Shameful as it is to admit it, this lifelong geek girl has never actually been to a fandom convention of any sort...not Harry Potter, not Doctor Who, not the Star Trek Firefly Wars of Middle Earth. That is no longer true because today I went to my first con, Whooverville 7 in Derby, with my absolutely wonderful escort Dean.
I met Dean before the con to grab a quick bit of tea and coffee and was promptly introduced to his traveling companion, a sweet guy named Phil who was also a convention noob and who later turned out to have excellent skills when it came to saving seats. Dean himself had dimples deep enough to bathe in and we hit it off right away, seeming to have similar senses of humor. While the three of us were becoming suitably caffeinated for a long day of fandom, Dean and I exchanged assorted pressies. Dean offered up some maps and guides for getting around London, as well as a book about Stonehenge and several of my other intended destinations. I love that everyone has figured out all they really need to do to make me happy is to throw books in my general direction. Dean also gave me a David Tennant (Doctor #10) action figure (now, with sonic screwdriver grip!) and pen and pencil set. (He knows me so well already.) It was all very lovely and generous, but then I opened the coup de grâce--a facsimile of the Magna Carta and an uncirculated £2 coin commemorating the 800th anniversary of the document this year. On the back of the envelope was the heraldry of each of the Magna Carta barons, at least one of whom I recognized as one of my ancestors.
At this point my squeeing over the goodies reached nuclear implosion when I jumped up to throw my arms around Dean in thanks and caught my hip on the table, nearly knocking it over in the process. Several ounces of sloshed tea later, everything was cleaned up and we all settled back down. Well, I did warn Britain to batten down the hatches before Hurricane Ginger arrived; still, that was slightly more prophetic than intended.
In exchange for this bounty I offered up a cheesy Avengers flying disc rescued from a cereal box, a set of US Batman stamps, and a custom-made shirt rendered in comic book fabric because I knew Dean liked collecting them. He seemed to really like the shirt and said he was going to change into it for the day; he later realized I had actually made the shirt for him myself and became so excited that he did some serious squeeing himself...though he at least had the coordination to avoid upending the table.
The rest of the morning was spent meeting a cadre of Dean's friends in the local Who community, including several podcasters who would be doing guest interviews later in the day. I met a man named Christian who was wearing a beautiful William Hartnell cosplay, complete with velvet coat, and who had long brown hair which really helped sell the outfit. I also met Keith and Karen and had great fun swapping stories about the differences in language and culture between our two countries among (other things). Lastly, I met the infamous Head of Pertwee, which near as I can tell is a long-standing gimmick of the podcasting group Staggering Stories. I believe it started out as one of those inside joke kind of things and sort of snowballed from there. Poor Pertwee has seen better days, as his desperate need for a hairdresser and makeup artist attests. Still, I can't help feeling just that little bit smug for being able to join the ranks of people who have held the sacred head (decapitated rather than wounded). I even got Dean to snap a couple pics of me smooching the Pertwee; this proved sketchy after one of the photos came out looking like I was in the throes of passion. Awwwwwwkward.
|And no, this wasn't the awkward photo.|
The rest of the morning was spent stalking the vendors, comparing purchases with the other attendees, and getting photos with the actors who played the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and Strax (Dan Starkey). When I went to get my photo with Colin Baker, he opened his arm and said to "Come here young lady and get a hug." I don't often have people calling me "young lady" these days, so I was girlishly pleased and told him "I like you already." Didn't occur to me till after the fact that it had possibly come out sounding like some sort of a slam until I saw the photo, complete with Colin looking decidedly like he was wondering exactly how many more of these effing fan photos he was going to have to take. Still, he was sweet enough when I went back later to have it autographed, so who knows? ("Who"...snerk...) Maybe he was just getting tired.
|A really excellent Ten cosplay.|
After we'd been there a while, Dean came to collect me and take me over to Ye Olde Dolphin Inne (Derby's Oldest & Most Haunted Public House, founded in 1530) where he bought me lunch. We enjoyed a very pleasant chat while eating, and I found the food quite tasty. We also passed the stunning Derby Cathedral on the way. I'm starting to feel like I should get a punch card that I can stamp for every historic castle or cathedral I see so that if I collect enough I might get a free trip as a prize. Sounds good, anyway.
Most of the afternoon was spent listening to the convention guests doing podcast interviews, during which I learned the following:
1. Dan Starkey (Strax) is quite funny; he told us he likes Blazing Saddles and about the time condensation kept forming in his hollow prosthetic nose and then dripping every time he turned his head like he had a serious cold.
2. John Leeson (the voice of K-9) seems to have a personality very like that of his character, which I found rather amusing.
3. Colin Baker has been doing some novel writing and recently did a radio show in which he finally got to change his previous costume, presumably because it looked like it was designed by someone on a bad LSD trip.
|Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), John Leeson (K-9), Interviewer, Colin Baker (Doctor #6)|
Other guests of the event included the actor who played Adric (Matthew Waterhouse), one of the main Dalek operators, a script writer, and Linda Clark, who played one of the monsters in Shakespeare Code. She was a lovely person--very genuine--and we had a nice chat while I was waiting to have Colin autograph my photo.
I kept overhearing random bits of conversation while waiting in the assorted queues and was struck by the diversity of people and personalities all joined together on this one day to celebrate a common interest, one free of judgment because of one's size (or lack thereof), age, gender, orientation, etc. For example, not a single person even blinked when they heard my American accent ("Blinked"...snerk). It was quite something, really. Obviously that is (or should be) our goal, but it was really refreshing to see it played out live and in person. Gives one hope.
|Doctor 6 cosplay|
Near the end of the day Dean, Phil, and I popped in to see who won the raffles. As it happens, the Staggering Stories podcasters almost swept the prizes. I suspect someone was paid off...either that or threatened with the Head of Pertwee in some way.
|Clearly something is afoot...erm...ahead.|
All in all, Whooverville was a great experience and not just because Dean spoiled me something criminal or because I got to lose my Who/Convention virginity with Phil. A really chill and laid back event, it provided a wonderful opportunity to ease into the fandom world without being violently overwhelmed by something more chaotic like Comic Con and allowed me to make several new friends. Didn't hurt that the day was sunny and gorgeous as well.
Phil, Dean, and I ended up sharing a cab to the train station and after hugs all around we headed our separate ways. I couldn't have asked for a better day or for nicer guys with which to spend it.