Sunday, 20 September 2015

Review: Auto Assembly 2015

In the beginning there were 31. In the end there were over 1000.

This is how Europe's largest Transformers convention has grown over the past 15 years. And now it's all over.

The think that you come away with from Auto Assembly isn't a big bag full of plastic (though that may happen too) it is, strange as it may seem, a renewed faith in humanity. Honestly! I'm not making some bizarre joke. The people at AA are some of the nicest you could hope to encounter. All the attendees, the volunteers, the dealers, the guests... Absolutely everyone is simply a fab human being. Yes, everyone there might be considered a bit odd by a large percentage of the population due to having an interest in a children's toy line, but then aren't we all a bit odd in one way or another? And if being a bit odd means that means that you can start up an interesting conversation to the complete stranger next to you while standing in a queue for a long time (Nick Roche!) then I welcome this Oddity.

The guests, whilst booked for their Transformers links, are simply great people to listen and talk to. I don't know how the AA organisers manage, year after year, to find people who worked on Transformers over the years who are also damn decent examples of humanity, but they do.

Special shout-outs go to Sumalee Montano and Peter Spellos. Sumalee described how she gave up her well-paid job in investment banking due to its soul-sucking nature to become an actress. Not an easy decision, I imagine, and a pretty inspiring tale of following your dreams. Did Transformers come up during her panel? Sure. Was it in any way the focus? Nope.

I'll also use Sumalee as an example of how nice the attendees were. Due to doing a bunch of other stuff, I only got around to seeing her right at the very end of the convention. The queue was...well, it was less a queue, definitely not a line, and more of a huddle of people but everyone waited in turn, no one pushed, no one was impatient and everyone was just plain polite.

Peter Spellos, the shark who made his first appearance at AA last year and was such a thoroughly great bloke that the fans rallied and organised for him to come back again. I have never known of a guest who loved being at a convention so much and whom attendees loved having there. His panel, which was essentially absent of all Transformers, was filled with inspirational life advice. I kid you not that almost every other sentence from his mouth was greeted with applause. I had a brief chat with him during the day and, despite having over 1,700 friends on FB, he knew I was one of them. I sadly didn't get to sit with him in the bar in the evening, but I hear his tales there were even more amazing. Truly a great guy.

The guest-attendee interaction is especially high at AA. It's a big plus that there aren't any charges for autographs, which means asking for a signature just gives an opening for you to have a chat. Of course there are sketches or scripts etc to buy but you never feel under any pressure to buy them if you don't want to.

I had originally meant to go into discussion of the things I did at AA that weekend, more of the details of the panels, what I bought from the dealers and more, but it seems inappropriate from this little review. AA meant a lot to many people. A place where 1000 people came together because they liked a fictional group of robots and found that all the other people who liked these robots were a darn good group of people. Good bye, AA, it's been a blast.

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