• Colin Baker (6th Doctor from “Doctor Who”)
• Danny John-Jules (The Cat from “Red Dwarf”)
• Chris Barrie (Arnold Rimmer from “Red Dwarf”)
• Robert Llewellyn (Kryten from “Red Dwarf”)
• Hattie Hayridge (Holly from “Red Dwarf”)
• Spencer Wilding (Everything ever. Seriously. “Guardians Of The Galaxy”, “Star Wars”, “Harry Potter”, “Doctor Who”, “Game Of Thrones”...)
• Ceri-Ann Williams (Wonder Woman’s body-double in the upcoming movie)
• Virginia Hey (Pa’u Zotoh Zhaan from “Farscape”)
• Sophie Aldred (Ace from “Doctor Who”)
• Terry Molloy (Davros from “Doctor Who”)
• Simon Fisher-Becker (Dorium Maldovar from “Doctor Who”)
• Ian McNeice (Winston Churchill from “Doctor Who”)
• Paul Warren (Varmik from “Star Wars” & Skinny Steve Rogers from “Captain America”)
• Nick Joseph (Arhul Hextrophon from “Star Wars”)
• Brian Wheeler (Ewoks from “Star Wars”)
• Grant Perkins (Comic Artist)
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This past weekend marked the first ever edition of “Gloucester Comic Con”, taking place over both days of the weekend of the 8th and 9th of October at GL1 Leisure Centre, right in the heart of Gloucester’s city centre...or close enough to make no difference! Long-time readers of my reviews should note that this one will be very, very different to the regular proceedings as this was the first convention that I helped organise and was therefore an entirely different experience from start to finish. Unlike my other convention reviews, where I critique the organisation, the atmosphere, the guests, and the structure, I’d like to do something different with this one. Obviously, as part of the organisational team, it would be both biased and stupid of me to critique something I was a part of organising, so instead I shall take you on a journey, gentle readers. A journey from setting up the event, to doors opening, to behind-the-scenes titbits, to limping to my car on Sunday evening as the event was closing. It will be a journey that straddles both the attendee side of the event and a little of the organisational side of the event as well, so you can fully appreciate just how much work goes into pulling something like this off. Buckle in, kiddies. It’s going to be an interesting ride. Particularly on the Sunday afternoon, as it was probably the most bizarre, wondrous, spontaneous few hours of a convention I’ve ever been to, and I say that with biased completely removed from the equation.
Just one further note before we get into the meat of the review....as I was part of the organising crew, it would be unprofessional for me to talk about certain parts of the weekend. Things that the guests said in the green room, for instance. Therefore, there will obviously be certain parts of the weekend that I will not get in to. Those shall remain private between myself and the people in question. Everything else, however, is fair game and I shall give my impressions and opinions where appropriate.
Also, all pictures and videos used in this review have been given permission by either the photographer/recorder, the subject, or both. If you think you deserve a credit and want to be linked back to anything, tweet me (see the end of the review). If you want your picture to be taken out, tweet me. All pictures have been taken by either myself, Gloucester Comic Con crew (thanks, Katy!), or Donald Manning (as far as I'm aware). Please check out Donald's photography page on Facebook. He's a very talented photographer! Two-thirds of the videos used in this review were recorded by Kirsty. Please can you also check out Kirsty's Facebook page - there's some damn cool stuff on there! My friend Rach even bought four or five items at Comic Con!
The original plan was for us to start setting up the event bright and early on the Saturday morning of the convention, which would have been a struggle. Firstly, there would have been a lot to get done before the doors opened at 10am. Plus, if there were any major problems, they might not have been solved in the timeframe available to us. Mercifully, GL1 were gracious enough to allow us to start setting up on the Friday night instead, so after a brief pit-stop at home after work, I headed over to GL1 to meet Mark, Jayne, and the rest of the team behind GEEKS. Step one of the plan was relatively straight-forward: make sure everyone knows where everything is supposed to go. We need tables against this wall for guests, two rows in the middle of the hall for merchandise stalls, etc. Step two of the plan was a little more challenging, but myself and photographer extraordinaire, Gary, had a little makeshift plan of action in place. See, we had to get a hundred or so tables from the gimmick room out into the main hall. As there were three of us bringing the tables out at the time, it would have been exhausting, time-consuming, and a pain in the ass to keep walking back and forth with a table or two at a time. Therefore, we found an empty chair rack on wheels and started loading the tables onto that twelve at a time, then wheeling it through to the main hall. Smart move. Also helped to conserve some energy, which is always needed at conventions, whether you’re organising or attending. Anything that will aid your comfort or energy levels is a must.
