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Collectormania 18, Milton Keynes 1-3 June 2012

The MKDons’ stadium is once again playing host to the Collectormania gathering over the Jubilee weekend.

Would-be autograph hunters are advised to get there early (the parking can be HORRENDOUS!) and acquire virtual queue tickets for all the guests they wish to obtain signatures from. Prices average around £15, with the big names operating a queue system and sometimes rules about personalised signatures and photograph permissions.

Whilst waiting for your number to come up, as it were, there is always plenty to see. People-watching is a competitive sport here, as the guests will mix and mingle if they can, as well as there being a large contingent of cosplayers wandering around. The Dalek Builders’ Guild is always in attendance, as is the R2D2 Builders Club, a battalion of Storm Troopers, Darth Vader and any number of other characters.

Collectormania 18 has a Doctor Who theme, with several of the surviving Doctors as honored guests, so many of the visitors were dressed accordingly, with long scarves, trench coats, hats and K-9s in tow. Not that I was complaining! One of the first TV-related memories I have is Tom Baker in Doctor Who.

My husband was happy to see that many of the Game of Thrones cast were signing too; if we could have afforded it we would have come away with more Thrones-related merch than we did, I am certain. As it was, covert photography had to be employed to ensure a record was made of their appearance there.

Talking of that method, Richard Kiel, Jaws from the Bond movies, was also signing, and I managed to snaffle a sneaky photo despite the handlers’ best efforts to stop me. (I am a seasoned pap when it comes to this kind of stuff, the results are rarely suitable to share but I gain a deal of satisfaction from outwitting them!)

As far as I was concerned, the one person I was really there to see was Sean Astin, Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings. A good friend in the States has been a Lord of the Rings fan for as long as I’ve known her and an autograph was just the ticket to raise her currently flagging spirits.

It’s busy, pushy, noisy and very visual at Collectormania. There are always families with buggies (rarely toddlers walking) and lots of wheelchairs and canes in evidence. Progress around the stalls and signing points is always slow, but the crew do their best to ensure two-way movement is possible.

As an aside from the autograph hunters there are numerous stalls selling everything from yet more signed photos to T-shirts, other clothing, jewellery and any manner of collectibles. There is nearly always a stall I have to avoid because they insist on having a Shelob or Boris model: this time there was one vendor who had displayed three lifesize tarantula-style models on the very front of the stall. Fortunately the obligatory R2D2 appeared just in time to distract me and engage me in conversation.

A recent innovation is to include some sports stars on the guest list. This time Sir Stirling Moss led a posse of motorsport greats to sign pictures. If only my dad was into memorabilia, I would have had the ideal Father’s Day gift for him!

Eventually, after several hours of walking around, we crashed the queue for Sean Astin. He was only supposed to be signing tickets up to 500 but mine was 504 and the lad in front had 548 so I figured we had a sporting chance.

We certainly did. Not quite on the level of meeting Anthony Head at the same event a few years ago, but well up with Lawrence Makoare the year before that. I managed a couple of sneaky photos before I reached the table where Sean sat, devotedly signing autographs and posing for photos with fans. He looked up at just the right time for me to grab a further shot as I lurked behind my husband, before signing the photo for my friend and smiling at our thanks before moving on to the next signature.

My husband towed me out of the venue – seeing as he had been towing me all day, this was not difficult – and we pottered, painfully in my case, back to the car.


Things to take away from the event:

Get there early for the easiest parking and good tickets for the signings, photo opportunities and talks.

Wear comfortable clothes, especially shoes, unless in cosplay. Walking is slow and can be painful with people not always looking where they’re headed. Take a cane if you have trouble walking, a wheelchair, crutches, buggy or a devoted partner willing to tow you around as my husband did me.

Take a water bottle. It’s hot work, this autograph hunting.

Hot food entry to the stadium is restricted, but there are stalls within the stadium, plus fast food outlets in the car park, Asda and Ikea a short walk away. Cold drinks are permitted.

Cameras and cameraphones are everywhere. Video cameras also much in evidence. Be careful around the guests though, as many have restrictions on these things.

This blog currently first impressions. Photos and a considered, less chaotic version to follow after sleep has been had. (Mainly because if I yawn much more, I’ll eat my own head or dislocate my jaw, neither of which I really want to do…)

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