Sci-Fi Weekender: Back to the Future

March is usually the time for Sci-Fi Weekender: a weekend long, stay-over-and-party Comic Con that’s full of entertainment. From special guests, interviews, signings, screenings, games and all manner of live entertainment, this event has always been a fantastic, full-on experience for all your geeky desires.

Sadly, the Covid pandemic exterminated the event this year. It should have been taking place this last weekend. It’s a real blow, as Sci-Fi Weekender offers just the kind of escapism that we need right now.

Have no fear, however: I’ve used my Indiana Jones-like archaeological skills to rediscover some long lost photos from the past.

Cosplay is always a big deal at SFW. All manner of glorious, gruesome, magnificent and marvellous costumes can be seen on display, worn by some of the coolest and most down-to-earth people you’ll be likely to meet this side of Tosche Station.

Thanks to my old pal Darf Dork (that’s Adam G, to you), I’m able to present some photos from the past that will bring back some fond memories. These pics are all Adam’s work – he’s been kind enough to thaw them out of carbonite for your enjoyment.

Hope in my Virtual Hot Tub Time Machine and let’s go back to SFW past. Hope you enjoy the photos. And keep dreaming: one day Sci-Fi Weekender will return…

Sci Fi Weekender 2018 – Part 1

Sci Fi Weekender 23th – 24th March 2018

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

2017 saw my intrepid crew and I sucked into a black hole, from which we were very lucky to escape.  Following numerous trials and tribulations within the void, we emerged eventually into a bizarre parallel dimension.  This strange new plane was warped beyond any fathomable reason; the UK was no longer in Europe and Donald Trump was President.

I know – unbelievable, right?  I was expecting apes to be in charge maybe, but not Trump.

Utilising all the skill and resource we could muster, we managed to reverse thrusters and reset our course for Pwllheli, North Wales, for Sci Fi Weekender.  The crew had missed one event, but in 2018 we would return.

The engines groaned and strained, but we were back on track.  We arrived at our destination and set up camp in our static exploration cabin.

Scouts across the galaxy had informed us that this was the ninth cycle of Sci Fi Weekender.  SFW9 would be full of the usual entertainments: VIP signings; Q&A panels; cosplay; films; games; live music and other acts.

Throw in a few decidedly lethal Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters and there would, indeed, be exceptional joviality.

Alas, many VIP guests had apparently missed their trasport shuttles to reach us.  Caught in the same black hole as we had been, perhaps?  This was a bit of a blow, as I was particularly looking forward to hearing from Hugh Quarshie of Highlander (and others) fame.

Never mind, “There can be only one” – and that guest was the deviilishly delectable Emily Booth, actress and Horror Channel star.  Ms Booth’s Q&A was the first event I witnessed of the weekend and she was great.  Although the interview amounted to just a run through of her IMDB credits, Emily came across very well as both a cult star and confirmed fan.  I even asked a question myself, which is a SFW first for me!

The interview did get a bit saucy at times, but the audience was well warned in advance what to expect.  To be honest, I’d love to see much more of Emily Booth’s talents.  By which I mean, of course, more of the various movies she has starred in.  Of course.

It was then time to lurk about and peruse the merchandise stalls.  There were many more this year than I’ve seen previously.  Excellent news for me, bad news for my galactic credit balance.  I did get some rad stuff though.

This was also a great time to start taking some photos.  Armed with three cameras this year (!), I took quite a few pictures but as always missed so many great cosplayers.  There were dozens that I glimpsed briefly but lost in the crowd, never to be seen again.

It was like when I watched the Cantina scene in Star Wars when I was a kid, before we had a VHS player (yes, I’m THAT old).  An amazing creation was spotted only briefly, to be replaced by yet another, and I had no rewind function.

As you can probably imagine, Friday evening was somewhat of a blur.  I do remember a couple of things that must be mentioned though.

Professor Elemental was an absolute joy to behold, as always.  The Prof dropped tongue twisting chap-hop rhymes over DJ Nick Maxwell’s funky beats.  He expertly rallied the troops and took us on a tea stained tour of the British Empire.  It was brilliantly engaging stuff, with the Professor uniting all the tribes of geekdom in a pulsating party of steampunk excitement.

Darth Elvis & the Imperials performed what I consider the best set I’ve seen them deliver, despite it being cut short.  There were favourites old and new, including “Burning Sith” and a raging cover of the Beastie Boys classic, “Sabotage” – reworked in honour of Kylo Ren.  I was down the front for a fair part of the set and I loved every second.

This band never get old.  May they live as long as Master Yoda and forever be as musically talented at Max Rebo.  Sheer fun from beginning to end!

The evening ended with some spectacular Cosplay Karaoke, which I would’ve loved to have a go of!  No idea who the winner was, all the entrants were winners in my eyes!