With the tables slowly falling into place, it was time for some other parts of the show to start being brought into the equation, including The Super Heroes Cosplay group, who started to set up their corner of the hall on the Friday night as well. Paul and his team are a collection of professional cosplayers, who travel from event to event bringing fun and merriments to conventions, including their very own Bat-Signal and props! They’re always friendly, they always look incredible, and they are a remarkable outfit (pun intended). Check out their Facebook page, give them a like, and always go out of your way to say “hi” to them. Amusingly, I didn’t actually recognise Paul himself all weekend until he put the Captain America costume on! I’ve only met Paul before in costume, so I had no idea what he looked like when he wasn’t under the mask.
By the time we started to head out on Friday night, I’d been working for roughly 17 hours, with perhaps 90 minutes off in between the two jobs. I was beat...but the good kind of beat, you know? Like, after you’ve just finished a marathon exercising or weight-lifting session, where you just want to die to stop the aching, but you know the aching is good for you in the long-run...or some shit like that.
I returned to GL1 early on Saturday morning, ready to await my crew members and start getting the notices out around the building. We had two queues for the Saturday morning, which were queuing outside of our main entranceway – weekend ticket holders (who received a wristband) and day-pass holders (who received a hand stamp). Once these queues started to go in at 10am, we could change the day-pass queue over to the pay on the day queue. Three or four signs down, three or four new ones up, job’s a good ‘un. My tag team partner for Saturday was my dear friend Rachel, Goth Queen of the Damned. Due to a run of, well, my schedule, I hadn’t seen Rach in damn near two years by the time Gloucester Comic Con weekend was upon us, so it was great to have Rachel by my side for most of the day...I politely deemed her my “assistant”, while she deemed herself my “bitch”. Bless.
With Gollum in place, Dobby in place, the gigantic inflatable Pikachu inflated, BB-8 not rolling away, and the merchandise stalls all ready to rock and roll, it was time to let the peasants....I mean, delightful attendees into the venue. Just as the doors were opening, I got called away to help Ceri-Ann Williams bring her bags into the venue. Ceri chose the green room option to get changed into her Wonder Woman outfit, which gave me and Rach the opportunity to get to know Ceri a bit and have a nice conversation with her before the manic rushing around started up again. I will freely admit, I knew nothing about Ceri before this event. Absolutely nothing. So, I’m happy to report that both in front of the fans and behind the scenes, she is delightful. So relaxed, so easy to talk to, and not a single diva-y bone in her body...which, I assure you, is not always the case. Was Ceri able to tell us anything about the impending Wonder Woman movie, which I still maintain should have been penned by Joss Whedon nearly a decade ago? I’m afraid I couldn’t possibly tell you if she did. Am I just being an annoying tease? Yes, but it’s fun.
With Wonder Woman safely at her desk, and already starting to draw many a young man’s eye, it was time to start coming up with my plan of action for the day. I attend somewhere in the region of fifteen conventions each year and the first thing I do, whether attending as press, an agent, an attendee, or now an organiser, is to get a good plan in place...what are my duties? What scheduled activities are happening at a fixed time and must be worked around? For Gloucester Comic Con, I was overseeing getting the guests to their talk panels and back as one of my main duties. With the first talk of the day scheduled for 11am – the Star Wars panel – there was enough time to get a lay of the land. Talk to some of the merchandise stall owners, check if any talks or photos had changed times, answer any questions passing attendees had, and direct panicking mothers towards the nearest toilets before their children had an accident. Nothing says “good time” like urine (I hope!) on the floor....thankfully that was avoided.
