I started collecting autographs at smaller regional conventions years ago, so this was a nice opportunity to get back to my roots. I found out about the event late, so missed out on purchasing an advance early entry ticket (£8). Pay on the day prices were £12, and got you in an hour later.
The venue was only 5 minutes walk from the bus station, and even early there were plenty of staff volunteers around to answer questions. I found it extremely well organised. Two very distinct queues for those with advance tickets to get their wristbands, and those paying on the day. Also, what really impressed me, and I think made a huge difference, was having signings, dealers, exhibits, etc in different areas of the campus. It spread the crowd around, so it was never too crowded.
Due to bus times, I was there for 09:45 even though I could not pay on the day until 11:00 and was first in the pay on the day queue, but got lucky. A lady had two spare advance tickets due to friends not being able to make it, and only wanted £5 each for them, so not only did I get in earlier than expected, but it only cost me £5. I took a couple of pics of cars outside for those who like them. My primary goal for the day was to get some autographs from a few people, and then get home to my family to make the most of the day with them. Due to the early entry that worked well, and I was home by 13:50.
The first guest I met was Ian Whyte who is incredibly tall, and played a number of characters in various productions. He has played four Game of Thrones characters, but only had pictures of two with him. I plan to meet him another day, and get the other two. He was really nice, and we talked about what it was like wearing the make-up, masks, etc, and some of the pitfalls of costumes like robes getting caught in things.
I then met Cheryl Fergison who played Heather Trott in EastEnders, and has also appeared in Doctor Who. She was lovely, and a true pleasure to meet. She signed my EastEnders 20 Years book, and kindly gave me a free signed EastEnders card. She spotted June Brown had signed it, and immediately knew she had to sign next to June.
I then got to meet John Altman who is an EastEnders legend as Nick Cotton, and also well known for Quadrophenia. We talked about how the role of Nick was equally good and bad for his career regarding the roles he got versus the work he got. A lovely chap to meet with plenty of time for people. He kindly signed three multi-signed books for me - EastEnders 20 Years, EastEnders The Inside Story from 1987, and the first EastEnders Annual from 1986. The annual I am getting individual pics inside signed, and John was the 7th to signed it. I do have another EE multi signed book (the 10 Years book) that John has already signed in the past.
One of the main people I wanted to meet was Ian McElhinney from many productions, but most recently as Barristan Selmy in Game of Thrones. He had been busy when I first got there, so went back to him after Sarah. He is a most charming man with a lovely accent, and it was fun to talk about his GOT character, and unfortunate demise in the show, which we agreed was far more heroic than Charles Dance's character meeting his end on the toilet. lol. He kindly signed a nice photo for me.
The last person I met in this signing room was Spencer Wilding who is another tall man, and used to playing characters behind masks in Doctor Who and other fantasy/horror productions. I was after his Game of Thrones appearance. We had a great time talking about his roles, and what it was like playing with them. He had his young son with him as helper, and it was lovely watching them get pics of his son with other guests throughout the morning. Just one of life's nice guys, and a pleasure to meet.
I then moved to the other signing room that mainly had a Star Wars connection,and met Paul Warren. I was only supposed to meet him to get a Star Wars Force Awakens pic signed for each of two friends. We had a laugh as I showed him the picture I had printed off to make sure I got the right one. Paul has also been in other movies, and I took the opportunity to get a great pic signed by him where he was the skinny Steve Rogers in Captain America. A nice chap.
I then got talking to Martin Ballantyne who was next to Paul. Martin is a big personality, and a great character to meet. Like many at these shows he has played a number of supporting roles, but one caught my interest. He was the henchman to Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight. He spent two weeks on set with Heath filming the scenes. Glad I had the chance to meet Martin, and we friended on Facebook.
It was then over to the other side to meet Pam Rose who was adorable. Like many in the business she just saw it is a job at the time. For me it was growing up watching Space 1999 where she played a Command Centre Operative in eight episodes, so was a familiar face to me at the time. She signed a great pic for me which I forgot to pic up, and she tracked me around the room to find me, and give it to me. Quite funny, and we had a good laugh.
I then had the chance to meet an incredibly fun loving lady, Virginia Hey who is familiar to many who like cult tv and films. I really enjoyed the experience of meeting her as she has a wicked sense of humour and loves life. She kindly signed a James Bond photo for me. I also took a photo of her with her daughter for her Facebook page, and she asked me to share the pic of me with her Facebook page.
Finally I met Darth Vader himself, Dave Prowse. He was genuinely fascinated to see my picture had already been signed by James Earl Jones, and told me how nice James was, and asked me when James signed it. He had to remain sitting while I had a photo with him. Spencer Wilding had just arrived at his table to get a pic of his son with Dave, so kindly took the photo of me with Dave.