Upon arriving at Heathrow Airport, I jumped onto a Hoppa bus that whisked me down the road to a conference centre connected to the Park Inn faster than you could say 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… I had arrived at the first, official, sold-out, Gerry Anderson convention. I knew this by the sign on the door and by the life-sized FAB 1 at the entrance. It was true, anything could happen in the next half hour, let alone over the next two days.
Anderson Entertainment packed in a huge amount to the space which, given the success of the event, I can only see getting bigger next year. It must be said the aesthetic of the convention was amazing. The amount of effort that had gone into dressing a soulless conference centre and transforming it into what I can only liken to something you’d expect to find in a national museum, was mind blowing. The main stage was a beautiful recreation of a Space 1999 set, bespoke artwork decked every wall, passionate model owners presented their collections and there were plenty of fascinating displays demonstrating how various special effects had been pioneered, including the famous ‘rolling road’.
It really struck a chord as I started to count the various productions that made up Anderson’s enormous canon of work, just how many generations he delighted and excited. This was made even more apparent by the eclectic demographic of convention-goer in attendance and the tireless commitment from all of the hard-working staff who ensured that this event was as well-oiled as Space Sergeant 101.
What made Andercon so interesting were the panels of casts and crews that worked on so many of the shows. Over fifty different actors, directors, special effects artists, illustrators, puppeteers and even a few legends (including the great Nicholas Parsons) attended, all of whom made plenty of time to tell their stories, sign autographs and make themselves available to all those that wanted to share in the magic of Anderson. There was even a wonderful surprise announcement that Terrahawks will be returning next year in a series of Big Finish audio dramas! The talks could not have been bettered in programming and I must mention Kevin Davies, who hosted so many of these discussions superbly.
Taking all of the above into account, there is something else that saturated this event. I won’t appeal to your imagination in describing it, rather it would be better if I asked you to cast your mind back and see if you can remember it instead. It’s the same feeling you had when you first saw Thunderbird 4 launch from the belly of Thunderbird 2, when you hid behind the sofa as the Mysterons skated across the surface of the moon and when you would pretend to co-pilot Stingray in your pyjamas at the foot of your bed. The feeling I’m asking you to recall could never have been booked and inserted into an event schedule by the organisers, yet it was in the eyes of every single person I saw. I found it creeping inside me as I looked into the eyes of a Virgil marionette that I suddenly found sitting on my knee, I felt it again when the voice of Parker emanated from actor David Graham and even as I stood inches away from the real Moon Base Alpha. I hadn’t experienced this feeling since that Christmas morning when Santa managed to find me a Tracy Island and I certainly hadn’t expected to experience it again in a conference centre in Heathrow. But I did. And that’s the feeling of pure, unadulterated, childhood joy.
Gerry Anderson is responsible for one of Britain’s greatest institutions, and this event is a true testament to his legacy. This convention could not have been manipulated by a more sensitive and masterful puppeteer than the son of the great man himself and Anderson Entertainment company director, Jamie Anderson. I can only presume that his father would have been just as proud of him, and his event, as everyone who attended were grateful that they could be there to share it with him.
F - A - B!