Next weekend is our wedding anniversary. We’ll have been married seven years and we’ve been saying for most of that time that one year we ought to celebrate our wedding date with a weekend away in a nice hotel somewhere. Well, this year we’re actually going to do just that: we’re off to the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham. But we didn’t just randomly pick that destination out of a tourist guide. No, in a lucky stroke of perfect timing it just so happens that this year our wedding anniversary weekend coincides with Auto Assembly, Europe’s largest Transformers convention! What better way to celebrate our love than in the company of plastic robots and hundreds of other Autobot and Decepticon enthusiasts?
This will be our first time, not only at Auto Assembly but at any large residential convention on this kind of scale. Although hopefully it will be the first of many big convention experiences for AddAltMode, sadly, when it comes to Auto Assembly, it’s going to be our first, last and only, since it has been announced that after 15 years the event will be bowing out after this year. At least we will have got the chance to experience it once. Let’s make sure we take lots of photographs and make it count!
We’re both hugely looking forward to the convention, but as first timers and self-confessed socially-awkward introverts we’d be lying if we said we’re not nervous about it too. In this jointly-penned post we’re going to discuss some of our hopes, excitements, expectations and anxieties about the forthcoming event.
R: Well, I just can’t believe it’s finally nearly here! Have you ever had to wait so long for a Christmas present before? (I should probably explain that it was me who took the plunge and booked tickets for this way back in September 2014, I then proceeded to keep it all a big fat secret – man, that was hard to do – and wrapped up a folder of information about the convention to give to B as a surprise on Christmas day). I can still vividly picture your face when you unwrapped it. Best Festive Moment Ever! I hope it’ll have been worth the wait!
B: You must’ve had a really hard time keeping that under wraps – especially since there’ve been a few people asking us about whether we were thinking of going. You have l33t subterfuge skills.
R: I’ve been really impressed by how friendly and helpful the organisers have been. It must be an immense amount of work to put on an event of this scale. When it looked like not all the ticket confirmations would be processed before Christmas I emailed them and explained that my tickets were a present and it would be nice to have something physical to show on Christmas morning, and they managed to rush through my confirmation (I got the email about 7pm on Christmas Eve) which was so nice of them. I think that bodes well for the event itself.
R: I’ve got to admit I’m looking forward to a bit of luxury and it will be nice to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights. Mmm hotel breakfasts. I’ve heard good things about the Hilton. The convention schedule looks fairly packed but I think the hotel has a pool too, maybe I’ll find time for a swim.
B: I’m pretty sure we’ll find plenty of time to relax: we’re not rushing back afterwards so there should be some time to chill if the event is really intense.
R: It will surprise nobody when I say the special guest I’m most looking forward to meeting is Sumalee Montano, the voice of TF Prime Arcee. Arcee is one of my favourite characters in the show and in the franchise in general and I love the tough femininity and dry wit Sumalee brings to her voice. It pretty much made my life when Sumalee complimented my Arcee cosplay on Twitter, so it’ll be lovely to meet her in person and to attend her panel. I bet I’ll get tongue-tied though!
B: I really struggle to say anything to artists, musicians and such that I like: I always feel like a right doofus, drawling out “huuuh duh I love your work…”. It’s worse if what I like about the work in question is that it’s clever. Liking something and having something interesting to say about it don’t always come hand-in-hand. I’m always interested to hear voice actors speaking in their natural voices, to see how much they do or don’t put on for various characters.
R: I hope my brain doesn’t explode at all the shopping opportunities on offer at AA! I fear my wallet just might explode! In all seriousness it will be exciting just to see that many Transformers and TF merchandise on sale in one place. I hope to be able to pick up a few things, for sure, maybe fill in the gaps on my beloved Prime Decepticons shelf?
B: There’s a couple of 3rd-party products I’d be interested in buying, but I don’t want to buy any without having seen them in the plastic. Also, I’d like to fill in the Prime shelf gaps – there’s a massive omission right now – the big guy himself: we don’t have a Prime Prime — there’s not an Optimus (from that toyline) on our shelves.
