London Film & Comic Con 2009

The London Film & Comic Con took place at Earls Court 2 during the weekend of July 18-19, 2009 and I was to write about it. I had never been to a convention before, but now I had to cover the whole thing, talking to guests (thatís what they call the celebrities invited to sign autographs and do talks), going to talks and photo shoots and interviewing people attending. I got the hang of it the first day, but the second day was the one that was interesting in respect to Harry Potter. On this day the Phelps twins (Weasley twins) and Angelina Mandy (Gabrielle Delacour Ė younger sister of Fleur) were among the guests.

On Sunday morning I arrived at the EC2 around nine, same time as the Phelps twins. They walked past the crowd outside the hall with hardly anyone noticing, which was quite odd, considering their striking appearance. The twins are very tall and added to that, they looked a bit like opposite chess pieces. Oliver Phelps (George Weasley) was dressed all in black, carrying a rather chi-chi menís shoulder bag, James Phelps (Fred Weasley) was in white, sporting a huge pair of sunglasses with polarised lenses, although it was raining. The two of them went back and forth next to the waiting crowd no less than three times, probably searching for the right entrance, but no one as much as looked at them!

Inside the EC2 I went to get my talk ticket. Then I went to see where the HP cast was seated. Angelina Mandy was already in place, almost next to the entrance, and as no one was queuing up to see her, it was fairly easy to say hi to her. She seemed a very nice girl, but a bit shy.

Having met Angelina Mandy, I then queued up for the Phelps twins before the queue got too long. There were only four people ahead of me when I got there, but by the time the twins showed up (an hour later), the queue was so long that the staff had to "walk us around", as they called it. That meant leading us past a table with 8x10" pics of the twins, having us pick one for them to sign, and then walk back to the queue.

We had been told that the twins would be a little late because they were having breakfast, so when they finally showed up, they were greeted by shouts such as, "Finally!", "About time!" and "What took you so long?". Oliver Phelps responded by grinning ear to ear, while James Phelps went, "Sorry. Thanks for waiting."

I know the twins to be pretty bright and funny so Iíd had some T-shirts made for them based on the times Iíve talked to them on Twitter; one for James Phelps with a Ned Gerblansky search message and one for Oliver Phelps with a Sidney license plate. After the obligatory greetings and handshakes, I presented them with the T-shirts and James Phelps kept going, "Brilliant, this is absolutely brilliant!" He was easy and fun to talk to, like an old school mate or something. At least until I took out my Aston Villa (football) cook book for Oliver Phelps to sign, then he let out an annoyed grunt, "Oh, no!" and ducked down sideways under the table. Heís known to support Birmingham City whereas Iím a Villan like his brother.

Oliver Phelps was delighted to see the book. "This is the first time Iíve actually seen it," he explained, although he has a recipe in it. He wrote a personal message in it and the two of us went on to talk about the book and his recipe etc., Oliver Phelps being very intense to talk to. He really bowled me over with his warmth, wit and attention! He just kept talking and asking questions, but I could feel the annoyed looks from the rest of the queue on my back, so eventually I had to stop him talking. This was done by reminding him to sign the 8x10" pic as well, on which his brother had written: "Thanks for the T-shirts!" Then both twins posed for a photo, before Oliver Phelps gave me a send off to remember. He looked so funny, rather surprised because I had ended the conversation! And with that my audience was over.

At 1.15 p.m. it was time for the Harry Potter talk with the Phelps twins and Angelina Mandy. The Star Wars talk before the Harry Potter talk was running late, though, so instead of lasting 35 minutes, the HP talk was cut down to only 20 minutes. Good thing we didnít have to pay for it!

The talk was quite interesting and fun. People were allowed to take photos for the first couple of minutes, then after that they could ask the guests questions. Angelina Mandy didnít get that many, though, as she only had a small part in HP4, but she said she was looking forward to being in HP7. The Phelps twins on the other hand told about how they resemble Fred and George Weasley, playing pranks on people, and they gave some rather hilarious examples of what theyíd done to their co-stars Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom) and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley). They talked a lot about the books, films and doing promo all over Europe and told about their future plans when the HP-saga is over.

Immediately after the talk, the photo shoot took place. That was probably the weirdest part of the convention. Tons of people lining up, then marching in one by one to a room where the twins stood in front of a backdrop. A quick "Hello again" (Oliver Phelps) and "How are you" (James Phelps), arms around victim, quick flash, mug shot done, photographer going, "Itís good", then off again. All in all it took less than 20 seconds.

Well, now I had two more hours to kill and I went around talking to people attending the con. There were a lot of nerds there and little old ladies, but in general there were people of all ages and all walks of life, most of them being quite used to going to cons.

As from what I gathered most of them had four or five guests whom they really wanted to see, but they also came to buy stuff; photos, mugs, clocks and other memorabilia. One little old lady said to me, "My family thinks Iím crazy. I should be at home knitting or cooking or having some other nice hobby, but I love conventions!" Asked whom she was there to see, she burst out, "The Phelps twins! They are lovely boys! Lovely!"

The convention closed at five, but half of the photos from the different photo shoots werenít ready by then, so it was decided to remain open until all photos were there for people to take home. It meant a lot of extra work for some of the guests, though. When I left at 5.30 p.m. the Phelps twins were still signing autographs. Half an hour later they passed me on Warwick Street going from the con to the parking lot (again without anyone recognising them). They looked as conspicuous as theyíd done in the morning, so it really was weird that nobody noticed them. James Phelps was carrying the Ned T-shirt in his hand, whereas Oliver Phelps sported his dark shoulder bag again, smiling as he passed.

Minutes later other guests from the convention passed me, and that made me wonder if I ought to have been sitting in The Prince Of Wales pub watching the cricket all day, having the guests march past me, instead of spending nine hours in queues at the con? I think my feet would have liked it, but probably not my liver!

@ Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2009