The talk panel aspect of the convention was the most make-shift of the event, as the talks were taking place over the tiered seating that would ordinarily be occupied by people watching an event in the main hall below. However, this was the only realistic place to put the talks given the venue we were in, so it was a case of having no talks at all or creating a little space up there with 300 seats. Mark and the team wanted to give the attendees the very most they could for their entry ticket price, so the talks went ahead as planned, which was a great move by the end of the weekend, as the talks were some of the highlights, particularly the Red Dwarf talks, as on Saturday there was standing room only.
The gentleman hosting the panels, Ian, did a fantastic job! He looked familiar, so I must have seen him around conventions before, but I don’t recall ever having watched him conduct a panel before this weekend. He was a professional through and through. My sources tell me that Ian was at the guests’ hotel on the Friday night getting prepped with the guests! Now that’s some dedication. Over the course of the weekend a few of the talk panels were pushed back by 30 minutes to accommodate technical issues, but for the most part the talks went off without a hitch. Thankfully, you were still able to hear the talks clearly, even with the main hall being located one floor lower behind where the guests were sitting.
I rounded up Nick, Brian, and Paul, and cleared a pathway so that I could take them up the one-flight journey to their talk. So far, so good! I’d had the pleasure of meeting both Brian and Paul before Gloucester Comic Con, and they’re both terrific human beings. Brian is hilarious and a natural-born comedian (more on his antics later), while Paul is one of the most easy to talk to guests out there on the convention circuit. Just as an aside, to my fellow convention attendees, if you get the opportunity to meet people like Nick, Brian, or Paul, take it! Sure, they’re not the films’ main stars like Harrison Ford or Mark Hamill, but damn it they have some great stories. I’ve always felt that you get to know more about the filming procedures and the environment by talking to some of the lesser known people associated with it than you do by talking to the main cast, as they’re usually treated like royalty. All three of the aforementioned gentlemen had an autograph price of £10. Just £10. You can get an autograph, grab a picture with them, and likely get a decent, lengthy conversation out of them, complete with fascinating trivia and amusing set stories, all for £10. I’ve met hundreds of guests over the years...I have a spreadsheet and everything! I would say that 40 of my top 50 guests ever have not been main cast of the television series or film that I associate them with. The recurring cast and the secondary actors are where the fun is! I assure you. Due to my running around all weekend, I actually missed out on getting Nick, Paul, and Brian’s autographs myself, so I’m gonna have to hunt them down at a later time. While I’d never met Nick before Gloucester Comic Con, I found him to be an absolute delight as well. I feel so blessed to have had the time and opportunity to get to know Nick a little bit over the weekend.
Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, the writer’s panel that was scheduled for 1pm had to be cut from the schedule, which allowed the Red Dwarf panel to start at 1pm instead of the previously scheduled midday. This was great for two reasons: Firstly, it allowed Chris, Robert, and Hattie to stay at their autograph tables until 1pm, so the attendees paying on the day and entering at 12noon would be able to meet the Red Dwarf crew soon after entering the venue instead of having to wait an extra hour or so if they were in a rush. Secondly, it allowed people paying on the day to see the entirety of the Red Dwarf talk, instead of missing the start as they’d have been entering the venue as the talk was commencing. Win-win as far as I’m concerned. I moseyed on over to GL1’s main reception area to ask the GL1 staff to put an announcement out over the tannoy system so that attendees were aware of the time change. I also made the GEEKS crew at the sales desk aware so that they could update people accordingly. Then it was time to head over to Chris, Robert, and Hattie and make sure they were comfortable with the change, which they all were. This also acted as a nice ice-breaker for myself and the Red Dwarf crew, as I hadn’t had time to talk to them since they arrived.
Due to us only having half of the GL1 building available to us, it meant that we had to keep a crew member in two separate areas at all times to ensure that non-convention attendees didn’t get in without paying. Thankfully, most of my crew were terrific all weekend, but one in particular kept wandering off at their leisure, which caused me my only major headaches of the weekend. Live and learn, people. Some people wanna work, some people wanna have fun. Both are great, but only one of those two types is useful for crewing.
