Thursday, 18 August 2016

WOW! What a Weekend - Final Day!

Well after an amazing couple of days we made it to day number three and the last day of Star Wars Celebration 2016.

The day started with a hearty breakfast which kept us fuelled for the day ahead.

















It was then time to get dressed Mando style! Here's just some of our kit laid out prior to getting 'kitted up'!
And today was chance to get out those Mickey ears. These were detachable as they are not strictly 'official' Mandalorian armour; Simon had craftily fitted extra strong magnets to the helmet and ears so they could be secure yet easily removed and attached. Pouches that are attached to my belt became handy 'ear holders'.

Once ready we headed out to the Excel Centre but we had not even made it out of the hotel car park before we were stopped for our first photos of the day. But by now we had a plan...each time someone wanted to take our photo we asked if in return they would take a photo of us with our camera!
And then we managed to get one of just us (this photo would come in rather handy later on....)
And here's just one of many taken at the entrance to the Excel this time with a young Star Wars fan..
And once again the walk into the centre and through weapons check before entering the main exhibition halls was staggered with photo opportunities.

But this morning we had a job to do as we had offered our services to help out in the Star Wars Celebration Family Area. This was an area set aside with space for families to sit down and take five minutes as well as some fun activities for the younglings. Within this area various groups had agreed to help out and provide activities over the weekend. The Mandalorian Mercs had agreed to be part of this and as such had a number of slots over the three days and the Sunday lunch time was our slot!
Mando selfie at a very busy Star Wars Celebration Family Area
Our job was to help the children make their own set of Mandalorian armour by way of some colouring sheets!

Not looking bad!
Although I think in some cases the dad's were more interested than the children!
Simon introducing a dad to the real armour - possible new recruit?
After an hour it was time to pack away our crayons and head over to the Mandaorian Mercs booth to take part in a group event. The idea was to have a group photo with as many of us as possible, so once we had all congregated at the booth we made our way out of the building to the front steps. It was such fun all of us walking out 'on mass' as the reactions from the public were great; lots of photos, smiles, waves and high fives. Once out of the building we all gathered on the entrance way steps which served perfectly to enable some great photos to be taken.

Buckets (helmets) on!
Buckets off!
And another shot...we reckon there must have been over 50 of us! Quite an impressive sight I think you'll agree!

Now once the photos had been taken we had a little surprise as we had a proposal between two of our members!! Thankfully she said yes!

As a memorial to a couple of official members who are no longer with us we then took part in an 'honour march'; this meant us all marching back into the arena in single file, with no interactions just straight forward heads up and march.

Simon and I taking part in the 'honour march'
Thank you to Steve Mannion Photography and J Goldsmith Photograhpy for some of the above images.

The march wound it's way around the two main exhibition halls before returning to the Mandalorian Mercs booth where we hung out for a short while...here's a few photos of Simon on booth 'duty'!



We then decided to head back to the hotel, grab a shower and change before heading back to Celebration for the last hour. This gave us chance to have a last look around and we even had chance to look inside the official Celebration Store as there were no longer any excessive queues! Although once inside there was not an awful lot to look at as stock was predictably low. I have to admit I was rather disappointed by the lack of unique clothing options specifically for us ladies! There were lots of unique t-shirts but I had hoped to see lots of 'Her Universe' products and although there were some pieces the choice was pretty dismal - about 3 or 4 different items. 

Now I love the clothing produced by 'Her Universe' which is ordinarily only available online from the US, so I had hoped this was going to be an ideal opportunity to make some purchases without incurring overseas postal fees and potentially customs charges too. But alas it was not to be :( It was such a shame especially as the lady behind it all, Ashley Eckstein, was actually at Celebration talking about her role as Ahsoka Tano in Star Wars;The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels.

Not looking overly impressed with the lack of 'Her Universe' choice and sizes were too big as well!

Some of the lifesize 'props' on display
As we wandered around we happened to stumble upon a talk that was talking place in one of the areas set aside for specific media outlets in the main halls...and we were very happy to eavesdrop in on Dave Filoni chatting all about Star Wars Rebels...

