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LONDON FILM AND COMIC CON JULY 11-13TH 2014. Another Perspective.

london film & comic con 2014

by Chris Hewer.

This Summer's London Film & Comic Con from Showmasters was always going to be their biggest event ever given the amazing guest list that was scheduled to attend across the three day event.
As a seasoned convention goer now, (having previously attended Destination Star Trek London, last Summer’s London Con plus Cardiff’s event twice now), the format was familiar enough to think I was prepared. For the most part I was - travel, accommodation and schedule. CHECK. Photo shoots paid and planned. CHECK. Autographs planned and space in my schedule to get these. CHECK. Just one or two last minute tickets needed after the online store had closed. No problem. Friday evening should be quiet enough to sort this one…..

DAY 1: 
We (that is our group of six people) started the journey from Newport South Wales at 1.30pm on Friday to get into London for 4.30 (ish.)  Given that we were staying just around the corner from Earls Court - this time in the Travelodge Fulham - there was time to arrive, freshen and gently stroll down to the venue. Not quite. We began with a coach journey that rivalled the USS Voyager’s journey home from the Delta Quadrant. After landing in London at about 7.30  (A six hour journey that should have taken less than three,) we quickly made our way across to the event - me naturally moaning still.  Well, my schedule which is timed to the hour was now at risk after all!

I didn’t have time to buy and make the Dominic Keating photo shoot for the evening as we finally entered the show. Ticket sales were already queued back in much larger volumes of people than I had expected to see and the event was already really quite busy. Fortunately, I had booked online for the Helen Slater photo shoot and had plenty of time to make this. As members of our party held position in the ticket sales queue - which went on for the remainder of the show’s opening period until 9pm, I headed off to make my Friday night autograph sessions.  As a rule, I only go for Doctor Who autographs as I have a dedicated book to fill, (now standing at 42 signatures) but this year’s Friday only guests I couldn't resist meeting.

William Russell - the Doctor's first ever companion back in 1963, was a real gentleman and a joy to talk with. Should you get the chance to meet him, it is worth the time. Additionally, David Collings was not only famed for various Who roles, he voiced the English dub of the cult Japanese series, MONKEY back in the late 70’s/early 80’s playing the title role. I asked David about the series and whether he would revisit the Monkey voice. Sadly, he wouldn’t and his memories were vague. It was just another job at that time after all, which I understand. Another great pleasure though to meet.

In summary, Friday evening turned out well in the end with our group managing to buy any tickets for the remainder of the weekend as required, autographs obtained, photo shoot in the bag with Supergirl for me (big smile) Now…a very long overdue beer!

DAY 2: 
Not an overly early start for us so queueing after some breakfast by 8.30am. After last year, we learned the size of the queue into Earls Court and how quickly it does moves in. No need to be alarmed, no need to rush. Doors open at 9am, we’ll be in 15 mins later. This year….expected busier but NOT THIS! It was the biggest queue for the early bird ticket that you could imagine and as we wandered along the side of Earls Court, trying to spot the end of the queue we snaked further along the building and round again. This was BIG.

Despite this, at 9am, the queue started to move and by 9.45 or so, we were in. Plenty more people though queued back where we had began the line up and so I did start to think about the extent of this event and how it would cope with this extra mass of people above the normal. Anyway, we were in and as always, our group split off to achieve their goals for the day. Autographs, photographs and dealer tables. We had our timetables and we knew where we needed to be and when. Essential for these shows.

Managing to get a few Doctor Who autographs in with the very lovely Adjoh Andoh and Anneke Wills before my photo shoots with John Hurt and Jenna Coleman, the day started well before the 11am non early bird crowds arrived. Suddenly the day started to become very hard work just moving from one area to another. I pity anyone who had little time to move around the building for photo shoots because it quickly became near impossible to do without sufficient time. Aisles became so crowded that it would take 30 mins or more to pass a short distance if you took the wrong turn. It simply turned into one huge sweat box - stinking at that with some peoples personal hygiene.

If you wanted to browse stalls, forget it. Get cash from the machine. Forget it. Buy tickets. Forget it. Buy food or drink. Forget it. Move. Forget it. Breathe even. Well, that was JUST ABOUT MANAGEABLE! There is a lot more to be read on the forum site of which I am sure you’ll find similar thoughts of the day to your own.  These issues personally took over my day and certainly removed an element of enjoyment out of the event. But only a slight element.

The one fact on this is that Showmasters oversold this event by far and with their experience and professionalism generally, I didn’t expect to see. Very disappointed on this level as there would be no way possible to service this volume of people and they should have known better.
Because of forward planning though, I still managed to have all photo shoots, autographs and attend the Sherlock and Doctor Who talks as well so despite these uncomfortable surroundings and the fact it’s harder than a shift at work, glad to have been there and met some amazing guests and see some superb cosplay on the go.

Unfortunately missed Jenna Coleman autograph despite having a virtual ticket from early morning of 437. By 5pm, this was nowhere near and she had finished for the day. Gutted. (I do believe she was very unwell on the day though but battled on as best she could so admiration for that).
I opted then to get the autograph of Paul Freeman who played Belloq (Bellosh? - Rob) in Raiders of the Lost Ark with the spare cash I had and with a great over the desk picture to boot. A really nice guy.
Also on the plus side, later in the afternoon I bumped into Steven Moffat managing to get a hand shake and a few words with him and almost begging him to sign my Who book, he declined saying he was not allowed to do autographs but thanked me and wished me well. Another bonus moment for my weekend.

Worn out by 6pm so time to re-group at the pub again for a cold one!!

DAY 3:
After the events of the day before, none of us in our group quite knew what to expect and after purposely avoiding popular guests such as Carrie Fisher and Stan Lee until the quieter Sunday, fortunately for the most, it was just that. Much more manageable.

Arriving earlier than the day before with thoughts of the queue length fresh in our minds, it was a pleasure to see a fraction of the volumes of people and back to what you expect at one of these events. Again the day was planned and timed and this one personally busier than the Saturday schedule. Less autographs and a day of photo shoots with some great guests including the above mentioned plus Billy Dee Williams, Milo Ventimiglia from Heroes and Casper Van Dien from Starship Troopers (and this shoot was my favourite ever as he jumped fully into my arms for the photo almost pulling me over in the process! The things we do for our fans!!)

Carrie Fisher not turning up in the morning shoot was a little worrying but equally confusing from Showmasters team on this and the Stan Lee shoot at 12 was manic and a little disorganised, however I believe Phil, an old hand at these events appeared to be managing things very well under the circumstances which again I don’t think Showmasters came out tops on thought and planning for.

Plenty more room for browsing and shopping the dealers tables today though and bagged a few items. I’m more into my photo shoots and Who autographs for these events though so with those completing at 5.45pm with Jeremy Bulloch in full Boba Fett costume, my Comic Con weekend drew to a close.

And then to the pub……

Oh, by the way, I never saw a raffle number all weekend for the damned programmes either! And yes, I paid £5 for mine too.  I Didn’t have a box full for free on the Sunday like some!
In summary, a truly wonderful weekend with great friends and awesome event guests, wouldn’t hesitate to come back and I have no doubt we will be back.  (At DST3 may I add!)
I would say this though. Don’t over sell tickets. Don’t build up talk events that don’t deliver on the promise and don’t - please don’t - sell programmes at £5 with an unorganised and mostly pointless raffle as their highlight.

Out of 10 Showmasters, from me, you still get an 8. Superb event with some great staff which I am proud to have been part of so thank you and overall, a great job done.

Chris Hewer.

You can check out Rob Wainfur's review of LFCC here.



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