Thursday, 11 October 2012

Blown Away

I spent last weekend at the 2012 Great Western LEGO Show (GWLS) at STEAM. It was my third consecutive year attending the event and it's really not getting old for me at all. There's no doubt that the standard of models on display was incredibly high - a quick skim through the 350+ photographs I took there immediately reminded me of that. At least as importantly, however, I probably enjoyed the social aspects more than ever as I've now got to know more of my fellow exhibitors, and some of them have become good friends.

Centerpiece of this year's LEGO display at GWLS was a collossal model of the British Olympic Stadium, complete with over a thousand minifigures, which was built by Ed Diment, Annie Diment, Stuart Crawshaw and Naomi Farr. Many of you will have seen pictures of this masterpiece during the extensive pre-Olympics publicity it got. As the show was wrapping up on Sunday, Ed and co. got to have their photograph taken with an Olympic Torch used in the Olympic torch relay (picture below - click to enlarge) which was a nice touch.

From L-R : Ed, Annie,  Naomi and Stuart
My contribution to the show was modest this year; all I had on display was the red Volkswagen T1 Camper Van that I posted about last week. It was part of a collaborative display coordinated by Robert Clarkson which brought together a total of 14 large-scale camper vans in various colours, including a neat pimped version in yellow and black, plus a number of smaller versions. What was interesting was how everybody seemed to have a different favourite; my picks were Robert's psychedelic multicoloured version and Vaughn Medway's black mobile disco van (pics below - click to enlarge).

Robert Clarkson's Psychedelic Camper Van
Vaughn Medway's Mobile Disco

One of the exhibits closest to my heart was the Gerry Anderson-themed collaborative build coordinated by Gary Davis. This featured creations inspired by such legendary TV series as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, UFO and Stingray. The centre piece was Gary's magnificent model of Thunderbird 3 which was making its UK debut. Other top creations included Gary's huge Thunderbird 2 complete with elevator cars, Peter Salter's Thunderbird 2 hanger and launch strip complete with power functions, a beautiful Angel Interceptor, once again built by Gary, and a massive model of Stingray's Marineville by Andrew Danielli, complete with a wonderful LED-lit seabed scene. I'm not sure who built the UFO Control Room staffed by custom Homemaker figures below but I loved it ! If anyone knows who the builder is please leave a comment and I'll credit them. (EDIT : The UFO Control Room was built by Eleanor Thorn and Andrew Walker - thanks for the info, Gary !)

Thunderbird 3 by Gary Davis
Angel Interceptor by Gary Davis
FAB 1 by Andrew Walker

UFO Control Room by Eleanor Thorn and Andrew Walker
Marineville by Andrew Danielli

Thunderbird 2 by Gary Davis
As in previous years, Pete Brookdale (cavegod) brought a large selection of his superb Star Wars MOCs down to Swindon from his home in the frozen north. These included old favourites such as his huge AT-AT and Sandcrawler, and also some newer models including his 74-Z Speeder Bike and Rancor, plus the recently released Set 10227 B-wing Starfighter. This time out Pete was joined by first-time exhibitor Sam Pearce who displayed a superb crashed AT-AT - anyone who's seen The Empire Strikes Back will immediately recognise the downed AT-AT from the movie. STEAM veteran James Sutton displayed his model of Yoda with glowing lightsaber and some of his superb large-scale Star Wars figures alongside Pete and Sam's stuff.

74-Z Speeder Bike by cavegod

Sam Pearce's downed AT-AT

Yoda by James Sutton
Rancor by cavegod
Set 10227 B-wing Starfighter

Caroline (Savage_Steel) and Nick, a.k.a., had brought a bunch of their custom minifigures along. Having started out by making custom minifigures for their friends, including some superb Watford F. C.  minifigs for me (much obliged !) they branched out into making custom minifigures of the Team GB Olympic and Paralympic medallists which really caught the public's imagination and thrust their creators into the media spotlight. Caroline and Nick showed off a selection of their celebrity figures including our medal-winning Team GB Olympians and Paralympians, various incarnations of Dr. Who, the cast of Red Dwarf, and even a parachuting Royal.... Special mention for Lucy (lost_in_translation) who put together an excellent miniature Strictly Come Dancing set complete with band at late notice to show off some of the Strictly glitterati.

On yer bike...

Not amused....

Sorry, Doctor Who ?

Significantly better than the TV show...
The were a number of train layouts and townscapes on display. Some of my favourites were Eleanor Thorn and Andrew Walker's Alien Invasion diorama (I love the decadent minority partying in the jacuzzi as the city burns, and the cow abduction !) and Chris and Yvonne Mathews' Dutch Townscape, as well as the big collaborative effort between Naomi Farr, Huw Millington, William Howard and Jason Railton. These are the kind of exhibits that you can stare at for ages and keep seeing more and more neat details that you hadn't previously noticed.

