s time to upload my review and explore my journey through Sunday, which is my lame attempt to keep those post-con blues at bay for as long as humanly possible. As always, Showmasters’ regional non-London events are a mixed bag, with more good than bad at your average show. The negative is simply that you’re unlikely to find those ‘A-listers’ outside of the flagship ‘London Film & Comic Con’ show, which, alas, is the only event that can afford them as the show brings in somewhere in the region of 130,000 attendees over the three-day weekend. However, as far as Showmasters’ regional shows go, the line-up for Bournemouth looked spectacular and you could see that effort had been made to make the show as appealing as possible.

Sadly, within the final few weeks before the event taking place, four of the five headlining guests all had to pull-out, and we saw the cancellation of the likes of Julie Benz (waaah!), Lance Henriksen, Carl Weathers, Kristanna Loken, Lisa Wilcox, Catrin Stewart, Robert Llewellyn, and Jodi Lyn O’Keefe. Honestly, I don’t recall ever seeing an event so marred by big time cancellations. Ironically, the only one of those that affected me personally was Julie Benz, who has now alluded me on three separate occasions. Alongside Amy Acker, Julie is the most elusive of the Buffyverse actors I’ve yet to meet. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the process. I think most of us do. Work does - and has to - come first...but it can become disheartening when somebody cancels on you multiple times. You start to feel like you’re never going to get the opportunity to meet them after all. The Julie cancellation, although relatively expected, particularly stung as my whole reason for going was to meet Julie and Maya Stojan, who I’d missed meeting in London last year as she sadly had to cancel. This left me in a situation where I was basically travelling for three hours to meet one guest, which is always dangerous as if that guest also cancels, you’re kinda screwed. No matter, as I was attending this event as press – my first time doing so – I knew that I’d have fun regardless. Thankfully, Maya didn’t cancel and was an absolute fucking delight, so everything worked out well in the end.

One trick that I’ve learned over the many years of convention-attending is to go in with low expectations. If you go in high, you can only stay level or go down, whereas if you go in low, the only way is up...I’m sure there’s a dirty pun in there somewhere. I will freely admit that attending this event as press made me feel special, successful, and joyous, as I’ve been busting my ass on this blog for a long damn time, with the three-year anniversary soon approaching. This is a grass-roots operation. Everything is written by me, everything is shared by me, promoted by me, and designed by me, while also trying to juggle 50 hours of work each week and a Master’s degree from home in criminology and psychology via the Open University (side note: I’m so thankful this ends in June, these 100-hour weeks are killing me). As much as I adore my job, my degree, and particularly this blog and conventions, the workload at certain times of the year is ridiculous, so I’m so proud and appreciative that my hard work has been steadily paying off over the last year or so, with this blog now receiving over 200,000 unique readers each and every month.

“Film & Comic Con Bournemouth” took place in the Bournemouth International Centre over the weekend of September the 3rd and 4th. As far as I’m aware, I’d never been to Bournemouth before, so while the drive was daunting (even though I wasn’t driving...), I was oddly curious about the event, the location, and the town (I was surprised to find that Bournemouth wasn’t a city...huh...). From the limited view of Bournemouth I had, I thought it was beautiful, and I loved the fact that the venue was basically the other side of the road to the beach. While I didn’t go to the beach, it was nice to have the option to if the weather permitted. The venue was also a great choice. The convention was largely split into two hall floors that were separated by a corridor. One hall contained the main talk stage, the Groot prop photo area, half of the guests, and some merchandise stalls, while the other hall contained more merchandise, the other half of the guests, and the gaming area, while the corridor hosted the main studio photo area. The layout worked. Barring a brief period just after regular ticket holders were let into the venue at 11am, the venue never felt crushed, overcrowded, or disorganised. The crew, as always, were top-notch and will never get the credit they truly deserve, as almost all of them are unpaid volunteers that do this for the love of the convention scene. While speaking of the crew, it was great to see a bunch of the regulars and get to chat to them a bit. Interacting with people like Phil, Kelly, Giles, Charlotte, and Too Tall make the Showmasters events feel like a family reunion, particularly when I’m meeting some of the guests I’ve met a few times before. Speaking directly to the crew members that are reading this, thank you. You’re awesome.

