The Highlanders 3 convention
I try to be constant with my articles even if I am not really good at being regular with my translations (oops.) As I told you in the last article, I am flying to US very soon, so I may be able to catch up a bit and translate those articles. (I have to believe it.)
Today, I take you on a journey to a country very far away and for a particular content… We are opening a new category: say Bonjour to (Pop) Cultural travel! After a year of articles about my trips, my Erasmus and my Expatriation, I feel the blog misses something : popular culture, so important from a country to another. Series, books and other events defind a part of a country’s culture. How to live fully the English experience without going to a pub to a convention or a comic con? Don’t worry, I got you covered, you will know everything you have to know about celebrities in All That Glitters.
Let me guide you to our first rendezvous, hear these bagpipe tunes, the drums of autumn, you see kilts in a distance and you hear strong accent…. Without realizing you come closer and you find yourself, not in Scotland, but in Birmingham, England, at the Hilton Hotel for the third convention on Outlander, by Starfury. Are you ready to follow me on this journey, on the actors footsteps? (Prepare your pop corn and your Scottish shortbreads, telling you about a 3-day convention will be long.)
Let’s start from the beginning
- What is a convention ?
Some of you may already know how comic cons work. A convention has sensibly the same system, but is way more intimist as it is based on only one or two connected universe. It is a private event, you have to buy a pass (like an entry ticket) and extras (activites that are not included in the pass, like photoshoots, autographs, private fanmeets with the actors…) There are different types of pass, VIPs or regulars etc.
- Why did I went to this convention?
Those who know me personally know that I am not really new in the convention world. Since 2015, I have been translating as a volunteer interpreter for Royal Events. I am a huge fan of the Outlander universe, books and tv show and as I have not been to a convention as a fan since 2014, I jumped on the opportunity and took my boyfriend with me.
To tell you the truth, this is not my first Starfury convention. Last may, I went with my bestfriend to the Enchanted edition, at the very same Hilton on Birmingham, a convention about the series Once Upon A Time. I haven’t posted my article about it again even if it already written for various reasons, but the time will come. The article about Enchanted is about the differences between French and British conventions, what I liked as a fan/as a usual staff member. But this article is more about the event itself, The Highlanders 3. If I post about this convention first this is because I have a very good reason you will discover at the end of the article…
The convention took place at the Hilton Metropole, near Birmingham train station and airport, making transport easy for all the participants. As I already went to the hotel for Enchanted, I was not lost. There are of course other hotels nearby for people on a budget, and restaurants. The Hilton offers “street” food at lunch and dinner in the hall so people can eat for cheap.
The hotel is huge and very luxurious. I think it is one of the biggest in England, with a pool for instance. So you won’t see the time fly while walking around. The Hilton offers discounts to fans but with limited quantity. We were supposed to sleep at an Ibis hotel nearby but we had the chance to finally get the room of a fan that couldn’t make it anymore. We saved at least a hundred of euros sleeping in the same hotel as the convention (so convenient!) with breakfast included.
During the weekend, we had access to the panel room that was also used for the parties, and also two other rooms for photoshoots and autographs and finally two smaller rooms for fanmeets. The rooms were close to each other, so we couldn’t really lose ourselves.
We had the chance to meet the very talented Tobias Menzies (Jack/Frank Randall), Sophie Skelton (Brianna Fraser/Randall) Richard Rankin (Roger Wakefield Mackenzie), Andrew Gower (Bonnie Prince Charlie) Nell Hudson (Laoghaire Mackenzie), David Berry (Lord John Grey), Lauren Lyle (Marsali Mackimmie Fraser), Charlie Hiett (Captain Thomas Leonard), Steven Cree (Ian Murray), Annette Badland (Mrs Fitzgibbons), et Scott Kyle (Ross).
I have to confess we first booked our tickets when Caitriona Balfe (Claire Beauchamp/Randall/Fraser) was announced. Unfortunately she had to cancel for professional reasons, but we still had such a great time. I even think the atmosphere was more relaxed because the main actors were not there.
