Tuesday, 26 July 2016

WOW! What a Weekend! - Day 1

Well, we are back after an amazing long weekend away in London where we attended Star Wars Celebration; three days of all things Star Wars.

We had an amazing weekend for all sorts of reasons that I shall go into as I write this and subsequent pieces. In fact we had such a great time I am struggling to know where to start! But I think the best thing to do would be to tell you what happened in the order it happened.

Now Star Wars Celebration ran for three days at the Excel centre in London. It started at 10.00am on Friday 15th July 2016 and was open for 3 days, finally closing its doors on Sunday 17th July 2016 at 5.00pm.

Now a lot of fans were arriving on the Thursday to pick up their passes so that they could be ready to hit Celebration as the doors opened on the Friday morning...some even queued from the early hours in order to secure their places at the various panels that were running. But we had decided to travel down on the Friday morning and just take things steady rather then worrying about which panels to see or spending hours in queues.

So we set off from our home in central England and headed South to London.
On our way!
The great thing about the Excel centre is that whilst it is in London it is on the outskirts which makes it very easy to get to if travelling by car like we were. About 3 hours later we arrived at our hotel, which was just to the rear of the Excel. It was a bit early to check-in so we parked up and headed over to the centre. Now the building itself was about a 5 minute walk from our hotel but we soon found out that the entrance was on the opposite side of the building which made it a good 15 minute walk instead!

Arriving at Celebration we were immediately hit by the very friendly and welcoming vibe as well as the number of cosplayers there were. We headed into the main building and had to initially go through 'bag check' before entering the main ticket hall to pick up our three day passes. We then took a steady stroll into the main exhibition halls to get ourselves orientated and find out where the Mandalorian Mercs booth was. We decided to head straight over to the booth to introduce ourselves to our fellow Mercs most of whom we had only ever spoken to via the forums online. Everyone was so welcoming and it was so nice to start to try and put names and faces together. We also collected our official Mandalorian Mercs Vok'Chi Clan t-shirts as well.

We then headed off in the search for food; now there are lots of places to eat at the Excel but there were also lots of queues! We ended up grabbing a couple of coffees and sharing a baguette - now those of you that have followed the 'Get Real' page on this blog will know this was not my usual sort of food and I really didn't enjoy any of it!! But while we were eating Simon decided to text a very old friend of ours who we knew was visiting Celebration just for the Friday, and lo and behold she responded by saying she was at the Mandalorian Mercs booth! We then quickly headed over there to surprise her. We chatted away and the conversation turned to our Mandalorian armour and how she was gutted that we weren't in costume...well that sounded like a challenge so off to the hotel we went to check-in and get changed!

In order to get all our armour safely to London we had bought a rather large black trunk...in fact we had bigger luggage for our armour than we did for our 'civilian' clothes! Although it must have looked rather strange rolling this large trunk through the hotel foyer and into the lift...thankfully we weren't the only guests with unusual luggage as most of it's clientele appeared to be Celebration guests.

This was probably only about the second or third time that both Simon and I had got dressed into our armour together and the first time we were taking it out in public. It probably took us a good 45 minutes to get kitted up as we had to figure out which order to put things on making sure that we could assist each other with tricky belts and gauntlets etc. But once we were all complete we headed off once more to the Excel centre and the long walk round to the entrance.

Instantly we became aware of what great fun being in cosplay was; we were stopped for photos, high fives, knowing looks, smiles and compliments and all before we got inside the building.

Although we had our passes we had to go through 'bag check' once more, or more specifically 'prop weapon check'. Both Simon and I as part of our armour have fake blasters; all made from bits of Foamex, MDF, piping and general household objects. But security (quite rightly) was tight and very specific about what items would and would not be allowed into the building. The guys on the prop check were great and very efficient; they simply placed a coloured zip-tie around each of our blasters to identify that they had been checked and given the OK. We were then free to make our way through the exhibition halls to the Mandalorian Mercs booth and this is when we discovered a slight hitch with our kit! Operating a touch screen mobile phone with leather gloves (me) is impossible and only just possible for Simon with his cloth gloves, this resulted in a very short and to the point text to our friend to let her know we were back and in full kit just for her.
We even threw her in the jail cell!
See it is us really!!
We then spent the rest of the afternoon between hanging out at the Mercs booth and exploring what else there was on offer. Simon was extremely happy that we got to meet James Bruton of XRobots.co.uk over on the Bladez Toyz stand. Simon has been watching James' videos of building robots and stuff for ages, and it has been these videos that have inspired and helped Simon with the armour building process over the last year.

But before we knew it it was 7pm and Celebration was closing for the day, we had had a fab first day and spent a substantial part of it in our armour which hadn't been our intention at all. It was much later than we had planned by the time we got back to the hotel and changed out of our kit...even taking it off had to be carefully planned as help was needed for each of us to get out of certain bits! Our plans for a meal quickly became snacks and red wine in our hotel room followed by falling asleep to the TV...it's hard work this being a Mando!

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