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by Nathaniel Reed,  9/2005

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July 2007
Europe Celebrates Star Wars !
26th July 2007
The first Star Wars Celebration event to be hosted outside of the United States took place on the 13th-15th of July in London, entitled 'Celebration Europe'. Joanne and I went along on Saturday the 14th, armed with the day's itinerary, and not at all sure what to expect !
We were pleasantly surprised to see that many fans from all over the world attended, and the two primary costuming organisations, the 501st Garrison (US & UK) and the Rebel Legion, had a great presence. In addition, the Belgian 501st fan club had provided life-size and scaled mock-ups of vehicles and artillery dotted around the main hall.
The majority of the hall was given over to the merchandising licencees and retail outlets, with additonal sections for autographs (including Dave Prowse and others, and the rare attendance of Mark Hamill), presentations, fun re-enactment play areas, and the vast celebrity stage theatre, the latter hosting the likes of Charles -onemanstarwars - Ross, Anthony Daniels, and Rick McCallum. McCallum revealed news on the 3D Clone Wars cartoon series, as well as the ongoing plans for the transfer of the films to 3D ; he also answered my question, "Might there be any more tinkering of the films ?", by saying that, although LFL are currently very busy with various SW projects, further work can never be ruled out !
Outside the hall - but within the complex - were rooms dedicated to displays and special presentations. It was in one of these that we caught the ground-rumbling breath-taking trailer for the upcoming 3D Clone Wars cartoon series, which also introduced the creative force behind the series. In another, just past the old Kenner and Palitoy toy displays, the primary UK props collectors held a presentation on the history and process of seeking, identifying, and evaluating set props. Elsewhere, there was a small section dedicated to LFL Archive props associated to the theme of dark macabre, as well as custom art, such as tatoos, the 'Vader Project' (using the helmet as canvas), and fine art.
As we queued up we met and chatted with fellow fan, Ty Duxbury, from Washington State, who was present for all three days, and was comparing the event with three of the four previous Celebrations. He gave some great insights and anecdotes from the Friday and Saturday morning, including the Opening Ceremony attended by Ian McDiarmid, and the screening of Episode IV.
Predominantly the event was one of ambience and retail, and impressive it certainly was. Not appreciating the cost and organisation of other such events, we cannot fully compare the CE. However, we were struck by the entrance costs involved (£22 (adv) - £27 (site) 1 Day ticket, £54 (adv) - £60 (site) 3 Day ticket), considering its location was not in the city centre but in the eastern docklands (and in the north-west corner of Europe !) ; the cost of £5 per autograph coupon (where many principal actors each commanded up to 5 coupons) ; the overlap of certain presentations, resulting in the forced missing out of news and anecdotes ; and the main hall queueing system allowed for only one entrance/exit at a time - and where certain (official) presentations were held outside of the hall, this meant that we had to re-queue to enter ! Also, as far as I was aware, there was no benefit to Hyperspace and Official Fan Club members other than early entry on a 3 Day pass.
However, attendance at CE meant that the entrance fee to the separate Star Wars Exhibition in County Hall (opposite the London Eye on the Thames Embankment) was reduced. We spent two hours on Sunday morning in this magnificent old building, revelling in a rich presentation of LFL Archive costumes, models, artwork (some from the mid 70s !), and videos that is running from February through to September. There was also a well-planned 'event' aimed at kids (and us older kids !) where the audience was led to the opulent Debating Chamber, and met by two Jedi who took padawan recruits for lightsabre duelling training, before Lords Sidious and Vader appeared ! A collective Force-Push later, and the Dark Side was vanquished ! Such an historic building was a fitting host to the rich and 'ancient futurism' of Star Wars ephemera.
The general criticism I had heard was the entry fee and the content quantity for "an hour's visit", as well as a poorly presented merchandising stall, but of these, having obtained a discount from CE and been just as engrossed as at previous exhibitions, the retail stall was the only criticism with which I'd agree.
All in all, an enjoyable experience for both days, not without their failings, but a great opportunity to experience the franchise and fanbase ambience. We must thank LFL and the events organisers for producing such an opportunity outside of the States. I guess, combining the two events and giving greater thought to their planning would have made for a brilliant spectacle. But how far that was practically possible is anyone's guess :o)
Nathaniel Reed, 26th July 2007,
and a very wet, global-warming-affected, Gloucestershire !!
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