Saturday, 12 April 2014

Convention Review - Sci-Fi Weekender 5

Travelling to the convention in North Wales was a journey through Middle-earth itself as we meandered through Snowdonia National Park, so that was more than enough to get us in the mood for Sci-Fi Weekender 5.

Upon arrival on the Thursday we picked up our keys to a wonderfully comfortable three-berth caravan, which we were sharing with top photographer James Loveridge of, and a wonderful place it was. Comfortable, warm and the television was streaming continuous science fiction and fantasy movies provided by Sci-Fi London Film Festival. While we were in the caravan getting ready between trips to the shows we constantly had movies like Cocoon, Pitch Black and Predator  playing as background noise, so the atmosphere was constant.

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That night we went to the quiz and had a few drinks and a pizza just to soak in a bit of the atmosphere. The costumes were out already, the people were buzzing, and everyone was getting ready for the next few days of fun and frolics. A couple of beers back at the caravan and a reasonable bedtime and we were ready to go.

The next morning was a little gloomy and the rain was constantly threatening to hurl down upon us, but we made our way to the arenas. The show had three areas.The Sci Fi London Arena was screening movies over the weekend. The Main Void was where the celebrities would be talking and where the shows would take place, and the Spaceport where there was a stage for talks, the autograph section and traders could be found. We started the day with a tour of every area, a good root through the traders section and then got ourselves set up for the interviews with Dez Skinn, Jonathan Green and Royd Tolkien amongst others. It was a busy day interspersed with drinks, waiting in a queue at the chip shop with the dwarves of Erebor and the elves of Mirkwood, and plenty of things to see and do.

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So let me explain to you what the show is all about. Over the days of March 27th to March 30th, a huge bunch of science fiction and fantasy fanatics of all genres, walks of life and varying levels of interest descend on a Haven holiday park in North Wales, and for those days they mix, dance, drink, talk, meet guests and peruse trade stands, and otherwise indulge in everything wierd and wonderful. Cosplayers walk the halls as people listen to and take part in talks and interviews, eager fans converse with their heroes and idols and everywhere there is the buzz of fun and adventure, as we slowly realise we are all here for the same reasons and to be your true self is what is expected of you.

This makes for an incredibly strong feeling of freedom as you realise that every person there is present for the exact same reason you are; to share their love of their favourite fantasy or science fiction show, book or setting. You may not share their love for a certain thing - and the mix went from fantasy to hard science fiction to steampunk and horror - but you certainly share their passion, and that results in no judgement or ignorance. You get to experience other aspects of the hobby as well as indulge yourself in your own. It's a wonderful sense of freedom that very few other gatherings can offer.

For myself, meeting authors Robert Rankin and Jonathan Green was a great moment, and also meeting Royd Tolkien - JRR Tolkien's great-grandson - was in itself an amazing experience for me. The cosplayers were great, with a heady mix of Dredds, Star Wars characters and lots of crazy costumes. The entertainment was excellent, with Darth Elvis and the Imperials rocking the arena and stage shows entertaining the troops. Everywhere there were smiling faces, flowing drinks and dancing feet and the atmosphere was one of freedom and relaxation.

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And that, to me, is what the Sci-Fi Weekender is all about. Relaxing with fellow nerds and geeks who share a passion for this pastime, collectors and fanatics and cosplayers and gamers and movie buffs and TV show fans and writers... all kinds of people thrown together in a huge mixing bowl of creativity and imagination. I dare anyone not to be inspired by it.

We're definitely going back next year. How could we not?

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