One of my friends is a big time gaming fanatic and loves sci fi and fantasy, and we have a mutual Facebook friend who loves fantasy and is a big manga and anime fan, so we decided to meet up for a day out and attend this event on the Saturday. Now, two of us had a couple hours on the train to get there and from opposite directions, while the other was more local, so we agreed a time to meet, and arranged to meet at Birmingham New Street in order to catch the local train to the NEC together (from New Street to the NEC cost about £3 for an adult ticket, return). Tickets to the event were about £9 if bought at the door, but it had been decided to book our tickets together online in advance, so there was a nice little discount of a few quid off that price, so it pays to find out when the advance tickets go on sale and prebook. They will post your tickets to you in plenty of time, and indeed, they arrived well in time even with the postal strikes going on.
Now, I am an old hand at conventions and shows, I am not in the least embarrassed to say. From my very first sci fi con in San Diego at 16, I have been enamoured with the atmosphere and goods at these, and always, always adored meeting both the fans and the stars that came to grace them. Now, this says Show, but make no mistake about it, it is a convention of sorts. Storm troopers patrol about, daleks cruise the pathways, and stars of science fiction shows come to autographs. This is no mere trade show, it is an event. But how did it stack up to my expectations? Well, I had fun, but I have to say that if the 2009 show was any indictor of the usual, I have been to much, much better (even given the price), but also much, much worse. I was not expecting US sci fi convention type stage presentations, but hey, even the famous people trotted out here for autographs looked like they were straining to smile here after only a couple of hours. They were herded in like cattle, sat down at folding tables that would not be out of place at a school cafeteria, and sat in front of folding screens from an office supply store. On these screens were obviously quickly printed pictures from a computer with the logo of the show they were from.
It was rather like going into a cheap supermarket. Oh yes, I'll have a Mick Pelleggi please. Geez, is that really Gil Gerard? Boy, Buck, you look much different than I'd imagined you as an old dude...It was rather demoralising to see them sat there like that, and truth be told, it was not exactly inducing hordes of people to spend their £20 to get an autographed picture. In fact, it was so depressing to witness, I never bothered getting in the quite short queue.
Tokyopop was there, and I forgive them for this, but they too had the folding screens sans any signage bar one taped to the table proclaiming Tokyopop. No authors to talk to the crowd, no signed editions, but like I said, I can forgive them. Why? Because they are folding their UK base operations and so were clearing out the last of their offices. So it was a huge manga sale, with all titles going for £1. Needless to say, we came out loaded, especially after I let slip that I had reviewed several of the titles on the table. There were other stands there selling manga, anime, and Japanese action films and games, but these guys took a bit more pride in their stand. They had brought their own art and fittings and tarted their space up. Way to go! That's how you do it! Needless to say, they were drawing in punters.
That is not to say that there were not worthwhile attractions on there on there, as the DeLorean from Back to the Future was there, as well as the tardis (I think that is obligatory). The cosplayers were a treat to watch, and it was fun exchanging camera snaps with a few fellow lolis who happened by. Many of the stall holders were a real hoot to meet as well, such as the fellow (sorry, I lost your card!!) who was making a film with Stephen Moyer (Vampire Bill, Tru Blood) as he had apparently managed to sign him for it before he made Tru Blood. That is, if he can finish raising the financing, as some backers pulled out due to the economy. Even more fun, was the lovely lady from Hong Kong who took one look at me, screamed cute, and forced me to model the beribboned cat ears she was selling. I have to admit I took a shine to those. Yes, really.
For those who come to spend some actual cash and not just enjoy the atmosphere, gawk at celebs old and new while hanging out with mates, there were plenty of places to drop some serious dosh on collectibles. From vintage Star Trek puzzles to limited edition bejewelled Care Bears and Hello Kitties and everything in between, there was something for everyone. There were even some seriously cool t-shirts for those who think a souvenir is not a souvenir unless it is a T-shirt, ranging from TV show related themes to original designs with an anime type twist that would make even the most irony loving person smile and go, "heh".