The Red Dwarf talk was very successful from both an attendance and feedback perspective. All of the Red Dwarf actors are frequent convention attendees. They’re used to interacting with fans, they’re used to hosting talk panels, and they’re used to each other’s company...and it shows! Their chemistry as a fandom is second only to Torchwood in my humble opinion.
Next up was the Monsters & Aliens panel, consisting of Spencer Wilding and Virginia Hey. On paper, I thought this panel might suffer. Star Wars is a huge franchise. Red Dwarf is a huge franchise, helped by the main cast members at Gloucester Comic Con. Doctor Who is a huge franchise. I knew that every panel over the course of the weekend would at least be respectfully attended, but the one worry I had was Spencer and Virginia’s. In hindsight, it might have been better to put Spencer with Simon and Ian the following day, and to omit Virginia from a panel entirely, especially considering Virginia’s dedication to making her guarantee. While I said I won’t divulge anything from behind the scenes, I will slightly on this occasion because it’s a positive thing. As most convention attendees are aware, certain actors have guarantees to attend. Not all of them, but most. This basically means that if they don’t make ‘X’ amount of money in autograph sales, the organisers will give them the difference. It basically covers the guests and gives them a minimum amount of money they’re guaranteed to make. Some guests – not at Gloucester Comic Con, just in general – use this as a crutch. They don’t need to make quite so much effort as they know they’ll be making at least ‘X’ amount of money regardless. Others, like Virginia, are too classy for words. Throughout the weekend, Virginia was determined to meet her guarantee. She was also determined to make sure that every single person who approached her autograph table went away happy and feeling fulfilled. She would give each person a lengthy conversation, she was happy to pose for pictures at the autograph table...she was an absolute delight. She truly cared about her fans, truly cared about the organisers, and truly wanted everyone, on all sides, to be happy with her. This is so, so admirable. I can’t tell you how much respect I have for Virginia for being so professional and taking pride in her aspect of the convention. If you’re a convention organiser and you’re reading this, book her. She has an official Facebook, which she can be contacted via. If you’re an attendee and you’re a fan of Virginia or Farscape, go and meet her! In addition to all of this, she also brings homemade soaps that she sells, which smell amazing. So much so that Danny John-Jules kept rubbing his soap on his neck – and crotch – throughout Sunday...charmer, that one.
Speaking of Spencer Wilding, you know who’s going to be kicking themselves over the next couple of years? People who missed out on meeting him. In addition to being the mean guard who steals Star-Lord’s walkman in “Guardians Of The Galaxy”, Spencer has also been a White Walker in the pilot episode of “Game of Thrones”, he’s appeared in Harry Potter, Doctor Who, and a plethora of other cult television shows. Furthermore, it is heavily rumoured that Spencer Wilding will be taking over from David Prowse as the man inside the Darth Vader suit for future Star Wars movies. He’s already been announced as one of the people inside the suit for this December’s “Rogue One”. Trust me, kiddies, he’s going to be the next Dave Prowse when it comes to popularity at conventions. His queues and his price will only go up as time goes on. I’ve had the opportunity to meet Spencer a couple of times before Gloucester Comic Con, as well as talking to him on social media in between those meetings. I had a rather lengthy conversation with him at last year’s “Stoke-Con-Trent” (best and laziest convention name ever!), as I was sat with Game of Throne’s Aimee Richardson for most of the day, who was directly next to Spencer. Like myself, Spencer’s origins are in martial arts and fighting, so we have a lot in common and a lot of things to talk about outside of the realms of television and movies. When you throw those things in too, I could talk to Spencer all day and not get bored. For Gloucester Comic Con, Spencer brought one of his son’s along, which brought an extra energetic youth to proceedings. I don’t think I was told his name, but he was a really, really great kid.
As I was busy running around like a maniac, I missed the Cosplay competition that was going on upstairs from 3:45pm. It was a simple setup: add your name to the list to enter and show off your costume when it was your turn. On Saturday, I believe the winner and runners-up were chosen by Paul of The Super Heroes Cosplay group and Ceri-Ann Williams. I’m reliably informed that Saturday’s winner was a cosplay of The Undertaker (wrestler), portrayed by a terrific gentleman called Si. I’ve seen Si around here and there before as The Undertaker and I’ve always been impressed by the attention to detail of the cosplay, so it was a worthy winner in my eyes.