Day one at SFW9 was truly stellar.  My only complaint was too much Welsh bashing from several presenters over the course of events.  In this day and age that’s a bit poor.

However Sci Fi Weekender is a success because of the people.  The camaraderie amongst attendees is the true strength, regardless of what VIP interview guests are there or not.  It’s a real pleasure to catch up with old faces – and meet some new ones – in a friendly, welcoming environment like this.

That’ll do for Part One.  Beam me up!

In Part 2: we lose a red shirt, and more pics.  Stay tuned!

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #11

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

The Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 24th February 2017

It’s the first Bring Your Own Vinyl Night of the year!  It was great to be back in the Queen’s Head in Mold for another Vinyl Night, and nice to see all the familiar faces after the Christmas break.

Most of all, it was great to have a few pints and hear some great music, old and new.

To recap how this works (though I’m sure you know by now): everyone gets 15 minutes to play whatever music they like, so long as it’s on vinyl.

Here’s my playlist for the evening:

Professor Elemental – I’m British

For my first song of the set, I craved something a little different. So I decided on a track from Professor Elemental, a gentleman of some repute who is known to fashion extraordinary “chap hop” tunes.  That is, steam punk hip-hop (sort of).  I’ve seen the good Professor live a couple of times (at Sci-Fi Weekender) and was astonished at this marvellous mash-up from the get go.  A few months back I tracked down some vinyl via the Prof’s Bandcamp page; lo and behold it was a sonic delight.  Lively beats and unusual samples – more brass band than James Brown – meld with humorous, uniquely British rap topics to create a wonderful new hybrid.  This track was the perfect primer for the uninitiated, but it’s all good.  Get over to the Professor’s Bandcamp now, you won’t regret it.  And catch him live if you can!

B-52s – Planet Claire

Next up in my musical feast was a fine little song from those lovable, quirky scamps the B-52s.  “Planet Claire” is a perfect slice of sci-fi flavoured rock’n’roll, straight out of a B-movie and into your brain like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  I love it.  This version is from the B side of the “Rock Lobster” 12″ single, which I was lucky enough to pick up at a record fair not long ago.

Thee Hypnotics – Come Down Heavy

In the late 80’s/early 90’s, just before Nirvana changed the world with “Nevermind”, I had discovered the Stooges via punk rock bands like the Damned and the Sex Pistols.  At the same time, there were bands coming out of the USA – such as Mudhoney – that utilised a very Stooges-like sound: fuzzed up guitars, wah wah pedals and so on.  Thee Hypnotics were a British garage band that followed a similar blueprint.  Though largely forgotten about now, they’re a fantastic historical anomaly and pre-cursor to the alt rock explosion of the early 90’s.  “Come Down Heavy” is from the album of the same name.  It seemed very popular on the night – highly recommended.

Iggy Pop – Cold Metal

I bought the Thee Hypnotics album from a Connah’s Quay record fair around 1990.  I also picked up Iggy Pop’s “Instinct” album at the same fair, as I’d heard the track “Cold Metal” on a Sounds sampler EP that a friend gave me.  I love – and still love – the amazing guitar riff.  I was instantly smitten; not just the riff but the incredible gritty yet finely produced guitar tone – courtesy of the one and only Steve Jones.  “Instinct” is a superb album – Iggy’s explored lots of sounds, but I do like it when he rocks out unashamedly.  A highlight of a varied and inspirational career.

And that was the end of the set – hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did!  Looking forward to the next Bring Your Own Vinyl Night – it can never come too soon.

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

The VOD music website is here.

Sci Fi Weekender 2016 – part 2

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Phoenix

Sci Fi Weekender 17th – 20th March 2016

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Day 2 at SFW, and again it’s all a blur.  I recall it was a lazy start to the day for me, breakfast and chilling in the caravan.  Kurt was feeling better, but Greeny was starting to suffer with the illness.  It would be mostly be another day of watching Star Trek, Big Bang Theory and Top Gear for those two.

Adam had got up early and made it to see a showing of a new independent film called Pandorica.  Classed as an action-horror, reports about the film were very enthusiastic.  The Q&A with Director and cast was my first event of the day – it was interesting although I’d not seen the film!  Definitely one to keep and eye out for: word of mouth was very positive.

The highlight of the afternoon was, undoubtedly, an appearance by the incomparable Brian Blessed.  Larger than life and twice as loud, Blessed’s sci-fi credentials are suitably top notch.  A life long fan of science fiction, as well in starring in numerous genre pieces – you may have heard of Flash Gordon – his enthusiasm was both apparent and infectious.

Professor Elemental hosted the Q&A with Brian Blessed, who wisely let the great man get on and tell his tales!  A solid job from the Professor – a daunting task well executed.