Alien Invasion by Eleanor Thorn and Andrew Walker
Alien Invasion by Eleanor Thorn and Andrew Walker

Dutch Townscape by Chris and Yvonne Mathews
Dutch Townscape by Chris and Yvonne Mathews
Train layout built by Naomi, Huw, Jason and William

One of the things that struck me as I wandered the exhibition halls over the weekend was the sheer variety of LEGO creations on display. Alongside the dioramas above, which are classic GWLS fare, were Technic and NXT exhibits. These included an eye-catching series of models by Simon Burfield, who showed his huge moving T1 Robot complete with a pair of fearsome mini guns and also his LEGO-built wheelchair which can shift a full grown adult. The wheelchair had been featured on a ton of blogs and other sites in the run-up to GWLS so it was excellent to see it in the brick, or at least in the liftarm... When I asked him what he'd be building for next year he said he might try and build a car to move people around the exhibition hall; if anyone else had said that I would just have laughed at them, but I wouldn't put anything past burf.... There was also an appearance from the team responsible for Cubestormer II, which holds the world record for fastest completion of a Rubik's Cube. Their machine looks cool even when it's not doing anything, and it's amazing to watch the thing in action.

Burf's Wheelchair
Cubestormer II

Below you can see pictures of a few more creations that particularly caught my eye. I really want to give a special mention to "Twilight of the Gods" by renowned builder Luke Hutchinson (a.k.a. Derfel Cadarn). It's utterly wonderful, spellbinding even; perhaps my favourite model of the whole show. Click on the picture below to enlarge it and take a closer look at the little details. Even the purple moat at the base of the tower, complete with little pink bubbles, just works. I love it ! Incredibly, it appears from Luke's Flickr Stream that he built the whole thing in just a few days. Astonishing.

"Twilight of the Gods" by Luke Hutchinson
Friend's Kitchen by Yvonne Doyle
Tim Fegan's Iron Man

Ralph Savelsberg's Land Rover

Mouse by Tim Goddard
Maersk Container Ship by Tom Groombridge

In addition to those creations above there were others which I would have included if I'd managed to get better photographs....James Sutton's large-scale Superman figure, Robert Clarkson and Maria Sant's Mephistic Manor display, Barney Main's Galleons, Annie Diment's Looney Tunes characters, James Pegrum's Sacking of Camulodnum, Tim Goddard's Triport Spire and Space Police Hangar, Candlestick Hall by Michael Le Count, and Jeremy William's Neo-Classic Space models, for example. And there were others that I didn't even manage to photograph at all despite my 350+ pictures. I've therefore embedded a video below shot by film production company Infinite8 which captures a few of the GWLS 2012 creations that I've missed - click arrow to view.

In summary, I was blown away by the quality of the models on show - the bar seems to rise every year. And it's not just showing off, either - it actually seems to be inspiring people, and not just the AFOLs. I genuinely lost count of the number of parents I spoke with who said that their kids were wide-eyed with wonder at what they were seeing and would be getting their LEGO out and building as soon as they got home. LEGO can't buy this kind of PR and publicity. Attendance figures were extremely healthy, with around eight and a half thousand people visiting over the weekend; I think that might be the most visitors that GWLS has ever had during the ten years it's been going. Certainly the venue was heaving on both days, and the traders seemed pretty much rushed off their feet. So a fantastic weekend, then, and it'll take a lot to keep me away next year. Many thanks to Martin Long and his team for organising a wonderful weekend, and of course to all the exhibitors, traders and visitors.

Before I go, just a quick word about the frequency and timing of posts on this blog. For over a year now I've tried to stick to weekly postings, with new stuff appearing on Wednesdays, and up until the last couple of weeks I've pretty much managed to stick to that. The problem is, as my postings have tended to get longer and more detailed, I've increasingly struggled to meet my weekly self-imposed deadline, particularly when I'm reviewing a larger model which takes a longer to build. I've generally managed it, but this blogging business is supposed to be fun, and rushing to hit deadlines feels a little too much like work for my liking.... I'm therefore going to relieve the pressure a bit and allow myself more flexibility in respect of posting on here; it was either that or force myself to post shorter entries, and where's the fun in that ?! So just a heads-up to those of you who check in on Wednesdays for the latest post that you might need to wait a bit longer in future. Apologies, but I hope it'll still be worth the wait.


  1. How the hell did I miss that wheelchair?

  2. Excellent tour highlighting some amazing work by AFOLs. So glad you shared these images. I have to agree that I'm already feeling inspired by them.

    As for posting schedule, do what makes you happy. I treat my blog as more of an ongoing journal of what I'm building and cool news that catches my eye. I never post just for the sake of posting.

  3. mr_benn11/10/12

    Hi Dave - really nice review of the show, was my first time there and I loved it! After reports of you leaving with an enormous amount of stuff, I hope we see pictures of all of that soon! :)

  4. Anonymous12/10/12

    Could someone actually ride that wheelchair? If so, what did it move on?

    1. Oh yes - the wheelchair can carry an adult ! You can find out more about it at the URL below :

  5. Awesome post! It looks like an awesome Lego event! On the part about the vans, did you mean that you had your own diplay place?

    1. Not sure I understand the question; the vans were on display at the show alongside the other exhibits.