Friday, 23 August 2013

Leakycon General Programming Recap: Part Two

So day three of Leakycon got underway! And today was the last day of panels. Good thing there were some amazing ones to get stuck into! You can read my recap of lit events from this day in my lit panel recap. This post will consist of everything else that happened inbetween!

Marginalisation in Harry Potter

First up was the Marginalisation in Harry Potter panel which was run by Kristi Domin and Mark Oshiro (of Mark Reads Harry Potter fame). This was a nice informal panel, with all of us sat on the floor and audience participation encouraged. Apparently the same panel in Portland got pretty heated but everything in this one went completely smoothly with no real disagreements - but plenty of interesting discussions!

Some of the topics discussed ranged from class (seeing as everyone agreed this was something more prevalent in Britain as opposed to America) to disability, sexuality, race and gender.

I was particularly interested in the discussions about disability, particularly invisible disability - which came up a lot, as I myself suffer from an invisible illness/disability. There was a lot of talk about werewolves and the comparison to people with HIV, in that the person living with the illness not only faces discrimination but has this lifelong responsibility not to pass it on to loved ones. Also brought up were Neville's parents, squibs like Filch and Arianna Dumbledore. Mark and Kristi talked about institutionalisation and how the characters are treated in an extremely old fashioned way.

Dumbledore's sexuality was obviously a huge talking point, with the dilemma of whether he should have been outed in the books as opposed to in an interview being a hot topic. Most people agreed they would loved to have seen him outed in the books, but others argued that it wasn't relevant to the story. As with most of the issues that were talked about, it was agreed that you just couldn't fit everything into the story and cover every single issue.

Hermione was highlighted as a character who proves that you can make a difference with her work for S.P.E.W and it was pointed out that the later books channel that feeling of hope, change and acceptance.

One of my favourite moments was the discussion on Hagrid. We talked about the qualities he posseses such as a maternal and domestic nature and the pink umbrella he carries. Hagrid, of course, has it pretty bad when it comes to marginalisation because of his parentage. He's a half-breed which carries stigma in itself, as does being a giant. He was also praised for being one of the more responsible adults in the series after he intervenes during Harry's third year when he and Ron aren't being particularly nice to Hermione.

There was also a great point highlighted about Tonks' ability to change her appearance, and how that would affect trans people in our world if they had the ability to change their appearance at will? It was certainly something I hadn't thought about before!

The topic of mental health was touched upon with Harry's experience of PTSD in book five brought into the discussion, and the fact that he was abused by somebody in a position of authority during book five. Did the adults around Harry have a responsibility to help in that they neglected? A great point was made about Harry's own reaction to the abuse, and how suddenly he's in this world where the consequences of speaking out are punishments that could include injury or death due to the spells and curses the adults in his universe have the power to use on him should they wish. Mark spoke very passionately on this topic, as a victim of abuse himself. He said from the very first book he felt for Harry because of that abusive background he's had to battle his way out of. We also talked about Tonks' depression in book six as an example.

The discussion moved back to disability and how much we'd like to see someone just getting on with their disability, rather than it being a focus or an issue.

The Weasleys were championed as a good example of a functioning family relationship in the books, something we're not used to seeing as there are so many dysfunctional relationships. It was highlighted that J. K. Rowling's own financial situation before the books were published was reflected in Molly Weasley.

Lots of people chipped in when it came to discussing books with relatable characters that weren't rich white males. It's a real struggle to find a main character in a book who isn't white, or isn't straight. Somebody in the audience brought up a book called William's Doll, a children's book about a boy who is teased for wanting to play with a doll.

