MCM Comic Con ~ Birmingham, NEC

Tis the season! Autumn geek heaven for my family and I…

Which basically means photographs with awesome cosplays, hearing amazing panel talks with stars of the small and big screen, plenty of gaming opportunities and of course that all important C word… Crimes of Griswald? No, CHRISTMAS. If Santa should be directed anywhere to fulfill my Christmas wish list, it’s Comic Con. Mission completed!

This time we mixed it up a bit, spending Saturday being led by our 4 year old, doing what he wanted to do and the Sunday enjoying the convention the way we wanted to – as much as the 4 year old would allow!

MCM know how to do a large-scale Comic Con and the Cosplayers were out in force, we felt under-dressed for not being in costume. So many fandoms represented by attendees, the atmosphere was buzzing and footfall appeared to be on the up.

Here are 4 year old Connor’s highlights of the Saturday:

  • The Grinch ~ The Grinch is on trend again this festive season with the new animated movie having landed on the big screen. I was already a fan of the original film starring the incomparable Jim Carrey, however the smallest member of our family is now taking an active interest in the character. You can imagine his excitement when early in his comic con experience he was confronted with a giant snow globe featuring the miserly green creature! The queues were never too long for this festive treat which meant we were clambering in beside the Grinch and getting covered in snowflake-like paper on both days of the con. Great fun!
  • SPIDERMAN! ~ suspended from the ceiling and hanging upside down. Not the real thing but close enough and a feature which held Connor’s interest and helped him to know where about in the hall he was too.
  • Storm Troopers ~ we always have to make a beeline for UK Garrison if their members are not already marching towards us. Connor’s main request of the weekend was that he saw and high fived the Storm Troopers and located Chewbacca. His wishes were granted and the traditions of MCM Comic Con were upheld!
  • Super Mario ~ Nintendo were a prominent feature in the gaming areas and extremely attractive to our young lad, especially given that he’s newly discovered the Wii.
  • TOYS ~ the temptation to pick up everything in sight and within reach at the numerous stalls was almost too much for a 4 year old convention attendee to cope with! Overwhelmed sums it up and had we not already got Christmas covered, we could have easily done ALL the Christmas shopping in that hall and had a very happy believer on Christmas morning after Santa had done his job.

Here are the highlights from a 39 year old and 46 year old who are old enough to know better but would rather not(!):

  • Talks/Panels ~ so many to choose from and plenty of different stages with something going on over the weekend. We particularly enjoyed listening to and learning from the talented artist, Mark Kistler who taught us how to draw a cartoon fish. On the main stage there was a Star Wars panel and the wonderful Mary McDonnell was also a star feature.
  • Cosplay ~ there seemed to be an increased number of costumed attendees and the sheer attention to detail that goes in to some of the cosplays is nothing short of incredible. There are some super-talented super-fans out there.
  • Props ~ props from our favourite movies and television shows are always a winner and you can always rely on UK Garrison to recreate memories from Star Wars. The Cybermen were also fascinating to look at, that’s the closest I’ll ever be getting to one at any rate!
  • Christmas Shopping ~ my husband pretty much got Christmas wrapped up for me – everything on my wish list was on display at the wide range of stalls and all budgets were catered for too. From commercial to rarer items, if you have a Christmas list from a geek, Comic Con is the place to shop at.

Do you want to see what all the buzz is about? Then why not check out MCM’s website and book tickets for one of their many awesome events next year: MCM Comic Con

 

 

 

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Coventry Comic Con 2018

Star rating: *****

Comic Con, a staple part of my geekery diet which must be dosed up on regularly – last year our team were delighted that a new convention popped up in Coventry and we were so impressed that we made damn sure that their 2018 sequel was in the diary. We were not disappointed, Coventry Comic Con has got it all – here are a few of the many positives:

