19th February 1985. Not a family birthday, but the day EastEnders first broadcast, and for many like me, became a friend and family of sorts. Even if away, I have always recorded episodes, and have never missed one. It gets ridiculed by elitist snobs, fans of other regional shows and those who just don't know better. The truth is, it keeps getting watched by millions of people who enjoy a regular dose of drama, entertainment, and a high quality of acting. It is also still here just over 31 years later.

As part of my love for the show I have collected autographs from cast members over the years. Twice I have had to sell my collections of autographed EastEnders fan cards due to house moves. The first time in 2008 when we had to make a quick house move to secure a place for our autistic daughter in better day services in a different borough. This collection had reached about 450 cards. The second time just last October in 2015 when our landlord sold up, so we had to move quickly. The second collection had 576 cards. It is with regret that due to our continued circumstances, and getting up there in age, that I will not collect the cards for a third time. I do however have four wonderful books I have been collecting signatures in, and will continue doing so.

Many yearn for days past when a show like EE is fresh and new, and throughout the years many cast members have come and gone. This reflects life as the people in our own lives come and go. At no point have I ever felt disappointed with a cast, and think the current cast is amazing with a vibrant mix of people, all doing their best to deliver a quality show. With my wife being bipolar, the bipolar story lines featuring Lacey Turner and Gillian Wright have been close to home, but we love the accuracy portrayed, and how it has helped raise awareness of a terrible illness. We can never thank the show enough for that. It continues to deliver social commentary like this in many story lines while delivering quality entertainment.

You can see how much I love this show, so when details of a very rare meet and greet raising funds for charity was announced, I scrambled my pennies together, and jumped at the chance of this one-off special occasion. Although I do not go out much as I am needed at home to care for my wife and daughter, I do try to get out to some events. My wife insisted I went to this as she knew how special it was for me. I cannot thank for the cast and staff of EastEnders enough for organising this, and am so glad the money raised is helping a special member of their crew and family get the treatment they need not available in this country.

The afternoon was split into three two hour Meet and Greet sessions. My ticket was for the middle session between 14:00 and 16:00. Those two hours flew by! I dearly wish it would be possible to do something like this again one day as I cannot underestimate how much this meant to me, and how much fun I had.

I had a magical afternoon visiting Elstree. It was also really nice to meet up with some friends from an autograph collecting forum I have frequented for many years, and another lass who is an admin on a Walker Stalker London Convention forum I am a member of. It is lovely meeting online friends at events like these as sometimes you might not see them for years.

Video of friends in the queue outside

I will not write this page as a chronological recount of the day, but split it into three bits - autographs, meeting people, and other stuff.

I took my EastEnders 20 Years book which had 17 signatures in it, so was gob smacked to add another 40 signatures bringing it up to 57 signatures. We were also generously given one of the awesome Albert Square signs for autographs which are normally given out for charity fund raising. This was an awesome surprise, and a very generous gift for all of us attending. In addition, most guests had their EastEnders cast photos available, and as we were leaving we were give a limited print numbered and signed by artist Caroline Harper. I cannot thank everyone involved enough for all of this. The pictures below show the autographed items. There is one picture of a Lacey Turner card which is dedicated to my wife Kelly. Kelly is bipolar, and we both recognise the importance of Lacey and Gill's work in raising awareness. Lacey kindly signed this card "with bipolar love" for my wife.

I mentioned before about having to sell my cast card collections twice. As I am not collecting these any more I plan to put together a large framed display in future with all these cards from the day, the Albert Square sign, and photos of me meeting people as the ultimate memento of an amazing afternoon.

EastEnders 20 Years Book
[Signed by 57 cast members]
Albert Square Sign
[Signed by 40 Cast Members]
Walford Map
[Sign/No by Caroline Harper]
Lacey Turner Card
[With bipolar message]
Meeting everyone today was the best part of the day. With some leaving early I unfortunately did not get to meet everyone, but did meet the following -

01. Bonnie Langford
02. Davood Ghadami
03. Jasmine Armfield
04. Mimi Keene
05. Shaheen Jafargholi
06. Danny Dyer
07. Kelly Bright
08. Pam St. Clement
09. James Bye
10. Jony Labey
11. Annette Badland
12. Luisa Bradshaw-White
13. Linda Henry
14. Shona McGarty
15. Danny-Boy Hatchard
16. Maria Friedman
17. Linda Marlowe
18. Ted Reilly
19. Lorna Cartwright
20. Jo Joyner
21. Aaron Sidwell
22. Jacqueline Jossa
23. Glen Wallace
24. Derek Martin
25. Natalie Cassidy
26. Harry Reid
27. Jay Borthwick
28. Tilly Keeper
29. Jack Derges
30. Emma Barton
31. Scott Maslen
32. Samantha Womack
33. Rita Simons
34. Lisa Hammond
35. Tameka Empson
36. Ulric Browne
37. Elizabeth Sweet
38. Ben Champniss
39. Carly Norris
40. Lacey Turner

June Brown, John Altman, and Matt di Angelo were there for the earlier session, and Richard Blackwood, Ellen Thomas, and Diane Parish all left before I could get to see them. No complaints. I never expected this many cast members, and was fortunate enough to see John Altman along with Cheryl Fergison two weeks before at another event in High Wycombe (see Events Menu on my main site).

Here are the pictures of most I met.

I loved meeting everyone at this event as they were all friendly and fun characters. A few things stood out. Talking to Bonnie Langford about watching her film Wombling Free at Black Park forty years before, Danny Dyer on top form including recording an awesome video for my wife (Danny Dyer video for my wife Kelly), cheekily asking Annette Badland if the Cokers would make crackling out of Babe and getting the Babe death stare, babbling to Carli Norris about how much I liked her, almost getting teary eyed talking to Lacey Turner about bipolar and my wife, talking to the lovely Jonny Labey about how he resembles a young Adam Ant (he must play him if a biopic comes along), enjoying meeting people outside by known cars and Martin's market stall, talking to Samantha Womack about her having a rare week off, apologising to so many for being crap with a camera and being in a rush towards the end, having a laugh with Glen Wallace, and basically meeting everyone. It was just amazing!

To finish off, here's a random mix of some other pics I took plus some videos of inside the rooms.

Inside the rooms video 1
Inside the rooms video 2
Inside the rooms video 3

I have to thank everyone once again as this event made my day, and was special for me. EastEnders - you are the dogs! I love you all.