MCM Expo, Birmingham (2013)

Yesterday I did hie me to the MCM Expo in Birmingham, to see the Merlin Knights: Alexander Vlahos (Mordred), Eoin Macken (Gwaine) and Rupert.

My husband is currently working in Birmingham, so he decided to stay on an extra day. I stayed with him at his hotel on the Friday night, and then he went to work on Saturday while I went to the con. We’d agreed that he would pick me up at about 3pm, after the Merlin Knights panel. All of which is probably of no interest to you, dear Reader, but it does have a bearing on how my day went!

And the day was a very very long one, with hours and hours of queuing, rewarded by fleeting moments of sheer joy. At times I almost lost the will to live. However, I got to chat with my fellow lovely Merlin fans, and it all ended on an unexpected high note, so it’s all good.

autograph queue

I rocked up around 10am, and bought my ‘official photo shoot’ tickets. Then headed to the autograph session to find that the con organisers were already closing the queue, which was huge. The fannish response for our beloved knights was absolutely massive throughout the day, and perhaps surprised everyone. Queues had to be closed; the photo shoots sold out; the seating for the panel was chock-a-block. I’m sure heaps of people missed out one way or another, which is very sad-making. So much for the ‘demise’ of Merlin the show! Obviously the fannish love continues strong.

I want to give a shout out to the girl dressed in a wicked Gaius robe. That was just awesome! I waved to her while we were queuing, and tried to express my appreciation of her costume with a few gestures. I also indicated my Gaius!hair which I’d grown out especially. (It’s currently fifth season hair!) I hope she understood what I was trying to convey, and didn’t just think me particularly weird.

So the queue slowly progressed, and eventually we turned the corner and could at least catch glimpses of our lovely men. However, there were still heaps of fans in the queue ahead of us by the time the actors headed for lunch at 12:30pm. We were given tickets so that we’d not have to start queuing all over again that afternoon after the panel.

Ian McNeice

So, no success thus far! However, I’d noticed that Ian McNeice was available over in the Memorabilia con, and I’ve been a fan of his since the miniseries Edge of Darkness first screened way back when. And because he was charging for autographs, there wasn’t such a queue to contend with!

I headed over there, and said hello. Ian and the lady with him were absolute sweethearts. There was a range of photos spread out on the desk before him, but (given the above) I asked him if he had a photo from Edge of Darkness available. He said he had had one, and very patiently sorted through a pile of extras to see if he could find it. No luck. But by that time I’d kind of fallen in love with a photo taken of Ian with Matt Smith in Dr Who (Ian was Winston Churchill, as I’m sure you all remember), which was not only cool but rather a nicely composed photo. So I went with that one.

Ian McNeice in Dr Who with Matt Smith
Ian McNeice in Dr Who with Matt Smith

In the meantime, we’d been chatting. I said about Edge of Darkness being my first experience of him. And then I said my most recent was probably the short film Just Because You’re Paranoid. He asked me where I’d seen that, and I said YouTube; I’d been searching for things with Rupert Young, and found this featuring him and Ian: double bonus!

Speaking of Rupert, Ian asked if I’d seen the fan video Oh What a Knight…! LOL! I hadn’t, so he told me how to search for it on YouTube, and said it was very good…

So here it is, as endorsed by Ian McNeice! (And hey, it’s a bit shippy! LOL!)

Well done, dingogrrl!

photo shoot

So then it was time for the official photo shoot with the knights. I’d bought one with the group, which I herewith share.

Alexander Vlahos, one lucky little vegemite, Rupert, and Eoin Macken
Alexander Vlahos, one lucky little vegemite, Rupert, and Eoin Macken

What darling men they are! Love their smiles.

I also bought one with Rupert – in which I kind of glomped him. It was over in a trice, but as I was walking away, the photographer called me back for a second go. Rupert apologised: ‘I blinked.’ You can imagine that I wasn’t sorry to have the chance for a second glomp! ‘Oh, bless you!’ I cried as I went back for more.

This time I just hung on afterwards, and said, ‘Did you blink again?’ – ‘No,’ he and the photographer confirmed. – ‘Bother!’ I say (well, the Australian version thereof), and make myself walk away… Rupert laughed.

And actually (seriously!) I think it’s really cool that they check the photos as they go, so you don’t end up disappointed by something they can fix at the time.

On a less cool note… I am not usually one to complain, but all the queuing was made even more tedious in this instance by the fact that the only places to queue were to either side of the photo ‘booth’ – which happened to also be the major thoroughfare between the Comic Con and Memorabilia halls. A security guard kept trying to wrangle us out of the way, but there really wasn’t anywhere else to be. Something I hope they’ll address for next time. Though, again, I think the response was rather more overwhelming than anyone expected. (The guard also wanted us to stay in single file, though of course we were trying to pass the time by chatting with each other, so the ‘natural’ formation was more like double file.)


Then it was time for the panel, which got started a little late at 2:15pm. Given that I’d been at the photo shoot (which they did in alpha order), I arrived late and ended standing up right at the back. So I took a few photos, but given the distance and the horrible yellow lighting, they didn’t turn out well at all. I’ll include one here for the sake of it, but they’re not my finest hour as a photographer!

