In day one of my Sci Fi Weekender 10 recap I promised you that I would explain what pineapples, the sound of a jet engine, baked beans and the Lion King all had in common. Most of those things occurred in day two; did you manage to spot the one that happened in day one so far? 😉 Stay tuned to have the other pieces of the puzzle fall into place!
Even the cosplays are out off this world
One of the biggest highlights of Sci Fi Weekender every year is the Cosplay finals not just because the level of quality of the cosplays is extraordinary, but because there is such a wide variety of creativity. Even more so as each contestant does a little sketch/act when they get on stage and over the last few years we have seen some really interesting ones. People can enter solo, in pairs or in groups which means you can come up with some pretty wacky ideas. Last year I remember we had a group perform a little sketch from Alien with one person dressed as the Alien queen and the others as soldiers. They walked through the audience and as we were sitting right on the edge of the seating area we got the perfect view. You can see a video of it here!
Before I begin I would like to introduce the cosplay judges;
The four judges this year were;
Annabella Stayner is a cosplayer, model, burlesque artist, member of Monster Cirque (an all girl rock and roll circus crew) and former Miss Stoke on Trent 2018! You can follow her on instagram and facebook for updates and check out her portfolio here.
Atom Cosplay is a cosplayer, gamer, proper maker, admin for Costume and Play (a cosplay events, management & development agency) and recently took part in the ‘Confidence in Cosplay’ panel at MCM London 2019! You can follow him on instagram, twitter and facebook for updates.
Luna Chan Cosplay is a cosplayer, model and lupus warrior! You can follow her on instagram, twitter and for updates.
I had a chance to chat with each of them and they were all really friendly, and down to earth. Approaching cosplayers can often be quite intimating especially when they’re the professionals invited to a convention, and I often find that’s actually quite the opposite! Truer words were never spoken about this panel of judges in particular, many of which I’ve remained in contact with after the weekender and look forward to seeing again at future events.
I sadly missed the chance to get photos of Atom Cosplay as he had just gotten changed, although he was a good sport and more than prepared to put everything on again so that I could!
The variety of previous cosplay finals means that you’re never quite sure what you’re going to end up with at the competition each year. This years entries were true to form and ranged from Harry Potter, My Hero Academia, The Invisible Library, Pac Man, X-Men, Darkwing Duck and many more.
A complete gallery of photos and videos will be compiled once the editing process is completed (there were over 150 photos, let alone all the videos so it has been a lengthy process!) and will be available here on the blog and on social media. For now though I’m going to run through a few of my favourite cosplays and anecdotes from the finals as well as provide you with the winners of the competition as chosen by the judges.
If you didn’t know any better you could have sworn that Ryan Reynolds was on stage; BarbDWitt Cosplay’s Deadpool act is that on point. He has the mannerisms down to a tee, even the simplest of gestures such as a head tilt are spot on. He was absolutely fabulous at getting the audience engaged with his skit, asking them to join X-Force.
There is more to his cosplay than you can see in this photo. What he does is has the standard Deadpool cosplay and then adds his own spin to it. This time it was Headpool, last Sci Fi Weekender in the City it was a comic strip and he is currently working on Pikapool (yes, that is exactly what you think is is). You can head over to BarbDWitt Cosplay’s instagram and follow the progress of Pikapool as well as check out the previous Deadpool incarnations.
Just prior to Deadpool’s entrance, Adam, the presenter, was interviewing another contestant and talked about how nerves played a role in how far back from the edge of the stage people ended up by the end of their act. He pointed out that certain cosplayers, such as Deadpool ones, always ended up at the front of the stage. He then made a point of checking to see if BarbDWitt Cosplay had heard him – he hadn’t – and so the audience waited to see what would happen.
And, of course, BarbDWitt Cosplay ended up at the front of the stage 😀
This fabulous cosplay of General Kala from Flash Gordon looked amazing on stage, and even more incredible close up when I was able to get some photos. When asked on stage why she had always wanted to cosplay as the General, the cosplayer replied gleefully with; “Because she’s such a bitch!”
I can’t think of a better reason, can you Ladies and Gentlemen?
Her introduction was to an excerpt of Queen’s Flash, featuring General Kala’s voice and involved a lot of overly dramatic gesturing which was just superb.
