Tuesday, 6 May 2014

ANDER CONstruction

Regular readers will know of my longstanding love of all things Gerry Anderson. Gerry, who passed away in 2012, was a UK-born producer, writer and director of TV and film, and was the driving force behind a number of beloved TV series such as Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, Stingray and Space 1999. These formed the backdrop to my childhood, and my love for them has endured into adulthood.

Given this, I was delighted to learn last year that in 2014 we'd be getting ANDERCON, billed as the first ever official Gerry Anderson event which would be "dedicated to celebrating the worlds and characters created by the legendary television producer". Better still, I subsequently discovered that the Brickish Association's resident chief Anderson acolyte Gary Davis (Bricks for Brains) had secured space at the event for a LEGO display, and I therefore quickly signed up as an attendee.

In the months that followed it became evident that the ANDERCON organisers had underestimated the level of exhibitor interest in the event. The Brickish display space allocation was cut and then cut again as the organisers, overwhelmed by offers of interesting Anderson-related memorabilia, reduced our display space so as to accommodate more exhibits. As a consequence, a number of Brickish members including myself who had signed up as exhibitors were apologetically informed by Gary that there simply wouldn't be room for our creations. I have to admit that I was secretly quite relieved that my planned exhibit would have to be shelved, for 2014 at least; it was becoming clear that I had probably bitten off more than I could chew with my plans for the event and it would have been a serious race against time to get my exhibit finished, so I was almost certainly saved from a world of pain.... While I was no longer going to be an exhibitor, Gary was still looking for people to help supervise the Brickish display so I was happy to volunteer for that at least.

Brickish Display at Andercon (c) Gary Davis
ANDERCON 2014 took place on Easter weekend (19th and 20th April) in a hotel conference centre on the outskirts of London's Heathrow Airport. This was a fitting event location given that the acclaimed first ever episode of Thunderbirds (Trapped in the Sky) involved the audacious rescue of the crew and passengers of the stricken hypersonic Fireflash airliner at the fictional London Airport which was clearly based on Heathrow. On arrival at the event venue it was immediately evident that the level of exhibitor enthusiasm for the event was matched by that of the general public; the event was totally sold out, and large numbers of people were queuing to get in.

The Brickish display was a mixture of the old and the new. Some of the models, such as Gary's Thunderbird 2 and Thunderbird 3, and Andrew Walker's FAB 1 Rolls Royce, I've featured previously on Gimme LEGO. Others such as Gary's Thunderbird 1 (picture above - click to enlarge) and Naomi Farr's Spectrum Hovercraft (picture below) are more recently completed and I hadn't seen them before. Thunderbird 1 stands at just under 1.3 metres tall and is made up of an estimated 10,000 pieces.

Pretty much every square inch of the limited Brickish display space was filled so as to squeeze in as many models as possible; the display spanned a variety of Gerry Anderson productions, including Thunderbirds, Stingray, Captain Scarlet, Terrahawks and Space 1999, and featured contributions from a number of different builders - Gary, Naomi and Andrew as above, plus Stuart Crawshaw, Andrew Danielli, Tim Goddard and Warren Elsmore. The icing on the cake was an excellent mosaic of Gerry Anderson himself (picture below - click to enlarge), another of Gary's creations.

As a long-time fan of the likes of Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and Space 1999, my interest in ANDERCON extended beyond the Brickish display. Non-LEGO exhibits including props, costumes and models from the original productions plus a large number of spectacular replicas made by some seriously dedicated modellers made up the majority of the displays, and I spent a blissful couple of hours wandering around and taking in the sights. You can see a selection of my favourites below (click on pictures to enlarge them); those with an aversion to anything non-LEGO should look away for a minute, but hopefully at least some of you will appreciate the nostalgic diversion.

As well as the static displays there were a number of other attractions over the course of the weekend. These included presentations and screenings of archive material and never-before-seen HD transfers of classic episodes of Gerry Anderson productions on the main stage and in the cinema, opportunities to buy merchandise from a variety of traders, and the presence of a numerous special guests - voice actors, writers, modelmakers and others - who had worked on Anderson productions over the years. The event layout below (click to enlarge) hopefully provides a taste of the variety of activities on offer.

Prior to my departure on the Sunday I was delighted to briefly chat to Jamie Anderson, Gerry's son. I'd previously corresponded with him in the context of his Kickstarter Campaign which successfully raised funds to continue his father's work on a new science fiction story, Gemini Force One, and it was nice to be able to introduce myself and let him know how much I'd enjoyed ANDERCON.

Given the success of the event, it seems likely that ANDERCON will return in 2015 in a larger venue; that'll hopefully mean more display space for Brickish next year, so I guess I'd better get building if I want to get my model finished in time....

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