Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016

Well, I’m sorry this post is later than I’d hoped. My flight back up home from Star Wars Celebration Europe was cancelled and wiped out the brief window of time I’d hoped to use to write the day up before going on holiday. Still, here we go now.

The weekend of 15-17th July saw the return of Star Wars Celebration to Europe; London’s Excel Centre to be precise. I was there on Friday (the first day) and for my first ever Star Wars Celebration. It. Was. Amazing.

You're a wizard, harryAfter flying into London, I immediately met up with other people going to the Celebration walking from the airport to the conference centre, a German father and son. Quite apart from the fact that meant I was less likely to get lost, it was also just nice to start the day off chatting about where we were going and sharing a joint interest.

Once we got there, my sense of humour was immediately tickled by a chap in a Starfleet uniform and slightly muddled sign! Hey, who says you have to pick between Star Wars and Star Trek?

A word on queuing

We then joined the security queue, which led to the ticket, merchandise, and panel queues. There had been a bit of confusion and, dare I say it, bad feeling about queues online before the event. The explanation of the queuing system was rather confusing and sounded like you were just going to be moving from one queue to the next for ages before getting into the event.

In fact, the queueing was quite simple (maybe it really was just badly explained). You queued for your ticket and any merchandise you’d ordered along with it, then queued up for a wristband to get into any panels you wanted to attend. The only downside on that was that if you didn’t arrive very early for your tickets and wristband, you were pretty unlikely to get into a panel. When I arrived, the Hour with Mark Hamill and Rogue One panel had both gone, and tickets were getting scarce for a showing of A New Hope.

Still, what that did mean is that you didn’t spend all day queuing to get into a panel. You did it early and were then free to explore the show floor safe in the knowledge that you already had your seat.

BB-8 On-StageIt’s also worth pointing out that wristbands were only required for certain panels, so there were plenty of others you could attend without having to queue up at some ridiculous time. I, for example, just walked right into a panel with the animatronic guys from The Force Awakens to learn about how the droids in that movie were built and controlled (bonus: the “proper” version of BB-8 was there – the one that rolls around just as you see on the cinema screen).

Cosplay Everywhere!

You have to expect this, don’t you? There were people in costume everywhere! From Stormtroopers to Imperial Crewmen, Jedi, Twi’lek, even Darths Vader and Maul made appearances. Oh, and Halo’s Master Chief!

The level of dedication some of these guys show in getting their costumes just right is amazing. At the same time, there are plenty of costumes that look like they were made at home with very few resources. You know what, though? That doesn’t matter! The fact is each and every one of them showed a level of passion and fandom that was quite something to behold, and whether it involved purchasing a multi-thousand-pound suit of Stormtrooper armour or knocking something together at the kitchen table, the main thing is that people are having fun!

Rogue One Props and Costumes

One of the highlights for me was an exhibition of props and costumes from the upcoming Rogue One movie, including a modified Imperial Shuttle, a new type of TIE, and Deathtrooper and Shoretrooper uniforms. Oh, and of course the costumes for the main cast! I’ll pop the photos from that below – it really was something special to get to see these things up close and in person, and well before the release of the movie itself.

Fan Groups

Chris & Classic Stormtrooper

Chris & a classic Stormtrooper

Two fan groups I was particularly pleased to see were the 501st Legion (a group of Empire-themed costumers who take the time to use their fandom and costumes to raise money for charity and visit sick kids in hospital) and the R2 Builders Club (you don’t need me to explain what they do).

It was fascinating to learn a little of how the 501st work, apparently in a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” relationship with Lucasfilm where they get away with effectively breaking copyright on Star Wars costumes because of the good work they do. It was also interesting to read up on their entry paths; most people start out dressing up as Imperial Officers before moving on to things like Stormtroopers. I quite fancy having a go!

The R2 Builders Club is something that’s really interested me for a long time. I’d love to be able to build one of these iconic droids, but I will admit to being hopelessly impractical when it comes to building things from scratch. Their work was very, very  impressive.

And so…

At the end of a long day, with sore feet and buzzing brain, I have to say my first experience of Star Wars Celebration was nothing short of amazing. I think if I were going to be there for more than one day I would have to make sure I went to more panels as I felt like I’d exhausted the show floor in that one day, but as a single-day experience, it was brilliant.

If you have the chance to go to a Star Wars Celebration (the next one is in Orlando), take it! You don’t need to dress up unless you want to, don’t need to spend a tonne of money, and you will have fun!

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