By now everyone has had time to recover from AA2014, including all of us here at Auto Assembly HQ so now we can finally take a look back at this year’s convention and share some of our own thoughts with all of you on what was an epic weekend…
Looking back it’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since Transformers first burst onto the scene. As an individual, I was never really interested in the franchise as a child, having already entered my teenage years and taking more of an interest in computing and video games by that point and not really becoming interested in TFs until Beast Wars came along. Infact, I’d been active in sci-fi fandom, publishing and event organising for almost a decade before I even willingly wanted to entertain the idea of watching any Transformers shows! Saying that, Transformers has come a long way in that time. From G1 and the early days of the Marvel comics and cartoons up to the live actions movies and CGI shows and Masterpiece toys, none of us expected that we’d be where we are now… and certainly I didn’t either!
Indeed, when Auto Assembly started back in 2000 was a small scale event along the same lines as the Star Trek fan club meetings we used to hold, we never expected it to grow much larger than the 31 people who attended the first one. Okay, so that didn’t quite go according to plan and things have grown at an astonishing rate to the extend that Auto Assembly 2014 left us with some remarkable things to look at:
- 938 attendees – once again the biggest Transformers convention in Europe
- Over £2,000 raised for charity – Mary’s Meals – from our Tombola and Auction
- Two brand new convention exclusive toys
- Our first ever Third Party Panel – a resounding success with all our attendees
- A stunning car display with replica vehicles from the live action movies
Right from the start everything just felt “right” over the weekend. Words can’t describe how fantastic our guests were this year and I don’t think we could have asked for a better range of guests of honour. They all made a wonderful impact on all of our attendees, both during their “official” duties and off-stage in the bar area and are amongst the most fan-friendly guests we have ever entertained at Auto Assembly. I’m sure that all our attendees will have gone home with at least one story or fond memory of one or more of our guests and I know I’ve done the same and having the chance to have spoken to all of them properly was a real pleasure this year.
The programme itself really seemed to offer something for everyone too with some great creative workshops, our first ever Pub Quiz and the final round of our Fans Vs Guests Quiz that’s been running for the last few years. There was no shortage of panels and talks either seeing most of our guests take to the stage so whether you were interested in toys, comics or the TV shows there was something of interest. Infact, there was more worry really about how you’d fit everything in than whether you’d find anything to do and I found that to be the case myself and I know that there are things I wanted to see and do that I simply couldn’t fit in… including display of the replicas of Bumblebee and Barricade from the live action movies in the car park. I know they were a smash hit but it’s something I just didn’t even get close to! I do want to thank the guys at Transformers Car Hire for bringing them along and sharing them with all of us though.
The whole convention felt a lot more relaxed and even though all our dealers seemed to be doing well with their sales, things never seemed over crowded or too stressed for anyone making it a fun weekend there too. Unusually, my own personal haul for the weekend saw little in the way of Transformers apart from our own exclusives and some DOTM stuff, and instead I went home with artwork from Kris Carter, 1966 Batman toys and a stunning Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles signed full cast print thanks to Townsend Coleman and this is certainly the convention’s best for me.
Some of the standout moments on a personal level were a little unusual for me this year as my role at the convention changed from what I have been doing the last few years. Pretty much since Auto Assembly started back in 2000, I have taken a seat firmly at the convention’s Control Desk and overseen things from there and while it’s an area I’ve generally been happy to watch over the convention from, it’s meant that I haven’t been able to see a lot of the con or get to talk to as many people as I would have wanted to – dealers, guests and attendees – so 2014 changed all of that. While I still used the Control Desk as my “base” I did manage to see quite a bit of the convention in a more hands on role and probably annoyed a lot more people in the process! With so many of you at the convention I still didn’t get the chance to talk to each and every one of you but I hope that I managed to at least get to talk to some of you at the convention this year!
At the end of play on Saturday, while many of you went to grab some food in preparation for the party and Billy was with the guests in rehearsals for the script reading, I was accosted elsewhere… by the AutoTrash team for a live recording for a podcast in one of our Alternative Programme rooms. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but it was a fun diversion even if Trish and I didn’t get back up to our hotel room as early as we expected to get ready for the Saturday night! It was a fun way to end the day shift though and they’re already hoping to repeat the show in 2015. You can watch the exploits over on their Youtube channel right now at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKc-8skSqLA
Probably the real highlight thing for me all weekend wasn’t one of the activities or events, nor one of the guests but was from our point of view as a team and the behind the scenes side of things. I’ve been attending conventions since the start of the 90s and running events of one form or another for 25 years and in all that time, Auto Assembly 2014 is the smoothest running event I have ever seen – fan run or professional and that’s down to just one thing – the incredible team of volunteers and the committee that worked so hard behind the scenes all weekend. I don’t want to single people out or run through a list of names for fear of missing people out but everyone did the convention proud. Everywhere you turned all weekend, there was never a shortage of our “red shirts” on hand to make sure there were always people on hand to help all our attendees and to make sure that nothing went awry. It meant that everything was always in place when it was needed, everything ran to time and everything ran pretty much without a hitch and from what people have said online you all seemed to feel the same way about the con.
I can’t talk about the convention without giving a massive thankyou to all of our sponsors as well who all helped make the convention possible. Without their support every year, we wouldn’t be able to offer half of what we do each year at Auto Assembly so in no particular order I’d like to extend a personal thankyou to TF Source, Big Bad Toy Store, AutoTrash, Transbridge Omegalock, Brikabrax UK, VNC Toys, HobbyLink Japan, and Robot Kingdom.
Overall though it was a fabulous weekend and something that I’ve got nothing but incredible memories of and I can honestly say hand on heart that it’s one of – if not the best convention I’ve ever been associated with either as an organiser, volunteer (yes, I did that back in my youth!) or as an attendee. And seeing so many smiling faces from start to finish all weekend makes all of our work worthwhile here at Auto Assembly – and it’s why we come back to do it all over again year after year!
Photos by Nick Hardy – www.nickhardyphotography.co.uk
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I’m an animal lover and vegetarian.
Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe