“You’re all part of the dysfunctional family now!”
These were Adam Brown (Ori)’s parting words during the closing ceremony and I don’t feel truer words were spoken after 3 days of geekery, comedy and drunken carnage shared by the fans and actors!
From April 1st-3rd The Maritim Hotel in Bonn hosted the fourth HobbitCon, a part of Fedcon events and organised/created by Dirk Bartholomae, HobbitCon is a celebration of The Hobbit movies/books but also includes the wider world of Tolkien.
The convention had everything from an opening ceremony, hosted by the hilarious Mark Ferguson (who played Gil Galad in The Lord of the Rings), to Q&A panels with the actors, lectures, workshops (choir, dance, acting, book binding etc), cosplay contest, stalls, parties, comedy hours cumulating in a tearful closing ceremony. Mark was often joined by Craig Parker (Haldir) and Lori Dungey (a Hobbit in lotr) the three ‘Marks’ had the audience in stitches with their antics and introductions for the guests.
I’m not sure where to begin with describing for those who weren’t there just how wonderful and unique this convention is. Usually conventions have panels, autographs and photo sessions, but it’s quite rare to see actors wandering around the convention floor (occasionally you might see the odd one, often with security) but HobbitCon is different.
You can be arriving in the morning, buying lunch or a drink in the café and just walk into the actors. There are plenty of “Hellos”, long and short conversations alike as well as hugs! The parties are a highlight of the convention, on both Friday and Saturday night with dance floor open and the bar flowing with drinks appropriately named, ‘Legolas’ and ‘Saruman’.
It’s not just the fans who wake up feeling hungover, the actors are present at the parties too and more than happy to dance, conga (we passed John Bell who plays Bain in the bar in a conga line) and photobomb selfies.
I attended Frank Victoria’s talk on designing the Hobbit movies. Frank works for Weta Workshop, and it was fascinating to see some of the concept art and hear his advice to young artists regarding the design process.
The Q&A sessions open up the floor to fans and microphones are set up around the room where fans can queue to ask questions. I was lucky enough to ask Billy Boyd (Pippin) about what films influenced him from early on (Gregory’s Girl was the main one). And during William Kircher (Bifur)’s panel he invited everyone on stage to ask questions, I was first up and while it was a bit nerve-wracking and I’m not sure my palms have ever been so sweaty, he and the other actors were so lovely that I was soon put well at ease.
The standard of cosplay was fantastic; I enjoyed dressing up as the Ainu, Yavanna on the Saturday, a modern Hobbit Saturday night (where we danced Saturday night) and Estella Brandybuck on the Sunday. There were group photoshoots outside for humans and other, elves/Silmarillion, dwarves and hobbits. The cosplay contest took my breath away with intricate designs that must have taken hours to create and some that reduced me to tears, such as a heart broken Nori finding his brother, Ori’s, book after he dies in the Mines of Moria.
Some of the other highlights included; Adam Brown’s stories including his friend who threw up into her top to avoiding throwing up in a taxi, Jed Brophy (Nori) as a dolphin man, Mark Atkin (Thorin’s stunt double) and Dallas Barnett’s (Bill Ferny Sr. ) gummi bear eating contest… Ryan Gage (Alfred) wearing a flower crown and saying “No one hates Afred more than himself” and the fan who got so emotional at the thought of Alfred dying Ryan said, “You’re not Alfred’s mum are you?”, Billy Boyd calling Dominic Mongahan (Merry) during his panel was hilarious as expected. William Kircher telling us stories of Aidan Turner (Kili) stealing his hammer in one scene and so for revenge stealing some of his boxer shorts – (which he brought on stage), John Callen (Ori) showing us a lot of behind the scenes photos complete with stories. Lastly Mark Hadlow (Dori) reciting one of Shakespeare’s sonnets beautifully.
The closing ceremony felt like a goodbye to family, to all the friends from round the world that we’d made and was somewhat ritualistic. The dwarf actors sung ‘Misty Mountains’ which got a few tears flowing, but it was Billy Boyd singing, ‘The Last Goodbye’ that had us all weeping in the aisles and swaying glow sticks in unison.
All I can really say at the end is that I am so glad an event like this exists. It proves to me the strength and importance of fandoms, how it can help those who are lonely find friendships all across the world and others to overcome anxiety, depression etc. I had a rather emotional conversation with both Billy and John Callen on this point! It gives me hope for the future knowing there are such lovely individuals out there brought together by a mutual geeky love of Tolkien. I was touched by the kindness and patience of the actors as well as other fans and it’s truly I weekend I’ll never forget.
Sadly this will be the last HobbitCon, however it is understandable why, and it is often good to quit before you are ahead! And while RingCon (the Lord of The Rings convention) lasted longer, Mark admitted that towards the end it became about multiple fantasy fandoms, some of which didn’t fit with the world of Tolkien.
There was a happy announcement though, that next year they will return with MagicCon, bringing RingCon & HobbitCon together, along with other similar fantasy fandoms.
MagicCon will be held in the Maritim Bonn from 21st-23rd April 2017 and will have the same set-up as HobbitCon.
There isn’t yet a website for the event, but for more information on this year’s HobbitCon visit: http://www.hobbitcon.de/en/