Why is it that Birmingham always feels like it’s in a galaxy far, far away? Especially when you live in London?
Yet, by the time I had made myself comfortable on a Virgin Express train from London Euston to Birmingham, tucked into my complimentary snack box and avoided potentially fatal burns from a watery cup of coffee, caught up with an episode of a popular 1980s series that I had found myself watching thanks to the joys of Netflix (yes, it was Knight Rider) and after just over an hour, my train had not only arrived as if by warp speed to Birmingham International, but within ten minutes, I was already inside the enormous Birmingham NEC nearly being trampled on by a platoon of very well dressed Storm Troopers.
Sadly, I was only able to arrive quite late on Saturday afternoon, as we had only planned to review from Sunday onwards, however the buzz from the stampeding, well-costumed and high-spirited attendees was intoxicating. It seemed to me that every single person had stayed until the very last minute to enjoy their Saturday experience, whilst juggling sacks full of unique memorabilia to rival Kivas Fajo’s collection in one hand and portfolios of highly prized signed autographs from the wealth of guests this event has attracted in the other. I even noticed a gaggle of girls kissing one of their signed photographs. It was clear everyone had enjoyed themselves and this was one of the best arrays of costumes I have ever seen at an event.
After being expertly and passionately looked after by the excellent staff of MCM, within only ten minutes of leaving this carnival of monsters, I arrived and was greeted by a bunch of monsters that were far less friendly at the Novotel (Birmingham International Airport).
After paying far too much for a ‘superior room’, I didn’t expect to be staying in such a cluttered and clumsy layout as you might find when designing the bathroom whilst playing The Sims, yet even then, you wouldn’t be stupid enough to have a separate toilet, bathroom and push a random sofa up against a bed which would make a brig look glamorous. The lighting seemed appropriate for a Cardassian interrogation chamber and the view would have been improved if they had asked the girl from The Ring to draw what she thought the surface of the moon looked like and hung it in front of the prison-like-windows similar to what you might find in Azkaban.
The only saving grace at the Novotel, was their Elements Restaurant, which served one of the finest rump steaks I’ve had in quite some time and a pear-crème-brulee that was so good I nearly ordered another. I didn’t. Honest. My advice for accommodation after this year’s event is to get to know the head chef of the Novotel and see if he will deliver to your TIE fighter located in a nearby carpark.
When I was a little boy I used to love a car boot sale. I remember rummaging through boxes in the desperate hope of finding a Playmates Romulan Warbird, flicking through mountains of records dreaming there might be a Leonard Nimoy LP at the bottom of the pile and checking every second hand jewelry stand hoping to re-discover the Metebelis crystal. Sadly, I was only ever disappointed. Until now, where every stall had something that made my eyes a little bit wider and my wallet a little bit lighter.
If you can imagine a typical dealers room that you might find at a typical convention and multiply it by twenty, that might give you an inkling into what this enormous event is like, but what makes this event truly special is not just the enormity of dealers working with the organisers, but the huge variety of eclectic, high-quality and exciting products available to buy, rather than the current, typical, mass-produced toys and games you’d expect to see (although they are certainly there if you’re after some very early Christmas shopping).
Whilst trekking down endless lanes of stalls and exhibits, I found hand-made flux capacitors and bespoke fantasy jewelry, impossible to find autographs and iconic/lost collectibles from the past, interactive displays and exclusive film memorabilia exclusive to this event, even a TARDIS to have your photographs taken with and a very exciting live display of Robot Wars. It was like walking into the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts and I would have almost certainly ended up emptying my vault at Gringotts with all that was available to buy.
Another really exciting addition to this gigantic event is the vast array of different comic book artists and their respective companies offering not only original artwork and comics to buy, but their contentment to simply sit and chat with fans of their work. The same is true of the guests in attendance who seemed very relaxed and content to have a natter about their respective involvement with the world of cult entertainment and scribble their name on a large range of glossy photographs. Special mention should go to Fantom Films, who brought a gaggle of classic Doctor Who actors who were certainly the most charming of the lot, especially Terry Malloy, Peter Purves and Fraser Hines.
The only disappointing element to this event was by only attending on Sunday, there was a distinct lack of guests compared with the line-up from the previous day, although that was made very clear on all promotional media. I was also disappointed that there was a lack of things to do. You can only spend so much time walking up and down aisles before you feel like a laboratory rat hunting down an original Palitoy K9, instead of cheese. But I suppose that’s down to taste. I’m the kind of convention goer that loves a party, lots of talks and unique events. But in saying that it was very clear that everyone attending was making their own fun rather than being spoonfed as you might find at other events. I’ve also been told that their next event in London will include a party and I can’t wait to see what that adds to the experience.
In short, my advice would be to follow this simple itinery… Create and wear the best costume you possibly can, go on the Saturday and show it off, collect your autographs and meet as many of the guests as you possibly can, then scout out everything you want to buy and finally on the Sunday, order a cargo container and prepare to buy a second home to house it all.