On Friday 12th June the Andercon convention had its opening night at the Phoenix independent cinema in Leicester. As a long time Gerry Anderson fan – I was practically hand reared on many of the shows – I had to go and check it out. I was originally planning on attending the event on Saturday or Sunday, but I found the price of £45 per day a little out of my reach so I opted for the opening night instead which was £12.
Ticket collection for the event was at the Athena (where the main convention was held) so we wandered up in the pouring rain at about 6pm to grab the tickets. The convention was still being set up, but I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Scott Tracy in Thunderbird 1 as I arrived. Our timing was absolutely perfect as whilst we were waiting to get our tickets some of the guests for the convention were arriving and I ended up standing right next to Shane Rimmer (who voices my first love, Scott Tracy) which was an awesome moment. He is a real gentleman, by the way!
Arriving at the Phoenix (still in the pouring rain) we had a little while to wait whilst the venue was set up for the 7:30pm start. The Phoenix is a nice venue and I attended the “Hammer has risen from the grave” event there a few years ago, so I think the organizers made a good choice.
Shortly after the guests arrived, with several of them being kind enough to pause for photos, we were ushered in to cinema screen 2 for the kick off. Jamie Anderson provided a lively introduction to the event and you could really sense his enthusiasm for the work of his father. Without much ado, events moved quickly into the Tracy Brothers Reunion panel which featured Shane Rimmer (Scott), Matt Zimmerman (Alan), David Graham (Gordon) and Jeremy Wilkin (one of the actors to voice Virgil).
Hosted by Marcus Hearn, the panel was a very lively event which all involved seemed to enjoy. The panel members had a great sense of humor and it was almost surreal to hear the voices of much loved characters outside of a DVD or tape. Matt Zimmerman in particular was an absolute riot and had the audience laughing uproariously for most of the panel time. It was interesting to hear their insights and they all seemed to have a great love for the show they helped create. David Graham also provided the voice of Parker and he was kind enough to give us a few words in that voice at the request of an audience member.
After the panel was over, there was a big screen showing of the satarical “Nosey Parker is Go” short which was created by Jeff Smart. It was the first time I had seen this short and really if you know Thunderbirds at all you need to go and look it up immediately – I laughed so hard I nearly departed my seat. It is available on Youtube here.
After we had all recovered our seats from rolling around on the floor laughing it was time for something a little more serious – a look at the life of Gerry Anderson’s brother Lionel, who had an enormous influence on his little brother and inspired Thunderbirds.
Presented by Sean Feast who has written a book on Lionel Anderson this talk dealt with the life of Lionel, focussing on his time serving in the RAF. It covered his training in Arizona, discussed the aircraft he flew and sensitively dealt with his disappearance, and the effect this had on Gerry. I’m not much of a history buff (I leave that to Ben!) but I still found the talk to be engaging and interesting. Sean did a fantastic job on the presentation and it was clear that he had not only a vast amount of knowledge, but also an infectious passion for the subject.
Moving smoothly on, there was an interesting discussion between Marcus Hearn and Jamie Anderson discussing how the work of Gerry Anderson was pioneering. A few technical terms were flung about, but they were all explained in simply so I had no trouble following along. Whilst I knew that making the shows was difficult, I didn’t appreciate how much effort and expense they really entailed, and the large part that Lew Grade played in ensuring that Gerry had the funding and backing he needed. There was also a more philosophical discussion of what Supermarionation really means – and how these values will be carried forward in to the new show Firestorm.
Finally, we had a big screen showing of the Tracy brothers’ debut Trapped In The Sky. I love this episode and it is also the debut of the unluckiest plane in the world – the Fireflash. I was carried all the way back to my childhood and the experience was enhanced by the inclusion of some 1960’s adverts which were hilariously twee.
To sum up I really enjoyed attending the launch event and I felt it provided fantastic value for the asking price. It was primarily focused on Thunderbirds which I remember clearly from the 90’s re-runs of my childhood. I wish I could have afforded the price for the full convention but it was just not to be. Maybe next year!
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