Yesterday (18/04/15) was a first for me: I went to my first “con”. I’ve always been reluctant to go to conventions because you never know exactly what to expect, but when my friend Johnnie told me I had to go to MuggleNet Live (the first Harry Potter convention in London), and that he and loads of mutual friends were going, I took the plunge and bought a ticket for ‘Expo Patronum’. The basic ticket cost over £100 after fees, and in excess of £130 with the two convention t-shirts I purchased. That was back in 2014.
The guests were announced infrequently, once their calendars were finalised, and included over a dozen actors and actresses from the Harry Potter movies. Not long after, a new package was announced called Signature Experience, which guaranteed you to meet all attending guests and to get their autographs (whereas the basic ticket only guaranteed half of the talent). It was an additional £65, but considering the outlay I’d already invested in the con, I decided it was worth it.
A few months before the con, Johnnie told me he and his friends had cancelled their tickets, since the lineup wasn’t worth the cost involved – I completely understood this, as the talent was lacking for the price, but I decided to go along regardless.
Unfortunately I had to be in London before 9am, since that was the start time of the con, so I left home at 4.20am (my Dad drove me the two hours to Reading, after I dropped my car at the train station, as there weren’t early enough trains) and caught the 7am into London Paddington.
I eventually arrived at the ExCel centre at around 8.30am, signed in, picked up my goodie bag, and met Ella (the only girl I knew from Twitter who was going) and her friend Kate. It transpired that I did know several other people, including people I met at the Hogwarts Express launch a month earlier, and I never once felt like a loner.
The day began with two panels, moderated by Rohan Gotobed (young Sirius Black).Each panel lasted for 45 minutes, including time for questions from the audience. The first one consisted of five women: Natalia Tena (Nymphadora Tonks), Jessie Cave (Lavendar Brown), Afshan Azad (Padma Patil), Georgina Leonidas (Katie Bell) and Anna Shaffer (Romilda Vane). They were asked questions such as how they got involved with the movies, conventions they’d attended before, their weirdest fan experience, who they were starstruck working with, and so much more. It felt really laid back and chatty – it helped that there were only approximately 150-200 attendees.
Straight after the ladies came the gents. Again moderated by Rohan, he interviewed and chatted to: Alfie Enoch (Dean Thomas), Jon Campling (Death Eater), Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick and Griphook) and Nick Moran (Scabior), which again was fun and interesting.
After the panels, the basic registration individuals were split into two groups, who each got to meet different special guests. I had the chance to explore the Expo, which simply consisted of a table of t-shirts (of which I collected the two I had pre-ordered), a raffle for Lumos (I bought five tickets at £1 each) and Signature Shop autographs (where I purchased a photo of Natalia Tena for £10 for her to sign later in the day).
Ella, Kate and I then went into the charity photo booth, where professional photos were able to be taken with the special guests for £10 an actor/actress. Over the course of the day I had three photos taken, with Alfie Enoch, Natalia Tena and Chris Rankin, which will be sent out in due course.
I then had my first Signature Experience of the day (whilst the other attendees watched a movie) – meeting all nine actors and actresses from the first two panels. We were each given a print of Hogwarts for them to sign and dedicate as we wished, and we were told we could have a maximum of two autographs per actor. In fact people had more than two (I had three from most, and four from Natalia), but they were all very accommodating, signing and taking selfies with the 50 Signature Experience attendees.
We then breaked for lunch, so I grabbed a quick Costa and chatted with Ella and Kate for an hour, before the next two panels.
The third panel consisted of Harry Melling (Dudley Dursley), Nick Shirm (Zacharias Smith), Chris Rankin (Percy Weasley) and Robbie Jarvis (young James Potter), and consisted of more of the same, including amusing anecdotes.
The final panel was slightly different, as it was about set and graphic design that went into making the films, and featured Gary Tompkins, Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima. It was really interesting to hear about how they built sets, such as the Weasley house, which took six months only for it to be burnt down for the sake of 30 seconds of screen time.
I then had a break whilst half of the basic ticket holders were in signings, before wand choreographer Paul Harris gave us a lesson. It was so much fun to learn how he created the physicality of wand movements, which we then put into practice by dueling each other. Whilst it was highly embarrassing, it was great fun!
The day came to a conclusion with my final Signature Experience, with the talent from the second two panels, as well as Paul Harris. After obtaining yet more autographs and selfies (and not winning anything in the raffle), the day was over and I was heading back home.
I’m not sure what I was expecting from the day, but looking back, it was jampacked full of awesomeness!
N.B. Shoutout to the MuggleNet staff, particularly Claire, who was extremely helpful and generally brilliant!