  • Well organised – the organisation is top notch, this con has been well though out and the planning that must have gone into making it as successful as it undoubtedly was is evident. From the car parking stewards, to the security to the box office staff, everybody does a seamless job in helping us fans have a great time. No complaints from us!
  • Easily accessible – the event itself is very easily accessible, with the stalls, guests, attractions and talks all on the ground level. Likewise the facilities are also at ground level making this ideal for any fans who may have a disability. Fun for everybody, quite literally – that’s a massive double thumbs up.
  • Expanding each year – in comparison to its debut year, the growth and expansion is clear. From the larger variety of stalls and artists introduced to the additional space used to house the event which was also utilised for the guest talks. The layout was ideal and it’s fantastic to see the convention already going from strength to strength. Bigger and better again next year? Let’s do it!
  • Stalls offering affordable collectables – the number of stalls offering budget collectables made such a refreshing change. Often many of us save up for an event like this in case there’s a tempting item or two. However, if like us, your four year old has spent your pennies over the school holidays, there’s still plenty of merchandise available at affordable prices. Many pocket money options too which is superb for the four year old who’s gleefully continuing to spend the money you don’t have…
  • Cosplay galore – the number of extraordinary cosplayers on the loose appeared to have increased since the previous year. The grounds of the venue offer opportunities for cosplayers to have professional photographs taken too. The details that goes into the costumes is eye-catching in the extreme. Of course a convention isn’t a convention without a few Stormtroopers on hand and a flossing Chewbacca!
  • Plenty of space to walkabout (and run, skip, meaner about) in – is you’re easily claustrophobic, the amount of space left between stalls and attractions allows room to breathe. It’s notable how easy it is to have a proper look at the merchandise and the displays. Definitely a big plus and one of the top features that Coventry Comic Con has going for it. All the more room t floss in!!
  • Reasonably priced refreshments available – the refreshments available are at affordable prices too, so you don’t need to make a decision between the action figure and having a burger, you can have both! The staff who runs the facility are efficient and the food is delicious too. Big thumbs up to the best Comic Con catering!
  • A room to ‘chill out’ in – although we didn’t make use of it, we heard that there was a room to take a break in and that in itself is a genius idea. It can be an overwhelming experience to be in the hub-bub of a Comic Con, especially if it’s your first. This initiative should be adopted comic con-wide. It could be used as a time out room for cheeky Stormtroopers too…
  • Free retro arcade games – we all made use of these, a quick game of Street Fighter and even on Fix It Felix didn’t go amiss and was a welcome break from walking, looking and daydreaming over what we’d buy if money was no object. Making it a free area for everyone to enjoy was a bonus. We love a bonus!
  • Guest stars – the Guest Stars meeting and greeting fans appeared relaxed, with the volunteers looking after them well and plenty of chances for the Stars to chat with fans. A nice, easy approach was taken and surely that means repeat visits from the amazing Stars the convention attracted?
  • A friendly team – the overall atmosphere of Coventry Comic Con was spot on, all members of the crew should be commended on their approachable manner and thanks to all who gave our boy a bit of a boost by showing love for his Porg tee!

We’re only sorry that Coventry Comic Con is an annual event, every six months would be great thanks! Highly recommended by all three of us, it’s a good convention to take the small fans to, particularly if they’ve not explored the world of Comic Con before. Where else might you meet a baby dinosaur beside the rogue carousel horse of Mary Poppins fame? This event is not so large scale that you would worry that you’ve missed anything and it’s become one of the highlights of our yearly calendar of geekery!

MCM Comic Con, Birmingham ~ NEC

I’ve been attending Comic Cons for over ten years, on and off and been a frequent visitor in my press capacity (and fan-girl capacity!) for most of that time. MCM Comic Con in Birmingham is always one of the local events of the year for me. It’s a large-scale geek’s dream with Christmas present ideas galore if you go to the November Comic Con.

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This year’s was no different and possibly the best one I’ve been to this year, and I thought that the effort that Wales Comic Con put in was a sterling one. The layout worked for me, this time, plenty of room to walk around even though advance tickets were sold out. The theatre had plenty of capacity and excellent choices of guests giving talks. Peter Davison was one of my personal favourites, Red Dwarf panel was as much fun as ever and AJ Michalka was a name I wasn’t overly familiar with, but she was fascinating to listen to. What I love about the Q&A sessions is sitting in on those that I know nothing or very little about, I learn something and pick up a new TV show or movie to look out for.

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Giant minions over-looking proceedings were a hit with my toddler, and the UK Garrison brought a fantastic set with them as usual. You could have your photo taken in a Storm Trooper helmet or say hello to a droid. They are a integral part of every con and it’s always a bit exciting when the troopers line up for Darth Vader’s inspection – yes, I know it’s not real… or is it?

The guests in the signing  area were plentiful and varied, Doctor Who, James Bond and Red Dwarf were well represented and it was a coup to have Flash Gordon himself, there aka Sam J. Jones. The last time I saw him was in the first Ted film. Speaking of that bear, thanks so much for the Ted 2 tshirt, I love it! Another reason to like the panel sessions, there are always some fabulous give aways. Tokyo Toys are always among one of the generous benefactors and we were delighted to bring home some Top Trumps Marvel cards for our little lad, too. The Kidzone was well patronised, free face painting being a crowd pleaser, light sabre training being another and the circus skills was an ideal place to allow some of the smaller children to run around.