Speaking of cosplay (and there will be more later in the review), I was astounded to see just how many people dressed up for the event. As many attendees were locals that had never been to a convention before, I assumed we’d have a smattering of cosplayers, but that most people would be attending in their regular clothing. Boy, was I wrong! There were cosplayers everywhere! Perhaps one in every three people were cosplaying! A couple of standouts for me (the ones I managed to see while running around) were the Jabba The Hut cosplay (hilarious!), the vintage (that’s a polite way of saying ‘elderly’, as ‘elderly’ is subjective) Clark Kent/Superman, and the young girl dressed as Agent Peggy Carter. To all of the cosplayers that attended on the Saturday, you looked amazing. I’ve always been impressed with the time and effort, and passion that people put into these projects. A lot of costumes are homemade and some people spend a year or more perfecting them! I’m also always impressed when the cosplayer embodies the character, such as the Deadpool cosplayer on Sunday (more on him later). While I’ve never cosplayed myself, they bring so much to comic conventions and they simply wouldn’t be anywhere near as good without them, so get working on ideas and costumes for next year!
When I found the time, I was also trying to take as many pictures as possible of Ceri interacting with her fans, as Ceri wanted some pictures that could potentially be used on her website one day in the near future. Do you know how hard it is to take pictures when your hands are shaking from a combination of fatigue and adrenaline? Nevertheless, I persevered and was able to send Ceri about 30 pictures, which was gratifying for me and Ceri thanked me sincerely for them...such a lovely woman, is that Ceri...and I still forgot to get a picture with her...moron. No matter, it has been arranged for the future.
By this point in the afternoon (4pm), things were starting to unwind as we headed into the final hour of the day. At 4pm, the stress gets largely taken off of our shoulders as the crowd starts to thin and the attendance becomes free for the final hour. I took this opportunity to get a few things done. Firstly, as I entered the studio photo room to grab my rucksack to get some water, Gary asked if I wanted to hop in and get a picture with Chris Barrie and Hattie Hayridge. You don’t have to tell me twice, so I popped into the picture, it was taken, and I popped out again. Very cool! Now it was time to get my autographs and pictures with the guests at their autograph tables taken care of.
First up was Simon Fisher-Becker. What attendees weren’t aware of (I don’t think...) was that Simon was frightfully sick over Gloucester Comic Con weekend. He had a non-contagious pneumonia-type illness that had travelled into one lung. Both Simon’s agent and the Gloucester Comic Con team encouraged Simon to stay home and rest up, but Simon is a man of strong principles. He said he was going to be in Gloucester, so he was going to be there. Thankfully, throughout Saturday and heading into Sunday, Simon started to feel better and better, which was great to see. I travelled to a convention with pneumonia in February of this year and I could barely breathe or walk, so I can imagine the type of dedication Simon must have to his fans to brave that type of illness and attend the convention anyway. If you met Simon, kudos. He’s a very interesting human being with a lot of great stories to tell. Like Ian McNeice, Simon’s one of those old-school actors that can perform any role you give them and do so with a certain elegance and finesse that is rarely seen in some of today’s more prominent stars. After Simon signed the autograph and we had a lovely chat about “Doctor Who”, his one-man show (“My Dalek Has A Puncture”), how he was feeling, and how the weekend was going, I grabbed a picture with him at the autograph table. All that, £10, ladies and gentlemen. Totally worth the money.
After leaving Simon’s autograph table, I headed over to Chris Barrie’s with Rach, who was now acting as my photographer for my ‘selfies’ with the guests. I met a lot of lovely celebrities and people on the Saturday of Gloucester Comic Con, but Chris may have been my very favourite. What. A. Gentleman. He knows how to hold a conversation, he’s very witty, very interesting, and acts as though he actually cares what you have to say! He’s so good with his fans. He even took the time to thank myself and Rachel for all our help that day, as he was only attending on the Saturday as he had to get back home. We talked about Red Dwarf and its longevity, we talked about how the day had gone for him, and we talked about Gloucester and the local cathedral, which has been used as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies, as well as being used in Doctor Who, Sherlock, and many other great productions. I was so thoroughly impressed by Chris...and even grabbed a picture with him at the autograph table.
