TitanCon first of its name, first of its kind
Due to loading times only a few of the total 79 photographs I took at the TitanCon 2011 are shown below. Chose from the sub galleries below to see more photographs. Clicking on any of the shown thumbs gets you to the respective subgallery.
Belfast (Northern Ireland), September 23 - 25, 2011
Peadar Ó Guilín
Funny how life sometimes runs in circles, when I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones it felt awfully familiar but I could not put my finger into the why. A search through my book shelves brought the conclusion. In 1996, when I travelled to the USA I had bought the very first book of George R.R. Martin's fantasy series, had read it, loved it and all forgotten about it. Shame on me!
Thus I am the proud owner of one of the first issues, which stirred quite a commotion at the convention. Will Simpson instantly wanted to know about who had done the cover work. The paperback book's cover shows very prominently Jon Snow with Longclaw and was done by Stephen Youll. Needless to say that I of course kindled (as in Kindle reader not as in burning) up on the rest of the available series and read them in no time, loving them and not understanding how I could have forgotten.
Equally impressed I am with what the makers of the TV series have done with the first book. They not only are close as possible to what the book tells but it is this formidable cast and the way the story is put into imagery that fascinates me. And the love to detail in the opening credits alone shows that the makers love the story as much as the fans do not to mention the score.
The journey to Belfast
When a friend of mine pointed out a link to the TitanCon's website, it was not a matter whether I should attend. Hell, they offered a bus trip to locations. Being the landscape and fantasy nerd that I am, I simply booked my ticket and a room at the Hotel Europa in Belfast. A wise choice, because TitanCon should become one of the most intimate and loveable conventions I have ever been to.
One obstacle had still to be overcome: How to get to Belfast without spending the amount of money that would get me otherwise half around the globe and not to have connection waiting times of five hours and more.
As my friend opted for flying in via London Heathrow on Saturday, I took a cheap flight to Dublin and rented a car for Friday morning, Game of Thrones house banners, my friend had made for the convention in the luggage, ready to be delivered in time. I had planned it so well. There was enough time to simply drive up to Belfast via the coastal route, to see a little bit of the landscape, take a few photographs and still be in time for the planned Belfast city walk the TitanCon organisers had offered.
Well, plan and reality sometimes don't match. My flight was delayed by two hours and thus I only arrived at 1pm at the Dublin airport. Getting the rental car became also an adventure in itself. The Dublin airport has grown a lot since I had been there in 2006 and where the rental car companies were before, they had now moved to a business park outside the airport. To figure that out cost me another two hours. First I followed the rental car signs only to be left with no more signs and no rental car park. Then I asked my way through until I found this one lovely guy from Scotland who told me where to find the bus that would get me to my car.
I arrived at the bus island just in time to see the back of my Budget bus turning around a corner, damn. The Avis bus came and went, the Hertz bus came and went, the Europcar bus came and went - and no sign of the Budget bus. Okay, I tried to get into one of the other buses, to no avail. No car rented from that company, no bus ride. I was charming, then ready to dance, to sing, to entertain, to pay money, to behead. Nothing worked. Then finally the Budget bus returned. Hallelujah!
At exactly 15:10 I got my car: A Nissan which front looked like a beetle, seriously? Well, it had four tires and a steering wheel and a clutch that was so worn out that I thought I didn't put the gear in the right way when I started the car, but yes, it moved eventually.
From there it was easy to find M1 up north. Two hours left to get to Belfast in time. So I did what a German driver is used to do - drive - very fast, well as fast as a fully pushed throttle would do for the Nissan. Not that I thought when caught I could get away with the German fast driving excuse as it works so well in other parts of the world and luckily I did not enter a radar trap. Side note: Watch the Lorries. When they break without apparent reason there is either a radar trap somewhere close by or the driver has fallen asleep. In both cases breaking is always a good idea.
Now it was only a matter of finding the hotel without getting lost (what do you mean GPS? I'm old school - trial and error, a sense of direction, intuition and a road map lying on my bed way back in Germany). My mantra was to stay on the road until a sign Belfast city centre or similar would pop up. Just when I thought I had already passed Belfast said sign showed and miraculously that exit eventually lead directly to the road where the hotel was in. Yes! TitanCon here I come.