All the actors were adorable. If Steven Cree is known to have a big mouth, (as he swears a lot, talks about sex and loves to destabilize fans asking questions at the panels) other like David, Charlie and Andrew are more reserved but we were able to see more of them singing or acting out scenes from the tv show on stage. Scott, even if his character isn’t really important in the series, he showed himself really close to the fans, on stage like online.
I was really pleased to meet Tobias, who was calm but way less shy that we could expect, but also really wise as he showed us during his panel. I was also looking forward to meet Lauren, who is literally a sunshine, radiating from the joy of being at the convention. My only regret was not to meet César Domboy (the frenchie portraying Fergus) because they seem to have a real alchemy.
Speaking of alchimy, Richard and Sophies are really close. So close someone asked them if they were married! They fight for fun all the time, and love to criticize each other during panels and fanmeets. Sometimes they sound like brother and sister.
On the other hand, it was such a pleasure to meet Nell, who is adorable next to her character in the series. She confessed that at another conventions people were booing at her, like they were not making the difference between actors and characters! It was nice to see her as her on screen family was present with Lauren , her daughter and Annette, her grandmother. I’m sure you already saw Annette in various roles on TV, she got an impressive list of tv appearances on her resume. She was really patient during the extras and moved to come back to the city where she grew up, Birmingham…
As the con was 3-day event, most participants came on Friday to retrieve their pass. With your confirmation email, you go to a special desk to get your ticket entrance, your pass: it is a badge with a number and your name that you have to keep with you at all time during the weekend. Unfortunately, Starfury doesn’t give you lanyards so you have to buy one, which I find it too bad. You are also given a souvenir booklet and if you are a VIP, an exclusive poster.
Then, you have to retrieve your prepaid photos in internet (only available for « big guests » like Tobias, Cait, Sophie and Richard ; for the others you have to buy them at the event, leading to a queue and waiting one or two hours on Friday, which is not convenient at all.)
As the majority of autograph is included in your pass, you don’t need to queue to buy extra one, but you can if want an autograph from bonus or extra guests, meaning Charlie, Steven and Tobias for a price between 10£ and 20£. You will receive a little autograph card that will get checked during the weekend and then you can be like Ash, collecting them, humming “Gotta catch’em all!”
Finally, if you want to see the actors from real close, you can choose to buy fanmeets : a meeting on one of two days to meet one or two actors with twenty-ish other participants. It is one of the strong suit of the convention: we chose a Richard/Sophie fanmeet on Saturday and a Lauren/Nell/Annette for Sunday for 30£ and 20£ each. It is at least a hundred of euros cheaper than France, where prices for a single actor can go up to 250 euros for the same amount of time : around twenty minutes.
“We bought fanmeets for Saturday and Sunday, saving at least a hundred of euros compared to France, it is one of the strong suit of the convention.”
After waiting for such a long time you are dying to sit and hope to find a seat for the opening ceremony. You are ready to applause the entrance of the actors you came to meet. Sean comes forward and presents all the actors one by one, and everyone say a word or two. All the actors from the convention couldn’t be there on Friday evening but it allows you to discover the other. Then you can make the most of the party to dance until dawn. (Or not). You could go to three parties during the weekend, each with a theme : the Governor’s ball on Friday, Time Wrap on Saturday and Versailles on Sunday. I was really disappointed with the parties, in comparison to the Enchanted ones, except on Saturday where the Costume Competition took place. The contest was presented by Steven and Lauren? All the costumes were wonderful and while the actors were deliberating, we had the chance to see Steven’ short film “Little Princess” where his character meet a French speaking girl. They even prepared bonus prizes with crazy category names, like an inside joke about David Berry’s sextape(s). It was also almost Annette’s birthday and fans offered her flowers, she was really moved.
For the two other parties, most people were not wearing a costume and music was a bit has been (even if I loved to dance on 80’s jams.!) Actually only few people were showing up so we decided to go take a bath instead. Again, this is too bad as the parties are included in the pass, unlike France where prices can reach hundred of euros.