Myself and my friend John were scheduled to leave Stonehouse, Gloucestershire at 7am on Sunday morning, ready to partake on the nearly three-hour drive to Bournemouth. Alas, a few days before the event, John sadly had to cancel as he had to work. No matter, last-minute extraordinaire, Clare, was to the rescue, which isn’t the first time she’s provided me with a lift and acted as my photographer for the day at the last minute, which is always appreciated. Even though I can drive myself to conventions, I absolutely hate to unless it’s a necessity as I always have a thousand things to do and remember already, so the last thing I want to have to worry about on top of that is directions, parking, and driving for nearly 6 hours there and back! My poor, fragile little mind can’t handle that many things at once.

We arrived in Bournemouth just after 9am and were able to walk straight into the venue as we were press. We collected our press wristbands, I felt euphoric and superior, and we headed into the main halls. Coming into this event, by my standards, my day was relatively relaxing, which is not a word I often associate with conventions. ‘Amazing’, ‘arenaline-inducing’, ‘captivating’, and ‘stressful’ would probably lead the charge for the most appropriate convention word on a regular basis. My itinerary for the day was straight forward: two studio photos (Ray Park and Maya Stojan) and four autographs (the aforementioned two, plus Angelina Love and Danny Webb). The only downside was that my two studio photos were at polar ends of the schedule for the day, with Ray Park being the first photo session of the day (11:55am) and Maya being the third last (4:40pm). In essence, this meant I had roughly 6 hours remaining to get 4 autographs. If all four guests were at their autograph tables, even if they were talkative, you could breeze through those in an hour with relative ease. This meant it was one of those rare conventions where I had the time to peruse the merchandise stalls...three times each...and even attend Ray’s talk. Sadly, I couldn’t attend Maya’s talk as it clashed with Ray’s photo session. No matter, I can see Maya’s talk in Cardiff next month.

After taking our first trip around the merchandise stalls, not buying anything as I needed to budget strictly and just buy one of two things later, we headed to Ray Park’s talk. Surprisingly, Ray didn’t know he had a talk that morning! He was intending to arrive at the convention at 11am, allowing himself a little time to chill and workout before meeting and greeting all day, particularly as it was a Sunday and they are historically the quieter day by some margin. Thankfully, he spontaneously decided to arrive just after 10am instead, which meant he got there just in time to settle in and get to his 10:45am panel. This meant Ray didn’t even have time to get a coffee...the bastards! However, if this is Ray without caffeine, as I mentioned to him later in the day, I really want to give Ray two Red Bulls and then send him out on stage because the results would be unpredictable and absolutely hilarious. He’s so naturally energetic and hyperactive that I’m fairly certain his heart would give out. The talk started a little slow from a questions standpoint, which gave Ray some time to just talk and settle into a groove. I believe that six questions were asked during the 30-minute panel, and Ray gave five-minute answers to most of them, making him a naturally born storyteller. I could listen to his stories all day because he’s so energetic. From using Soul Calibur as inspiration behind some of the Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace fight scenes, to his training outdoors, to his voiceovers for Snake Eyes in “G.I. Joe” – who is a silent ninja – which consisted of grunting and kung-fu style noises. Ray frequently stood up and started impersonating ninjas, complete with hilarious sound effects. He also told us that his 6-year-old son was helping him learn to throw knives for his part in “Heroes”, and then he swiftly said “child services will probably end up at my door after that story”. Ray talked about receiving the role of Darth Maul when he was twenty-two years old, what is was like working on X-Men, and how he nearly ended up fighting Christian Bale’s Batman in “Batman Begins”. Ray had a huge crush on Halle Berry (who didn’t?!), so he felt embarrassed, sexy, and vindicated, when she enthusiastically complimented him on his abs for his shirtless Toad scenes. He also said that working with Hugh Jackman was incredible. Wolverine was one of the last parts cast.When Ray discovered they were still looking for a Wolverine, he jumped on the chance. A few months later when they offered him Toad, he said “I don’t wanna be Toad!” (Complete with childish voice and inflection). When he was attending a convention in Chicago, someone handed him a phone which had Bryan Singer on the other end, and Bryan convinced Ray to play Toad, assuring him that they would use as little prosthetics and makeup as possible for the role (Ray thought Toad was going to look very similar to the comics counterpart, which is what made him initially reluctant to take the role).

