The Convention In Brief
Auto Assembly 2011 was judged to be a huge success by everyone who attended. It was our final convention to be held at the Holiday Inn Birmingham City Centre in Birmingham, England and took place over the weekend of 12th – 14th August 2011. Set against the background of a strained financial climate and violent outbreaks on the streets of Birmingham and other major cities across the country, we were defiant and the convention still went ahead, adopting the Spectre General song from the animated movie, “Nothing’s Going To Stand In Our Way” as the convention’s unofficial theme song.
It was arguably our most ambitious convention ever with 15 guests, panels and presentations on all three days and our first ever live video link for a Q&A panel presenting attendees with a surprise third voice actor Q&A session on the Saturday evening with Mark Ryan, the voice of Bumblebee and Jetfire from the live action movies. We also celebrated the return of comic character Death’s Head to the British comic Marvel Heroes with a panel featuring the original creators Simon Furman and Geoff Senior, along with the new artistic team of Simon Williams and Jason Cardy, an IDW panel featuring Simon Furman and Andrew Wildman talking about their work picking up where things left off with Issue #80 of the old Marvel comic, and Nick Roche and James Roberts discussing their new ongoing comic. A third comic panel took place on the Friday evening (our first ever on the first “unofficial” day of the convention) where Nick Roche took to the stage alongside Simon Furman and Geoff Senior to talk to them both about their work on the iconic Marvel UK Transformers story arc, Target 2006, which was celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year.
We also had our best ever Cosplay Competition with a staggering 17 entries which included two Optimus Primes and a script reading pitting two Grimlocks head-to-head when David Kaye and Gregg berger resumed their roles in Simon Furman’s latest story for Auto Assembly. Video game developer Jagex also joined us for the convention and held a Q&A Panel talking about their upcoming Transformers Universe MMO game, revealing a brand new character for the game and fielding questions from the audience, while handing out surprise free gifts to attendees and supporting our charity auction.
Our charity fundraising efforts were on a par with 2010 and combining a successful charity raffle and two auctions hosted by David Kaye and Gregg Berger, we managed to raise £2,100 for our three nominated charities – Mary’s Meals, the Burton Wildlife Rescue and Animal Centre, and a local Brownies pack. The auction featured a range of original comic artwork, signed photos donated by various Transformers voice actors, a large concept art print from Jagex from their forthcoming Transformers Universe MMO signed by the entire development team, and a rubber duck that was used as a prop in our script reading which sold for a staggering £120!
Attendance wise, we had a total of 577 people at Auto Assembly 2011, only marginally down on Auto Assembly 2010 (which had 579). While this was initially disappointing for us we knew that a lot of our regulars were unable to make it to the convention for personal reasons, and the tough financial climate made it difficult for others to make their annual trip to Birmingham. We seemed to be unaffected by the civil unrest with almost no attendees being swayed from coming along to the convention who had already booked tickets and it was a relatively quiet weekend in the City Centre, despite a couple of shops directly under the convention hotel being hit by vandalism only 48 hours before the convention.
It was a wild ride and only hinted at what Auto Assembly 2012 had in store…
All photos: Richard Fieldhouse, Matt Staples