Saturday, you wake up bright as a button (I did a joke in French that I found nice but I can’t really translate it so… yeah.) at 9 am, ready for your pictures. You have our photo ticket (like supermarket receipts that you can’t possibily lose!) It was my first time meeting Tobias, and even if half of the participants had a picture with him, the queue was short and quick. I remember he looked like a gentleman and seemed calm. I was first struck by his blond hair going bald, far away from Black Jack’s wig, but it was for his new role in The Crown he was shooting on Sunday, i.e the day after the convention. Tobias managed to attend one out of the two days while shooting a new show. When you exit the session you are given a laminated ticket with a number matching the photos essions that you will need to trade for your printed photo.
I find French photoshoot session way more private and maybe less rushed (but I guess it depends of the organism). I felt less rushed for “small” guests as the queues were way shorter. Our second (and last) picture of the day was with Andrew because we love Bonnie Prince Charlie. We decided to do his special royal pose, I think it worked out, what do you think?
Panels take place all afternoon between noon and 6pm. My only regret is that the organism doesn’t offer a group panel or an opening and closing ceremony every day. Tobias didn’t have the opportunity to say hello or goodbye after his extras, which I find too bad. It is one of the biggest flaw, because you don’t really feel that your start or end the day, especially for people that can’t make it for more than one day. Yet, I loved the idea not to organize extras during Tobias panels, presented by Sean himself. Everyone could participate, ask their question without missing out. Duo panels were well chosen, and I even had the chance to ask my question to Annette/Lauren/Nell panel and then Sophie and Andrew/Scott. I found too bad we can’t film the panels, while it is possible in comic cons and French conventions.
For the autographs session, I am still not a fan of the system, but I found the sessions way more organized than at Enchanted. You are called by the number you have on your pass, so you have to check the twitter screen in the panel room. (You are not called on the microphone and the screen wasn’t up most of Saturday, so you have to check online) The groups were in two different rooms : group A in a first room and group B+ Tobias in another. Unless you are a VIP, you are usually called for one group on Saturday and one group on Sunday. Queues could be long, like for Sophie and Richard but reasonable for the others, like Steven and Charlie who were bonus guests, so we had a bit more time to talk. For this convention, all the autographes could be personalized with your Name by the actors, unlike Tobias because “there was no time”. I still managed to exchange a few words and show our picture. Again, same feeling, his seems to be a great man. Although queues were way shorter than at Enchanted, I still prefer the French system where you can buy an autograph ticket for a specific day, so you can be guaranteed to have your pictures signed for instance. I liked mor Sunday session, because I already met some of the actors (fanmeets, photos, panel) which wasn’t the case on Saturday. We had some nice moments: Nell came to the conclusion my boyfriend only came for candies as he always had a lollipop in his mouth after the fanmeet. Annette was worried I was forcing him to come (and I swear, I was not, he enjoyed it). David asked us if we were a couple before apologizing if it was not the case. We also talked with Lauren about César French (or Parisian) attitude.
“I still prefer the French system where you can buy an autograph ticket for a specific day”
Our favorite moments were the fanmeets where we could eat candies and have a coffee. There is no picture at the end of the meeting, but a photograph was there, so if you are sitting next to an actor or actress you may end up on the organism’s instagram page. You have the feeling to be a bit closer with the actors, even if you don’t ask question. Richard and Sophie made it to the end withtout spoiling the books/seaon 4 even if it was difficult with the questions that were asked. They were also fighting about a particular scene, but it turns out they were not speaking about the same one! They are really lively and we spent the meeting laughing. For Annette/Lauren/Lauren, we learnt more about their new projects, their personal life, their family and dogs they treated like their children. The only thing I could criticize during the meetings is people thinking they are alone and keep asking questions, meaning other people don’t have the time to do so, which is a recurring problem withtout a moderator.
The target audience
I am used to teenage conventions; I worked on events about Teen Wolf and The 100, for instance. I had been told (on twitter or on Victoria, Mango and Salt’s blog) that Outlander audience overseas was older than I was used to. It was the case (No offense.) Fans of my generation were usually French-speaking, ironically. In this way, the convention had something new to bring. It was also my boyfriend’s first convention and even he didn’t always show his enthusiasm, I know he was happy to take part.
I can’t help but comparing the even with the Enchanted convention, where we were approximately 1400-1500 fans against “only” 600-700 at Highlanders 3. It was a nice surprise, knowing there was at least 250 VIP passes. I had a “Regular” pass, but I didn’t have the feeling to spend my weekend waiting, which was the case for the previous convention.