Ray’s talk was one of the more entertaining and humourous of the single-person versions I’ve ever been to. He’s very funny, he’s a natural born storyteller, he’s very hyperactive, and he really dives into the topic you’ve asked about. I would definitely recommend that you attend one of Ray’s talks if given the opportunity at a convention in the future. Top bloke!

Soon after Ray’s talk, amusingly, it was time for my studio photo with Ray. I’d met Ray for the first time the previous March in Cardiff, but my studio photo turned out abysmal. Me, not him, he looked great. It’s one of those rare ‘Kill it! Kill it with fire!’ type photos that you never want to look at again because you closely resemble something that belongs under a bridge, not next to a celebrity. Thankfully, mercifully, this photo came out better. Plus, I even got a picture with him at the autograph table later in the day, so I have two to choose from where I don’t look like a troll. That is sometimes the challenge in professional studio photos with celebrities for me personally – particularly when it’s someone like Maya, who’s one of the most naturally beautiful people I’ve ever met – how do you stand next to them and get a decent photo where you don’t pale in comparison? Us uggo’s have it tough, you know!

After Ray’s photo, it was just after midday, giving us a little over four hours to get four autographs and buy any merchandise we wanted...we even had time to sit down and relax...what kind of fucked up bizarro convention world had I stumbled in to? I ended up buying a half-mask balaclava, which I maintain is awesome, while Robyn (my girlfriend) maintains will end up getting me shot in public if I wear it alongside my usual bandana. Either way, I’d die happy. I also bought 2x Daredevil A3 prints, a Walking Dead cast A3 print, and two beautiful pieces of art from “Game Of Thrones”, one of a colourful Daenerys with her dragons and crown, while the other was half of Jon Snow’s face and half of Ghost’s face. Both look spectacular. Considering I usually spend very little on merchandise (as my money is usually earmarked for autographs and photos), this was quite the haul.

1pm loomed, so I figured it was time to get the first autograph of the day completed, Mr. Danny Webb.

Danny Webb: While Danny has had a long and illustrious career in film, television, and theatre, spanning 5 different decades, I primarily know him from two episodes of “Doctor Who” he filmed around ten years ago, which highlights my limited scope of attraction more so than his career choices. Danny, as a £10 guest, was a frickin’ bargain! Not only was he friendly, talkative, and interesting, but it was very little money for the autograph and I even got a picture with him at the autograph table too. One thing I really enjoyed and appreciated at this convention was that all four guests I met offered table pictures and all four of them came around the table for the picture to be taken. No leaning over a table while they’re sat down needed whatsoever, which always makes for a nicer, more intimate looking result. We talked about “Doctor Who”, what it was like working on the show, and how he found the experience. Danny really enjoyed his time on the show, thought that both David Tennant and Billie Piper were professional, friendly, and funny, and was impressed that Billie – in her final season – cared as much as David did, who was in his first. He was impressed that neither was burned out or stressy, even though they had every right to be given the hours they were working at the time. The only challenging time during the two episodes was crawling through the ventilation shafts, as filming those scenes took three days and Danny had to wear kneepads under his trousers to stop them from becoming raw. Danny was also impressed and a little bewildered that a family entertainment show was asking such serious questions about religion and the Devil within the two episodes that he was a part of.

Furthermore, like a large percentage of male guests I meet over 50, we discussed the Western movie, “Shane”. Danny told me I need to watch it as it’s amazing. I know my grandfather loved it too, so I should probably get around to it at some point. Finally, we discussed the process of recording audiobooks, as Danny has done a few for “Doctor Who” with Big Finish. Unlike a radio dramatic recording, the Big Finish setup has all the actors in separate booths so they can’t see each other. Therefore, Danny said it was technically a little more challenging as there was nobody to bounce off of, but it was also more freeing and interesting as everything came into his imagination as he was reading the lines. He also mentioned that three characters he voiced all had a conversation in one of the audio dramas, which was amusing as he had to jump from voice to voice in quick succession and try to remember which was which. He said he loved his time recording though as it was fun, relatively easy work and they gave him a great lunch every time he went in. Can’t say fairer than that! £10, great guy, very informative and interesting, plus a picture with him too...terrific! Guest Type = Conversationalist.

(Regular readers, you can skip this section)

“Shangel, what’s a ‘conversationalist’?”