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Wrestling was an attraction drawing huge crowds as well as robot wars, these add extra entertainment to the billing and I hope to see more of the wrestling in future – definitely a favourite!

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Over the years Comic Cons seem to have grown in popularity and they are popping up everywhere too. The number of people who choose to Cosplay at the events always increases and that ‘makes’ a con for me. As a self-confessed geek, big movie and TV fan, as well as a gamer – I am delighted that cons exist for us to all be geeks together and have a lot of fun free from judgement. All fandoms meet in harmony and I know that some fans are brave enough go by themselves and make friends there. Long live comic cons say I, and long live MCM, too!

I had a great opportunity to network so watch out for some amazing interviews…

Here’s the link to book your tickets for all of MCM’s glorious events: http://www.mcmcomiccon.com/

Photo Credits: Garry McWilliams

 

Wales Comic Con ~ Wrexham

On Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th April, Wales Comic Con hosted their first ever weekend, and it rocked!

Wrexham Glyndwr University was the venue and it was perfect, there were various indoor areas to check out, where you purchase merchandise or hanker your dream item! The rooms used for the various panel sessions were well laid out with great capacity and it was a coup to be able to sit on the front row because we were present as press. It makes such a difference when there is no hassle to get a seat in a panel you intend to cover. There was also plenty of activity going on outdoors including the presence of Lightning McQueen, available to sit in at no charge (he was quite something to see!) and owls and reptiles to say hello to.

UK Garrison were present to keep a watchful eye over proceedings, they make a Comic Con for me and Chewbacca never ceases to amaze me, he is spot on. If you want to start a Star Wars costume of your own, see these guys!

Not only was the layout of the event excellent and easy to navigate, but the organisation was also second to none. The team could not be faulted from how they handled queues to get into the event overall, to organising lines to go into the panel sessions.

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Photograph above: actor Mark Ryan (R) with Break A Leg Reviewer (aka my husband) Garry McWilliams (L)

There was a huge number of celebrities available for signings and not many cancellations before or on the day. If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones this was certainly the Con for you! Also present were John Challis and Sue Holderness, aka Boycie and Marlene from Only Fools And Horses, Mark Ryan from Transformers and Black Sails, plus Doctor Who Doctors Sylvester McCoy and Peter Davison. Star Wars creature actors, Kiran Shah, Arti Shah and Paul Warren were also on hand to sign autographs and have selfies taken with fans.

The two panels that I attended, Star Wars and Doctor Who were both extremely entertaining and informative. I won’t look at the creatures in Star Wars the same way again! Plus any Doctor Who panel session is worth attending that has Sylvester McCoy present, he was the highlight of the con for me, extremely funny guy. The Star Wars panel covered everything from the appearance of Mark Hamill on set, to the process involved when a creature actor is filmed. While the Doctor Who panel consisted of an avoidance of the question about the new companion(!) and a live email to Stephen Moffat  from Peter Davison. Gemma Redgrave was on hand to keep the boys in check and her eyes lit up at the thought of taking on the role of a female Doctor Who!

I attend a number of comic cons and I have to say, Wales, this one takes some beating! I can’t wait for next time. Guest feedback from the signing area was so positive and look out for my interviews with Mark Ryan and Mark Addy (Game of Thrones).

 

 

 

MCM Comic Con ~ Birmingham ~ 19th & 20th March 2016

March madness descended upon NEC, Birmingham on 19th and 20th of the month and a myriad of Cosplayers were out in force to seek out their desired goodies from the massive range of stalls available. The layout seemed much improved with fewer bottle necks and easy access for a family with a buggy (aka us!). I found it easier to find a space to treasure hunt at the stalls and there was an excellent variety of dealers on hand, The Sword Stall and Stateside Stills proving particularly popular.

The number of guests signing in the memorabilia area was phenomenal, ranging from Carry On Stars, to Star Wars actors, to Primeval favourites as well as the ever popular Red Dwarf contingent. UK Garrison are a regular feature at Comic Con and they had their usual storm troopers doing the rounds as well as Darth Vader, Princess Leia and Wicket the Ewok in residence. They had brought along an interesting display of trooper helmets and the famous pod-racer was also a highlight. A good array of photo sessions were also on offer with a variety of stars present over the weekend.

A superb line-up of panel sessions took place in the theatre, Warwick Davies was by far, top of the bill, but there was also a fantastically lively panel with the Red Dwarf cast.

The cosplayers never fail to impress with their magnificent costumes, it was interesting to see some different characters make an appearance this time. The attention to detail with some of the costumes is faultless. The quality and organisation of MCM’s comic cons gets better at every event and I can’t wait for November!