To my utter dismay, Robert Llewellyn had gone by this point, so I missed out on my picture with him. No matter, I still got to talk to him quite a bit earlier in the day and he’ll be at Film & Comic Con Cardiff at the end of the month, which I should be attending as press, so I’ll have the opportunity to grab a picture with him there. Finally, it was time to catch up with Spencer Wilding and get another picture with him, before moving on to Terry Molloy, arguably the funniest picture-taker of the weekend. The faces that Terry pulls in the pictures are second to none.
Myself and Rachel helped out with the little things that still needed to be done, before we left the venue. I gave Rach a lift to her car, which was parked at Gloucester hospital.
Day one, CHECK!
Day two, COMMENCE!
Sunday started off a little bit more dramatic than intended. Rachel had to pull out of crewing due to illness, while I had to drive to Chalford to collect Charlotte and Nathan, which is about an hour or so roundtrip. No matter, we were inside the venue and organising in no time at all. Before doors opened, a few amusing things happened...
Firstly, after a replica Lightning McQueen was parked inside the venue, a smaller version for children was brought in alongside it. Brian Wheeler took the opportunity to hop in and start riding around the venue, which was hilarious.
Secondly, the gigantic inflatable Stay Puft Marshmallow Man had to be moved after we discovered that his original location was...well, a little too close for comfort for Gollum...
With fifteen minutes until opening, we discovered something was wrong...horribly wrong. We were out of water bottles for the guests and crew! SHIT! No worries, there’s an Asda just across the road. Myself and Lee-Ann (I honestly have no idea if it’s spelled ‘Lee-Ann’ or ‘Leanne’, but Facebook says ‘Lee-Ann’, so I’m going with that) headed across the road and loaded up 72 bottles of water into a trolley....then Asda couldn’t serve us until 10am, A.K.A. opening time. We took the trolley as far as we could before we had to ditch it and carry the water by hand – Lee-Ann with 24 bottles and myself with 24 bottles on each arm. We managed to get back to the venue and into the green room without our arms falling off, which is always a plus as I’ve grown rather attached to mine over the years.
11am was the first panel of the day, Danny John-Jules and Hattie Hayridge. The Red Dwarf panel, once again, pulled in a crowd, even though this panel – unlike Saturday’s – started and finished before people paying on the day got into the venue. It just proves the popularity of Red Dwarf, quite frankly. Even on the way up to the talk, I discovered that Danny and Hattie have a great friendship and get on incredibly well, so I knew that the chemistry was there to have a magical panel, which I believe it turned out being.
After the Red Dwarf panel, it was time to get Sophie Aldred (A.K.A. Ace from “Doctor Who”) upstairs for her panel, which once again had a respectable crowd size. Next up was Terry Molloy’s talk panel....then that’s where the real magic started to happen. Just after Terry’s talk had started, I was upstairs overlooking the balcony to the main hall below and something caught my eye...the spectacular gentlemen running the Geek Elite UK stall had brought a couple of speakers with them to the event the previous day and they were playing music. Not too loudly to annoy everyone, but loud enough so that people close to them could sing along and have a good time. Suddenly, a Deadpool cosplayer and an old-school Harley Quinn cosplayer started to dance, which slowly but surely started to attract a little crowd of people...then a Spider-Man cosplayer jumped into the fray, and a spontaneous dance-off started between Deadpool and Spider-Man.
Let me tell you something, ladies and gentlemen, that Deadpool cosplayer in particular has some moves! That man can dance. The crowd grew larger and larger, and the dance-off morphed into the Flash vs. Quicksilver. Then other people joined in. Before I knew it, there was a damn flash-mob happening in the middle of the main convention hall. I’ve been to many, many conventions over the years and I’ve seen the occasional dancing take place, but I’ve never, ever seen anything like this. The dancing became singing. The singing became a Conga line around the hall while “500 Miles” blared through the speakers.