If you recognise this cosplay you’re probably thinking there’s something missing. Well, several somethings actually. This is one of Pac Man’s ghosts but where is Pac Man and the other ghosts?! That was exactly the question Adam had for the lone ghost after his excellent entrance bobbing and weaving about the stage in an imitation of the game. The answer? His mates were supposed to be with him but had gotten too drunk the night before and had chickened out! In true Sci Fi Weekender style they were pointed out and the lone red ghost was applauded for his effort.
Now comes the point of this recap that I have to admit I was semi-dreading because, for those of you who have seen the Dark Room, how on earth do you explain the importance of a flamboyant potato to people who have never seen The Dark Room?! I will attempt to anyway. The Dark Room is a the world’s only live action video game and is a comedy event hosted by John Robertson. I’ll be talking more about the actual event later as it was part of the evening entertainment, but to explain this cosplay and the pineapple I need to give some context.
This cosplay is a genderbend of John’s character, the host of the Dark Room, and in the show John introduces the audience to one of his prizes – a flamboyant potato aka a pineapple. When the show debuted at Sci Fi Weekender the idea of a flamboyant potato took off and it has become a cult idea (there is even a facebook group dedicated to flamboyant potatoes) so naturally any cosplay of The Dark Room would not be complete without a flamboyant potato!
As Adam was speaking to this cosplayer he was keeping a wary eye on the room knowing full well that he was about to have his stage taken over by John (this is not an unusual occurrence and has become a friendly competition between the pair). Clambering up and over the safety barrier, John did exactly that and then picked up Adam and hoisted him over his shoulder. After safely depositing him off stage he returned to the cosplayer, microphone in hand; “Hello me!”
You can’t make this stuff up.
Photos or it didn’t happen? Got them!
Although an unusual choice for an X-Men pair, this cosplay couple delivered an extremely beautifully choreographed routine to the 90s animated series theme tune. It was dramatic, eye catching and brilliant.
I am completely biased by this entry as it is one of my friends, however, you cannot deny how absolutely stunning this cosplay is. Warp Raven Cosplay’s Gnarr (League of Legends) cosplay is exquisite, created from scratch with so much loving detail. The audience was also blessed with the most adorable dance introduction as well!
The judges chose two runners up; Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn and the Flamboyant Potato Predator. Both were fantastic entries into the contest with both being masterfully crafted and having fantastic entrances. Aloy’s act creatively involved the aid of an assistant camouflaged head-to-toe in black who carried her weapon across the stage to spear Adam, the presenter. The cosplayer behind Flamboyant Potato Predator was the returning champion, Emma, who won with her Flamboyant Potato Groot last year. She’s clearly found her niche and I’m excited to see what she comes up with next time as each one is created with painstakingly careful detail.
The winner of the competition was Warp Raven Cosplay’s Gnarr! This came as no surprise considering the attention to detail and the craftsmanship (it is completely made from hand by Raven) of this particular cosplay.
A special mention from the judges was awarded to cosplay that I was thrilled to see because it was a book cosplay! I have yet to get to that particular book on my TBR, however, I’m familiar with the name of the series and the character also happens to be a Librarian! It was Irene from The Invisible Library series by Genevieve Cogman, and for her act this cosplayer sang live in front of the entire audience. As Luna Chan Cosplay explained, getting up on stage is hard enough but to also sing live was incredible and for that reason they wanted to applaud her effort. Quite rightly so as it was a superb performance!
I had the absolute surprise pleasure of meeting Christopher Judge in person the moment he hopped off the train in Sheffield on Friday night. We were at the station picking up my best friend when a member of the HRH staff came over to inform us that he was due to arrive any moment, would we like to meet him?! It was one of those once in a life time moments where the pieces just fit into place and you gulp back your shock to stammer out a yes please!
We didn’t want to bother him too much as he had just gotten off a long flight, so when he arrived we said a simple hello and welcome and promised we would see him again tomorrow – unfortunately disaster struck and we didn’t get a chance to do so, which made this moment even more precious. He was absolutely lovely and friendly despite being obviously worn out from travelling.