Friday Night - Culture Night
I hurried into the Hotel Europa and right at the entrance Phil, I had promised to give the banners to, and a bunch of organisers sat. I did the registration, threw them a bag of Haribos to calm down frazzled nerves and handed over the Game of Thrones banners. First mission accomplished. Having thought I would miss the city walk I learnt that the second walk was delayed and thus I hurried to check into the hotel, get to my room, threw the luggage inside and hurried back down. The lovely Hotel Europa personnel also offered to park my car in a parking garage since it was still standing right in the middle of the Hotel Europa's drop off area blocking the way for other cars. Perfect!
Our Belfast city walk group was a small one and I warned our fearless guide that if I asked too many questions he should simply tell me to shut it. I know I can easily go on people's nerves. I want to know about anything and everything. Thus we learnt about the Titans surrounding Belfast and where they came from, a bit about the city's history and hit various locations on our way to the McHughs Bar where Ian McDonald, Peadar Ó Guilín and T.A. Moore would do their readings.
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Now McHughs Bar was by far not the only pub / bar that held events. Culture Night is not a TitanCon invention. It is foremost giving local artists the opportunity to present their work. So you find readings, music & exhibitions while you walk from bar to bar. In Cologne we have for example the Night of the Museums, a similar cultural event. With over 150 events going on at Culture Night Belfast there was something for every taste.
Upon arrival I had a hard time to choose what to drink. None of the makes I knew so I simply asked the barman what he liked and that I took, despite his fear I might not like his taste. No worry there, Magners Pear & Ginger, was a perfect choice. By the way people, what a lovely, open, nice, friendly and warm bunch they are in Belfast. No matter where I asked or went, let it be to find my way or getting help with a malfunctioning lighter. Anyone knowing me knows that I am a massive Scotland fan and I never thought I would meet similar nice people but hey Scots you've got stiff competition now.
Ian McDonald was first to do his reading and I had to laugh inwardly (outwardly would have been way too embarrassing) because he read an excerpt of his new book Planesrunner from a smart phone. Seriously, how he managed is a riddle to me because I would have been blind after two paragraphs.
Next up was Peadar Ó Guilín and he pre-warned repeatedly that his stories were not for the faint heart, they were dark and depressing. Dark and depressing - great! Bring it on. I like dark stories.
After Peadar I called it quits. The journey and the early getting up were taking its toll and thus I strolled slowly back to the Hotel Europa to be fit for Saturday.
Saturday - Panels, Autographs, Photo Group Shot Day
After breakfast I headed back to my room to throw myself into the right Game of Thrones garb - namely a medieval dress plus the appropriate shoes only to learn that I was the only one in costume at that time. Okay?! My initial nervousness went away when meeting the other attendees. WoW (that is World of Warcraft) players (myself included), gamers and geeks of the fantasy genre and I felt being at home. I might not look it and I probably was one of the oldest fans attending but as once an elderly Scottish lady told me: "You like fantasy - you never grow old". Too true!
The dealer's hall had a little stage and booths scattered across the room, which was decorated with the banners my friend made, now hanging from the ceiling. Kudos to whoever climbed up there. One of the jewellery dealers fell in love with one of the banners so much that he wanted to pay for it. Now my friend was only due to arrive around afternoon and I promised him to drag her to his booth. I was fairly certain she would give him the banner.
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After my first intensive stroll around the dealers' room the first panel with guests Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Miltos Yerolemou (Syrio Forel), Kristian Nairn (Hodor), Art Parkinson (Rickon Stark) and William (Will) Simpson (storyboard artist) was about to start. There was no pushing or shoving as it happens at other conventions. In fact people did not even want to sit in the first row in which I eventually ended up.
Peadar Ó Guilín took over the role as moderator making the guests and the fans used to the Q & A session. As a rule the questions and answers had to be spoiler free since the fans were a mixed bunch of book readers and TV series watchers only. So naturally the book readers had a lot more of information about what's going to happen in the next season.
Peadar did an awesome job in keeping the discussion going and asked questions of his own namely how hard it was for Sophie to play an unpopular character and then to proceed with "now to the popular one" and asking Maisie a question. It struck a chord with me when Sophie answered she had many fans coming up to her telling her that they hate the character she plays.
All too quickly the panel was over and I headed back downstairs to the dealer's room where shortly Water Dancing Live with Syrio Forel aka Miltos Yerolemou should take place - a public lesson in how to wield a sword and most importantly how to not.
Did my report wet your appetite?
Why not hop over to the TicanCon's website
and secure your ticket for 2012.
In 2012 I'll do a more sophisticated journey to Belfast. I'll fly via Manchester to Belfast, rent a car and discover Northern Ireland in depth and then attend TitanCon 2012.
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Premiere