Disclaimer – I’ve likely missed out LOADS of people. Sorry! I’ve tried, I really have!
What a blast of a weekend! My mental state of mind was in a much better place this year, and it meant I had a much lovlier time. I only went back to my room to drop stuff off for the most part, and not hide away and the rest of the time was spent being much more social.
I left Treforest at 6pm on Friday, and two trains later I was in the redesigned and modernised Birmingham New Street station. Although nice and spacious, trying to work out where platform access is now is a nightmare, and my tickets stubbornly refused to work at any barriers. After a bit of faff, I was bound for Birmingham International, and it was a quick 5-minute walk through the NEC to the hotel. I’d checked in online the day before, so it was simply a matter of picking up my key and dropping off luggage. Once in the room, the temptation was at the back of my mind to just turn in, but I said to myself “No, I’m going to be social”, and I headed out down to the bar. There I met a load of the established regulars of these cons, and it was great fun to catch up and say hello to a few people. After a brief chat with Red Dwarf nut James Roberts (apparently he also writes some stuff for some franchise thing), I had another small catch up with the TFWiki’s human avatar Chris McFeely, and cosplay legend Tori. After leaving them to their pizza, the rest of the night was spent sat with the all-round excellence of Ed & Ben Pirrie and the deliciously accented Gareth Watson. We sat by John-Paul Bove and Josh Perez, both furiously colouring pages and commissions as fast as they can – no let up for these two! It was great to actually meet up with Josh in-person for the first time. Alex Milne joined us as he was sketching away too, and as midnight rolled around, I decided to turn in as I was already tired from the day and knew Saturday would be quite full-on.
Naturally I slept through my alarms, and missed the opening ceremony, but did manage to catch the hotel breakfast to start the day. I then headed to The Forge area, and caught up with the talented creatives there. Caught up with Rob Coy, Sam Palmer and the always-entertaingly-t-shirted Temple, admired the Brave display and some exceptional 3D printed homemade toys, and then headed to the main room. Being a straightforward attendee this time afforded me more time to look around, but also hit the main hall earlier, and I picked up six Titan Returns figures in quick succession. A big factor in this was Chris McFeely, and we both offered no willpower to each other but instead an excess of enabling, as we both stocked up on these addictive bits of kit – that was my toy-buying rapidly done with for the weekend!
I spent a good while after that scoping out each stall again, indulging as always in the lovely nostalgia from seeing so many brilliant old toys and other bits of merch on display. During the jaunt, I got to say lots of ‘hello’s to many people, and had some great catch ups with the well traveled (and eternally be-hatted) Jim Sorenson, Aimee, Sprite and Nicole. I also got to catch up with the always-excellent Andy Turnbull, Isa, Dave Wallace and several other TFN volunteers and attendees. I dropped my wares off back at the room, and hung around there for a bit to have some food that I’d cleverly brought with me to sidestep hotel prices.
I headed back out after the grub, and spent some time in the bar area. Had a good long chat with Graham Thomson and a few others, talking about Beast Wars, Masterpiece toys and other cool stuff, then also got to say hi and chat briefly with Geoff Senior, Simon Furman and Bob Budiansky. These three are of course responsible for much of what got me into Transformers, and being creative, in the first place. It’s always great to see how approachable and personable these guys are.
By early evening, Chris McFeeley, Ed Pirrie and I had headed behind the scenes to run a rehearsal for the Saturday evening script reading (stuff had transpired that I had a hand in writing it this year, which was last minute, but great fun to do). Unfortunately, we could only get half the cast at a time, so we had one run-through with Mark Ryan and Venus Terzo, and a second run later with Maggie Roswell and Hal Rayle. This was a definite highlight for me, getting to act out parts against proper voice actors from Transformers and The Simpsons! After spending much of the rest of the evening ping-ponging between various groups in the bar, we headed into the evening script reading, where all the actors would perform it together for the first time. I think it went mostly okay, and people seemed to enjoy it, so I was happy with that!
The rest of the evening was spent with Ed, Ben and Temple, (and also briefly with Rob and Adam, who presented me with a drawing of, well, me! As an Agent Of Shield, because why the chuff not!), and we ended up back in Ed and Ben’s room, talking and chatting until the wee hours.
Ed’s neighbours banged on the wall for us to shut up, so Temple and I used the natural hiatus in the convo to take our leave. We weren’t that worse for wear, but we did both look for our rooms in the wrong part of the hotel, and ended up bumping into each other in the lobby in our now-unifed quest to find the right elevators. On our way we stumbled across, the much-more stumbly and epically drunken Thew, pushed him gently in the direction of the third floor, and found the RIGHT rooms. I got to sleep eventually around 4am, after setting my alarms for 7am.
At 10:30am, I awoke with the barest hint of a hangover or moisture in my mouth. I managed to get downstairs for the breakfast, and briefly sat with Billy, Tori, Petrina and Dave (and another TFN volunteer, I’m sorry, I didn’t catch her name – I think online she goes by Meta-Sawyer?). In a delightful display of Pavlovian Response, my “Get-up-you’ve-massively-overslept’ 11am alarm blared into existence, and almost everyone at the table sang along at volume to the opening bars of “The Touch”. Beautiful timing.
Sunday was a less hectic day, again spent bouncing between various people and groups, and periodically going to stare at the old toys to stoke more nostalgia. Managed to grab a decent catch-up with Nick Roche, who’s always cracking entertainment, and got to throw some thanks at the voice actors for their performance the night before. Managed to avoid talking about Red Dwarf with Stuart Webb, and instead liberated a ridiculously heavy book off him. Had some more chats with Geoff Senior and Jim Sorenson throughout the afternoon, and caught up with the always lovely Stephen Baskerville. Managed to enjoy a few panels, and thoroughly enjoyed the Reanimated panel outlining how Turnbull & co had churned out a 60 page graphic novel in a ludicrously short amount of time!
Inevitably, the closing ceremony rolled around, and I had to scoot off and say goodbye to as many people as I could, then grab my now toy-crammed and book-heavy luggage before dashing off to catch a train back to Wales. No delays though, and managed to navigate New Street marginally better than Friday night.
Now I’m back to earth with a bump, after another forcibly-abridged convention weekend (curse yooouuuu day-job!!).
But what a weekend. The community, the friendships, the jokes, the sheer FUN of being around such great people… it’s a family. A massive, crazy, thousand-people strong family of just utterly lovely people, who’s main thing in common is a love of plastic little men who become plastic little cars and animals. It was an absolute blast.
Finally, a massive, MASSIVE shout out has to go to Billy and his devoted team who run the TFNation event so smoothly. They make it look easy – which given the staggering amount of plates they’ve got spinning, is a testament to just how good these guys and gals are putting this thing on. It couldn’t happen with them, and I’m so glad they give so much time, energy and passion to this.
Roll on TFN2018.