When it came to class, there was a lot of discussion about the Slytherins and how they're widely represented as wealthy and upper class. There were some great points brought up in defense of Slytherins, for example how they are more than likely brought up to behave a certain way and at school they're under a huge amount of peer pressure to fit in with other members of their house. Someone discussed fanfiction in which Slytherins act differently in their own common room, due to being away from the eyes of other students who expect them to behave a certain way - a kind of "what happens in the common room, stays in the common room" mentality. It was also pointed out that throughout the series we see the Slytherins from Harry's perspective, which is somewhat biased. There was also the example of the pressure on Draco in book six and seven, where he has to make some incredibly tough decision or face dire consequences.

This panel definitely gave me food for thought, and I was so glad to see everyone so passionate about equality in fiction. I can't wait to re-read the books with even more opened eyes after this panel.

Potter Mega Movie Panel

I had to rush from the Marginalisation panel straight to this one, which unfortunately meant I was right at the back. But I still had a pretty good view. Melissa Anelli came on stage to say that this panel would be a bit different from yesterday's actor panel, and that it would involve a trivia quiz! She asked the audience to start tweeting in questions for the cast and decided it would be boys vs girls. She also explained that Evanna and Robbie had slept in so wouldn't be there for the start of the panel. The sneaky plan was that the audience would start snoring when the two of them finally arrived!

The actors came on stage, and excitingly this panel included the lovely Chris Rankin, who hadn't been at the panel yesterday. He was joined on the boys' team by Ryan Turner and Benedict Clarke, whilst Scarlett Byrne and Ellie Darcey-Alden led the girls' team, along with a little help from an audience member. Another audience member gave Melissa a hand reading out the questions.

The quiz was so much fun! There were some ridiculously hard/impossible questions tweeted in (for example someone asked how the Weasley's clock functions! The only answer we could come up with was "magic"). They also had to disallow the question of what the first common room password is, seeing as it's one of Chris' most prominent lines in the film! I can't remember who won in the end. I'm going to say the audience.

Robbie eventually showed up towards the end of the panel, just in time for some audience questions! Evanna never made it which was a shame, but I got to see her around the con a few times later that day.


So I had a few more lit panels this afternoon, and then it was time for the Starkid event. Because of all the chaos on previous days with queueing and the fact that this event was expected to draw big crowds, anyone who wanted to go was held in the rooms of the panel beforehand, and then led by a volunteer down to the Grand Hall. It was exactly like being led to assembly in primary school!

When I finally got in I was in the middle of the hall and had a pretty good view. It was standing, though, and I soon realised I wasn't going to be able to stay for the whole event. All the other events that had been standing had the opportunity to sit down before things started or at intervals. When I arrived, everyone was already standing and the people after us that were led in boxed us in. I have problems with my legs and so I was already panicking about how long I would have to stand for.

The event got underway and I enjoyed some of the more familiar songs, but I'll admit, I'm not a die-hard Starkid fan. I like A Very Potter Musical and the sequels. They're funny and I like the songs, but Starkid has this insane fandom that I'm not a part of, and so I found myself surrounded by screaming fans who knew every word and I quickly felt very out of place. I stayed for a while, but eventually my legs were screaming to get out of there so I pushed my way out to the back of the room where I could sit down against the wall. After ten minutes I figured my time could probably be spent somewhere more enjoyable. I spoke to people who are huge fans that went and had an amazing time, so I think it was a success!

The Harry Potter Alliance

Once I left the Starkid event, I realised I hadn't picked up my book from the Harry Potter Alliance's Apparating Library yet. I saw the stand was open so headed there and got to look at all the pretty books! Eventually I settled on Wither by Lauren DeStefano. The people on the HP stand were SO lovely and passionate. After I swapped my book they told me to stick around for a pop-up wrock concert, so I got to see a little bit of that!

Not long after that somebody working for conference centre came and told them to get down from there so they had to move to the stairs at the side - party pooper! Apparently Hank Green turned up later so I was a bit gutted I missed that, but we had to escape so we could grab some food, go back to the hostel and get ready for the ball!