R: And what about Art? Maybe we could look for a nice print? Knowing our somewhat divergent character preferences do you reckon we could agree on one we both liked?
B: There’re some fantastic artists on the convention’s roster – I’m sure we’ll find something. If I remember correctly (and I know I do) you did a post a while back regarding Kat Nicholson’s original work, so that’s interesting on top of all the Transformers stuff.
R: We’ve been saving in our robot money box (which was part of the AA present package I gave B at Christmas) for months now. Soon it will be time to crack it open and see just how much we have to spend. Should be enough for a few ‘Cons – uh, I meant ‘Bots – at least. But every piece of convention-going advice I’ve ever read says “make a budget and stick to it” so we will have to be sensible. We’re grown ups after all, aren’t we?
B: Which means, as Randall Munroe once wrote, it’s our turn to decide what that means.
R: In that case I guess it means, I worked hard to earn this money and will now spend it on
plastic crack robots.
R: I’m looking forward to the evening entertainment programme on the Saturday night, particularly the script reading with the voice actors. There’s also some delightfully random music lined up, including a cabaret set from James Horan, the voice of Prime Wheeljack. I’m still trying to compute the image of Wheeljack dressed Cabaret style. There’s also a DJ set from Jason Cardy who is responsible for this:
B: Jason Cardy is in the Artist’s Alley, too. I’d never heard of him, but he’s clearly multi-talented.
R: OMG new people, lots of them! I find it hard to initiate conversation with strangers so I am nervous just about the general atmosphere of the event. I also worry slightly about not being enough into Transformers I love Transformers but I’m a reasonably recent convert, and am far from being a walking trivia machine. I’ve heard it’s a very friendly and accepting convention so I hope there won’t be too much gate-keeping going on. It’s been a while since I attended a geek event without the protective barrier of cosplay to hide behind so I hope I’ll manage to make introductions and chat to folk without freezing up. There are a few people we know already – both locally and online friends – who will be there, so that makes things easier but I’ll be disappointed in myself if I don’t manage to make a few new friends over the course of the weekend.
B: I’m tempted to pretend I’m mute, but I’m worried I’ll slip and freak someone out.
B: Seriously, though, I’ll work really hard on cracking through my shyness a bit at the event.
R: Introductions, as always, are my biggest non-specific anxiety but there’s also another thing that’s making me edgy. The Cosplay Competition, I’ve signed up for it – I signed up as soon as the forms went live because I knew if I hesitated or stopped to think at all I wouldn’t do it. So I’m committed now but I’m also terrified. Slipstream has been incredibly well-received locally but I fear she’s going to look weak compared to the standard of costumes at a Transformers-specific event. I don’t care about winning, it’s more about sharing my enthusiasm with like-minded folks, but even so I am super-intimidated at the prospect of entering the spotlight.
If this weren’t the last AA I’d probably have been tempted just to watch the cosplay this time around and then maybe participate next year, but this being the last con changes everything. It’s now or never and I know I’d regret it if I didn’t take my costume but it’s going to take a lot of psyching myself up (and possibly a drop or two of alcohol). There’s the chance to do a 2 minute turn and I’ve got an idea for a short speech (gotta channel my inner Tara Strong) and a little prop I’ll need to make this week. I hope it’ll get a few laughs and that I’ll be brave enough to actually do it. I can do it, can’t I?
B: Absolutely, you can do it. Knock ’em dead.
R: It looks like there’s going to be plenty to see and do anyway. I want to see the big panels with the voice actors, of course, and there’s an IDW panel too so that’ll be interesting. I’m guessing you’re most up for the 3rd party panel, right?
B: I strongly suspect we’ll go to most, if not all, of the panels. Why wouldn’t we?
R: So my goals for the weekend are: have fun, make the most of this opportunity to spend 2 days in Transformers Wonderland; meet some new people; don’t chicken out of the cosplay competition however poor I think my costume looks compared to other entrants. Have fun (again). Make the most of the hotel breakfasts.
B: Yeah, what you said. I’m looking forward to it.
We’ll do a full conference write-up for AddAltMode when we get back, of course!