What a special weekend this was!
The inaugural Hannibal Convention – Red Dragon – by Starfury Events was a fairly intimate affair, with just fewer than 500 attendees meeting six of the stars of NBC Hannibal (& one Producer who popped in on the Friday evening only) at the Renaissance London Heathrow Hotel. For a cancelled show (there’s still the ongoing #SaveHannibal campaign!) this could easily have been a melancholy reflection of a deceased series, instead it was the most joyful experience of my convention year. And to think: I nearly didn’t go at all! If you’ve never been to a convention before, it’s really difficult to explain to a “muggle” what the experience is like. You have to be there to experience it for yourself, and then you’ll understand why we all come back again and again… and again. This year, my con-buddy was a friend I’ve not seen for years, and it was her first convention. Boy, did she pick a good one!
Organised by Sean Harry of Starfury Events (www.starfury.co.uk), the three-day (well, 2 and a half) event consisted of autograph signings, a “meet & greet” (for the Gold ticket holders), stage talks, a costume/cosplay competition, and of course the parties.
The guests were: Hannibal Lecter himself, Mads Mikkelsen; Freddie Lounds, Lara Jean Chorostecki; Jimmy Price, Scott Thompson; Brian Zeller, Aaron Abrams; Margot Verger, Katharine Isabelle; and surprise guest Abigail Hobbs, Kacey Rohl. Also producer Loretta Ramos was able to visit on the Friday evening, and attend the meet and greet. Ellen Muth was also originally billed to attend, but was unfortunately ill and had to cancel (there’s always next year..).
Mads (I believe the D is silent!) came to London directly from the Lumiere Film Festival in Lyon, France, so did not attend the opening ceremony.. but arrived slightly later. He happened to walk past us whilst we were having a glass of wine, which made me audibly *squee* (sorry about that Mads!). I tried to behave myself for the rest of the con.. I almost succeeded.
The lucky Gold ticket holders got a sit-down meet and greet with the guests, a few extra goodies, and had closer reserved seats for the talks. Us “regulars” still had a pretty great set up – one autograph per guest on a personal item, and extra photographs for extra autos or vouchers for signatures on additional personal items (“badgers”) could be bought throughout the weekend. The prices were pretty reasonable also – I’ve been to cons where the lead guests were over £40 for a single signature, but the most expensive one this weekend was £25. Photos and group photos were costed by the “value” of each guest to be included. By “personal items” these must be licensed/authorised products, not simply a photograph that you have downloaded and printed! You have to keep in mind the copyright on these things! Fan art was allowed, as long as you are the artist bringing your own work.
The atmosphere at the con was the friendliest in the world! All you lovely “Fannibals” are the nicest people on the planet. I mean that. A lot of people came to the con by themselves, but left with a whole new (murder) family! I didn’t get a chance to stay very long at any of the parties, primarily because I’m getting a little older these days(!), and secondly because I didn’t want to have a hangover in the mornings. It was going to be hard enough controlling myself long enough to say something sensible to the guests whilst getting the autographs – I didn’t need to battle extra pain at the same time!
Saturday started off with two photo sessions – I chose to do a few group shots: Scott and Aaron together, and Mads and Katharine together. If you ignore the idiot in the middle – these photos are fantastic! Just look at those delicious sandwiches!
We regulars had the autograph sessions with all the guests (except Mads & Kacey) on the Saturday, and several talks; Aaron & Scott (or is that Aroon and Scoot?! “Take zee diamond Rose… Rose, don’t srow zee diamond in zee water..!” – seriously, you had to be there…), Lara Jean & Kacey, and Mads & Katharine. All of the talks were mainly question/answer sessions, with anecdotes thrown in from time to time. Everyone treated all the questions seriously (even the funniest ones!) and gave heartfelt and honest answers to everything. All of the guests were lovely, lovely people; not a hint of “celebrity” culture among any of them. They’re just regular people, who treat their jobs very seriously, are excellent at them, and were genuinely happy to talk to the fans about their thoughts on the stories, the medium, and the surrounding Fannibal fan-creations (if you catch my drift…). What a wonderful bunch of people you all are.
Saturday evening was the costume (cosplay) competition. There were some fantastic entries! The first shout-out goes to the Mason Verger (slicing his own face off) and (feeding it to) his dog “Encephalitis” (a reference to a question in the earlier talks…). Some other brilliant entries included references to other horror characters, Samara from the Ring was terrific, the Sweeney Todd & Mrs Lovett were very convincing (& supplied the guests with some pies!), a Will Graham, a Dr Chiltern & Dr Gideon combo, American Mary, and various Hannibals… and finally a special mention to the lady who went as the “Chesapeake Stripper”! Brilliant!
Sunday morning brought the autograph session with Mads & Kacey. It was a little bit of a wait to get to talk to Mads, but that was because he was actually spending a good amount of time with each and every person, allowing them to say their bit, and seeming to be actually interested; which was lovely. So who cares how long the wait was! There was a pay-off at the end. I plucked up the courage to show him a couple of photographs of last years’ Halloween pumpkin that I carved with his face on it! It’s one thing to show the faceless internet the things that you create, but to show the finished project to the subject was a little daunting. Luckily, he was pretty impressed, asked how it was done (just with a couple of kitchen knives and a craft knife!) – and said that ALL of the bits of art that he had been shown throughout the weekend were just astounding. He seemed to really appreciate the effort put in by everyone. Kacey was also really lovely to talk to, and I was able to say just how much we enjoyed watching her as Abigail, and what a terrific job she did. She’s a sweetheart.
Sunday also had a few more talks: Scott & Aaron together again for more hijinks and hilarity; Lara Jean & Katharine together for more insight into their worlds; and Mads & Kacey had the final talk slot of the con. After such a high-energy event, the closing ceremony became both a celebration of what had come before, and also a sad goodbye to all these new people whom we had begun to get to know, guests and fellow attendees alike. I also had a final group photo with Mads & Kacey.. our little murder family!
So what else did we learn from the weekend? Well, Aaron & Scott are very naughty boys! Much of what they said, could never be repeated! All the guests are brilliant, intelligent and insightful people. How similar the British are to Canadians – we spell things correctly! (and apologise a lot – sorry). How Will and Hannibal are (of course) in love – but NOT like that! And allegedly, although Mads has never looked for the “Hannigram” fan-fiction, Hugh DOES (and shows it to him… apparently he’s quite good…)! And the fans offered an explanation to the guests for the Flower Crowns phenomenon.. Google it..
I came to the con with one friend, and I left with dozens more. I bumped into a couple of people that I have chatted to on twitter, but had never previously met (and I didn’t know they were going to be there! What a fabulous surprise). I took loads of photographs, but I’ve only shared the majority of these pics with the attendees of the con – see the Facebook group for the link you guys! Of course none of this would have been possible without the efforts of Sean Harry, the man behind Starfury Events (www.starfury.co.uk) – GREAT JOB Sean! Keep up the good work.
Finally, because I had such a great time – I had to write a poem.. Yup, I’m a nerd! Nerd and proud. Embrace your weirdness. And of course: EAT THE RUDE!
If you went to the con, share your experiences in the comments. Or if you want to go to next years’ BEHOLD THE RED DRAGON – you’ll have to be quick to get in on the second batch of regular tickets, releasing soon – ALL of the Gold have already sold out, and the first batch of Regulars also! And without even having a single named guest announced yet. That’s appreciation and anticipation, right there.