I’m glad you asked, random voice in my head representing the new people reading one of my reviews. Many years ago, after attending numerous conventions, I devised a system whereby to categorise my experiences with guests and their level of interaction in order to compare the quality of my experiences across conventions and time. I have O.C.D., shut up. The following three types were found :-

·       The Responder: This type of guest is often polite and friendly. If you ask them a question, they’ll happily answer. If you comment on something, they’ll respond or smile gratefully. However, they won’t carry the conversation forward, you have to. These are the most common type of guest, and this is what you expect when meeting someone at a convention. This is a great category to be a part of.

·       The Groucho/Big Guest: There are two aspects to this category. Firstly, you have the groucho. The groucho is there for monetary purposes or is generally just having a bad day, or is a bit of an ass. If you meet enough people, one of them is bound to be an ass! The grouchos aren’t interested in conversations above a few words. They’ll say ‘hi’ (sometimes they don’t bother with that), sign, say ‘bye’ (sometimes), and you’re on your merry way. Of course, in certain situations this is relevant and expected, which brings me to the second part of this category, the big guest. Some guests are going to be insanely popular. Such as Stan Lee at LFCC ‘14, who had an entire building to himself basically. When you get a huge queue like that, the guest can’t take a lot of time with everyone. If they did, many people would go home disappointed at not getting to meet them at all. Therefore, the convention company and the guest want to get through as many people as possible. You cannot have a huge guest and expect to get above a minute with them, which is perfectly fair.

·       The Conversationalist: This is easily my favourite type of guest. They’ll answer your questions with a smile, ask you questions in return, and are happy to chat for an extended period of time (extended = above 2-3 minutes), regardless of where the conversation leads or how long you’ve been talking. Obviously, there has to be some cut-off point if there is a queue behind you, but you leave the experience feeling euphoric and like you gained a lot more than just the autograph you queued for.

Feel free to let me know your experiences with guests in the comments!

With one decent experience under my belt, it was time to head over to the ladies I needed to meet, Maya and Angelina.

Maya Stojan: As I mentioned earlier, I attended this event solely for Maya in the end...and then a few days before the convention, Maya was announced for ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’, 45 minutes from my home...typical. No matter, as Bournemouth was beautiful and Maya was totally worth the long drive. I’ve been attending conventions for about 7 years now and over the course of that time I’ve met literally hundreds of guests. I’ve partied with them, hung out in the green room with them, and even become friends with some of them. Suffice to say, I consider myself a good judge of character by this point. 99% of the time it’s easy for me to assess which guests are there for money, which guests are there to meet their fans (granted, money helps with everybody), which guests are friendly but have an invisible barrier separating them from the attendees, and which guests are amazing people that smile genuinely, legitimately want to get to know you as much as the autograph table allows, and are enjoying themselves immensely. Maya most assuredly falls into the latter of those descriptions. She was a delight, and certainly one of the very best guests I’ve met in years, so I’m excited to have the opportunity to interview her face-to-face next month in Cardiff. I started by asking Maya how she was enjoying the weekend. She was loving it and seemed to really appreciate Bournemouth as an English coastal town...she even had fish & chips the night before! We talked about Showmasters’ film & comic con in Amsterdam the previous weekend, which Maya also attended, and I told her that my friends Immy and Christa say “hi!”, as they’d spent a lot of time with Maya the previous weekend while waiting for their change from the autograph table. After I explained who they were, a flicker of recognition appeared across Maya’s face and she enthusiastically said, “Yes! Of course I know who they are! I talked to them for about 20 minutes last weekend! Castle fans, right? I felt so bad for them that they had to wait as I’m sure they had other stuff to do and explore”. I assured her that they, in fact, were more than happy to wait for their change and she was probably their biggest highlight of the weekend. One thing I noticed about Maya instantly was how quick to laugh and smile she was. She extended her hand first for a handshake, which doesn’t always happen, she gives amazing eye-contact, which, again, doesn’t always happen, and her smiles and questions seem completely genuine. I asked Maya if she’d had the opportunity to visit home (she’s Swiss) between the two conventions, and she enthusiastically exclaimed that she had indeed found the time to visit Geneva, her home city. I mentioned that my girlfriend is Austrian, so I could relate to the struggles she must inevitably face of being so far away from her family while living in Los Angeles. We talked about Austria, Switzerland, and England, before we turned out attention to “Castle” and “Agents Of SHIELD”.

