While our galaxy waits for the arrival of Star Wars: Episode VII and Star Wars Rebels, the world of fandom continues to gather and celebrate everything that is Star Wars in events worldwide. And, as people across the globe celebrated over the May the 4th weekend, here in the UK it was no different. Star Wars conventions were held across Great Britain, bringing guests, dealers, fans, and costumers together in multiple celebrations of the greatest space fantasy of them all.
On Sunday 27th April in the village of Fordingbridge, nestled away in the New Forest, a gathering of vintage-loving fans congregated to discuss, investigate, and cherish all that made Star Wars the great global presence that it is today. Organized by Dave Treem (the man who delighted crowds back in 2007 at Celebration Europe with his stunning and unique Palitoy Archive), Farthest From 5 brought together lovers of classic Star Wars both young and older (as a first generation Star Wars fan I refuse to say old). Artist Paul Bateman was the events special guest and I interviewed him at length about the effect Ralph McQuarrie has had not only on his own life, but on that of others as well. What better way to illustrate the nostalgia of the vintage era than to celebrate and discuss the man who’s artwork set the benchmark for all that followed?
“It reminded me of the kind of places I’d go to as a kid, trying to track down copies of the Star Wars Holiday Special” said Bateman of the show. “I saw some little girl who must have been about five, and I’m sure she wasn’t around when the last movies were out. She was leaving pleased as punch with an Ewok playset village and a bunch of Ewok cells that her dad had obviously clued her into, and she was smiling her face off. That was one of the nice things about it, it felt like a family event.”
The following weekend saw two events take place in Burnley, Lancashire. Occupying a suite at Turf Moore, home of newly promoted Burnley F.C, Dinner With The Stars 3 saw a night of charity fundraising, music, and great food as the stars of Star Wars mixed with their fans in the most informal manner. Bonnie Piesse wowed the crowds with her beautiful music, a career which is fast blossoming, and Star Wars tribute band Blues Harvest laid down some cool tunes with songs such as “Death Star,” featuring Stephen “Gammorrean Guard” Constantino from Return of the Jedi on guitar and Jealous Man starring Jerome Blake on lead vocals. Laid back, smooth and best of all excellent, the music complemented a night of fund raising and fun.
The following day was the main event, the 5th Star Wars Fan Fun Day, and what a fun day it was. Dave Prowse (Darth Vader), Kenny Baker (Artoo-Detoo in his first convention appearance after being officially confirmed as joining the Episode VII cast), Tim Rose (Admiral Ackbar), Michael Carter (Bib Fortuna), Stephen Constantino (Gammorrean Guard), Tim Dry (Whiphid), Sean Crawford (Yak Face), Bonnie Piesse (Aunt Beru), Jerome Blake (Mas Ameeda amongst many other characters), Lewis Macleod (in only his second convention appearance), John Morton (Dak Ralter), and Nathalie Cox (Juno Eclipse from The Force Unleashed) all signed, posed for photographs and mixed with the fans as dealers tables rocked with the brisk trade and costumers weaved left and right. Paul McQue — better known as Bad Robot — walked the floor as See-Threepio costumer Simon Wilkie raised more charity funds by posing for photographs. The Rebel Legion were on hand to give fans all the info they needed about joining and becoming part of the Legion and RS Props showed off their amazingly detailed models. Everywhere you turned there was something to see, someone to photograph, people to talk to, cool stuff to buy — what more could a Star Wars fan want?
“This is my first Star Wars Fan Fun Day and I’m kicking myself for not coming sooner,” said Cox. “I love the fact that it’s such a family event, there’s little kids dressed up, there’s older kids, there’s teenagers with their parents on a Bank Holiday Monday coming out to have a good time. It’s wonderful, the atmosphere is absolutely incredible.”
The voice of Sebulba, Lewis Macleod, clearly enjoyed the event, having only recently returned to the Star Wars arena after a number of years away.
“What a lovely place, the people have been fantastic, great fun, I’m having a cracking day. This is a blast, it’s been terrific. I love the spirit of it, the effort that goes in to making the costumes.”
If you want to hear more from Lewis, listen to Paul Bateman’s thoughts on Farthest From, enjoy music from Dinner With the Stars and interviews from Star Wars Fan Fun Day then listen in to the eighth episode of Radio 1138 where me and James Burns go into more detail.
Credit to Jason Smith for the Farthest From photos.
Mark is a long-time contributor to Star Wars Insider, is the co-owner of Jedi News, contributes to the UK’s biggest free newspaper The Metro and is the co-host of RebelForce Radio’s RADIO 1138 podcast. When he’s not talking or writing about Star Wars he can usually be found sleeping, where he’ll most likely be dreaming about Star Wars.