Friday, July 17, 2015

My 2015 British Fest Experience!

Remember BritishFest? It's a convention on the other end of the state for people who enjoy British TV, movies, games, and books. I went to it last year and had a wonderful time. It was so much fun last summer that we decided to return last weekend.

There were spacing issues last summer -- basically too many people and not enough space(!!) -- so they moved from Omaha, NE, to the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, IA. This was a great move. It ended up being a lot less crowded even though attendance nearly doubled from last summer.

For a while there, I began to wonder if the Fates really didn't want me to attend. Our initial childcare options fell through and we really struggled to come up with a Plan B. It's not that BritishFest is bad for teens. It's just that my own teen really didn't want to come with and I didn't want to drag him along against his wishes unless I had no other options. Fortunately, another option finally presented itself to us early last week. Then Husband Mark found himself unable to get away from work that weekend, which meant that he was only able to come for the first day. Then our ancient cat's pancreas began to fail, leading me to seriously consider euthanasia last Thursday afternoon.

Fortunately, it all came together and I managed to have a fun weekend in Council Bluffs!

I do admit that my Second BritishFest weekend started off rocky. I went to a panel about British Sitcoms and realized that the panelists had some knowledge gaps about this particular subject. Which wouldn't have been a problem except that they specifically highlighted certain sitcoms for discussion and then admitted that they hadn't actually watched those programs! So I grumbled a bit. I then dripped ketchup on my favorite (and only) "Doctor Who" t-shirt. Which meant I had to switch clothing. I then groused about another panel to Mark. I then struggled to find another panel or event that interested me or that wasn't full.

I then realized that I was bringing stress with me from home and that I really needed to lighten up. BritishFest was going to have its ups and downs regardless of my mood -- and me being in a grumpy mood was just going to make me miss the good moments. Once I forced myself to trust in our son's and our cat's caregivers to contact us if things went awry, I found it a lot easier to relax and have fun with the 2015 BritishFest convention!

My favorite panel on Friday was called "Doctor Who and other BBC Audio Adventures" by James Hodge and John Shoberg. I have always heard about Big Finish and their original "Doctor Who" audio program, but I've never understood how to access them. James and John did a great job of discussing the history behind Big Finish and shared different audio clips, which really got me motivated to buy some stuff of my own. Plus they told me how to digitally purchase the audio adventures and add them onto my iPod. It was really quite simple, but sometimes your need someone to walk you through simple steps! This is good timing, because Big Finish recent began producing audio adventures featuring the original "Survivors" cast. I really want those stories!!

Mark enjoyed a particularly good panel about "Downton Abbey," where panelist Lynelle Phillips shared how she designed portions of her home to look like something out of this popular British program.

Saturday morning started out a bit shaky. My first two preferred panels ("New Zealand in Film & TV" and "British TV History 1960's to 1980s") didn't happen. The panelists didn't show up!

I ended up going to a panel about "Monty Python" instead, which was also hosted by James Hodge and John Shoberg. They also had some audio clips of favored sketches and then invited audience members to shared their favorite "Monty Python" moments. Unfortunately, I've only seen a couple of the movies, so the various punchlines didn't mean much to me out of context. But the audience sure was animated!

After a lunch break, I returned to watch "Spirit of Sherwood" with Mark Ryan -- one of BritishFest's featured guests. He played Nasir in "Robin of Sherwood," Quartermaster Hal Gates on "Black Sails," and Bumblebee in the various "Transformers" movies. The BritishFest attendees love Mark and it's easy to tell why. He's funny and down-to-earth and he tells a lot of good stories!

I then watched the first performance of the Timey Wimey Puppet Show, which is a Kansas-based puppeteer that does great comedy sketches featuring various "Doctor Who" characters. I was actually quite fortunate to have attended the Mark Ryan event immediately prior to the puppet show. There was a huge line to the event and I was already sitting in the second row! If you ever get a chance to watch the Timey Wimey Puppet Show in person, do it. Follow the above link to find out why! Actually, follow this link to catch a montage from the 2015 BritishFest show!

I then attended "Paddington & Pooh: Lessons in Life" by Melissa Ryals and Julianne Harm. This ended up being one of my favorite panels. They were playing Winnie the Pooh music at the beginning of the panel and had us sitting on either end of the room, depending on our preferred bear. I was on the Paddington side of the room. We learned the origins of each bear and then were told various quotes and were encouraged to guess which bear they came from. There were a lot of kids at this event. We were invited to share our favorite Pooh or Paddington moments. If we shared, we received a ticket. This was great for motivating the kids to participate. They then did a raffle at the end of the panel and prizes were awarded -- though none to me. But it was different and a lot of fun!

I then attended a "Red Dwarf" panel by John Sullivan and John Shoeberg. We learned a bit about the show's premise and characters and discussed some of our favorite moments. Plus we got to watch a few clips, which is always fun!

After a supper break, I attended a panel called "British Paranormal Places" by John Powers from the Honey & the Nerd Paranormal Podcast. This panel explored many of the traditional paranormal creatures originating out of the United Kingdom. He also shared information originally uses to explore evidence of ghostly activity and compared these tools with their modern-day equivalents.

I then went to my room to check on the cat's health and to watch some of my favorite British programming on Nebraska Public Television ("Doc Martin" and "As Time Goes By"). It's worth noting that a Steampunk Ball was going on during this time, but I don't do that so I didn't go. But many other people had a blast there!

Later this evening, I returned to the convention center and participated in a late-night panel put on the guys that produce the Traveling the Vortex Podcast. We all watched "A Good Man Goes to War" from the sixth season of "Doctor Who" -- and live-tweeted throughout the show! It's sounds geeky and it really is. But it was also a lot of fun. I managed to get in a few well-received jokes. All in all, it was a lot of fun.

I finally went to bed and returned the next day for a panel about the "Merlin" television program by Amber Comstock. This was her first panel, but she did a pretty good job. We talked about Merlin's origins and compared him and those around him with the characters portrayed on the television program. We then talked about some of our favorite "Merlin" moments.

Lastly, I attended a "Countdown! Game Show" panel by Connor McCoy -- where audience members were randomly selected and competing in a series of letter and number quizzes for a British teapot. This was my other favorite panel. I'd never seen "Countdown" before, but it was truly much fun to watch the games -- and try to outguess the contestants!

There were a few more panels after this, but I really needed to leave in order to get back to Iowa City before it got too late in the day.

I plan to return to BritishFest again in 2016 and likely will return again for the entire weekend. I know that I said this last year, but I really want to cosplay next year (here is what I'm thinking of for next summer: here or here). I also have a few panel ideas that I've already plotted out. I will submit those ideas later this summer and see if they are accepted.

Once again, I really want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who organized BritishFest. It takes a lot of time, energy, and commitment to pull everything together. Everyone did a marvelous job. Thanks from Iowa City!

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