He is in there honest....look for the cowboy hat!
Now for those of you not familiar with the Star Wars extended universe let me give you a brief explanation! So we all know about the 3 original films and then we had the 3 prequels and then last December we had the first in the next trilogy - ok? Well besides all these movies there is even more Star Wars stuff - comics, books, toys and even animated series. And Dave Filoni is the creative force behind these animated series; Star Wars; The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels both of which are fantastic. Having watched both of these series relatively recently I have been really impressed by the story telling and the attention to detail that Dave Filoni and his team have produced. Watching all the behind the scenes featurettes has been fascinating and given a real insight into the amount of work, dedication and love that goes into producing anything that has the Star Wars name attached to it.

But anyway, Star Wars Celebration was now drawing to a close and at 5pm on Sunday 17th July 2016 it came to an end. But we had yet more fun planned as the Mandalorian Mercs were getting together that evening in a local pub to have a meal and round out what had been a fantastic weekend.

And then something happened that for the fan-girl in me made my weekend!

So there we were at a fairly standard, innocuous pub on the outskirts of London about to enjoy a meal with our new and very lovely Mandalorian family when we caught sight of someone entering the room; Simon and I both did a double take and looked at each other with that 'are you seeing what I'm seeing' look on each of our faces. Simon then said 'Dave Filoni's just walked in the room' and I think I said something along the lines of 'I know but why? What's he doing here? What? I don't understand...eek!'

Now at this point Simon and I are beginning to geek out big time and looking around the room everyone else seems to either not have noticed who's just walked in or not aware of who he is...it later became apparent that we all did know who he was but we had all adopted the traditional British 'we're not going to get over excited' approach! Well, we had our meal and Dave spent a good couple of hours with us all. He got up and spoke about the respect and love he has for all Star Wars fans. He spoke about how he respects what the Mandalorian Mercs are all about and how he always wants to ensure that he 'does right by us' when introducing Mandalorians into his work. His passion, love and care for this franchise was very evident in how he spoke and made me geek out even more!

I was determined to see if I could speak to him and at least get a photo with him but my English reserve was in danger of getting in the way...after all how does one ask a celebrity for a selfie? On our way back from the bar we found ourselves in an ideal position; the meal was over and everyone was just chatting and mingling and we noticed one of our fellow Mandalorians approach Dave for a photo. As we were stood very close by I decided this was our moment. Simon said to me in a half joking manner 'you ought to ask him if Mickey ears could be brought into the series' so I quickly got out my phone and found the photo of Simon and I from earlier in the day with me wearing my Mickey ears. I then approached Dave with phone in hand and showing him the photo began a conversation about Mickey ears in the Mandalorian universe...I kid you not! Dave took hold of my phone and zoomed in on the photo. We spoke about Mickey being his 'boss' now and whether the ears could be some sort of radar dish/communication device. He also gave us some lovely compliments about how good our armour looked and how he loved the paintwork...as you can probably guess by this point I was one happy and very geeked out fan-girl.
Showing Dave Filoni my phone and the photo of Mandalorian me with Mickey ears
Trying to convince Dave Filoni to make Mickey ears officially part of the Mandalorian universe 
Simon and I with the one and only Mr Dave Filoni
But the icing on the cake to all of this was later on as Dave was leaving and he came to say goodbye to some of our clans council leaders who we happened to be sitting next to. He turned and spoke to Simon and I, making reference to the Mickey ears and promised to 'have a look into it' and he put his hand on my shoulder as he wished us well and said goodbye. Que one very excited me, who quite frankly then acted like a teenager meeting the latest boy band...I hadn't really realised how big a Star Wars fan I had become until this point. In fact I am now even talking about a possible new tattoo that will be Star Wars themed!!

Someone else we got to chat to in more detail that evening was Tom Hutchens who is the founder of the Mandalorian Mercs or to give him his proper title 'Mandalor the Uniter'. Such an honour to meet him and find out a bit more about the Mercs, their origins and their ethos; a very cool guy.
Simon and I with Tom Hutchens
So that was our Star Wars Celebration weekend, a fantastic fun filled three days where we got to experience the joy of cosplaying as well as meeting a whole new family of friends as well as hanging out with a celebrity!

Monday, 1 August 2016

WOW! What a Weekend - Day 2

OK so here we are with Day 2 of Star Wars Celebration - London 2016.

