I know you have already had some reports about this event but I wanted to give you the point of view of a first-timer to this sort of event.
I have never been to any sort of convention of any kind and so was really looking forward to, but was a little apprehensive about the event. It had been really hyped up on the aaaevents site, and I was a little disappointed to find out how small it actually was when we arrived on Saturday morning. I bought two three day standard passes, and was worried that there would not be enough to do to cover the three days. How wrong I was.
There were a few problems at the start and it kicked off a little late but it was worth the wait as Craig and Mark took the stage closely followed by Bernard Hill. He seemed a little nervous but soon eased into the question and answer session. By mistake, I found myself in a Tolkien society v. John Noble’s Denethor lecture, but I enjoyed it so much I was glad I had got the times wrong. He was very relaxed with the small collection of people watching and willingly answered a variety of questions about his character and performance (I enjoyed it so much that I sat in on another 3 of his Q&A sessions). After this I stayed on in the Talan to listen to 2 lectures on costumes (held by Julia McGee (JediElfQueen) and Maggie Percival) while my partner went off to beat Games Workshop staff at their own game. Following this I got involved in some Hobbit dancing and listened to John Noble’s Q&A, and then a costuming workshop where I recreated a (very cheap) version of Galadriel’s pin….not too professional looking but still a bargain for £2 and perfect for children. We finished the day at the Bilbo’s Sing-along party which was closed (very) early due to poor turn out, but still a good first day.
My second day started with video and slides from Gino Acevado and Lawrence Makoare, covering his transformation from human to Lurtz. This was followed by some shopping at the selection of stalls at the event which covered a variety of price bands (from trips to NZ and £350 Fellowship cloaks to trading cards, posters and pewter ornaments) because I missed the Sindarin lecture I wanted to attend. After this I was lucky enough to be in the front row of the stunt fighting demonstration by Lawrence Makoare and Jed Brophy. It was the highlight of the day. Both performers seemed at ease with the crowd and it turned out to be a very funny experience. The awwww factor was brought in by a very small boy dressed as Gimli, who pretended to embed his toy axe into Lawrence’s back. After the successful charity auction (around £2700 raised for Beat Bullying I believe) my next visit was to a lecture (again held by the Julia McGee) about the materials that could be used to make costumes, followed by a Tengwar lecture from the Tolkien society. Later I attended Galadriel’s Ball which was better attended than the previous night and was full of people dressed in a variety of costumes. After a bit of ‘Strip the Willow’ the party was in full swing and was enjoyed by all who attended.
Even after two days, I was still looking forward to the final days events. Bernard Hill was first up again and after listening to him answer questions I made my way into the Talan for a lecture on the materials and clothing worn in the different areas of Middle-Earth (we particularly looked at the women of Dale) held by Maggie Percival. I was desperate to make a Fellowship pin and so joined in with another costuming workshop to create my version of the famous pin. Again, it was on the cheap and cost only £1 but it was a bargain!! Since I had managed to miss every other Q&A with Karl Urban I made a special effort to get to this last one. I was glad I went as he was pleasant and joked with the crowd. Zainab Thorp had been holding Elvish lessons, and I managed to catch the final lecture on conversational Sindarin. She gave out plenty of resources and plenty of information to continue our quest to learn the noble tongue. The closing ceremony was filled with prize giving for the variety of competitions held of the three days, including a trip for two to New Zealand (unfortunately I did not win, but considering we have only just come back from NZ, I was not too disappointed). To fill some time before the Minas Tirith Library Challenge, we played on the games provided by EA Games (of which I particularly liked the PC game Battle for Middle-Earth) before coming 4th (out of about 15) in the trivia challenge. The prizes included Game cubes (for the Art, Poetry and Film winners) and trivia and board games, trading card packs, signed art works and cards for the winners of the trivia quiz (we got a LOTR Trivia game, Hobbit Board game and two packs of trading cards for coming fourth).
All in all, it was a very enjoyable three days. Personally I was glad that there were less people than expected because there was plenty of room to move around and see the events. As it was my first convention I have nothing to compare it to but I enjoyed it and would definitely consider going back next year or going to another event. All the guests were very nice and mixed with us, chatting and having photos taken regardless. I am glad I went and would recommend any fan to go next year.