Marysia writes: I just spent three days at the Fellowship Festival in Alexandra Palace.
The Fellowship Festival is the first UK based attempt to run a more typical genre convention rather than a marketplace event for Lord of the Rings movie fans. It will be followed by similar (though “unofficial”) events in Manchester in October (Master of the Rings – www.autographmania.co.uk) and Bristol in March 2005 (Return of the Convention – www.nadobra.com/conv) and possibly another Fellowship Festival next August. The question is, does it work?
The Fellowship Festival was both a success and a failure. Originally planned for a room that could hold up to 8000 it was scaled down before the event and even then didn’t come near to filling the capacity of the hall used, with a guestimate of 600-900 people there on it’s busiest day. This doesn’t mean they failed, it just means they over-estimated their audience… 700 people is still a lot of people for this kind of event. However there was a slight element of not having fully pulled away from the marketplace event mould with seperate (and very high) charging for autographs rather than inclusion within the ticket price, and the autograph sessions being run in the noisy dealers/exhibitors room.
But there was a lot they got right, bringing in the sort of elements that make conventions fun. Competitions, workshops etc. Some highlights would be…
The spoof radio play written by Mark Ferguson (Gil-Galad) and performed by him, Craig Parker (Haldir), Sarah McLeod (Rosie Cotton), Cameron Hodges (Farmer Maggot) and sound effects by Bruce Hopkins (Gamling). A followup to RotK where Frodo gets bored of the Grey Havens and comes back to Middle-Earth to get back together with Sam (amid much suggestive implications), Legolas (hilariously played by Craig) and others to defeat the evil resurrected Haldir.
A display recreating various fight scenes from the movies done by Lawrence Makoare (Lurtz/Witchking/Gothmog) and Jed Brophy (Snagu/Sharka/Ringwraith) with audience participation. Jed is a bundle of prat-falling energy and Lawrence has an easy drier humour, the end result was hilarious and included a recreation of the extended DVD version of the death of the Witch King with an 8 year old boy in Gimli costume and a girl dressed as Legolas assisting.
Sandro Kopp (Gildor) talked through a CD full of sketches he had done while on set, some of which can be seen on his website at www.sandrokopp.com. He is an accomplished artist exhibited worldwide and gave a nice view of what it was like to be in the background of the set. For instance 1/20th of the Army of the Dead are played by Sandro in a variety of different costumes.
The Tolkein Society provided a lot of extra content with hobbit dancing (assisted by Cameron Rhodes and Sarah McLeod) and talks on the languages of middle earth and costume making workshops.
Bruce Hopkins performed an impromptu scene from Macbeth under the direction of Cameron Rhodes with a lady from the audience rading for MacBeth and several other audience members playing trees.
John Noble (Denethor) did a particularly touching reading of the winning poetry entry at the closing ceremony.
The cast members present were mostly very relaxed and seemed to have a good time, even those that didn’t do so well on the autograph front. They were often seen looking around the exhibition area or sitting in the main hall watching other talks and from what I hear all had a very enjoyable time, especially in the evenings.
This kind of event can work and I think it’s a welcome break from cross genre marketplace events, but I hope future organisers look at this event and take note of where it did go wrong. Bigger isn’t always better and there are limits to the amount of money fans will pay out. Get the mix right and hopefully events like this will continue in the UK for many years to come.
I visited the Fellowship Festival late on Sunday afternoon, after completing my morning’s work and motoring like a fell beast on Pelennor Fields chased by the White One to London.
Once I found the Alexandra Palace, somewhere I’d heard of, and seen from the train, but not gone to by car before, it took a while to find the main entrance (there are two entrances, one to an Ice rink, the other to the Great Court, which led to where the Festival was. We had been greatly encouraged to pre-book our tickets, and were told the ONLY place to buy your tickets for autograph sessions was online. These autograph tickets entitled you to bask in 2 minutes of Star Power, and chat with The Star, and get up to 3 items of your own inscribed as well as ‘one of his/hers’. A maximum of 300 tickets per person per day was to be sold.
At the ‘Box Office’ they had no clue who was still signing, it was 4pm-ish, and nothing big was listed until the Festival Feast took place a mere 3 hours later. The signing stations in the room were deserted. Bruce Hopkins at one end of the line, and Craig Parker at the other were battling with no queues between them. In the centre of the room were a group of folks, some in full dress (Rosy Gamgee, and a few uber-fans) doing a dressed up form of country dancing to a worn out tape, a large block where you could play the LOTR-related EA Games if you so desired, and around the perimeter was a collection of various stalls that helped remind me of school jumble sales and Speech Days. Apart from John Howe and Alan Lee, signing for free, discounted copies of their assorted books (including advanced copies of Alan’s excellent revamped The Hobbit (I got 2), we had a pewter seller, a poster seller, a stall promoting New Zealand as a holiday destination, and a mini lecture theatre in the corner where lectures were being given on the intricacies of Elven weapon adornment.
In the middle of the room, next to the folk dancing, was Cards Inc, UK distributor of the Topps cards, and makers of their own lines of trading cards and memorabilia. Talking to some of the guys in the room, the show had so far been a bit of a disappointment. Stars had ‘disappeared’ when they were advertised to be still signing, and look bored when the flow quickly dried up. The Festival’s PR exclaimed the Biggest companies in the World would be fighting to display their latest wares. OK EA Games are quite big, but Sideshow were notable in their absence. Besides Topps, or New Line itself, is there a bigger LOTR related Big Company out there?
Across the hallway, I was able to catch the end of Karl Urban’s Q&A. He was able to disappoint many (cancelling his Collectormania appearance) and delight (suggesting his fave film was the Caine version of Get Carter , and dissing Stallone’s version (Ok so fish, barrel and shooting comes to mind but…)) someone pointed out it wasn’t him at the end of Two Towers riding beside Bernard Hill. Apparently he had to be away (attending his son’s birth) that day. He wasn’t happy about it. He felt that PJ should have digitally replaced his face on the face of the stand-in. Imagine that, digitally altering reality, in Lord of the Rings! This was followed by the School Nativity Play on Acid AKA Craig Parker and Ferguson’s ‘Radio Play’. For a family show, it was very much off limits. From what I saw and heard, it made Howard Stern look like Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and the worst sketch on Whose Line is it Anyway, look like Frasier. I think one comment I heard was, Tolkien, and PJ if he was dead, would be rolling in their graves like spinning tops..
With all the ‘blowing our own trumpet’ you could read on the website and in the mags, what you got for your 20 GBP (or more if you upgraded) really was a waste of money. Ok nice big venue, thousands of seats in the auditorium, and only just 650 tickets sold ALL Sunday.. unless you were stupid enough to buy tickets just for the feast..
If anyone thought Collectormania was bad, they had to be at Alexandra Palace this weekend. I mean, they didn’t even have blokes selling ‘ltd. ed’ film cells!