I expressed my disappointment that Maya wasn’t in the final season of “Castle”, to which Maya joked that she found it oddly amusing that there was only one season after she left and she likes to think it was because she was gone from the show. Legit L.O.L. moment. We talked about the ending to “Castle” and how it was probably better to end the show than try to continue without the irreplaceable Stana Katic. We transitioned into “Agents Of SHIELD” and Maya talked about the secracy surrounding all of Marvel’s projects. She could only access her scripts from certain places, she could one print them from one specific printer, and even though she didn’t say it, I like to think she had to eat the script after memorising all of her lines too. Originally, Maya was only intended for two episodes of the show and she knew little about her character. Thankfully, two became eight, and Agent 33’s relationship with Grant Ward, and her subsequent death, became one of the best things in a very good season. I also filled Maya in about the blog and the reviews, as the crew member with her, Charlotte, happened to mention my reviews, while the crew member the other side, whose guest, Tom Hopper, was absent, said that she’d recently read my review of this year’s ‘London Film & Comic Con’. The whole conversation was great and went longer than expected, which is always nice. I thanked Maya for her time, she shook my hand again and smiled, we had a picture taken together, and Maya joked that she hoped she’d get a positive review. I think the term I’d use here is ‘glowing’. What a fantastic, caring, passionate, empowering person that Maya is. I’d totally recommend that everybody meet her if given the opportunity. She’s in Cardiff at the Motorpoint Arena on October 29th and 30th, so that sounds like the perfect opportunity for you to do so. She far exceeds the pricetag of £15.Guest Type = Conversationalist (& Sweetheart).

Angelina Love: This was one of those conversations where doing a little bit of homework made all the difference. Angelina was perfectly friendly, perfectly responsive, and a great guy, but it felt a little like she was going through the motions, having probably answered the same 15 questions all weekend...until I mentioned “The Walking Dead”. That changed everything. Angelina has recently watched every season and is a big fan, so we theorised who Negan has offed (we both said Abraham or Eugene almost simultaneously) and talked more generally about the show for a solid three or four minutes. Finding something that the guest is passionate about is always a useful backup plan as they’ve likely not talked about it all weekend (or rarely) and it’s something that they’re as passionate about as you are about their career and conventions. In addition to “The Walking Dead”, we also talked about her career and she expressed interest in going to the WWE and getting her ‘Wrestlemania moment’, as that’s one thing that has alluded her throughout her sixteen-year wrestling career. I also congratulated her on the recent birth of her son, to which she seemed genuinely grateful.She’s in amazing shape for someone who gave birth less than six months ago! She’s a beast. Even got a picture at the autograph table too. Guest Type = Responder.

After a little more merchandise-hunting, last up for autographs was Ray Park, who I already felt comfortable and at ease around, having met him before and attended his talk earlier in the day.

Ray Park: Ray’s queue is always a relatively slow-moving one and that’s largely because Ray likes to spend time talking to everyone. I don’t recall ever seeing Ray talk to someone for less than a couple of minutes at least, which is admirable, especially at some of the larger conventions where a conveyer belt-type system is more the norm. At the time we met Ray, it was after 3pm, so his queue had slowly started to dwindle, leaving 20 people in front of us, but nobody behind us at that time. That meant that by the time Clare and I got to the front, we could have a decent conversation with Ray as there was no reason to feel guilty about holding up the people behind us. If you want a decent conversation with a guest, the best rule of thumb is to go late, as most conventions start to thin out at 4pm. Alas, the only downside is that sometimes the guests leave early when the event starts to dwindle, so you have to make sure you don’t leave it too late and miss them entirely. Play it smart, people. Planning and experience is key. Ray hasn’t seen the ‘Apprentice’ fan-made short film regarding Darth Maul, but he intends to and has seen the behind-the-scenes video regarding the making of the short. You really need to check it out if you’re a “Star Wars” fan as it’s really, really well made, and it’s not the largest of commitments as it’s only 18 minutes long. Fuck it, here it is...

