When Zak said that she wanted to go to Celebration Europe, the first official Star Wars convention outside of the US, I was a little bit dubious. The grown up part of me wondered whether I really wanted to be trapped for three days in a giant space filled with costumed, light sabre wielding lunatics. Afterall, much as I love Star Wars, I am not a true fan. I don't read the books, I don't care who shot first and I have no desire to dress up as a jedi or collect toys. Another part of me was quite happy with the idea. The part that loved Star Wars as a kid, that still gets that slightly irrational feeling whenever I hear those opening chords of the music.
We arrived on the Thursday afternoon and spent the evening in the centre of London gawping at Big Ben and finding somewhere to eat. The next morning we queued with everybody else to collect ticket and band before heading in. The first thing we saw inside was a big mock-up of Jabba's palace. Beyond that was row after row of shop selling almost any kind of Star Wars merchandise you can imagine. Fortunately that is not all there was. There were also long, long queues to collect autographs (at a minimum of a tenner each we didn't bother) and for chats or shows with various people involved with Star Wars. These were mostly hosted by Warwick Davies, who did an excellent job. (Warwick is one of Zak's heroes so she was particularly happy to be able to get a photo with him later that day) So we went to see R2 D2's controller, along with Kenny Baker. We saw the puppeteers behind Jabba's movements in Jedi, and an interview with a slightly crazy Mark Hamill. After that was the opening ceremony with a very smooth Ian McDiarmid and a showing of Star Wars on a big outdoor screen. It was nice to spend the evening drinking a few beers in the sun while watching the film. It then seemed like a good idea to go to the bar and drink some more. Chatted to some other visitors, eventually hooking up with a couple of Scots and a man from Barnsley until they kicked us out and we staggered the 100 yards back to the hotel.
Woke up a little later than planned so got up, ate breakfast and made it inside in time for a showing of the Clone Wars, a new CGI cartoon animation coming out next year. Looks good. Then made it in to Anthony Daniels, who played C3PO, who gave a great performance. He knows that all the people in the room watching him are probably certifiable but that they also have a great affection for him. Unexpectedly interesting was the chat with Rick McCallum who produced the prequel trilogy. He came across as intelligent, keen and happy to be there with an honesty to questions that seemed quite refreshing compared to the usual spin of DVD extras. Finally that day we went to see the Battle of the Bands which was between Darth Elvis and a death metal band called Anchorhead. Anchorhead won with a crazy reworking of pretty much the whole of the Star Wars theme. I am not a fan of metal but they did deserve to win. We went for a drink after that but felt pretty tired so decided to take advantage of having a TV for the first time in months. Not that there was anything worth watching.
Sunday started with a quick trawl of the shops before the crowds arrived to see if there was anything worth buying. After that it was an interview with Ray Parks, who played Darth Maul, along with a crazy reenactment of his death scene. After that we went to look at the Vader Project. A bunch of young artists had all been sent a Darth Vader mask to decorate however they wanted. There were some brilliant results. That set us up to watch an interview with Billy Dee Williams who was tired, intelligent and, of course, smooth. That about wrapped it up for the day. We wandered around a bit more, took some photos, tried to get in to see Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) but had to leave before it started it - it was running about an hour later than planned.
So, overall, I had a good time. It was interesting to get some real insights into what have been incredibly important and influential films. It was fun to meet some other fans and I'm glad that I went. But, if they have another one in a couple of years time I don't think I'll go again. Fun as it was it did feel like there could have been a lot more. Not just in terms of guests but also organisation. From the beginning there seemed to be few people who really knew what was supposed to be happening and who could help. There were few instructions to guide people. There were fan films being shown upstairs that could have been playing alongside the (inevitable) queues to make them more fun. There could have been more free stuff. Probably next time it will be better. But even so, for now, once is enough. And no, I did not buy a light sabre.