The Gangnam style dance happened, YMCA happened...gentle readers, you know you’re at a bewilderingly unique and amazing convention when almost everyone in the hall is singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” together in unison. I was half-mesmerised and half-proud, looking around at my people. My fellow convention attendees, my fellow Gloucestershirians, all making friends and bonding, all singing and dancing together, over their shared passion of all things nerdy. THIS, my friends, is what conventions...hell, this is what life is all about. Is the real world was more like GL1 Leisure Centre on Sunday afternoon, the world would be an incredible place.
Cosplayers, cosplayers, cosplayers...once again, you outdid yourselves. Like Saturday, Sunday was filled with a collection of incredibly talented people. Josh brought along a spectacular looking Loki, and he had the attitude and facial expressions down to match (he was actually there Saturday too, but I had more time to pay attention on Sunday). There was a beautiful Daenerys cosplay from Rachael, throwing back to the first season where she was truly a Khaleesi alongside Khal Drogo.
I could talk about all the amazing cosplayers all day and I would love to be able to mention every single one by name, but there are some characters and some people that I don’t know, so here are some of the other highlights that were captured...
It’s interesting, while both days were super hard work for me, Sunday felt more like a fun family reunion to me personally. I got to speak to some of the great guests I’d met the previous day or years before, such as Spencer, Simon, Hattie, Danny, and Ian McNeice. I saw friends I hadn’t seen since school or college, such as my wonderful friend Hannah and her adorable family. There were flash-mobs, dance-offs, and everybody seemed to be carefree and in a good mood. Even some of the guests, such as Terry Molloy, pointed out how great it was to be at a convention with random, spontaneous dancing and singing. When the guests, GEEKS, and the attendees are happy, I’m feeling happy and fulfilled, my friends.
Whether it was Colin Baker serenading me in a lift, or watching Heather’s face as I forced her into a picture with Danny John-Jules, I’ve rarely felt as childlike or as proud of myself as I did that day. In the case of Heather, she is a massive Danny fan. To the point where she wouldn’t go near him for a picture. Myself and her step-daughter, Katy, insisted that she must get one as a memory, but Heather was trying to find excuses not to...such as not having enough change on her to give Danny for the ‘selfie’ (Danny’s selfie charge was a donation to charity - you choose the amount, which is great!). I put a few pounds in Danny’s collection cup, Katy went and collected the trying-to-run-away Heather, I explained the situation to Danny (he chuckled and was enthused), and the picture was taken. I think Heather agrees that myself and Katy were right in the end. Speaking of Katy, huge, huge shout-out to her for being my official photographer for the day on Sunday when she wasn’t on crewing duties. She took pictures for the blog, she took the pictures of myself and the guests at their autograph tables, she was reliable when I needed her to be somewhere...amazing crew member! As were virtually all of my crew over the weekend. You send someone a message you barely know, with a couple of weeks’ notice, and ask them to come and help you out for the weekend...as unpaid volunteers, might I add! It takes some special people to do that, and it takes some special people to have what it takes to do that successfully. People like Kim and Pauline, people like Heather and Katy, are gold dust in my book.
As the event was drawing to a close, I went and grabbed a few more selfies with some of the guests and had a few more lovely chats with them. Sophie Aldred was a delight, and is one of the classier ladies I’ve met in my life. Just a sweetheart to absolutely everyone around her. Colin Baker is Colin Baker. He’s exactly what you’d expect. Great voice, constantly singing, happy to interact with the fans, happy to mess around with the kids and have some fun...you can tell he does a lot of conventions because he’s very good at them. I’ve met Colin numerous times before this event and he’s always, always been great. Danny John-Jules was awesome, as I knew he would be. While I’d never personally met Danny before, I’d been with friends when they’d met him so I knew that he was a great guy and he didn’t disappoint. He’s just a ball of energy. He can’t sit still, he’s always jumping around, he has extended conversations with everyone, he goes and looks at the merchandise stalls...he’s just phenomenal. I grabbed a picture with Virginia Hey too and she was as wonderful as the previous day without question, point-blank refusing to charge me for the picture, even though I was offering and her sign said selfies cost £5 without buying an autograph. What a lady!
