July 15th - 17th saw the Star Wars Celebration Europe at the Excel Centre in London. As soon as the tickets were announced, i bought myself a weekend pass. I had NO idea what to expect from the European version of the show, but i did watch the highlights from the previous year. Tickets booked, i had to wait a whole year before i could actually go.
I got myself a nice small room in Stratford, near the tube and only about 10 mins away from the venue. Small hotel, which could benefit from installing some air con, but that was my only complaint about the accommodation.
The first thing you will note about an event like this is the queuing. You have to Queue for EVERTHING. I am not a big fan of this, but you needed to be in the queue to get in - so we waited about 30-40 minutes until the doors opened. Once you made you way through - wow. I was like a kid in a sweet shop. However, i took control and made myself take my time. I knew there were no panels to see in the next hour or so, so i slowly walked around the place.
The size was big. I think they had the whole of the Excel Centre - but only about a third was full of exhibition stuff (and some of that was catering as well) - but this was a LOT. However, those pesky queues started again. It would take about 90 minutes to get to the official merchandise store - yeah, not going to happen. You had to be one of the first people through the door for the immersive experience - i was not prepared to queue through the night. You even needed to queue to get into some of the stores (Underground toys - they had some exclusive show POP! Vinyls - however, i managed to get mine on the Saturday afternoon when i realised they had PLENTY). There was a big area that had the costumes from Rogue One - and this had a massive queue as well. I managed to get in there on Saturday morning by getting there as soon as i could - and really enjoyed the experience.
The heart of the experience for me were the panels. There were a number of halls where guests would be on the stage giving a presentation. I went to a large number of them, and only missed out on 2 that i wanted to see (the first i turned up a minute too late, and the second i was in the talk before it (about Palitoy) and wanted to get into the next one - so did everyone else). The biggest bummer was missing out on the Rogue One panel. I knew i wouldn't be there in the main stage, as that was wrist-banded (yup - you needed to queue up for that one), but it was being streamed to the other theatres. So i queued up for one of the stages and was told i needed a wrist band. Bah, i mooched over to the stage where they were filming for the Star Wars show and tried to watch it there - with about a 1000 other people. There was a big ATAT in the way as well :). YouTube to the rescue - and i managed to watch it proper then.
There was so much going on that weekend ... here are some of the highlights.
- Build R2D2: I will starting to build my own Astromech droid. It doesn't have to be R2D2, but i will be building one. The guys on the stand were amazing and the panel was inspiring. I will be blogging about the whole process ... and expect it to take about 2-3 years in total.
- UK Garrison: I have been contemplating joining the Garrison for sometime, and i think i will make it happen very shortly. I want both an Imperial and Rebel costume. Seeing all the CosPlay on the steps was inspiring - i want to be there for next time.
- The Photo Ops: I went by myself - a mistake i will not do again. There were sooooo many photo ops. A lot of the stores had special set ups where you could take a photo with a bit of scenery. This ranged from the carded toy backing, Hoth Wampa cave, Corridor on Death Star to asking people in Cosplay.
- The Panels: There were so many panels, and all were presented well. I picked up a lot of information about the areas i was interested in. I dropped into a couple where i had zero idea of what it was about.
Apart from the queues, the only other disappointment was the cost. It felt like we were being fleeced. £145 for Mark Hamills Signature!!! Books and Comics at full price (Chuck Wendigs new book Aftermath:Life Debt has a exclusive cover - which was the same as the normal one except it stated it was an Exclusive cover). If prices were a little more sensible, i would have gone for a photo with some of the stars, but i was basically priced out. Food and Drink is what i expected it to be.
Will i go again next time? For sure. Will i go to the ones in America - if i could afford it ... Hell Yeah. Booking a holiday around Star Wars will be fun - but i need to share it with someone - as i don't want to miss out on the photo ops.