Well, here it is … the Exe Wing Fundraisers’ Star Wars Day VII retrospective. We all had a real blast, and we hope all our attendees did too!
We began with a double shot of bad news, as guest actors Warwick Davis (new baby arrived early) and Brian Blessed (last minute work commitments) unfortunately had to cancel. Both sent their best wishes to us, and hoped to come again another year. Despite this disappointment, we were very fortunate to have two excellent replacements step into their shoes at late notice – none other than two of the galaxy’s most feared Bounty Hunters, Jeremy Bulloch and Alan Harris! So, our guest line-up was complete, with Jeremy and Alan being joined by Kenny Baker, Jerome Blake, Paul Blake, Richard LeParmentier and (of course!) our President, Michael Sheard, in some discomfort from a cracked rib sustained during recent filming. What a trooper!
The morning of Star Wars Day VII was bright and clear, and it seemed that the event would have good fortune with the weather. The first guests were lining up outside well ahead of opening time, being met by the lads from the Stormtrooper squad, who were patrolling the venue all day, entertaining the crowds and giving the Imperial forces a rare good name! The guests arrived from their hotel one by one, and were settled into their places, as the dealers, arcade machines, and displays, were all busy setting up.
On the stroke of 10 am, the doors opened, and the venue was quickly overwhelmed by eager Star Wars fans young and old, come from near and far. Many headed straight for the tombola and raffle tables, which were busy all day, manned by enthusiastic (and overwhelmed!) volunteers.
The Children’s Hospice charitytable was also popular, reminding everyone that the day was in aid of a very good cause. Other attendees were keen to look over the tables of the many dealers in attendance, hoping to pick up a bargain action figure, collectible, or autograph. The entries for the art and model competition were also pouring in, and it quickly became apparent that this year’s pieces were going to be of a particularly high standard.
With the main hall filling up, it was time for the Opening Ceremony, and the introduction of the guests, who quickly launched into the day’s first Question and Answer session, hosted by Michael Sheard, looking like he was thoroughly enjoying himself! Afterwards, the guests braced themselves for the onslaught of the autograph queue, with fans keen to secure the signatures of their favourite stars.
There was much activity down in the display room, where the art and model entries were on show, as well as displays of all sorts of Star Wars collectibles. Pride of place went to the prop pilots chair from the Republic Cruiser, seen on screen in Star Wars Episode 1, but there were also fascinating displays of robot parts in the making from R2-D2 and C-3PO, and costumes and prop replicas from Star Wars and other sci-fi films and TV shows. Toy collectors were not disappointed, with a comprehensive display of 12″ dolls and a complete set of the original action figures. Other cabinets held a vast array of Star Wars books, magazines, and a galaxy of British Star Wars collectibles from the 1970s and 80s. The displays were rounded off with pictures of the unseen missing scenes from the Star Wars trilogy, and others showing the first concept designs for props, vehicles and characters.
In the video room, fans were treated to showings of rare behind the scenes footage from the original and prequel trilogies, as well as little-seen television documentaries. A particular treat was offered by the screenings of Warwick Davis’s Return Of The Ewok video, kindly loaned to us for the day. Filmed on location at the Jedi sets, the video was a fascinating (and funny!) look at Warwick’s adventures, with guest appearances by many of the Star Wars cast and crew.
It was soon time for the fancy dress costume parade, and again, the entries were of an exceptional standard, with the watching public – and the guest actors – being entertained by a stream of Jedi, Naboo royalty, Rebel and Imperial forces, aliens, and others. All were very impressed by the work and imagination that had gone into the entries, both young and older. Meanwhile, the Stormtrooper forces were still tirelessly going about their business, posing for dozens of photographs, and arresting those who they felt were deserving of the attention!
The guest actors were then put to work answering the questions of their attentive fans in the second Q&A panel, and afterwards, signing more autographs, for which they were much in demand. Attendees were meanwhile hunting the halls, trying to find the last character pictures they needed in order to solve the Anagram competition. All too soon the Day was coming to an end, and it was time for the Closing Ceremony, and the announcement of the results of the various competition, with the delight of the winners clear to see as they clutched their prizes.
Star Wars Day VII was a resounding success, and everyone, from the attendees, to the dealers and exhibitors, committee members, stewards and guest actors, seeming to have thoroughly enjoyed themselves. As the last of the public went on their way home, and the halls were emptied of all the paraphernalia of the Day, everyone could look back on some very happy memories – and look forward to Star Wars Day VIII!
In the weeks following the event, the money would be collected and counted, and the Exe-Wing Fundraisers were delighted to pass on a cheque in the sum of £4,200 to the Children’s Hospice South West. Many, many thanks to all who contributed to the success of the Day, and to raising this excellent donation, for a very well deserving cause!