After a hearty breakfast and sporting our new Vok'Chi Clan t-shirts we headed over to the Excel arena for another day of Star Wars.

Once again we had made the conscious decision not to spend time queuing for panels and so took our time and made it over to Celebration for about 10.30am. We chatted with a lovely family on our walk over and were able to help take some photos for them when we bumped into this big guy!
"I'd just as soon kiss a Wookiee", said me, never.
And before we'd even got inside the arena is was chance to grab some photos with some of the cosplayers outside the entrance...
A shiny ShadowTrooper
There were still queues to get through bag check but these actually moved along quite quickly, although there was a lot of walking up and down barriers in what was essentially a very large warehouse!
Time to catch up with social media!

Once through and into the main exhibition halls it was chance to have a good wander about and take in anything that we had missed from the day before. This did lend itself to a few more photo opportunities!
Star Wars Rebels style Imperial Combat Driver

Not the only one with Mouse Ears at Celebration
He told me that he's just Matt the Radar Technician at StarKiller Base (but he kinda reminds me of someone else)
With Ryi'nock - one of our fellow Mandalorian Mercs
And of course the obligatory selfie while walking the floor!
After a few hours we headed back to the hotel to get changed into our Mandalorian armour as we had our first official stints on the Mercs booth that afternoon. We had learnt a few things from our outing in armour the day before which meant not only was the whole 'getting dressed' easier and a bit quicker but we'd also got a couple of changes; like putting my gloves on last so that I could take them off if needed (or at the very least so I could use my phone!).

All kitted up off we headed once more to the Excel and the long walk round to the entrance but once again we found it to be such fun with lots of high five's and stopping for photos. And this continued once we'd got into the building and through 'prop check' (remember all prop weapons had to be checked before being allowed through).
With a couple of mini-Mandos!
And even a Jedi wanted a photo with us!
Finally we made it through to the Mandalorian Mercs booth where we had duties to perform! Simon had some cell guard duty to attend to...
How did that Wookiee get in there?
...and he even got filmed for Star Wars Show Live!

We also helped out on a section of the booth that was set-up for children to get involved with; there was a shooting game and a throwing 'thermal detonators' target game. These were a great way to involve the children and introduce them (and their parents) to the world of the Mandalorians.

As our 'shift' came to an end fellow Merc Kris approached me and said that she'd like Simon and I to take part in a panel that the Mercs were hosting that afternoon! It was a panel all about building a set of Mandalorian armour and along with a few others Simon and I were to be the 'models'!! This involved us all standing at the front of the audience for an hour...in full kit...helmet on. This was the longest I think I'd ever spent with the helmet on and I have to admit I was a little unsure of how I would cope. The thing is I actually find the helmet to be a little claustrophobic, especially when indoors, but I surprised myself and in fact the longer I wore it the more I got used to it. Now don't get me wrong I was still thankful to take it off after the hour long panel!
Full audience ready for the Mercs armour building panel

Our team busy demonstrating how to shape the armour
A bit of posing going on by us 'models'!!
So the team here were able to shape a set of Mandalorian armour for an audience member in around 42 minutes...just a tad quicker than ours!! It was another fun experience which not only saw a lot more photos get taken but we also had chance to chat to members of the audience afterwards about our kits. I will confess to being very proud of my creative other half as we both received no end of compliments about our armour and although I think I wore it well all credit for it's creation firmly lays with Simon.

After the panel it was time for Celebration to close which meant a walk back to the hotel, a much needed shower, a change into civilian clothes and a very welcome and deserved tipple before our meal...




Tuesday, 26 July 2016

WOW! What a Weekend! - Day 1

Well, we are back after an amazing long weekend away in London where we attended Star Wars Celebration; three days of all things Star Wars.

We had an amazing weekend for all sorts of reasons that I shall go into as I write this and subsequent pieces. In fact we had such a great time I am struggling to know where to start! But I think the best thing to do would be to tell you what happened in the order it happened.

Now Star Wars Celebration ran for three days at the Excel centre in London. It started at 10.00am on Friday 15th July 2016 and was open for 3 days, finally closing its doors on Sunday 17th July 2016 at 5.00pm.

