Over the weekend of the 10th – 12th June 2016 I attended The Ultimates convention in Blackpool. Along with my friends Dominique and Jon we met stars from Gotham, Arrow, Agents of S.H.I.E.LD and Agent Carter. As you know I’m a big comic book fan and after City of Heroes; this was going to be another chance to “geek out” over some of my favourite TV shows.
The guests included Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter), Robin Lord Taylor (Gotham), Brett Dalton (Agents of S.H.I.E.LD , Bridget Regan (Agent Carter) and many more….
The Ultimates was run by Starfury and this was my third time attending one of their events. I had previously been to two Vampire Balls. I knew what to expect from one of their events however, this time Dominique and I would be attending as gold ticket holders so that would be something new to experience.
Before I talk about the event let me first discuss the venue. The event was held at the Norbreck Castle Hotel along the seafront in Blackpool. I can imagine that in the hotels “hey day” it was an incredible place to see and stay in but time has not been kind to the Norbreck. The hotel is in need of renovation, it is outdated and apparently some of the rooms were in a bad state. The room Dominique and I stayed in had filthy windows, the bathroom wasn’t great, and parts of the hotel were in disrepair. Along our corridor there was a ceiling tile missing and there was a leak so the carpet was quite soaked. I have to question how the rooms are cleaned with fresh towels and bed sheets simply dumped on the floor until the staff appear to attend to the rooms. The hotel staff however, were friendly and very helpful which softened some of the disappointment we had with the venue but not by much.
I should say however, for the event itself the hotel was ideally suited for The Ultimates. The hotel is a large complex and there were enough large rooms to house the autographs, the photo shoots and the panels as well as enough areas for us to relax, catch up with our friends and of course party. I can see why Starfury would use this venue and why they would continue to.
The event began Friday afternoon with Matt Ryan from Constantine signing autographs and then in the evening was the opening ceremony. Part of the gold ticket package is a meet and greet with all the guests which takes place just before the Friday night party. I was really excited about this part of the event especially with Hayley Atwell in attendance however, due to arriving late it was felt that Hayley should rest so did not attend the meet and greet. I am not going to lie; I was so disappointed that Hayley couldn’t make it. Apart from a talk and signing two autographs I didn’t have any other interactions with Hayley over the weekend.
The meet and greet was still a really enjoyable experience. Over the course of a couple of hours each guest came over, spoke to us for a few minutes and then moved onto the next table. Robin Lord Taylor, Dichen Lachman, Paul Blackthorne and Bridget Regan really stood out for me and for Dominique, Manu Bennett and Robin Lord Taylor were her favourites. I would definitely want to go gold for the meet and greet again if it meant seeing some of the stars from my favourite shows.
Over the weekend there were three parties, one on each night. We only attended the Saturday night party but to be honest, the parties are pretty much the same every night (and every event) with the traditional convention songs played at the same time each night. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that but personally it would be nice to do something different. On the Saturday, Dominique, Jon and I explored Blackpool. We visited some of the local sites including two of the three piers and found out where the Star Trek Exhibition was going to be held later this month. The parties are a big part of the weekend and for the convention / Starfury community it was nice seeing those attending having so much fun.
Saturday and Sunday involved collecting our autographs and for Jon and Dominique; photo shoots as well. For this event I believe the process was changed for autographs due to the number of attendees but I’m hoping lessons will be learned for next time. My frustrations did show at the weekend over how the autographs were handled and at times it did seem being gold meant nothing but by the end of the weekend everyone had been able to collect all their autographs. There were some questionable decisions involved with the Enver Gjokaj and Bridget Regan queues on Sunday which defied all logic but thanks to some quick thinking from the steward’s matters were soon resolved. Something I think also needs to be looked at is how the steward’s pick up their autographs. They do a great job and while collecting their autographs it’s okay they jump the front of the queue but when five come all at once, then I think a better system is needed. Why can’t they collect them before the session begins?
Taking out the processes, hotels and queues it was really great meeting these wonderful actors. Those who stood out for me were Hayley Atwell, Robin Lord Taylor, Drew Powell and Camren Bicondova. Each were really funny in their perspective talks and you can see how much they enjoy playing their characters but also how much they love interacting with the fans. For Camren it was her first time in the UK and she loved every minute of it, she spoke of her love of English tea and how seeing fans Cosplay as her Catwoman was fun to see and rewarding. I met Dichen Lachman for the first time and I have to say I was slightly smitten by her; Dichen was funny, so down to earth and was a pleasure to speak to on the Saturday evening.
As well as meeting all the guests it was nice to catch up with some familiar friends from the convention circuit. A few beers were had, quite a lot of fish and chips and so many laughs over the course of the weekend. I really do enjoy the weekend events compared to the signing events since you have more time to meet the guests, spend time with your friends and make something special out of the weekend.
Overall I had a really good time at Ultimate’s, it was great spending time with Dominique and Jon and meeting some wonderful stars. As I mentioned I was slightly disappointed with the way the autographs were organised and at times it felt that being gold meant nothing but I’m looking forward to the possibility of coming back next year if the guests are right. Having gone gold I would try to do so again depending upon my budget but I would hope that the benefits of being gold are worth it. Of course if Hayley returns you can expect me to be right behind her on the way to Blackpool….