The longest and most deep conversation of the day definitely goes to Hattie Hayridge. Once again a Red Dwarfer was my favourite guest of the day. I asked Hattie if we could take a picture together and she happily obliged. After it was taken, Hattie stayed stood up and started talking to me...how did the event go? How did I get involved with conventions? She asked about my degree, my future career plans, we talked about her career, we talked about prisons, we talked about Gloucester...it was awesome! She even gave me a hug when we finished the conversation, which I didn’t initiate, she did. Hattie took a genuine interest that went beyond the usual small-talk and barrier’ed conversations that you can sometimes get with celebrities. It was real...and she is terrific.
I didn’t get to spend as much time with Grant Perkins, comic artist legend, as I would have liked because I was so busy all weekend. The brief time I had with him showed me that he’s a great guy and a very talented artist. I need to go and see Grant again – perhaps at Wales Comic Con – to see more of his work and potentially buy some as what I saw, I liked a lot.
I helped Danny take his stuff to his beautiful Jaguar, before I got a goodbye hug from Hattie and a goodbye handshake from Danny. It was time for the weekend to come to a close. With ten minutes before closing, the guests had all departed except Terry Molloy, the consummate professional. This ended up being rewarding for Terry as he got a few last-minute autographs in, myself included.
To conclude, Gloucester Comic Con weekend ruled on all counts. I’ve been going through hundreds (literally) of fan messages and comments on various platforms, and it has been overwhelmingly positive. I’m seeing flash-mob videos and dance-off videos popping up everywhere in my timeline, I’m seeing friends and non-friends changing their profile picture or cover picture on Facebook to something that was taken at Gloucester Comic Con, and it makes me proud. Proud of myself, proud of GEEKS, and proud to be a part of both the convention community and the Gloucester community. A lot of times at conventions, the organisers and the guests determine the quality and success of the event. Here, the attendees were just as important as the organisers when it came to the success of the show. The family atmosphere, the spontaneous dancing and singing, the friendships that were built...it was a very special weekend for me and I know it was for a lot of other people as well.
On a more selfish note, my blog traffic has gone even wilder since Gloucester Comic Con, my Facebook friend requests were in the middle triple figures range, and I’ve been bombarded with positivity, love, and emphatic support that they’ll be attending again next time.
The only other thing to mention is the article on the convention in Gloucestershire Live. Gloucestershire Live wrote a very positive, very supportive piece on the event, but at one point they made a joke about how Deadpool had “let himself go a bit”. I’m sure it was meant as a throwaway, humourous remark, but in my opinion that isn’t one. I’m a keen advocate for I-Cosplay, which promotes a safe and respectful environment for cosplayers. It doesn’t matter what religion, race, gender, size, or ability you are, you have the same right to cosplay a character as anyone else and in doing so you have the right to not be ridiculed. It’s your interpretation of the character, not an exact carbon-copy by design, so why feel the need to make a joke about someone’s weight? I’m sure the person behind the article has the body of Ryan Reynolds...
A humongous shout-out to Mark, Jayne, and the GEEKS team for allowing me to help organise the event with them. It was a tremendously challenging and fulfilling experience, and one for which I’m extremely grateful. Also, a huge shout-out to my crew – Rach, you know you’re one of my favourite people. Thanks to Kim, Pauline, Heather, Katy, Nathan, and Charlotte as well.
We’ll be returning to Gloucester in 2017. The dates are in the process of being confirmed as we speak. UPDATE: The dates are now confirmed as the 9th and 10th of September 2017. Tickets available soon! To keep up to date with the latest news and announcements, follow the Geeks Facebook page (a website is imminent) or follow me on Twitter - @Shangel1. It’ll all be posted there in due course. If you were at the event and want to give your thoughts or let me know how your day/weekend went, send me a tweet using the above handle or write a comment below.
Thanks for reading, everyone. Thanks for supporting myself, the blog, and Gloucester Comic Con. I hope to see many of you again next year. In the meantime, I’ll be at “Film & Comic Con Cardiff” at the end of the month, “Wales Comic Con” in early November, “Reading Comic Con” at the end of November, and “Vampire Ball 7” at the beginning of December.
Stay safe, stay positive...and watch out for clowns.