We also talked about some of his dream roles he’d like to play. From a supehero perspective, he’d really love to play Gambit, but he’s also really up for reprising his role as Darth Maul, particularly now that the character has been brought back in ‘The Clone Wars’. With Disney buying the rights to “Star Wars” and planning to greatly expand the universe, a Darth Maul appearance or prequel movie isn’t entirely out of the question. I only hope that if they choose to do so, they bring Ray into the equation as his role in Episode I was basically mute, but awesome. We also talked about conventions and X-Men before Ray remembered that we’d met before and that we’d talked about Toad and I’d gotten a Toad 8” x 10” signed. That’s some memory as it had been eighteen months since we’d first (and last) met. I can’t say enough good things about Ray. Every time I interact with him, he’s awesome. It’s like talking to a fellow convention attendee as opposed to a guest, which is a big compliment as it means he has no barriers or defence from his fans. He asks you questions, tells long stories, and makes sure everyone leaves having had a good time. This is going above and beyond what most convention guests do, so I truly admire Ray for his enthusiasm and love of the convention scene. Guest Type = Conversationalist. Alongside Maya, Ray was the highlight of the day. If you have one experience like that at a convention, you can consider it a very good day and yourself very lucky. Even with only meeting four guests, I had two. Awesome.

It was time for my final photoshoot of the day with Maya. By this point, I was a little sleepy from the long day. My ticket was scanned, I saw Maya inside, so I went in to get my photo, not realising that they hadn’t started calling people in yet and I’d totally just cut in front of the one lovely lady that was first in queue. Once the crew member told me this and I realised, I obviously went back out and joined the back of the queue. Silly Shangel. The photo went off without a hitch, Maya was her usual smiley and enthusiastic self, the photo was printed instantly, and it was nearly time to leave.

However, during our ‘goodbye tour’ of the event, I stumbled across a bizarre sight...Steve Lynskey (wrestling referee and agent to the wrestling guests at Showmasters’ events), Daniel Logan (young Boba Fett), and Tom Hopper (“Doctor Who”/”Merlin”/”Black Sails”), all standing around the autograph area, all covered in those long, thin balloons. It was amusing buffoonery at its finest. Everyone was having a great time by the looks of it. From the attendees, to the guests, to the agents. It was the perfect storm of guests as people like Steve, Daniel, and Ray Park are always a laugh and great to have around. In fact, I’m a little mad at myself that I didn’t go and meet Daniel as whenever I saw him all day, he was joking around and having fun, and hugging everybody. He seems like a terrific human being. With ‘Balloon Wars’ dispersing, I took the opportunity to say goodbye to Maya as she looked over at me and smiled as I was walking past. I told her that I’d see her in Cardiff and we could get that interview done, before myself and Clare headed towards the exit. On the way, we bumped into Mark and Jayne, who’re running the “Gloucester Comic Con” I’m helping to organise next month, so we had a nice conversation with them, and then we bumped into Phil at the exit, so I had a great conversation with Phil too. Once again, it’s like a family reunion when you go to as many of these as I do, and I really appreciate seeing so many people that I consider friends and/or extended family.

My first time at “Film & Comic Con Bournemouth”, even though I only went for one day and Julie Benz cancelled on me again, was great. It was everything you want from one of the smaller Showmasters events. A terrific venue, well layed-out, well organised, with great crew, and amazing guests. What more could you ask for?

Would I attend again? If the line-up was worthy of the long drive, absolutely.



  1. Dude, awesome review once again! I'm glad you had such a lovely weekend and a great time with Maya, and so cool that she remembered me and Immy! Totally agree with what you said about her and looking forward to reading the interview you're going to do with her :D She was a delight to meet and nope, we really didn't mind the talk! We had a blast :)

  2. I was also at Bournemouth and had a nice time. Maya was wonderful as was Ray. It was a very nice venue too. Using your labels :-

    Maya: Conversationalist
    Ray: Conversationalist

    This is fun!

  3. Tom was supposed to be a balloon butterfly... I'm not entirely sure how the loops connecting Daniel and Steve to him fit in with that... I was killing myself laughing anyway. (Steve wandered around most of Saturday afternoon in the same butterfly get-up, and I think subjecting Tom to it might have been his idea...)

    You should totally ask Maya in Cardiff how her magic tricks are coming along - as the pit boss in that area Saturday then her GA on Sunday, I picked a card quite a few times (with gradually improving results!)

  4. Loved the review once again! You always know just how to describe it :) And so cool that she remembered us. She really is a great conversationalist <3 Thanks for saying hi from us and for ensuring that we loved talking to her! You're also totally right about Ray, such a nice guy to talk to.