Blessed’s talk ranged from his acting work to his many explorations and mountaineering adventures.  His recollections of the Flash Gordon movie, and it’s well deserved appreciation by audiences the world over, were affectionately told.  An unmissable audience with a real living legend.

In the afternoon I took some photos and looked around the stalls again.  Unfortunately, this years SFW again clashed with MCM Memorabilia in Birmingham, so genre based merchandise was thin on the ground.  I picked up some cool Elvira cocktail glasses though!

A good feature this year was the retro gaming section, where numerous old consoles could be played for free.  This was very popular, and although I don’t play video games it meant I always knew where to find my crew if we split up.  They were always playing games…

Every year at SFW, the Cosplay final is something to behold.  There’s always a sense of excitement in the air, as the costumed competitors take the stage.  And every year, the audience and competitors are enthusiastic and good natured.  Everyone cheers for each other, and there’s a real sense of community.  It’s nice to witness all the attendees rooting for each other; even though there will always be favourites, there is no bitterness.

The costumes were exceptional, as you can see (hopefully) from the photos here.  Not everyone entered the competition, but there were so many great costumes whether they were entering or just dressing up for fun.  Massive respect to everyone.

I find it great fun spotting and naming the characters.  The variety and imagination on show is consistently astounding, not to mention the talent that goes into making the costumes.  So again, thanks to all the Cosplayers for letting me take your photos.  Too many of my pics didn’t work out.  I also missed far too may opportunities.  But I hope that the photos here capture some of the creativity I witnessed.

And I sincerely apologise for not dressing up!  I lost count of the number of people who chastised me (with good humour, of course) for not dressing as Tony Stark…

Anyway, there can only be one winner of the Cosplay final, and that was the Robot Overlord fellow.  I can’t remember the character’s name, but I swear it was truly incredible!

Later on in the evening, I zoomed over to the Prog Rock area to catch some music.  I was very happy to catch the Focus set; the song “Hocus Pocus” was an obvious highlight.  I only saw a couple of songs by Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull fame) – though they were impressive – before heading back to the spaceport.

For the rest of the evening, my compadre, Ste and myself had a few beers and hung around with various SFW attendees.  We saw some old pals and met a few new ones.  I took more photos – including the now traditional “no photos” social media-proof shades pics.  And we managed to stay up partying till after 2 in the morning!

Not such a good thing going home Sunday…

Still, another great time at Sci Fi Weekender.  And yes, Greeny and Kurt got better, thanks for asking.

If you were there, it was good to see you.  Hopefully we’ll see you next year.

And big thanks to Adam, who organised the whole thing for us!

The Sci Fi Weekender site is here.

The HRH Prog site is here.

PS: There are photos left unpublished, so there will be Bonus Scenes in a few weeks.  Be warned!

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Cosplay winner!

Sci Fi Weekender 2016 – part 1

IMG_20160318_114228066Sci Fi Weekender 17th – 20th March 2016

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

Wow.  This year’s Sci Fi Weekender was a blur – it went faster than light speed.  All the usual geekery was in full swing, though I’ll be gosh darned if I can remember everything and what order it happened in.  Too much blue milk?

Never mind, I have numerous photos of the weekend to share; to help report on this cosmic adventure.  Except that didn’t go to plan this year.   My trusty Canon was on the blink, so I resorted to a little digital snapper and my phone.

Not ideal, but sometimes you have to compromise.

So what is Sci Fi Weekender?  For the unititiated, it’s a weekend of events and special guests, all held on site at the Hafan Y Mor holiday park in Pwllheli, North Wales.  Think Comic Con but at a holiday camp and with a party atmosphere.  All manner of interview panels, Q&As, games, and musical entertainment are part of the festivities.

Plus a prog rock festival – HRH Prog – was also being held on the same weekend.  Not a massive tie in with science fiction you may think (at least not without Hawkwind playing).  However it gave additional entertainment for those with musical interests.

Our weekend began with four of us – Adam, Greeny, Kurt and myself – driving from our corner of north east Wales to the north west.  On the way we popped into Cob records in Porthmadog to feed our vinyl addition.  Then we settled into our caravan home from home – complete with haul of supplies from the local ASDA – and planned our DVD watching schedule for the night.

Unfortunately the DVD player wasn’t working, and without tickets for the Thursday evening SFW party, we were stuck.  Rather than watch TV, we went for a pint in the onsite pub.  We then popped in to see what the prog rock was all about.  We didn’t think we would get in, but it was no problem.  As a result we were able to see Third Quadrant (quite good) and the excellent Crazy World of Arthur Brown.  Arthur is over seventy years old and jumps around on stage like a nutter.  Highly entertaining and some great tunes.

