Star Wars Celebration Europe kicked off its three day series of panels by focusing on the very reason why we are here in the first place: our shared international love of all things Star Wars, specifically through the forum of international Star Wars clubs. Gerald Home, Tessek, and a Mon Calamari officer from Return of the Jedi were joined on stage by Tim Veekhoven of Belgian fan club Teekay-421, Ates Cetin of Turkish site Yildiz Savaslari, and a handful of other international webmasters and sites from across Europe.
Gerald reminded us that this was indeed the very first panel, a fact which brought a warm round of applause from the healthy crowd. Gerald explained to the few who were not aware of his own Star Wars and acting credentials but was keen to steer clear of this (and not only because of his participation tomorrow in the Inside Jabba's Palace panel) but because, as he explained, he is a fan of Star Wars fans, not a Star Wars fan himself.
The subject of the international fan group SWORA (Star Wars Outer Rim Alliance) was raised as Gerald discussed the group, which prospered briefly from 2007 through to 2008 with a core group of 8 members. He showed the logo, explaining the origins of both the design and the name of the group before handing over to Tim Veekhoven.
Tim described the history of TeeKay-421 magazine, from its origins in 1997 and the founding of the website in 1998 to its position as the leading Dutch speaking Star Wars magazine about to release its 65th issue in September. Tim deftly described the challenges wrought by undertaking such an endeavour, keeping a fan club together for so long but persevering and seeing the group's hard work pay off. Tim was especially keen to highlight the uniqueness of the TeeKay printed magazine, in an age where everything is digital and ephemeral, but by the same token to also show how important the Internet is and how it has bound the galaxy together internationally.
Tim passed the baton over to Ates Cetin of Yildiz Savaslari (which he attempted to get the crowd to pronounce) and made clear how important the panel is to the international community. Back in 1980 when A New Hope was first released, very few people in Turkey knew what Star Wars was and Ates relayed a story from 2005 when he first wore his Darth Vader costume (Ates founded the Turkish Ourtpost of the 501st). Most people thought he was Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or RoboCop. Flash forward to 2013 when he took part in a protest in the strife-torn capital of Turkey, Istanbul. Wearing the same costume in a protest he not only showed his intentions of peace by carrying a Turkish flag instead of a lightsaber but he also soon found himself being followed by a crowd of people who all knew who Vader was and were all humming the "Imperial March." This story which engendered huge and well-deserved applause.
The subject of SWORA and its demise was raised again, a subject largely skimmed over as the launch of a new SWORA was announced, hitting the Internet at www.swora.info and on Facebook at Facebook.com/theswora. The intentions of the relaunched SWORA is clear: bring together as many groups and fans (websites, groups, and individuals can now join) to discuss and celebrate their love of Star Wars.
A number of questions were asked of the panel, including how to avoid conflict in large groups such as SWORA, before Gerald signed off by reminding folks that in Return of the Jedi he was the Mon Calamari who was fiddling with the lights right before Admiral Ackbar said, "It's as trap!"
If the rest of this Celebrations panels are as strong, informative, and entertaining as this, we are in for a treat.
Mark Newbold is the co-owner of jedinews.co.uk and has been a contributor to Star Wars Insider since 2006. He also is the co-host alongside James Burns of the Radio 1138 podcast.