Hanging with the Convention Crowd

DSC_0116 My daughter is a bit of a TV addict, at least with regard to certain types of shows. She has, over a period of 2 or 3 years, bought and/or watched via Netflix, all the CSI, X-Files, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Doctor Who, Sarah Connor Chronichles, Stargate SG1 and Atlantis…series. There doesn’t seem to be much she’s not shown an interest in! Add movies to this, in particular The Lord of the Rings trilogy (which she can almost recite!), and you get a picture of someone who likes a good yarn! A couple of years ago, she went to the London Film and Comic Con, in the hope of getting autographs and signed pictures of the stars of some of the shows she liked. This year, she persuaded me to go with her to this years London event (#LFCC2014), which was held at Earls Court.

I was a little reluctant, but decided to give it a whirl. The attraction of these events for many, is the chance to see the stars of these shows up close, and to buy merchandise from the hundreds of stalls to be found inside. For some, the opportunity to dress up also must not be missed – which works better for some people than for others! As we were riding the District Line tube towards Earls Court, it was obvious which passengers were going to be getting off the train with us! But that was nothing to what you can see when you actually arrive at the venue!

First of all, I was glad we’d bought tickets in advance; the queue was immense and was in effect being marshalled, not by a shaven headed chap in hi-vis vest, but rather by a Tuskan Raider…and much more impressive he was too! Guarding the entrance were various troops from Stargate, plus Bumble Bee, an Autobot from Transformers, and some others I didn’t recognise.


Bumble Bee (Chevrolet Camaro)

Once inside, it becomes clear that this is a popular event; it was heaving. Even Darth Vader was struggling to get through the crowds with his Jedi powers, but considering the queues outside, it was going to get a lot busier. I was struck by just how many people were dressed in character, and frankly perplexed as to why they would do so. I am a fan of Sci-Fi and all sorts of other genres, but I actually felt a bit like a fish out of water; I couldn’t imagine dressing up as they did (although I did once pretend to be Col. Steve Austin when I was at primary school. I got picked on for that, so I stopped).


A couple of ‘Jedi Knights’

I wondered what these people did when they weren’t dressing up. I saw a number of Khaleesi’s, several Cersei Lannister‘s (she’s just a bit misunderstood); some really good, others not so much. There were also some over-weight Jedi’s, a Spider Woman, a Black Widow, some Smurf’s, a couple of Doctor Who’s, an Edward Scissor Hands, a Predator (he was very good!) and many more I didn’t know. Some managed to achieve really convincing replicas of the costumes, others looked like they’d thrown it together the day before, although I suspect all were a labour of love for the wearer.

I mentioned the ‘stars’ who were in attendance to sign autographs (for a small fee); actually some of them were stars to be honest, although I didn’t actually see them. Initially, I wondered what would get these people to come along to such an event, but when I saw what they were charging, it’s a no brainer! The big hitters, were John Hurt, Ian Macdiamid (Star Wars and many others), Carrie Fisher (perhaps more icon than a star in the true sense), and Stan Lee co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, the X-Men, and many other fictional characters, i.e. a legend. These were justifiable draw’s but correspondingly expensive for squiggles and photos (c. £120 each for both)!

There were lots of others though, none of whom we paid to meet, but who could nevertheless be seen, and who doesn’t like a bit of celebrity spotting?! To meet them, you’d have to part with a minimum of £15, but more usually it was around £25 or £30, depending. Kind of a ‘star league’ based on price I suppose. In no particular order, these are those we saw in the flesh:

As you can see, quite a mishmash of genres covered and you might expect this to be unutterably boring for them, but from what I could see, the celebs really seemed to be making the effort to engage each person they met, which impressed me. I reckon there must have been about 100 ‘celebs’ there, some memorable, with queues a mile long, others sitting alone and waiting for someone to come along and get an autograph, and that looked a bit sad to be honest.

We stayed for a couple of hours, and on the whole, I rather enjoyed myself, watching the celebs, browsing the stalls and all that. I’m glad that I went although I’m not sure I’d go again; I think for now I’ll probably leave that for the future. There is something slightly alluring about the whole thing… ‘Whatever floats your starship’, as they say.

A Tuskan Raider marshalling the crowd

© Richard Debonnaire

A Sunny Day Out in London


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I had the pleasure of doing a university visit with my daughter Emily on Saturday. She wants to study Geography and today’s lucky uni, was Kings College London. We only live about 35 minutes train ride from London, so KCL would be a good choice for Emily should she choose to go there, as she would be able to live at home.

None of us in our house are strangers to London and frequently go in, either for work, or perhaps a concert or just to have a wander round. It’s a great walking city! As I often do, I took my camera along for the trip, and thought I would share the pictures that I took.

The KCL campus is spread about the centre of London, and we were headed towards The Strand campus. This is an easy train journey to London Waterloo East, and a walk over Waterloo Bridge to the Strand. The weather was, quite simply, superb.


To the east, St. Paul’s Cathedral on the left, then Heron Tower, Tower 42, the edge of the Gherkin, the ‘Cheese Grater‘ and the ‘Walkie Talkie‘. The face of City is changing all the time.


Looking west from Waterloo Bridge, the London Eye on the left, The Houses of Parliament (including ‘Big Ben‘), the hotels of the Strand, and the back of Charing Cross station.

The walk across the bridge is one of the nicest in London for views, and drops you right onto the Strand just a short walk from Covent Garden. However, we turned right and headed along to the KCL building. Unfortunately, I hadn’t read the open day information properly and now realised that we had to walk all the way back across Waterloo Bridge to attend the welcome talk. (d’oh!)


A great view from behind the Royal Festival Hall, of Big Ben (see FAQ here) seen through the London Eye. The sky was so clear and blue during the morning. Not a cloud to be seen.


To the west of Waterloo Bridge is Hungerford Bridge, which is a rail bridge that brings the trains into London Charing Cross station. That’s another very nice walk. About 10 years ago, Hungerford Bridge was renovated and two pedestrian walkways were added to the bridge, one on either side to mark The Queens Golden Jubilee.

These also make great places from which to view London, and also make for a great walk from Charing Cross over to the Royal Festival Hall and South Bank complex on the other side of the river.


A British Airways Boeing 747 seen through the ‘eye’


Big Ben bracketed by the supports for the Hungerford Bridge walkways.




A Qantas Airbus A380 seen over the top of the London Eye…


A Qatar Boeing 777 flies over the London Eye. This one taken from Victoria Embankment underground station, by Hungerford Bridge

London is a fantastic city…there is so much to see and do. It’s not the cheapest place in the world to visit (or live!), but there are many things you can do for free such as walking, visiting the royal parks or the museums and galleries etc. (check a good guide book for details), and it is a city steeped in history.

If you view London on the basis of the Tube map, it’s possible to think it’s larger than it is, but you will find that if you walk, places tend to be easily walkable, although it’s a good idea to have a street map to make sure! It’s useful to know that if you fancied walking from Tower Bridge to say, Kensington Palace; it’s long walk!

But, when the sun is shining (and mostly even when it’s not) there is no better place to be – although all city dwellers in New York, or Paris, or Sydney would say the same about those places I imagine!


© Copyright Richard Debonnaire