Would I go again next year? Definitely. It makes a fun day out without too much pressure, and one can mingle with their fellow otaku and pick up goods that are hard to locate otherwise. Although I must admit that I hope that a certain Imperial commandant is not there with his troopers again. It's not nice to pinch! Though I think I'd rather encounter him again as opposed to the rather odd Dr Who cosplayer who was wandering about talking to himself pretending he was about to use a sonic screwdriver. He was more like Dr What is He About to Do than Dr Who, but that is another story. It won't be my very next outing though, as come February, the same company is putting up their annual manga, anime, and things Japan love fest. If you are going, I'll be the blonde in the kimono sleeved mini dress, thigh high black beribboned socks, lace up platform knee boots and wearing a belled cat collar and beribboned cat ears. One of them, anyway. Nya!
Twice a year I get excited about what is coming up at the NEC because this particular exhibition has a lot of surprises and you don't know what you are going to get until near the time. This is the memorabilia show which hosts a lot of science fiction, TV and film memorabilia which most people will find very interesting. As well as this, a whole host of celebrities and people involved with films and TV are there for you to meet and get autographs / photos. It is a fantastic show and I will let you know in this review just why that is.
First where is the NEC?:
The National Exhibition Centre
The NEC is located just out of Birmingham city centre but is easily reached by car via motorway links and is well signposted. There is plenty of parking but parking fees can be anything from £5 - 10 depending on the type of shows that are on so do check before you go. if you want to take public transport then getting there by train is easy as get to Birmingham New street ad then Birmingham International is a ten minute train ride away and you are in the heart of the NEC. Tickets cost about £3 so not that bad at all and all exhibitions are well signposted at International.
So the memorabilia show has a massive hall at the NEC and comes around twice a year. Tickets are usually around the £8 mark and it goes on for a couple of days. When in there you will see plenty of staff to help you out and check tickets. You will also see a lot of staff dressed up as various science fiction characters as one year me and my sister got chased around by storm troopers.
The memorabilia show is all about having a lot of fun and everybody does when they are there. I suggest going if you do like science fiction as the majority of the show is about this genre.
So there are two sections to the show which are stars and memorabilia so let's go through these:
Half of the hall will be dedicated to all memorabilia and you can find some mad things here. There are so many stands full of your favourite films and TV and people come here to look for something different. For example you will find a whole stand dedicated to collectors cards and then one for DVDs and then one for posters.
The items here are varied in price and some of the rarer collectables can be hundreds of pounds. You will find dolls, cd's, signed pictures and home decorations. There is so much stuff here. One year my sister managed to find a Terminator doll and my dad brought a rare collection of toy daleks.
A lot of the stuff are things that you probably wouldn't buy but it is fascinating to look around. There was also a life sized dalek model at the last one we went to so being big Doctor who fans, we loved it. It will probably take you a couple of hours to look around all of the stalls but it is good fun, especially when you can look around and see how much fun everybody has, especially those who dress up for the occasion.
Ok so the second half of the hall is where all of the stars are. Now this is a surprise every year because you never know who is going to turn up until the last minute. My personal favourite was seeing David Carradine who was a lot of fun to meet and was quite happy to pose for photos.
Then Frank Bruno is always brilliant and last year Danny Dyer was there who I love so was very excited. You will get footballers, TV stars and film stars turn up and a lot of behind the scenes people turn up to. It is good fun meeting these people but I will warn you that autographs are usually between £10 - 15 each so quite expensive so don't think you can go there and get everybody's unless you are rich.
All in all this show is a lot of fun and although it might not be to everybody's tastes, I think it is wonderful. It is definitely worth checking the memorabilia show website to see if a star you like is going to be there. Good fun to look around and one of the exhibitions that you do have a laugh at. I always go and I do recommend and especially to those who like me, love sci fi.
Thanks for reading.