The Esther Earl Rocking Charity Ball

Dressed for the ball!
 This is a staple of every Leakycon, and is basically a huge party on the last night of the con. Think the best school disco you've ever been to! The dress code is pretty much wear what you like, so people were dressed up in party frocks, dressed casual or cosplaying. There'd been some pretty amazing costumes around the conference but one of the highlights was definitely Boggart Snape! And tonight he was hanging out with Trelawney.

Then the party got underway! Highlights included the girls dressed in party dresses and One Direction masks (which really messes with your head), the beach ball that was getting bounced around the crowd (I think it spend most of the time on the floor), everyone doing Gangnam Style, the moment they played Wannabe by the Spice Girls and Alex Carpenter and one of Harry and the Potters doing some pretty full on dancing with the crowd!

Then of course, it all builds up to the wonderful moment where the night is ending and another Leaky tradition comes around. Total Eclipse of the Heart has become the Leakycon theme song, and at the end of the ball everyone comes together to belt it out in the most powerful way you can. We ended up singing it twice, and I got the first time on video (which I will try and upload at some point and add into this post if I do!). It was literally one of the most amazing things to be a part of!

The Final Day

So there are no panels on the final day of Leakycon, and the only thing on the schedule was the leaving feast. We weren't sure how exactly it would work. All we knew is that there would be food. Hurrah! When we arrived at the Grand Connaught Rooms there was another queue to join. They started letting people with Rockstar passes in first, then we got to head in. The Grand Hall had been filled with tables so we got seated in groups of ten. The girls we sat with were all super lovely!

Eventually we were able to go up to the hot buffet and oh my gosh you guys, the food was amazing! I mean my friend and I had been staying in a self-catered youth hostel so we'd been living off toast, sandwiches and in my case, pasta salad. The two things I'd missed were hot meals and meat. So when I got up to the buffet and saw the sausages, bacon and beans I was in food heaven. I ended up going back for seconds. Plus someone let me know there was free tea and coffee, and tea was another thing I'd been deprived of during my stay. 

A lot of people were upset at the lack of vegetarian and vegan options and I can totally understand. I presumed there would be veggie sausages or at least some alternative option, but all the veggies got were eggs, mushrooms and bread, and when you rule out the eggs for the vegans, it didn't leave very much to eat. The catering was all down the venue (I presume) so I hope that that's rectified should another Leakycon happen in London. I think at the end of the four days, one thing everyone can agree on was that the venue really wasn't the best. (Too small and cramped, not very accessible).

There was a lot of milling around and we got a last chance to look round the vendor room. Whilst there I bought a Golden Snitch necklace, and there were also a few more books up for grabs from the Books With Bite stand so I grabbed the two I hadn't already got my hands on!

After more waiting around to see if anything would happen, my friend and I headed off to the British Museum (which was pretty cool!), only to get a text alert from the Leakycon twitter saying all the volunteers were being rounded up for a group photo. As my friend was a volunteer, we hastily made our way back to the conference centre. I managed to get a photo of them - thanks Leakycon volunteers!

Also when we got back, some of the actors were doing an impromptu photobooth. We didn't have time to queue as they'd already given a cut off time, but I got a sneaky photo of the actors anyway!

I also got the chance to say hi to Melissa Anelli and get her to sign my Leakycon guide book! She was so lovely, really taking time to speak to people. I was a bit gutted I didn't have my copy of Harry, A History on me (I'd brought it with me to London but it was back in my hostel room!) but I'll probably snip this out and stick it in the front anyway. If anyone could let me know what the writing on this autograph says I'd be super grateful!

We also realised we hadn't taken a picture of the Leakycon sign!  

And so the time came to leave Leakycon, for good this time! Sad face :( it was such an incredible few days and something I'd love to do again if they come back to the UK. Just being surrounded by so many people who share your passion was such a lovely feeling. I think my only regret is not being brave enough to put myself out there and make some new friends. Next time! Bye bye Grand Connaught Rooms. Mischief Managed!


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