Firstly, let me say hi and introduce you to what will be a semi-regular series of blog posts for The George A. Romero Foundation’s (GARF) Global webpage.
Hopefully you have had time to check out the GARF Global section as well as the other great info on the web site? You haven’t? Right, well stop reading, have a good look around and I’ll be here when you get back!
Okay, now that’s sorted and you know more about The GARF we can get back to the blog. Like I said, this will be semi-regular and focus more on events and updates within the world of George and Horror, rather than a weekly/fortnightly/monthly blog for the sake of it. So here it is, Blog post Number 1….PART 1!
It has been one week since we here at GARF Global attended our first major public convention event in 20 months. Namely, For the Love of Horror run by Monopoly Events. Yes, there had been a few smaller more intimate events, like the Graham Humphreys gallery display (more on Graham in the future), but this was the first major (over 4000 attendees) signing convention since the Weekend of the Dead event attended by The GARF in Feb 2020.
So how did it fair? Well it’s safe to say that after such a long hiatus, the For the Love of Horror event in 2020 was cancelled and there actually hadn’t been an event in 2 years, so teething problems were inevitable (a Photo Ops camera breaking, flooded car park facilities, but to be fair who can control the weather?!) but these were well-managed and honestly were the only things I really noticed/have heard of. Right, that’s the bad stuff out of the way…and not too painful to be honest!
The event was managed extremely well and all the staff were very helpful at all times. Queues were always managed well and for an extremely well attended event it only seemed crowded on a few occasions.
I’ll try to take various elements in turn so as not to miss anything, but the other reason is that beyond the signing and photo Ops the event offered so much more and I would be remised if I missed any of it.
As with any event at any time guest cancellations to some extent are inevitable. It’s often how an event manages these that is used as a measure of how well the event is organised and considerate to the fans, as we all know cancellations are rarely the fault go the event itself. It’s more often than not a guest’s work commitments will scupper a con performance and honestly who can blame them, as it’s highly likely that a guest is contractually obliged to put work commitments first.
Of course, given the current global situation cancellations are more prevalent than ever, particularly last-minute cancellations and although For the Love of Horror suffered this (most notably with Richard Dreyfuss and Tony Todd), Monopoly Events managed the situation exceptionally well. Cancellations were notified almost immediately and cash refunds automatic. Something that seems to be quite the luxury when looking at other events.
Guests were replaced within days and to a good calibre. Multiple guests soured from the same film or franchise are always a winner, and the guys here scored some good results with actors from Monster Squad and Killer Klowns from Outer Space.
The big draws among a plethora of great names were Tom Atkins, the perfect gentleman, the original Ghostface killers themselves Skeet Ulrich and Matthew Lillard, and of course the one and only Tim Curry.
Others of note, based on who I met (I couldn’t meet them all), were Jeffery Voohrees, you may know him better at Alex Kintner, the boy absolutely torn apart by Jaws & Suzanne Snyder, there for Killer Klowns, but known to yours truly as Deb, the girlfriend of Anthony Michael-Hall’s nerdy character Gary in Weird Science (honestly if you haven’t seen this movie, check it out, after Uncle Buck I think it’s John Hughes’s best movie).
These were two great guests who were so nice and humble to meet. Jeffery does an absolute amazing autograph noting the details of his role in Jaws and peppering it with red sharpie “blood!” If you ever get the chance to meet him, and have him sign I strongly recommend it.
Suzanne was also amazing, having no Weird Science pictures on her table, she offered to take a Killer Klowns close up and sign it with a quote from Weird Science (which may be one of the best personalisations ever).
Looking back at the weekend and the outpouring on social media, I have to say it does not look like anyone had a bad guest experience. With I believe nearly 30 guests in attendance it’s impossible for me to cite them all here; there were so many and were all great!
As with any event, the panels/Q&A are an important piece as it’s a chance to showcase a guest’s work and ask questions that during the inevitable pandemonium of signing and photos cannot be asked (by the moderators and fans alike). It was a packed panel schedule over the course of the weekend, with something like 6-8 panels each day running from as early as 10:00 right up to 18:00, and the entertainment never relented.
Monopoly Events' Ben Fenlon and Tony Earnshaw (Weekend of the Dead Alumni and contributor to these very pages, check out his post on Romero in the UK) are clearly passionate about the horror genre and meticulously know a guest’s body of work.
The panels were insightful but also lots of fun, with everything from Timewarp dancing to beatboxing happening on the stage. Fans had their chance to ask questions and quite often this also offered further insight.
I particularly enjoyed the Friday the 13th Pt VI panel and thought the Michael Culditz interview was also particularly good. Again this is based on what I got a chance to see, but overall it looks like all the panels went down a storm.
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In addition to the guests, panels, and Q&A, there were various other ways to spend your time at the event (and not just queuing for the toilets or burger van!). The event provided a huge selection of vendors (more on that later), but also rather uniquely a scare maze and lots of intricately built sets and props from all your favourite horror locations and franchises.
The Scare Maze was amazing, and at one point had this brave blogger on his hands and knees having his ankles grabbed, and seriously starting to question if it was all a fake bit of fun!!
The sets were excellent in detail and provided great photo opportunities (definitely taken advantage of by yours truly). To name a few, there was the scary doors from IT, the Myers house from Halloween (at a 1:1 scale might I add, proving to be a great photo opportunity for attendees and Michael Myers cosplayers alike) sets from Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Saw, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show all proved to be very popular. All in all these really did positively added to the whole experience. positively added to the whole experience.
The vendor area was huge and offered all manners of ways to part yourself from your cash, and (slight criticism alert) it pretty much had to be cash. The venue is basically a huge warehouse in the middle of an industrial estate in Manchester, a city in the North of England (but please don’t let put you off) and this coupled with the huge number of people meant wi-fi, 4/5G, and phone signal in general were terrible. With no cash machines nearby, purchasing from vendors without cash was quite the challenge, however it was not insurmountable so I shan’t dwell.
All the vendors were great and offered high-quality merchandise from all manners of backgrounds, from the usual pops, figures and apparel to handmade art, statues, clothing, jewelry, pins and posters. All in all, there was something for everyone and when you needed a break from the signing areas, this was perfect to escape to as it was in a completely separate hall. There were peak times when it was perhaps a little crowded, but early and late in the days it would quiet down and the layout made for enjoyable browsing.
There is so much more I could say, but I am starting to realise that this is getting quite long, and could easily go on longer! So, thinking on the hoof a bit I am going to do this across two parts.
Right now the buzz is still big on social media, it’s only been one week and next year’s event has guests announced and tickets selling fast!!
So I’ll be back next week with part two where I’ll talk about what was in my mind, the main attraction and now may become a regular fixture of the event, the after party (your erstwhile blogger not getting to bed till 4am!), and a focus on meeting up with great horror guests & friends after such a long while. I’ll finish off by speaking about seeing George well-represented at the event, what that meant for The GARF, and what surprises may lie in store for 2022 as a result.
Signing off for now……See you next week……and of course…….Stay Scared!
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