His panel the next day was a great success from what I could hear – literally the roaring applause at times filled the convention hall – because (spoiler alert) I was interviewing the wonderful Adrian Tchaikovsky at that point. From what I learned afterwards he was a fabulous guest talking about his time on Stargate SG-1 and the video game God of War in which he voices Kratos. At one point he took part in a video call with Sci Fi Weekender regular, cosplayer David Roth of Exeter Cosplay, who wasn’t able to attend due to his newborn son. David is a massive God of War fan and has named his son after one of the characters. Knowing how gutted his friend was to miss out on the opportunity to meet Christopher Judge, Adam arranged for the video call during the interview so that David could still be at Sci Fi Weekender and meet the man.
As I was hanging about during a down period waiting to speak to someone a random guy pops up at my shoulder and introduces himself as one of the lads from Jollyboat. This ended up being my random introduction to Tommy and a few minutes later, his brother Ed, who make up the comedy song experts known as Jollyboat. After chatting with them for a bit and discussing the possibility of an interview when they head up to Glasgow for their tour in June (Thursday 13th at The Admirals Bar to be exact!), I turned to them and said, “Well, I’ve not heard you play yet. I really hope you’re not crap!”
Well, they’re really really… NOT CRAP!!
I have not laughed that much in quite a long time, and just when I thought I was bursting at the seams, the next song had me in stitches all over again. I felt like I couldn’t quite catch my breath and it was exhilarating. The atmosphere was amazing. Starting with their pirate pop songs medley to get the crowd warmed up, they continued with an impressive array of geeky and pirate themed music that showcased the duo’s creative talents. There were some poems thrown in there for some good measure too including the creative piece Keyboard Love Song, and the ferocious pun-filled Game Poem that employed comedy to bring attention to the serious issues in today’s society.
You see, Jollyboat aren’t just about making silly songs; they’re about the feel good power of laughter and good that joy can spread. During their performance they spoke about their activities outside of their performances, namely the Jolly Cons and the Jollyboat Crew. What started out as a way to share puns and have a laugh developed into an inspiring and supportive group that is now a few thousand strong of Jollyboat fans. The Jollyboat Crew group will always be a place to post jokes and puns, however, it’s also a safe and healthy place with one clear rule; Pirates don’t punch down.
You can find a list of Jollyboat’s lyrics on their site, however, I would seriously see them live or at least watch a clip of them if you’re not able to catch them on tour. These guys are true showmen and watching them perform is an entire experience. Most notable for me was their D&D song complete with interactive screens, and their tribute to Daenerys Stormborn, Khaleesi – which was in my heads for weeks afterwards and has returned upon typing this!
I was sad for their show to end, although grateful for the chance to catch my breath! After the show they had a mile long queue of people waiting to meet them and buy merch, and it was fantastic to see because prior to the show both Tommy and Ed were really nervous. It was clear from the reception they got that these guys had found their tribe and it was wonderful to watch the Sci Fi Weekender community embrace them! I hope they realise that we’re keeping them now; just ask John 😉 He came once and we never let him leave again!
The Dark Room
And a coronation no one ever saw coming…
You awake to find yourself in a Dark Room….
That is how the only live action video game begins and those who have seen it before will know the rest of the words by heart, shouting along enthusiastically as each contestant tries to beat the Dark Room. On the screen are four options and the player has to pick one each round, trying to avoid death whilst being mocked by both John Robertson and the audience throughout their turn. It’s all in good fun though and as I discuss in my interview with John (coming soon!) he always ensures that the volunteer is willing and having fun.
This includes making fun of himself, and at one point during the event John spotted the female Dark Room cosplayer. Announcing that this would be what the Dark Room would be like in 3D he got the cosplayer to turn on the very spiffy lights on her suit, and compared them to his own rather sad looking version. Later at the end of the show he spotted an amazing puppet that someone had created of him and brought that up on stage.
The choices available to the player range from the seemingly innocent ‘look for a light switch’ to the more sinister ‘check their corpses’. Those who have seen The Dark Room several times will have begun recognise certain paths lead to death. However, that night something no one could have foreseen was about to happen.
Sit comfortably ladies and gentlemen as I tell you the tale of…
King Ethan & The Dark Room
While the Dark Room has been adapted as a children’s show (and won best kids show at the Leicester Comedy Festival in 2018!) the version at Sci Fi Weekender is the adult version. There are still usually quite a few children in attendance and John picks one from the audience as a player. They are always hilariously adorable, however, this time his selection was about to make Sci Fi Weekender history.