Rupert and Eoin at the panel (sorry for poor picture quality)
Rupert and Eoin at the panel (sorry for the poor picture quality)

As for the questions and answers… this is from memory, and in no particular order…

They were asked what they each wanted to be when they were little. Alex said a wrestler – then he did a mock wrestler pose, and had a laugh at himself: ‘Now look at me!’ (He’s rather more slender than most wrestlers.) Rupert said about always wanting to be an actor, ever since he played a donkey and then a tree as a child. Eoin wanted to be David Attenborough. This was met with much laughter, to which Eoin exclaimed that no, he really did!

They were each asked about their first day on the Merlin set. Eoin memorably said his involved being topless in Colin Morgan’s bed. {happy sigh}

Much was said about the camaraderie of the Merlin team, and the fact that they’re all still friends. As Rupert pointed out, no one’s going to say they hated the experience of working on a show, but in this case the politic answer was the true one.

When asked about the end of Merlin, Eoin said, ‘I don’t think anything comes to an end in your heart.’ At which there was much aw-ing.

Rupert has apparently just gained his driving license. Passed the test first time.

They were asked (by a young friend of mine!) which fictional character they’d each like to have dinner with. Eoin answered Batman, and then added Xena Warrior Princess: ‘That would be really cool.’ Rupert was stumped, so ended up saying Catwoman. Alex said Dorian Gray – and was promptly ribbed by the others for promoting his other work.

Alex was asked which he liked best, Merlin or Privates. ‘Now, be very careful how you answer this,’ said Rupert. But Alex immediately said Merlin, and sounded like he meant it. (He has said elsewhere that he thinks his best work was done in Privates.) Then he explained that working in the cold and rain in Ireland (for Privates) was miserable; if you must work in the cold and rain, it was much better to be in Wales! (He’s Welsh.) He didn’t think Privates would be picked up for a second season, but suggested it might be worth writing to the BBC about it, if we want to. However, Dorian Gray will be back, for which news he gave two thumbs up.

In talking about their future work, Rupert said it would be very hard to find a show that would be as successful and well-loved as Merlin, but they’d try – ‘So you don’t forget who we are!’ (As if.)

more queuing

Once the panel was over, I headed back to the autograph queue – which was already massive again, and obviously a lot of people had missed the panel for the sake of waiting there. Despite my ticket, the security guard said, ‘Back of the queue.’ – ‘But…’ – ‘Back of the queue.’ Well, that would obviously eat up another couple of hours, and I was all too aware that Bruce was still at work after a very long week, so I decided I wouldn’t.

Instead I headed for the photo booth to collect my photos. More queuing. And rather a lack of organisation, I have to say. Sorry, but this bit really could have been handled better. At this point I decide that I am really too old for cons, and should gracefully retire. Or just die where I stood on my weary feet.

suddenly my luck turns!

I had spied my shot with Rupert when the guy was going through the pile for another fan. So, with the help of the lovely fans just ahead of me, I managed to nab that one. And then the group ones were ready and waiting for us a moment later. And I have to say I was very pleased with how both photos turned out.

Right, I thought, one last try for the autograph queue, but I can’t keep Mr B waiting any longer. I headed down there, to be told by one of the con organisers, ‘Queue’s closed.’ – ‘Um, what if I have a ticket from this morning?’ – ‘Come right this way.’ And to my utter shock, I was ushered straight past the queue to the autograph desk – where the guys were just about to head off for a quick break. But they stuck around for a moment more while I got some photos signed.

I was really astonished that that had all worked out in the end. And I very much apologise to the queuing fans for apparently jumping the line. In some ways I felt I’d earned it by then, but I also felt very very lucky! I am sure the knights stuck around so that everyone in the queue had their turn.

Anyway, I hadn’t expected this, so I had to fumble to get my photographs out of my bag. I’d had three of my own printed for them to sign. I said they were by me, and the guys were all very kind in response, and had a look at each other’s as well as their own. Rupert in particular said he really liked the one of him.




I took the opportunity to ask Rupert another question for the ‘biography’ page on our website. This is interviewing by stealth! It’s a slow process, but a fun one. This time I asked him where he was born. But I’m going to be a pain and make you visit the biography page to find the answer. Sorry!

home time

Phew! Well, the autographs were certainly a high note to end the day on! Still giddy with my luck and my adoration of these marvellous Merlin men, I headed off and called Mr B. It was 3:30pm, so I hadn’t kept him waiting too much longer than we’d agreed.

And we headed home in the bucketing rain!

Alas, I got home to find my computer having a meltdown, so wasn’t able to get online or even look at my own photos until this morning. Apologies for the delay! I hope you enjoy the results.

Keep an eye out for future appearances at cons by the Knights! They are all so very lovely, so generous, and such troupers. But I guess at this point I should add that it’s worth planning ahead with the knowledge that they’re a deservedly popular bunch, and you’ll need to be organised (and be prepared to queue for hours) in order to make the most of the day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *