I can say I was there! Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016. It really didn’t disappoint. I was worried about the queues, overcrowding and overpricing, but I really did not need to worry. The one day I was there was a blast. If you missed it, don’t worry, let me tell you all about it.
I have to be honest, I was late to even hear about SWCE. It wasn’t until I had started podcasting with the guys that I did. Steve and Marc had tickets for the entire weekend and had everything planned. I had no idea it was even happening. This was back in my Dark Ages, before I had figured out social media. By the time I learned about it, it was long sold out. I was gutted, I would have loved it. I’ve been to a few Comicons and such like and really had enjoyed them, but this, this was ALL Star Wars. What’s not to love? But it was just not to be.
A few weeks before SWCE my long suffering girlfriend (Hey Claire) informed me that there were now day tickets available, not only that but she had booked us tickets for Friday! Now I say long suffering for many reasons, most of them Star Wars related. Recently she told me that she thought she had finished putting Star Wars underwear away as the children were older, she really didn’t expect to have to put a grownups Star Wars underwear away. She even matched up my Star Wars socks, even gets the right Yoda’s together. She has been along with me to various conventions, all of which she does for me. So thank you. I have to point out that she has been to lots of nerdy conventions so she wins as well. Sort of anyway.
With tickets purchased I gleefully started learning everything I could about SWCE and what to expect. Marc told me about the app, which I duly downloaded, thank you Marc. I asked lots of people on Twitter about what to expect and what to do. The general consensus of opinion was that we should expect queues. Lots and lots of queues. I’m English, we invented queues. I have no fear of queues. Unlike all of the sports us Brits invented, we, as a nation, are world champion queuer’s. We stand in an orderly fashion, for hours, in all weathers. We chat to our fellow queuer’s, unwavering in our attention to other people’s personal space. Us Brits will not push you, stand to close to you or breathe on you if we can help it. We would never, ever, ever jump in a queue. Mainly for fear of the wrath of the other Brits in the queue who would look at us out of the corner of their eye and mumble something like ‘oh I say that’s simply not cricket’ under their breath. Some may even tut in an almost audible fashion. Such would be the outrage.
So far so good. Well, until I learned about the number of confusing queues available. Firstly, you had to queue to get your ticket, you could do this about 3 days before hand. This is a queue to pick up your ticket, not to get in. The queue to get in was allowed to start 8p.m. the night before. You could also queue to get various wristbands for various things to see, all of which were completely awesome, Mark Hamill and the Rogue One panel to name just two. You could also queue to get a wrist band that would allow you to queue to get into the merchandising shop bit, and if you really wanted to push the boat out and queue some more you can e-queue to get some autographs and pictures with the stars. All of which totally and utterly confused me.
Now, I live in the real world, I have children. This means I also have a school run to do in the morning. With this in mind it became obvious early on that there was no way I would be able to get in to see Mark Hamill or any of the other live stuff in the main auditorium. Some people were saying they would be there from 5 a.m. to queue, these all won Gold Medals at the queuing Olympics 2016 in my eyes. Had I been able to join them I am still not sure I would have done. 5 a.m. is sleepy time. It was a moot point; I could not get there that early. In fact, I doubted I could get there much before 10, after having dropped off the kids. With this in mind, I instantly stopped worrying about it. I would still have a great day, just with less rushing around and panicking. So I had a little stroll around the supermarket to buy my food for the day, bought some bottled water and generally didn’t think about how tired and irritable all the non-Brits in the queues were getting. So, with Sushi, chocolate and water in my backpack we set off to the London.
Have you ever been to London? I’m told that people love it, it’s beautiful and cosmopolitan. To me, it’s loud, crowded and dirty. I’m told people go there for the atmosphere, have you ever smelt the atmosphere on a tube? A million commuters every day leave a mark. It’s a grubby one somewhere at the back of your nose. However, the Excel, the venue for SWCE, is on the outskirts of London and is a really nice setting. It is much more clean than the rest of the London and the times I have been there the atmosphere is generally one of nerds in Cosplay, so my kind of atmosphere.
We parked at The O2 and caught the Emirates Air Line over. It’s a massive cable car that crosses the Thames and takes you down to the area the Excel is situated. The first time I came to the Excel was to watch The Olympics (the actual one, not the queueing one) and I loved it. That time I drove the whole way, this time I really didn’t fancy the traffic. Considering how well we queue standing up it never ceases to amaze me how terrible Brits are at queueing sitting down in a comfy seat with air-con. We hate traffic jams, all of us. I wanted to arrive relaxed and happy rather than stressed out and ready to smash my head against the dashboard of my truck. So we drove to the O2, missed all the commuters and had a wonderful view of London from the Emirates Air Line cable car. Not one for the acrophobiacs amongst us.
A quick stroll along the river led us to the Excel. Along the way many Jedi nodded a hello at us, their intricate and perfect home made costumes billowing out behind them, both us were wearing Star Wars T-shirts to signify we were one of them, just with less time on our hands. There in front of us was the venue, a massive queue unfurled from the entrance like the tongue of some gigantic serpent. Only, there wasn’t. There were a few people outside but that was it. Shocked we walked up the ramp towards the entrance, there were stairs but they were steep and plentiful.
Once we arrived at the top we did the other thing we Brits are good at, standing around looking confused. We had no idea where to go to pick up our tickets and then no idea where to go after that. Luckily there was a very helpful man with a booming Brian Blessed voice yelling ‘One queue for everything’. Once again being Brits there were a few of us mouthing the words silently whilst we looked confused, the next evolutionary step in standing around looking confused. But it was true, there was only one queue and it was moving along rapidly. This was it, we were finally there, we were going in…..
Thank you for reading,