It is often assumed that anything involving the word convention, particularly in relation to science fiction, fantasy, comic books or mythical lore will involve bearded sandal wearing dateless wonders, fanboys with bad B.O. and screaming geek girls that people wouldn’t want to touch with a sonic screwdriver. Well, it does have some of these, but it also finds us in the queue to EM-Con, the East Midlands Sci-Fi & Fantasy Convention held at the Albert Hall in Nottingham.
This is a chance to see the stars with Q & A panels from TV’s top shows including Game of Thrones, Doctor Who and Red Dwarf. My excitement is palpable, I’ve had the tickets booked for ages and I’ve trained the soon to be Mrs Cook to respond to Hodor with the obligatory Hodor! (sic) reply as her only knowledge on Game of Thrones.
That’s all depending if you can get in. Arriving relatively early at 10:30 with our Early Bird tickets, the queue’s are already horrendous. There are thousands of people already queueing. People with pre-purchased tickets, including those with the priority Early Bird access, were told to get in various queues along with pay on the day customers being assured that they would still get in first. How’s that supposed to happen? We were lucky enough when an unfortunate clueless organiser wandered past and was utterly badgered into moving a group of us near to the front. A check on Twitter/Facebook later confirmed that people waited for 4 hours and still didn’t get in. All those kids dressed up waiting with their parents. People missing pre-booked photo-shoots and missing their favourite Q and A panel session – we missed the Red Dwarf one.
Immediately inside, a couple of Jawa’s on the stairs, they’re a long way from Tatooine but no doubt hiding from the Empire’s Stormtroopers outside. If we thought outside was shambolic, it was just as bad inside. It’s jam-packed, far too many people for this cramped, claustrophobic small space. The stars, stall holders and sightseers packed like cattle and we are shuffling along like zombie celebrity autograph hunters. It’s like that Death Star scene but a human garbage compactor. One thing’s for sure “we’re all gonna be a lot thinner.” This wouldn’t have happened under the Empire’s control. My visions of being surrounded by dozens of Princess Leia’s in that bikini outfit have now vanished. Disappointingly, I haven’t been mistaken for James Bond once yet. Guess it’s time to go native and mingle among the stars.
The first person I see is Hodor (Hodor!), Kristian Nairn, from Game of Thrones, friendly fellow and he’s uttering more conversation than his character’s entire script. Ian McElhinney who plays Barristan Selmy in Game of Thrones, he’s got the right idea, he’s busy filling in a crossword from the paper. I guess he’s got time on his hands now that he’s been made redundant from the Kingsguard. There are a couple of other guys here as well including Josef Altin who plays Pypar and Luke Barnes who plays Rast, last seen shoving a sword through the Black Watch Lord Commander’s back. Completing the Game of Thrones line up is Gethin Anthony who plays Renly Baratheon. At least they’ve got more charm than the Red Wedding, proving that there ain’t no party like a Walder Frey party. Most surreal moment of the day is during the middle of the Q and A session when the audience and the cast hear the familiar swooshing sound from a Cylon at the back of the room.
Then out of the corner of my eye I spot a blond girl, its Hannah Spearritt from Primeval. She knows how to look good in a photo and charm fans. Let’s just say she’s not ugly. Thing is, she was also in S Club 7 and I’ve now got one of their god awful tunes as an earworm following me around. Mrs Cook pulls me sharply away muttering ‘she’s not that pretty’ but not before I manage to a get a stalker style phone shot of her. Same with Virginia Hey, the KGB crumpet of General Pushkin in James Bond The Living Daylights and as Warrior Woman in Mad Max 2.
The cast of Red Dwarf is here, the two Hollys, Hattie Hayridge and Norman Lovett, Danny John-Jules looking pretty cool in a bowler hat who plays The Cat, Robert Llewellyn as Kryton, Mac McDonald as Captain Hollister, Chris Barrie as the hologram Arnold Rimmer and Craig Charles who plays Dave Lister. Unfortunately, another monumental cock-up meant we managed to not get in for the Red Dwarf Q and A panel session. Instead I had to make do with a buying a “Give Quiche a Chance” tee-shirt.
Bimbling along, we finally manage to attend a question and answer panel, this time it’s for Doctor Who and Torchwood. In all honestly, I’m not a big fan of the new Who, especially David Tennant – all smarm and no charm. Then in every episode, dramatic music playing every second. For me, it all went downhill after Tom Baker toppled from the telescope at Jodrell Bank, although Peter Davidson had some corkers, especially when that little shit Adric died. There are a few of the new Doctor Who actors here, the young Amelia Pond girl Caitlin Blackwood, David Warner, make up actors Alan Ruscoe, Dan Starkey and Simon Fisher-Becker. The two Torchwood actors, Kai Owen and Eve Myles seem very popular. The only old-time Dr Who here is Frazer Hines who played Jamie, the companion with the great Patrick Troughton. Wearing a kilt and threatening to beat people up in his Scottish accent, he appeared in more episodes of Dr Who than any other companion. You might also know him from Emmerdale as Joe Sugden but don’t hold that against him, he was a very nice chap.
Recovering from such giddy excitement, we go for a drink at the bar. Finding a suitable place to drink my pint, I slump against a wall and look up to see Dave Prowse less than 4 feet away from me. I am drinking in Darth Vader’s company and not feeling the slightest bit of remorse about it. When you hear him talk, you’ll understand why he was given the nickname of Darth Farmer. Somehow, a west country accent doesn’t sound as terrifying. Even considering this, I always use the green cross code every time I cross the road.
The day is coming to a close, I’ve only got my photoshoot left with legendary actor David Warner. He’s been in so many films and TV show I don’t know where to begin. He played Jennings in The Omen getting his head lopped off by a sheet of glass. He played Evil in Time Bandits, and during the Q and A session where he charmed the audience, he stated that this is the one film he wanted to win an acting award for where he could say “I want to thank all the little people.” He was Master Control Program in Tron, Klingon Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek, the list goes on. Quite a gentleman.
Would we do it again next year? Maybe, I can’t help but feel for all those people who queued, had tickets and still didn’t get in, that’s unacceptable, Next year it’s at the ice arena, a far larger venue, I just hope its more organised. This one just wasn’t and for many it left a very sour note. Me? I’ll suspect we’ll be booking tickets as soon as they’re available.
Nick Cook is a proud geek.