At first Ethan appeared to be just an ordinary kid, perhaps a little cheeky, but that was not unusual. When faced with John Robertson kids had a tendency to bring out their cheekier side, and who can blame them? That was the fun of The Dark Room and Ethan went for it. It went great until we got to a certain screen, that when asked ‘Do you see?’ Ethan chose ‘I don’t see’. In doing so he inadvertently found a loophole in the game which took him back to the screen he had been on previously.
Normally a player would choose a different option, intent on going to another screen. Not Ethan! He chose the exact same option and when asked ‘Do you see?’. Yep, you guessed it! He picked ‘I don’t see’ again.
Again and again and again.
By this point John was begging the little rascal to choose something else, anything else, and Ethan was revelling in the chaos he was causing. Revved on by the audience who were delighting in John’s pain and the hilarity of the situation, Ethan continued to choose the same choice.
It went on for about 8 or 9 turns before John chose to “kill off” Ethan so the rest of the show could continue.
At this point Adam ran on stage (he owed John at least one stage take over) and lifted Ethan up in homage to the Lion King.
King Ethan was born.
As you think that was about as bonkers as The Dark Room could get, it doesn’t end there! John has a penchant for giving out rather unconventional prizes – hence the birth of the flamboyant potato. The most memorable prize this time around was a tin of baked beans which were poured into a plastic bag and then thrown up to the player on the balcony. Some how no one below got splattered although accounts confirm that there were a few casualties on the balcony itself.
Despite having the pleasure of witnessing the Dark Room several times now, I will never miss an opportunity to do so again and I urge you to do the same. It isn’t just the only live action video game; it’s an experience that is never the same twice!
As with the evening before the day ended with geeky musical talents for guests to party the night away. Taking to the stage Saturday night was Blues Harvest, a sci-fi cantina band taking inspiration from Star Wars. That franchise is just one of the many sci-fi and fantasy worlds that their diverse song collection includes and they were a huge hit at Sci Fi Weekender with calls for them to return for Part 2 in October!
Following them and seeing out the last night of Sci Fi Weekender Part 1 was fan favourite Level-Up Leroy, the resident DJ, who had everyone on their feet with his unique video mixes and geeky remixes! A much loved regular of Sci Fi Weekender the rest of the Con world is beginning to realise why we love him so much! He was just at MCM Comic Con London and next week he’ll be at the Comic Con Leciester after party so if you’re there make sure you don’t miss him!
Over to You
It has taken me a while to complete my official Sci Fi Weekender coverage (you can read why in my personal update here), and I just want to throw around a few thank yous! First of all, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed the recaps. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments and if you were at Sci Fi Weekender I’d love to hear your own memories of the weekend! My thanks go out to the HRH team for the press passes and guidance over the weekend, as well as to Sam, David, Tracey and Mick for helping me navigate my first time as Media at Sci Fi Weekender. Your understanding and wisdom was much appreciated and will not be forgotten.
If you’re interested in experiencing Sci Fi Weekender for yourself then I encourage you to check out the website and look at getting tickets for next year! You can also win tickets by entering the competition here and it while accommodation isn’t included in the prize you do get a big discount on it.
Unfortunately SFW10 Part 2 in October is fully booked, however, there may be a few spare tickets and places floating about so I would check the Sci Fi Weekender Facebook Group for those. Don’t worry if Great Yarmouth is a long way for you to travel; there are already a few coaches being arranged by members to help ferry everyone there! The group is a great place to get to know people, and learn all about the previous weekenders – there’s loads of photos and videos too.
Speaking of which; I will be creating an Sci Fi Weekender portal complete with a full gallery of edited photos and videos along with these two articles. Both photos and videos will be coming ASAP and will be available on social media too. Please help me by tagging any cosplayers so I can pass the photos on to them 🙂
There will also be two interviews coming; my very first video interview with the wonderful John Robertson discussing all things The Dark Room, that children’s award and how participating in the show can be an uplifting experience. My second interview is with the incredible Adrian Tchaikovsky and talks about world building, the transition from roleplaying to writing and much more. So stay tuned for those.
Thank you again for reading and if you’re heading to SFW 10 part 2 or SFW 11, I hope to see you there!
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