“The Highlanders 3 was more intimist than my last convention with Starfury.”
I was also surprised by the unconditional support of the fans (and their incomes?) the majority came from all around the world! New-Zealand, Australia, Sweden or United-States, most women (there were a few men or couple) were also used to outlander conventions, and were not meeting the actors for the first time, having seen them at Vegas, or Paris and again in Chicago a week after the event. I felt I was dealing with a more mature and wealthy audience but it wasn’t always the case.
If a lot of the fans were respectful, I also had the feeling to deal with teenagers sometimes, some of them only supporting make attendees, leaving out the fantastic female cast that were invited, especially during panels or fan meets. You could also see it in the queues at the photo sessions or the final number of pictures taken at the end of the weekend. Everyone can have a favorite actor, but when everyone has paid the same amount of money, I think some squabbles don’t make sense. I also felt it was sometimes a contest of the one living the most far away or the one having met the cast the most. Because of some people behavior, and criticizing the event because the two main characters weren’t able to come, Sean Harry, the CEO of Starfury, had declared earlier that it would be the last edition on the facebook group of the convention. Fortunately, most fans were really adorable and another regret is not to get to know more the French speaking people attending . Maybe next edition!
I found the staff pleasant, with a strong presence. If Sean wasn’t always directly around, you could see him supervising and of course, during panels and opening/closing ceremonies, where he did a beautiful speech about the show, actuality and tolerance. I would also like to thank the staff that took care of the fan meets
In addition with the official staff, there was also a steward team, volunteering fans accepting to give a bit of their time over the weekend between two extras. They did a nice job juggling with their tasks.
I found the complete team professional and nice.
The Value for money
Even now, I find British convention way more cost-effective for fans. You can’t find a more competitive prince for a 3-day ticker, three parties included and (almost) all autographs included: 120£ for a regular ticket against 175£ for a VIP pass with a private meet and great. Of course, you have to add photoshoots prices and some autographs or meetings but prices are unbeatable. Maybe it’s the price to pay when you have a huge convention without the main actors (I have to underline the fact they are really hard to book, being rising stars, last weekend Cait and Sam cancelled last minute their appearance in Chicago.) But the atmosphere stays friendly and more intimist than for other tv show or comic cons.
“Prices are unbeatable.”
In a nutshell
I couldn’t recommend you this convention more and we are planning to go to the next edition if time and money allow us to do so. The Staff was really professional, most fans respectful and mature, the place outstanding, actors seemed like a huge family : they acted their own way and like to laugh. Sunday last panel, Richard and Steven’s, took almost two hours when Lauren and David joined them, followed by the other actors for the closing ceremony. My only regret…. Not being able to go back in time to participate to the previous editions.
I would like to thank you for being strong enough to read this monster until the end,that will be hard for me to correct and translate. But it was not in vain! For those not being able to make it to the convention, but that are dreaming about a souvenir, a glimpse of the event, I am organizing a contest! Nothing difficult, read the following rules and use the password Je Suis Prest.
THE CONTEST IS CLOSED. THANK YOU FOR YOUR ENTRIES. THE WINNER IS MELANIE (Mel Anie).
International contest, opened between 21/08 and 31/08,23h58 (French time). THE CONTEST IS CLOSED.
You could win:
- Season 1 and 2 of Outlander in DVD, signed by Sophie Skelton, Richard Rankin, Andrew Gower, Nell Hudson, David Berry, Lauren Lyle, Annette Badland et Scott Kyle.
- The Autograph card corresponding with the signatures of your DVD.
- A souvenir package of the convention: a picture of Steven Cree, the event planning and the convention booklet.
To participate :
- Comment this article telling me who is your favorite character or what you want to see happening in the next season.
- Please write your real e-mail address so I can contact you later on.
- +1 chance if you follow me on twitter (please write your username)
- +1 chance if you follow me on instagram (please write your username)
- +1 chance if you follow me on facebook (please write your username)
- + 1 chance if you follow me on the blog.
- Don’t forget the password…
Thanks and see you soon !
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