Lots and lots of people have been writing us with their two cents about Collectormania 4 which took place in Milton Keynes, England last weekend. Some have been positive, some have been negative Im sure most of you have read them by now. I was also present at this event and heres my view on what happened and what didnt.
First of all I will have to spend a few minutes complaining about the location, bear with me. The people who organise the Collectormania-events have chosen to do so in the centre of a huge shopping mall. This is actually quite a good move because it opens the event up to people who otherwise probably wouldnt have attended or even known about it.
The reason why they choose to hold it in Milton Keynes is beyond me though. The place can best be described as a barren wasteland riddled with roundabouts, concrete and huge carparcs making it not only very easy to get disorientated but also very, well, boring. Other reasons to visit Milton Keynes than to attend Collectormania are just not available and youd think that if you are organising an event that doesnt really offer any form of entertainment save for a few hands full of stalls, a lot of lines to stand in and a few panels at night where most people couldnt get in anyway you could have picked a more interesting location.
Anyway, that was not the case and I will not annoy you all with the troubles I went through to get there. Lets just hope that in feature years they pick a shopping mall somewhere in London or at least someplace vivid.
Enough about that though. On to the event itself. I have to admit that I was not planning on attending Collectormania at all. Having covered the opening of the Lord of the Rings-exhibition in London a few weeks ago and with Ring*Con on the agenda for next month I was running short on cash, otherwise I might have considered it. For those who might not know this: TheOneRing.net does not pay for all the things I do for the website, as they shouldnt have to. I am a fan like everyone else here and I love doing these things and feel quite fortunate to be able to write about it for the website. On previous occasions I paid everything myself and will do so if I really want to attend a convention of some sort. After all for me this website is just a hobby.
Collectormania was different though. I did attend and the website did pay for it and thats because we got a very interesting offer from the folks who organised it: they asked us (we did not ask them) if we wanted to attend and if we wanted to interview the Lord of the Rings-cast present at this event. I will now copy/paste some passages from emails I received from them about this event, just so I can lay all my cards open:
We’re really excited to have Elijah, Sean, Dom and Andy as guests at the show and we thought TORn would like to interview them while they’re with us.
Naturally, Showmasters would like to be as accommodating as possible to TORn and would like to hear any thought you have.
As for interviews, we will certainly arrange that for you. […] As I am sure you can imagine, Elijah, Sean and Dom will be massively busy on Sunday and Monday, so at the moment I am not quite sure exactly when this will be or how it will work, but I assure you that come the day it will! […] Please be assured though, we are very grateful for the coverage that The One Ring Net has given us in the past, and we will certainly make sure that the interviews happen for you. You guys do a great job, and reach more LOTR fans around the world than anyone else, and so if anyone deserves their time it is you.
That being said I guess you probably could have seen this coming: these (promised) interviews did not happen. What we got instead was a informal press-meeting where all of the press that actually stayed on Sunday night (some 8 people altogether) got about 30 minutes to talk to all the actors present which I dont feel is what these quotes above meant. Look for some small interviews with some of the actors present later this week!
Obviously this is just a personal grief. I mean I am not professional press so Im glad with anything I can get really and I realise this is more then most people got at the event. I do however feel that we (I say we because my good friend Irascian and the lovely Victoria Barrett from the Observer were with me for the better part of the event and experienced the same kind of grieves) were not treated as press might expect from an organisation like Showmasters on an event like Collectormania. I would have expected that if they can manage to get stars like the Rings-actors they could have certainly managed to set up some kind of press-system.
I also agree with what a lot of people have been saying over the last few days; it was a very hectic and disorganised event altogether. Things like the ticket sales were badly organised and poorly communicated to the event. On multiple occasions I have heard Collectormania-people tell fans that they could get tickets from 8am and onwards were in all honestly they started handing them out earlier then that.
The stories of people camping overnight, all tickets being gone at 9.30am and just the general state of panic that seemed to be going around on Sunday made it clear to me at least that the organisers were not at all prepared for what was going to happen and the day seemed to be like a charging Oliphaunt with everyone desperately trying to hang on and make the best of it.
In all honesty: if you say beforehand you are expecting thousands of visitors and you know that the actors can not possibly sign more then a few hundred autographs a day a simple calculation will tell you that you have a potential few thousand disappointed people on your event. This is not the actors fault because they were signing like crazy in order to please as many fans as was possible on one day. Complaints about how people were driven through like cattle are perhaps true but it is not something I feel people who actually got an autograph should complain about. Think about it this way: at least you got one and there were plenty of people out there who were not that fortunate.
And of course I know that nowhere does it state that signatures are guaranteed but people do not fly halfway over the globe to leave empty-handed so to say. This happened though, I have heard and read the stories and there are probably lots of people who have such a story of their own and havent bothered to email it in.
All of that being said the event was not a total loss. Monday (or Hobbit-Monday) was much quieter then Sunday. It was not as hectic and most people that were there seemed to have gotten their moneys worth of autographs. Lines were smaller, it was easier to get around without tripping over the great hordes of screaming fangirls that seem to be appearing more and more at event like these (why I wonder).
The only place that looked exactly like Sunday was the area around the booth where Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan were signing. Even on their bathroom-breaks they were followed around by great crowds and that must have slightly annoyed them (as it would me if I were in their shoes). They handled it very nice though so kudos to all of them for being very patient all through the event, keeping the smiles on their faces and generally being the nice guys that we all know they really are.
This of course is not just for Elijah and Dominic but for Andy, Sean, Brent McIntyre, Sala Baker and Lawrence Makoare too. That last three might not have had such a busy weekend as the bigger names they made up for that by spending a lot of time with their fans, posing tirelessly for pictures, signing whatever it was that landed on their booth and really leaving an excellent impression behind on everyone they talked to. Awesome job guys!
Because the Monday was so much quieter I got a good chance to talk to a lot of people, both visitors and people helping out at the event (I mean it was not like I had anything better to do anyway) and I have to say that I do see their point of view. I do realise that they were about fifty people understaffed on Sunday and that they had to make the best of it under the given circumstances. But I also heard some of them point out that they had not been given any kind of introduction to the event and that they didnt know what it was exactly that they had to do during the event. From what I saw people with Collectormania-tshirts seemed to be moved here and there to do stuff as someone seemed fit. All of this in my humble opinion boils down to the fact that the whole event was somewhat poorly organised, like I said before.
The positive things about the event; the informal press-meeting, the panels at night (about which Irascian has written a lot that I wont need to repeat here, I really do agree with him there), the quiet Monday that was spent largely by hanging out in Sala and Lawrences booth chatting to very nice people (Nick the pirate, the girl with the Gollum-tattoo, Erwin from EchoBase.nl and many more; sorry Im quite bad at remembering names), they all were overshadowed by the fact that I have had a very unproductive weekend and that the whole event was not as much fun as I had hoped it would be and it might have been. Collectormania 4 left a somewhat bad taste in my mouth and I will think twice about going back there in May for their fifth event.
Last but not least a very special thanks will go out to the above mentioned Ian Smith (Irascian) and Victoria Barrett who were excellent company throughout the weekend and all the members of the Dark Side Forums who were there. I had great fun with you guys, both during and after convention hours and it made a bad weekend very enjoyable and something I will not soon forget!