SHERLOCKED – London ExCel 24-26 April

Wow, what an extremely busy weekend that was!  For two (and a half) days, the London ExCel Centre was inundated with deerstalkers, cosplay, and crowds of hundreds (thousands) of excited people.  Those marathon runners, who were also there on Friday and Saturday for their own registration, had no clue what was going on!  And when I wandered around the marathon exhibition on the Friday whilst waiting for the con’s doors to open, I looked so out of place! (but I didn’t care).

Here’s how I got on throughout the con; I attended on my own, and decided to get the train there and back each day (I’m only 40 mins outside London) rather than getting a hotel – because it was way cheaper.  This was also my first time buying a “Gold” ticket to any con or event.

Friday (preview evening):
I’m glad I came down for the Friday evening opening. I got my registration out of the way, and the venue wasn’t too busy once the doors opened at 6pm. All of the sets and exhibition pieces were up and ready, and we could leisurely walk around and take lots of photos of the props, clothing, and special effects. This meant that come Saturday I didn’t have to worry about missing out on these displays, I could concentrate on getting where I needed to be, hopefully on time! The Gold pass holders also received a “goody bag”with some lovely special edition art print, a Sherlocked event poster, some other art cards; and on Sat we also picked up the autographed pictures from Benedict Cumberbatch and Mark Gatiss (which hadn’t been sent through in advance). The Gold pass holders did get photo opportunities with the lead guests, but we didn’t get to have an in-person signed autograph (for that you had to buy either the “Platinum” or “VIP” tickets – which were out of my price range!).

Here’s a selection of the displays that were available (click to enlarge and display as a slideshow):

Well, Saturday was the first big day, and it certainly was big, and busy, and fun, and many other adjectives that I can’t currently think of! I was in autograph group C, with the Gold package, and I think I must have been quite lucky not to have a number much higher than 200 (I was 204!), so that when my number was “called” (so to speak) I hadn’t been waiting too long, and it therefore didn’t create too much of a problem with the clashes. I did miss the photo op with Una Stubbs on the Saturday, but I was able to go to the next timeslot on the Sunday. I would also have liked to have sat and listened to all of the talks, but in the end I attended the Benedict Cumberbatch talk (of course!), and the Andrew Scott talk; both of whom were kind, articulate, and gave heartfelt responses to the audiences’ questions.

Also, I must give a “shout-out” to my queue-buddy for the day, Anne-Marie – you know who you are! Thanks for keeping me company! ❤

Here’s a small selection of my photos from  Friday/Saturday, and my “loot” (click to enlarge, etc.):

Don’t be fooled by thinking that the Sunday would be any less busy than the Saturday for an event like this one… I was just as run off my feet, trying to fit everything in, as I was on Sat. During the one “free” moment in the afternoon, I managed to sit in to the talk by creators and writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss; who were immensely entertaining, and exuded intelligence and love of the subject of Sherlock Holmes, and gave some brilliant advice for prospecting writers:

(I’m paraphrasing from memory, but the gist is..)

Steven Moffat: “Each sentence that you are writing must always keep the reader anticipating the next. As long as the previous sentence makes you desperately want to read the next one, then you’re on the right track. This applies to dialogue, to exposition, or a descriptive piece. Keep the reader wanting more.”

That’s great advice, and I shall remember it, and try to adhere to it from now on. *goes to check back the content of this blog post* – I guess you’ll have to let me know if I’m keeping you interested..!

The rest of my time was spent running around trying to get all of the photos and signatures from my group allocation before my time was up. The only person I didn’t get a signature from, was Louise Brealey, but I’m not disappointed as I did get a photo with her the previous day. Louise seemed to want to spend a “good” amount of time with each of the fans, one by one (she gets points for that!), but consequently the queue was just moving too slow and I had to go and catch my train home! It’s fine, I managed to get to everything else I was supposed to do. The Gold pass included the photo on the Mycroft’s Office set, but I also wanted to sit in the 221B living room set – because, of course I did, so I paid extra for that (it wasn’t expensive, luckily). Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to enjoy the offerings from the “Second Stage”, but we could hear some of what was going on from our vantage points in the queues and it seemed like they were having just as much fun with the cosplay and podcast recording, as well as the fan-oriented talks and panels. Good job guys!

So here’s the final photo-set from Sunday’s activities:

Event Organisation Feedback:
What went well:
Generally speaking, I enjoyed my time immensely at the con, and along with the great atmosphere amongst the attendees, the volunteers and staff were all very friendly and helpful.  Once you got to the front of a photo queue, the process of clipping/collecting tickets, dropping off bags, and picking up the photos was (for the most part) efficiently handled.  The talks were well organised, and I liked the efficient use of the “paddles” so that the MC on stage could easily identify where the next question was coming from.  And best of all, the guests seemed genuinely pleased to see you and gave their time graciously to us crazy fanatics (OK, I’ll rephrase – we’re not crazy, we just know what we like and are PROUD to be involved in some small way).

What could be improved upon:
Whereas the front of the queue was efficiently handled, the back end of the queues could have been organised slightly better; for example, the queue zones were far too small for the number of people expected at any one time, and therefore the lines began to spill out into the main floor areas, and sometimes blocking walkways. The one guy operating the queuing “system” in Photo Area 1 gets a special mention, as he was trying his hardest to keep the eager fans in some sort of order! He also will likely need extra recuperation time for his sore throat – by the end of Sunday he could barely speak, poor thing! With the main guests in photo area 1, I think perhaps that rather than a single block of time allocated for you to just “turn up”, allocating 1/2 hour time-slots by ticket number beforehand would have given you an idea of the best time to start crowding around the general area, before being allowed actually in the queue. Also, if a person is forced to shout for 2 days, they should really have been provided a microphone or similar to reduce the strain.

An extra mention for those volunteers who were punching the holes in our plastic tickets all day long, they will all have RSI claims coming through next..

I purchased a Gold package for this event, because having considered all the fine-print for the various packages, I decided that this one gave the best value for money. Unfortunately, a large number of people must have come to the same decision as there appeared to be more Gold pass holders than I’ve ever seen before at a Showmasters-run con. Did they perhaps “over-sell” this particular package? For the autograph and photo op queues it seemed that the queuing process was very similar to the Collectormania cons and the “virtual queue” system, except that you’re number was pre-allocated. I wonder if anyone who just turned up for the day, managed to get anything signed?

The only other tiny niggle of the set-up was the colour scheme. Grey. Lots of grey. All the dividers were grey, the floor was grey, the signs were black and grey.. muted colours all-round. Except for the bus, which was red, of course! It’s only a small point, but once I got outside again, my eyes were assaulted by the onslaught of so much colour! Perhaps a cheery colour scheme, next time!?

All in all, I had an exhausting, but really good time at the con. The guests were lovely, the attendees were very lovely. I made some new friends, and twitter followers! And I came away not just with some nice pictures and other loot, but some great memories that I will treasure forever.

See you all at the next one!


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