 

MCM Comic Con – NEC, Birmingham

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MCM Comic Con arrived at Birmingham’s NEC with a bang! This was the first full weekend we have been able to cover in a long time and it was a fantastic experience. With special guests including Six Million Dollar Man star Lee Majors was one of the biggest attractions, with long queues of fans waiting for his autograph, a photo or the chance to see him in a Q & A session in the theatre. Liv Tyler was also in ‘the house’ on Sunday and attracted a huge buzz to the event. Add Starship Troopers and Saw star Dina Meyer to the mix, and Comic Con was the place to be.

Fantom Films had also brought a wide selection of guests from the world of sci-fi and beyond, swelling the Memorabilia signing area, also joined by K9 who looked resplendent and was a favourite of our little boy’s. The Kid Zone was a big hit, the idea of collecting stickers from around the hall and trading the full quota in for a super hero cape appealed to us as well as to our smallest member of the team. It’s a nice memory of this particular Comic Con that we’ll keep and look back on, as long as it stays in one piece!

There always seems to be a great selection of stalls at the November Comic Con, with Christmas around the corner it’s an ideal time for a shopping trip and there was plenty of choice for all fandoms.

The theatre not only boasted the Q & A with Lee Majors, but also a Q & A on both days with Dina Meyer and an interesting panel with Wireless director and star Andrew-Lee Potts. The piece de resistance was the Star Wars auction, 21 conceptual visuals from the Designer and Illustrator Ralph McQuarrie (commissioned by Gorge Lucas) were auctioned off in aid of Acorns Hospice. We can report that they sold for a whopping £9,750!

The cosplay parades showcased some of the best costumes from the weekend, with some worthy winners who displayed talent as costumiers and performers. The standard of entrants gets more impressive all the time. We can’t wait for next year!

http://www.mcmcomiccon.com

 

 

 

 

 

MCM Midlands Comic Con ~ Telford International Centre

Reviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams

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Our first visit to Midlands Comic Con in Telford was a fantastic experience, so much packed in despite the fact that the event is on a smaller scale than we’re used to seeing at the NEC in Birmingham. 

Cosplayers were out in full force, with some amazing efforts, please look out for interviews with some of the cosplayers we have been fortunate enough to meet so far. We thought that the amount of cosplay was immense back in November 2014 in Birmingham, and Telford’s attendees certainly maintained the standard. We can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with for the Birmingham event next month. 

There was a modest MCM Theatre Schedule which included a ‘Red Dwarf’ panel with Robert Llewelyn and Chris Barrie, they drew a predictably large crowd of enthusiastic fans who were delighted to see the ‘Rimmer ‘salute’in its entirety. The two stars also commanded a queue of autograph seekers in the ‘signing zone’ and were definitely a ‘hit’. The appeal of ‘Red Dwarf’ never wanes and we look forward to seeing more panels featuring the cast at future cons. 

Prior to the ‘Red Dwarf’ panel we attended ‘Commander Shepard Uncovered with Mark Meer’ which was extremely insightful and there were some good probing questions from the audience and Meer was an engaging interviewee. We are keen gamers ourselves and we were particularly interested to listen in on this. We hope to see this item repeated at future events and it is evident Meer is such a coveted voice actor. 

UK Garrison and Rebel Legion UK were present for Star Wars fans to have photographs taken with, their costumes never fail to amaze us and it wouldn’t be MCM without them. This time we were excited to see Chewbacca, no mean feat remaining in that size of costume for such a length of time. We had an interesting discussion with one of the members of ‘UK Garrison’ with regards to putting together our own costumes, and we recommend any Star Wars enthusiast who would like to ‘cosplay’ as accurately as they do to get in touch with them and join the forum. Equally you can speak with ‘Rebel Legion’ if you would rather be a Jedi or similar. Links are here http://www.ukgarrison.co.uk/ http://www.rebellegion.com/ 

We look forward to reporting from future MCM events throughout 2015, suffice to say that Telford has kick-started the year with a bang!

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The Very Best of John Williams ~ Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Reviewed by Helen McWilliams

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When you think of a movie theme, which composer springs to mind? For me, it’s always the infamous and incredibly talented John Williams. With credits ranging from the fear-inducing theme tune to ‘Jaws’ to the magical journey that is ‘Hedwig’s Theme’ from ‘Harry Potter’ films, this spectacular evening of instrumental wonder (presented by Raymond Gubbay) was not to be missed.