Now a lot of fans were arriving on the Thursday to pick up their passes so that they could be ready to hit Celebration as the doors opened on the Friday morning...some even queued from the early hours in order to secure their places at the various panels that were running. But we had decided to travel down on the Friday morning and just take things steady rather then worrying about which panels to see or spending hours in queues.

So we set off from our home in central England and headed South to London.
On our way!
The great thing about the Excel centre is that whilst it is in London it is on the outskirts which makes it very easy to get to if travelling by car like we were. About 3 hours later we arrived at our hotel, which was just to the rear of the Excel. It was a bit early to check-in so we parked up and headed over to the centre. Now the building itself was about a 5 minute walk from our hotel but we soon found out that the entrance was on the opposite side of the building which made it a good 15 minute walk instead!

Arriving at Celebration we were immediately hit by the very friendly and welcoming vibe as well as the number of cosplayers there were. We headed into the main building and had to initially go through 'bag check' before entering the main ticket hall to pick up our three day passes. We then took a steady stroll into the main exhibition halls to get ourselves orientated and find out where the Mandalorian Mercs booth was. We decided to head straight over to the booth to introduce ourselves to our fellow Mercs most of whom we had only ever spoken to via the forums online. Everyone was so welcoming and it was so nice to start to try and put names and faces together. We also collected our official Mandalorian Mercs Vok'Chi Clan t-shirts as well.

We then headed off in the search for food; now there are lots of places to eat at the Excel but there were also lots of queues! We ended up grabbing a couple of coffees and sharing a baguette - now those of you that have followed the 'Get Real' page on this blog will know this was not my usual sort of food and I really didn't enjoy any of it!! But while we were eating Simon decided to text a very old friend of ours who we knew was visiting Celebration just for the Friday, and lo and behold she responded by saying she was at the Mandalorian Mercs booth! We then quickly headed over there to surprise her. We chatted away and the conversation turned to our Mandalorian armour and how she was gutted that we weren't in costume...well that sounded like a challenge so off to the hotel we went to check-in and get changed!

In order to get all our armour safely to London we had bought a rather large black trunk...in fact we had bigger luggage for our armour than we did for our 'civilian' clothes! Although it must have looked rather strange rolling this large trunk through the hotel foyer and into the lift...thankfully we weren't the only guests with unusual luggage as most of it's clientele appeared to be Celebration guests.

This was probably only about the second or third time that both Simon and I had got dressed into our armour together and the first time we were taking it out in public. It probably took us a good 45 minutes to get kitted up as we had to figure out which order to put things on making sure that we could assist each other with tricky belts and gauntlets etc. But once we were all complete we headed off once more to the Excel centre and the long walk round to the entrance.

Instantly we became aware of what great fun being in cosplay was; we were stopped for photos, high fives, knowing looks, smiles and compliments and all before we got inside the building.

Although we had our passes we had to go through 'bag check' once more, or more specifically 'prop weapon check'. Both Simon and I as part of our armour have fake blasters; all made from bits of Foamex, MDF, piping and general household objects. But security (quite rightly) was tight and very specific about what items would and would not be allowed into the building. The guys on the prop check were great and very efficient; they simply placed a coloured zip-tie around each of our blasters to identify that they had been checked and given the OK. We were then free to make our way through the exhibition halls to the Mandalorian Mercs booth and this is when we discovered a slight hitch with our kit! Operating a touch screen mobile phone with leather gloves (me) is impossible and only just possible for Simon with his cloth gloves, this resulted in a very short and to the point text to our friend to let her know we were back and in full kit just for her.
We even threw her in the jail cell!
See it is us really!!
We then spent the rest of the afternoon between hanging out at the Mercs booth and exploring what else there was on offer. Simon was extremely happy that we got to meet James Bruton of XRobots.co.uk over on the Bladez Toyz stand. Simon has been watching James' videos of building robots and stuff for ages, and it has been these videos that have inspired and helped Simon with the armour building process over the last year.

But before we knew it it was 7pm and Celebration was closing for the day, we had had a fab first day and spent a substantial part of it in our armour which hadn't been our intention at all. It was much later than we had planned by the time we got back to the hotel and changed out of our kit...even taking it off had to be carefully planned as help was needed for each of us to get out of certain bits! Our plans for a meal quickly became snacks and red wine in our hotel room followed by falling asleep to the TV...it's hard work this being a Mando!