Friday began with the bad news that Kurt was ill.  He’s only 16 so booze wasn’t the issue.  As a result, Kurt and his dad Greeny were pretty much out of the running for the day.  They watched TV and chilled.  Plus Ste, our remaining member, had burst the inflatable camp bed by leaving it too close to the fire.  He suffered a bad night’s sleep on the sofa as a result.

The rest of us headed over to the arena and started checking things out.  I took a few photos and looked round the stalls.  We caught a Cosplay panel with Tabitha from Artyfakes that was very interesting, with extremely impressive Space Marine costumes and hints and tips about the hobby.  I bottled asking my question though, which was “How do you go for a wee?”.

I also watched an interview panel of comic book artists.  The panel consisted of 2000AD greats such as Glenn Fabry, William Simpson, Clint Langley and Simon Davis.  Hosted by Dez Skinn, the panel was informative and also amusing; it seems some of the assembled masters had been on the pop?  Either way, these guys were like rock stars to me when I was a young 2000AD fan, so it was pretty cool.

The vibe around the arena was good natured as always.  I took some cool photos (thanks everyone) and despite our numbers being depleted, we had a good afternoon.

After a delightful pizza from the onsite Papa John’s (it was great!); we were ready for the evening’s entertainment.  I’m afraid to say that the Imaginarium and magicians weren’t really my thing this year.  It’s difficult to dig the magic when you can’t see it up close.

The highlight was the one and only Professor Elemental, steam punk hip hop pioneer.  His smooth raps mixed with groovy beats like a well tuned gin and tonic.   A pleasure to witness, as always.

At the end of the night, I teleported across the site to see the end of the set by Caravan.  Not only a very apt band to be playing, they were actually pretty good.  The Soft Machine were on last with a more jazz orientated approach.  All very impressive and I’m glad I got to see something different.

I’m ashamed to say that we all ended up crashing out early on Friday night.  Illness and lack of sleep took it’s toll.  I was last man standing, going to bed at 11.30pm.  Pathetic, I know.

In Part 2: Brian Blessed, the Cosplay final, more Prog Rock…

PLUS: will we be able to stay up late?

Stay tuned to this frequency…

The Sci Fi Weekender site is here.

You really should check out Professor Elemental.  His website is here, plus he’s on that Twitter and stuff too.

Sci-Fi Weekender part 1

Sci-Fi Weekender 28th – 30th March 2014

Hafan Y Mor Holiday Park, Pwllheli

I’ve been to a few all day events, such as Memorabilia at Birmingham NEC , but nothing like this.  The Sci-Fi Weekender is basically a convention over several days, held at a holiday park in North Wales.  There are guest speakers, merchandise, film showings and entertainment – all in one location.

My friend Glyn had won tickets for the event, but sadly was unable to go.  So he donated the tickets – and accommodation – to yours truly.  A total gent.  My comrades Adam, Greeny, and Kurt – plus Platinum Al – thus made the trip to check out what was going on.

This is part one of the adventure.

Our party left late on the Friday, due to work commitments.  With additional traffic problems on the A Double 5, when we arrived it was already dark.  No matter – the four of us found our chalet, dumped the luggage and went exploring.

Festivities were already well under way.  There was plenty of beer available, and many merry (though friendly) sci-fi types in various states of refreshment.  Several were dressed as characters from film, TV, books and comics; presenting a fantastic menagerie of fantasy figures.

Entertainment on the first night began for me with Professor Elemental.  The Professor is a purveyor of fine steampunk rap, apparently known as “chap-hop”.  Wearing pith helmet and rapping about tea and the British Empire, I found his act captivating and funny in equal measure.  Weaving funky beats out of old brass band music is no mean feat but the Prof raised the roof.  Catch him if you can, I promise a night you won’t forget!

Next up were Darth Elvis and the Imperials.  Yes, a Star Wars themed Elvis tribute act.  What more could anyone want?  Sheer magic.  Their songs consisted of Star Wars re-workings of Elvis hits, plus a groovy rendition of that Rebo Band classic, Lapti Nek.  Now there’s a song I never thought I’d ever hear played live.  The spectacle of numerous Star Wars characters rocking out together on stage was something to behold.  This band should be intergalactic!

That was about it for us, as we headed off to get some rest for Day 2.  Attica Rage played us out; would’ve loved to stay but we were wrecked.

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Gordons Alive!

You’ll see many pictures here of those who attended, wearing all sorts of wonderful costumes.  The hard work and imagination that went into these outfits is really exceptional. Plus, everyone was really happy to have their photo taken; there was a great fun atmosphere at the event. I’ll post more photos in the next instalment.  Please remember however – I am not a professional photographer!  The lighting was not always very good and everything was always a bit rushed….

Part 2 soon!

Visit the Sci-Fi Weekender website here.