Conducted by the ever popular Anthony Inglis, who has the ability to build a connection with his audience not too dissimilar to the orchestra he is leading, we were treated to a selection of some of Williams’ well-known work and some lesser thought of, too. The London Concert Orchestra was in fine fettle, stunning vibrato from the strings, a solid brass section and particularly notable woodwind players. Of course not forgetting percussion, drums and the inimitable sound from the harpist, who all contributed to perfection.

Selecting highlights from the evening is an almost impossible task, I am a fan of many of the movies on the play list, I feel I must applaud Shelagh Sutherland (Pianist) for the hairs standing up on the back of my neck when the opening notes of the Harry Potter Suite were played. The leader of the Orchestra and exceedingly capable first violinist, Paul Willey provided another ‘hair raising’ moment when he turned his hand so beautifully to the Schindler’s List theme. As a violinist myself, I have personal experience of that score and I always feel that the muted sound adds an additional haunting dimension to the piece.

With Star Wars, Jurassic Park and E.T. delighting the full house at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, it was little wonder that an encore was demanded. All I will say of the chosen encore piece is that we quickly discovered that Anthony Inglis is a super hero! I can’t possibly give away his secrets, though…

This particular concert finished in Birmingham after a previous performance at Barbican Centre, London, however you can keep up to date with news of forthcoming concerts by accessing the following website http://www.raymondgubbay.co.uk .

MCM Expo – NEC, Birmingham

 

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Reviewed by Helen and Garry McWilliams

MCM Expo at the NEC, Birmingham was a fabulous joy to behold and scheduling it post-Halloween and Bonfire night makes for great timing as the highlight of the autumn calendar for Cosplayers, gamers and film/TV fans alike. If this con was anything to go by, we’d say that the number of Cosplayers has increased and long may it do so – we’re considering joining in next time, too.

The downside of this particular event was that we could only stay for Saturday, so we missed out on some promising talks on the Sunday. To give you a flavour of the line-up, there was an opportunity to join the cast and crew of upcoming movie “The Call Up”, a Q&A session with voice actor, Todd Haberkorn, and a panel for the 50th anniversary celebration of ‘Goldfinger’. All of that and much more, and that was just on Sunday!

On Saturday, our visit got off to a tremendous start with various members of UK Garrison meeting and greeting outside the hall. Mostly Stormtroopers at this particular point, they were all resplendent in their gear, spot on as usual. These guys are an asset to conventions and we feel it wouldn’t be MCM Expo without them. The layout of the event was well planned, plenty of room for manoeuvring a buggy (our youngest and newest member of the team joined us, this year!) and it was an ingenious idea to allow the Steampunk area to stand out upon entry. The Victorian Steampunk Society, who have been part of MCM London for 11 Comic Cons were immediately visible and packed a great programme into the two days.

So many famous faces to meet and obtain autographs from, too, they ranged from a few cast members from hit TV series ‘Allo Allo’ to stars from ‘Doctor Who’ and a variety of Movie stars, with some ‘Only Fools and Horses’ thrown in! An impressive line-up, to say the least, and the schedule of panels for the day were outstanding. We joined the ‘Red Dwarf’ session where Chris Barrie, Hattie Hayridge, Danny John-Jules, Robert Llewellyn and Chloe Annett answered some insightful questions from the audience who had gathered inside of ‘the marshmallow’ aka the theatre area which consisted of an inflatable marquee. We applauded the fact that Chris Barrie launched so easily into the voice of ‘Gordon Brittas’ and there were some respectful nods towards Craig Charles who has prematurely left ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’ due to the death of his brother. It was an interesting panel and one we would be keen to see repeated in future.

The arrival of ‘Harry Potter’ star Tom Felton was the ‘piece de resistance’ and we think it’s safe to say, a moment that the Potter fans who, were clambering over one another to get a space in ‘the marshmallow’ will never forget. Tom is fronting a documentary for BBC3 about ‘what it is to be a fan’; it’s a good concept and a subject which could easily go on and on. An hour passed and he still hadn’t gotten through all of his questions, but it was a panel with a difference, with all questions being aimed at the audience instead of vice versa. We felt this added an extra dimension to the Con and it was a privilege to be part of it.

All dates and venues for next year’s MCM Expos are available on their website www.mcmcomiccon.com, and as always, this is a must-attend event for ‘Break A Leg Review’.

Please check back for an exclusive interview with author, Andrew Ross – who has written “Too Happy A Face” (which is an authorised biography of screen legend, Joan Sims) published by Fantom Films. Andrew was signing copies of his book at MCM Expo and it was a pleasure to meet him.

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Members of the cast of Red Dwarf                    Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter)     

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