Sunday 31st July – Olympia, London – £18.00
RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH THE STARS
By Con tradition, Sunday is always the quietest of this annual three day celebration into all things TV, film, print and nerd, but even by that standard attendance at yesterday’s culminating day of London Film & Comic-Con 2016 (LFCC) seemed strangely low.
Whether this was because organising body Showmasters had listened to fan feedback from previous events and laid the floorplans of each of the Olympia’s trio of vast levels out more sparsely, or just because so many people chose the Saturday instead is hard to determine, but having fewer crowds to contend with is no bad thing.
The illustrious venue’s ground level contained the multitude of merchandise vendors, selling everything from vintage SNES games to Thai cinema posters. This is great for a wallet-tempting browse, but with competing stalls selling the same product for different prices, and the awkwardness of walking around all day with a replica Darth Vader helmet, it’s best not to part with your hard-earned cash too swiftly – provided you intend on a second circuit later in the day.
In addition to wall-to-wall stalls, the rear of the ground floor behind CEX’s giant inflatable shark housed a Cosplay paradise, with the grandiose costume-loving pose-aholics even getting their own stage area for a “Blind Date” parody panel and catwalk presentations. Finally, various full-scale incarnations of the Batmobile and the Mutt Cutts wagon from Dumb & Dumber were displayed in more open areas, courtesy of character-cars.com.
Up the creaking steel-lined steps (or via the manned lift) and beyond the curiously uncluttered gallery was the trove of autograph stalls and professional photographs, giving fans the chance to interact – for a cost – with their screen idols. All calibres of celebrity were present, from A- (Jeremy “Hawkeye” Renner) to C-listers (Jamie Scream Kennedy), current (Game of Thrones is always well supported) to retro (David Prowse and Kenny Bakers are stalwarts), young (Stranger Things‘ Millie Bobby Brown) and old (Sylvester McCoy) from all manner of films, TV and wrestling shows.
Your appreciation of this section will depend upon your familiarity and idolisation of famous faces – but I always enjoy glimpsing stars in the flesh, even if I don’t pay for the chance to greet all that many. While my friend, Thom Downie of the 80s PictureHouse got signatures and photos with a host of stars (see the podcast’s twitter feed for pics!), I was more interested in just two: Jon “Napoleon Dynamite” Heder and Famke GoldenEye Janssen – and what vastly diverse experiences they were!
While the moonboot-wearing, Pedro-voting ginger permed outsider (charging a fair £20 for a signature) was a cordial, charming gentleman who was happy to shake hands, chat and pose for an impromptu group photo, I baulked at the steep £45 “Jean Grey” was asking for the same ‘honour’. Keeping my DVD of The Faculty inside my bag, I decided against parting with my money, and am mighty glad I did having since heard some horror stories about her cold and untactile manner. Clearly Ms. Janssen did not want to be there, so why give her business?
Across the balcony expanse was the Comic Zone at one end and the Gaming Zone at the other, granting enthusiasts of each medium the chance to indulge in their passion, with lines of playable consoles (both old and new), arcade machines and VR headsets for the gamers, and personalised caricatures from a raft of high-profile illustrators for comic book aficionados.
The top floor held what could be considered a convention in-and-of itself: the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC), celebrating the recent market boom of the “middle grade” genre for teenagers. With signings, panels, publisher’s stalls, activities, workshops and merchandise, this was an astonishing and exclusive coo, attracting some seriously top talent (Malorie Blackman, Philip Reeve, Frances Hardinge, Darren Shan).
After so many years and so many events across the country, Showmasters continue to grow and improve. Juggling so many demands and schedules, there will always be disappointments (Sam Neill and Ron Perlman cancelling), irritations (Judge Reinhold hopped in and out of his chair every ten minutes, while his minders vocally told off photo takers; Rutger Hauer was so busy Thom even missed out of a “virtual queue” ticket!) and anecdotes (John Ashton persevered through the event despite suffering a detached retina!), however the calmer atmosphere and delightful approachability of everyone at YALC made LFCC a con-siderable success!
Having now attended two large conventions in as many weeks, the lesson I have learnt is that lower expectations lead to a happier all-round experience. While I had (clearly unrealistic) hopes of attending multiple panels at Star Wars Celebration Europe, disappointment followed when they ALL sold out. By hoping for less and achieving more (my big purchase, a Jurassic Park baseball jersey, is a thing of beauty!), I came away from the Olympia far happier last night. Here’s just hoping that Sam Neill confirms a swift return to a future event soon!
CR@B’s Claw Score: