It’s time to come to a proper run-through of last month’s Red Dragon Con 5 in London. Kate already wrote at length about the decision process and the run-up to the con on her blog last week. I’m afraid, I didn’t have that many qualms. When the news came through that Richard was going to attend the con, I was on those tickets as fast as you can say “Dolarhyde”. Not because of Hannibal, the fannibals or any previous con experience. In fact I had never been to a con before – and if truth be told, I never really wanted to go to a con before. But after checking the con ticket prices and making sure that flights to London in February are generally slow sellers, I reckoned that it was worth investing in it – even if only to witness the potentially one and only ever con attendance of Mr Armitage. Who knew whether this kind of event would ever happen again – with RA, that is? He had been rather shy about attending cons in the past, so this could easily be a once-off. Enough reason for me to see for myself, especially as I had experienced the fannibals as a very welcoming, nice fandom back in 2015 when Hannibal was on air. However, I was rather relieved that not only one but two of my fandom friends agreed to join me in London – Kate and Hariclea.
What more or less passed me by was Kate’s long battle in January with a very persistent cold that almost had her cancel her participation. We did, however, lose Hariclea as a co-con companion, as sadly, Hariclea’s mum passed away a couple of days before the event and she understandably had to cancel her attendance to go home. Nevertheless, on Friday morning, I took the early morning flight to LCR to get a few hours of exhibition hopping in before I was going to meet Kate. I made my way out to Heathrow to meet Kate in the hotel she had kindly booked. Sharing a hotel room with a stranger I had only known online and barely seen a photograph of? Of course – I have only ever met nice people through my fangirling activities. Plus, she was taking the same risk *grins*. I took the Piccadilly Line out towards Heathrow, got off at Hatton Cross, hopped on a bus, got off at the edge of the Heathrow runway, walked through a rather cold, grey, wet London day and kind of chuckled when I saw the hotel was right next to a bowling alley. Well, just in case that whole con malarkey didn’t work out we at least had some alternative entertainment…
I can tell you, there was a certain amount of excitement as I made my way to room 156 where my conspirator was already waiting for me, having checked in an hour earlier. If I hadn’t stopped smoking last November, I would’ve had a couple of rollies to calm down the nerves. (cf. a previous meeting also involving a hotel way back in 2014. I see a theme developing here…) As it was, I didn’t need any rollies. Kate opened the door, I said hi, we hugged – and we launched into a very comfortable friendship right there and then. Let me tell you, the woman is tolerant, witty and easy-going, ignoring my moody nonsense and providing the funniest comparisons from here to the Antipodes and back. We seemed to be pretty much on the same wave-length with everything over the weekend – from party attendance to fannibal defending to beddie times. Kate had me in stitches with her quips, and that alone made for three of the happiest, most carefree days of my life.
So, with the basics basically out of the way, we were looking forward to the weekend, con novices that we were. The con was billed to start at 4pm on Friday with registration. Since we had opted to stay in a hotel about 15 minutes away from the con venue, we decided to head over to the Renaissance hotel for a bit of re-con – and a bite to eat – in advance of the 4pm registration. Much to our surprise, a queue had already formed when we entered the lobby of the Renaissance hotel at about 3pm. We joined the queue – an exercise that would prove to be event-defining for the rest of the weekend… At the end of the queue we registered and received our
dog tags badges for the event.
Thanks to some prior research we had also a) brought lanyards (so didn’t have to buy any) and b) signed up for stewarding at the con. Except that while Kate’s application as a volunteer had been accepted, I had never heard back from them. Kate encouraged me to try and get into stewarding nonetheless – which I did and was also “ennobled” as a con steward. This proved very useful later on. In various respects.
But first of all Kate and I finally got something to eat in the bar – and had our first *real* encounter with a fannibal, a lovely woman from Germany called Johanna, who really and totally set the tone and the bar for all subsequent interactions with the Hannibal fandom. There is next to no chance that she is ever going to see this, but if you know her, please let her know: Johanna, if you are reading this – thank you for being so kind, so funny, so encouraging. You really make a fantastic figurehead for your fandom. I enjoyed meeting you, and I regret not having bumped into you again! – You would think that you can’t lose your companions in a hotel – but you can. A lot of the communication and arranging of meetings was conducted via text message and/or Twitter DM that weekend. And that includes my roomie Kate and I. Yep, there were various instances where we had to call each other on the phone to locate each other in the hotel. Mad! Luckily fellow fan armidreamer and I had also exchanged phone numbers, and so I was able to hook up with her on Friday, too, and we ended up meeting all through the weekend. The more the merrier, right?
Anyway, the queuing continued, this time for the various extras one could splash out on. Photo ops and autographs are the big draw at cons, and I suspect it is where a lot of extra money is actually being made. Coming to RDC5, I had no intention of getting anything beyond the one autograph that was included in my ticket already. When Kate said that she was going to get a photo done, I was still undecided. However, you can’t just rock up at the photo (or autograph) sessions at these cons. Rather, you buy a voucher that entitles you to a photo shoot or an autograph. And so I decided to play it safe and bought a photo voucher – just in case.
More about the whole photo saga later. And believe me, it’s a saga. If I knew it would be, I wouldn’t have bothered. I am still embarrassed. Like many other people I also had huge reservations about paying hefty prices for an autograph. Especially as autographs actually do not mean that much to me *personally*. I own a few already (personalised and unpersonalised, on photos, programmes and tickets – heck, I even have a silver “RA” on my beloved Pop!Thorin – see picture right), and I never had to pay for any of them. But then I thought I’d better use the opportunity and get a couple of autographs signed for future auctions – my donation, so to speak. And I also wanted to get a souvenir for Hariclea as a tiny little consolation for missing the con… So, whoa, 85 GBP went out the window there… (1 photo + 2 autographs). Seriously, I do hope that Richard also got a cut of that! Yep, I am still reeling myself. Don’t tell Mr Guylty, or this marriage is over! However, I’d ask you all to not be judgmental about this. Not that I mind if you were judgmental to *me* about this – I used to be the same for a long time. So, serves me right. But the other fans do not deserve any derision. There is much some to be said for and about these paid photo ops and autographs, the people who provide them and the people who buy them. And I will get to that in due course. Suffice to say that, with all that queuing done, it was already time to gather in the main hall for the big event of the day – the Opening Ceremony. Were we going to get our first glimpse of Richard?
Remember I said it would prove useful to sign up as a volunteer at the con? Well, we realised that when we walked into the main hall for the opening ceremony. Not sure how many rows there were in total, but the first ten rows or so of the auditorium were completely occupied already, as were the last ten. No coincidence: The first few rows were reserved for Gold ticket holders! (If you were admiring those fabulous photos of Richard taken at the con – those came from Gold ticket holders who were really quite close up to him and the other guests.) Regular ticket holders had to sit at the back. There was only a small number of rows in between that still had empty seats – and they turned out to be reserved for the stewards!! So we quickly brandished our steward badges and bagged some seats half way back the auditorium. Definitely worth while volunteering – not least because it looked as if there were not enough seats for the regular ticket holders for whom extra chairs were added at the back of the hall. Anyway, this was our view:
The red and black dot on the stage is Jeremy Davies (played a character called Peter Bernadone in Hannibal). He was the first guest to be called onto the stage, and you get an idea how many people were there and how far back we were sitting – despite our privileged steward seats… After Davies, two more guests were announced, namely Aaron Abrams and Scott Thompson. They were the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of Hannibal (playing a bit of a comedic duo, crime scene investigators Brian Zeller and Jimmy Price) and absolute fan favourites. (You may also remember Scott Thompson from the Hannibal aftershows “Post Mortem”.) I very much warmed to them, too. (More about that in a later post.)
And finally, finally… Look at the picture above again. See the screen on the right? And further right to that, the double doors? That’s where the guests were ushered in, and wow, like at every other event I have ever seen RA live at, it gave me a total jolt to the stomach when I spotted RA there, beside the stage, waiting to be called… He couldn’t help but mess around before he was introduced and made funny shadow shapes behind the screen…
Don’t you just have to love him…? I really dislike the word dork, but he really is a messer! You’ve already seen some of my pictures of the event, so I’ll put a slide show in here with the whole, unedited shebang – sorry, really not great, but just for the record.
The Complete and Unedited Pictures of RA at the Opening Ceremony
This whole solo appearance lasted for the tiny eternity of 2 minutes, btw! As the second billed guest RA received a lot of cheering and clapping – he was the eponymous Red Dragon, after all – but not as much as Mads Mikkelsen, understandably. He looked absolutely gorgeous on stage though, not least because he was casually dressed all in black with tighty black jeans, a comfy hoodie and a leather jacket. All of the guests had directed a few words at the audience, but RA really made a nice little welcome speech that seemed a bit longer. “Some of you travelled far and braved the weather, congratulations. I didn’t have to because this is my home.” etc. He also could not resist a comment about the flower crowns referring to them as “flower heads” (although one of the previous guests – Aaron? – had used the term before), no comment 😁. His toned down facial shrubbery that was more like a slightly neglected lawn of wild flowers than a full-blown hayfield, looked rather good from far away. And from closer up, even more so, I suppose…
(See the edited pics of the opening ceremony in bigger version in part 2 of my RDC5 series.)
I have to say that I thought RA looked and sounded like a complete pro in those two minutes he had on stage. His ex tempore speech was just perfect for the occasion – welcoming people, referring to the actual day (by way of weather – so English *haha*), throwing in a little personal admission (“I’m at home”) and spreading a bit of fun with his gentle teasing re. flower heads. So yeah, I thought he came across as a confident and self-assured, a bit curious and wide-eyed about the whole event he was finding himself at, but willing to go on the journey. Again, I felt as if he really set the tone there, opening up and signalling that he was here to experience this and that he was willing to have fun. Thumbs up. Finding out that his appearance on stage only lasted 2 minutes, really surprised me. At the time, it felt much longer. But yeah, maybe time stands still whenever the master himself turns up in RL *hehe*…
Anyway, RA was then followed by the star of the con, Mads Mikkelsen. Again, he also made a lovely little intro speech, and I have to say I was very much impressed by the resounding and warm applause that he was welcomed with. You could tell that the fannibals were absolutely ecstatic to have Mads at the con. They didn’t hold back, and those kind of open admissions of love and admiration were something I really, really loved seeing all through the weekend. – After Mads had been introduced, all guests returned to the stage again. As part of the whole group, Richard looked slightly shy and awkward on stage, I thought. Not quite in his element. He was definitely the tallest of all guests, yet even as it was happening and I hadn’t even yet seen any photos of the event, it occurred to me that he looked as if he wanted to blend into the background. Up to his usual modesty, I guess, he was kind of standing one step behind all the others, kind of slouching a bit, with his hands in his pockets and his head all the way down to his shoulders. I haven’t really got any pictures of my own showing all of the guests standing there on stage, but yeah, my heart broke a little bit there – whether it was for a gorgeous guy making himself small and invisible, or for a gorgeous guy being modest and humble, it definitely added to his attraction. However, it also added to the danger of succumbing to APM…
Anyway, believe it or not, it was all a good start to the whole experience. Nice fannibals, nice fellow fans, nice roomie, nice guests, nice RA. The opening ceremony was just half an hour long or so, then the guests were all whisked away and the room emptied. We were basically done for the day. For the Gold ticket holders, it was only just getting interested though: They actually had a meet & greet with the guests – which Richard apparently was a great hit at, according to the tweets that I saw. Ourselves, Kate and I kind of hung around, thinking we might have a look at the promised party. But then we both kind of folded at about 9pm and decided to go back to our hotel instead. It had been a long, exhausting day – with both of us travelling from a different country, finding our way to our hotel, meeting each other, negotiating our way around the event – and dealing with the accelerated heart rate of being in the vicinity of the OOA… No wonder we thought we needed to lie down.
In the end, we actually ended up chatting until after midnight. The amount of processing to be done when seeing RA in the flesh *haha*… And that was only after half a day of con life… We had no idea what was going to hit us the next day…