For the past couple of years I've been blogging my annual trip to observe the Lego display staged by the WA Brick Society as part of the annual Model Railway Show at the Claremont Showgrounds. As a Lego fan it's a wonderful occasion, but also somewhat frustrating, as the gap between "I like" and "I can do" is a large, and unless you're a member of that group based north of the distant Swan River, exclusive one.
That's why, when the opportunity to display at Bricktober arrived as part of my membership of the Perth Lego User Group, I jumped on it. Apart from a chance to expose myself to the disdain or otherwise of those I'd critiqued in the past (hint: didn't happen. They're utterly lovely fellows, one and all), it was a great opportunity to take part in a community gathering the likes of which I hadn't experienced since SF Cons went slightly sour on me; to be one of the in-crowd, the insiders, that merry band of brothers united by a common love, and all that jazz.
So, last weekend, I boxed up my 'Tomb of the Unknown Spaceman' MOC after 6 month of construction, as well as half a dozen spacecraft, and took them to Cannington Showgrounds to display them at the 2nd annual Bricktober display, conducted by the indefatigable Stephen and Joanna Kendall for Ascot Rotary. And had a bloody ball in the process.
As someone who works in event management, the thing that struck me was just how well Bricktober is run, It's a huge event-- the Canning Showgrounds main hall is a big room, and while my little display just about filled half a standard trestle table (bumphed up to a full table by the addition of the stand-alone ships), I pretty much had the smallest display in the room: Rod Iseppi, the fellow two down from me, whose Tattooine display won the People's Choice Award, overflowed 4 trestles, and still wasn't the largest display. In total, there were something like 30 exhibitors, yet the room never felt crowded or cramped, and with more than 7000 attendees coming through over the 2 days, space was at a premium.
Rod Iseppis' fucknormous Tattooine display. An absolutely stunning beast of a thing, and a well-deserved public choice winner.
Staggered entry times meant that we were never overwhelmed, and the range of activities for attendees to sample-- stop-motion movies, brick pit, interactive displays, crafts, technic-driving stands, and well-stocked sausage sizzle and drink stops (necessary, as both days were hotter than Satan's armpit) were just damn fun. An appearance by the 501st Legion, Star Wars cos players par excellence, and some superhero character cosplayers, helped maintain a happy, family-friendly atmosphere.
A Stormtrooper helps keep alive my weirdly high success rate in getting photos of Star Wars characters posing with Daleks (It's true-- I have more than anyone would deem necessary) while the Liberal Party candidate for Canning presses the flesh of voters too young to force-choke.
And the crowds were, for the most part, utterly fantastic, split roughly 50/50 between kids dragging their parents from display to display and parents doing the same to their kids. My personal mix seemed to consist mainly of a) kids who loved the Daleks I'd included and wanted to talk about the upcoming Dr Who set, b) Dads the same, c) kids who loved the space ships because hey, spaceships!, d) Dads who loved the nods I'd included to the sets we grew up with when Classic Space was just Space, and e) people who couldn't quite believe that what I'd built was entirely the product of my own imagination and weren't a bunch of sets they'd just not seen before. Which, any way you cut it, is a compliment. Especially the guy who flat out didn't believe it, and called me a liar when I insisted :)
Still, as Paul-- the fellow next to me whose display was a medieval castle siege-- and I quickly, discovered, being next to a gigantic Star Wars display meant that the most common phrase we heard all weekend was "Look, spaceships. Look, a castle. OH, WOW, STAR WAAAAARRRRRSSSSS!"..... Next year, I'm going to put a Dalek minifig next to a Stormtrooper minifig in the middle of the table and save myself a tonne of work :)
Not everybody was complimentary, of course. The really fun thing about being behind the table, as anyone who works in customer service can verify, is that you can become invisible, or even more entertainingly, a servant. And it means people develop a delightful habit of saying exactly what they mean. I'm too old, and battle-scarred, to find it anything other than funny, so the best comments of the weekend, for me were:
Not the kid who looked at my display, read the sign, looked at the display again and said "Tomb of the Unknown Spaceman? I don't even know what an unknown spaceman is. Why would you even build that?" But his Dad, who replied "Yeah, I know," and moved him away.
And the middle-class accumulation of crust and wig powder who spied this cute couple amongst my display:
You there! I wanna take you to a gay bar!
And told me in no uncertain terms how disgusting it was that I would think to show off such obvious gays. For Pete's sake, can't we even have a display of children's toys without this sort of stuff?
Oh, those pesky gay aliens. Gay, plastic, minifigure make-believe, not-real toy aliens. Ruining our youth with their gay plastic alien vibes.
Your Liberal voter in action, ladies and gentlemen.
Of course the best part of such comments, as anyone who works in customer service will tell you, is that the speaker has no idea how genuinely hilarious they are being. And when you're surrounded by the excellent crew of fellow exhibitors that I was, the whole weekend was one big puppy-cuddle of camaraderie. Which doesn't even take into account the displays.
Oh my God, the displays. Let me tell's 'ee, I thought I'd done all right for myself. Thursday night, I thought I'd acquitted myself quite well for six months toodling abut and a first display. Then, by the time I'd finished setting up on Friday, I was pretty sure I was the least accomplished person in the room. Then I turned up on Saturday morning and saw what everyone else had unpacked, and knew without a shadow of a doubt that I am an embarrassment to my species.
Where shall I begin?
How about Quentin, fellow Baldivis builder, and his castle? Or The Kendalls and their insanely huge City layouts with the single-piece-by-single-piece harbour water so large I would have snapped and started my killing spree about a third of the way through? Or Dale's pirate cove that just went on, and on, and on, with more detail than an OCD sufferer's self-portrait? Or Ben. Young, pretty, looks-like-a-precocious-twelve-year-old-Ben. With his castle. And his brick-built dragon. And his Iron Man glove and armbands and chest rig that I thought looked so cool lying on the table surrounded by blue-prints and calipers and screwdriver and pencil and whatnots also, all, entirely built from Lego. Until ten minutes after I complimented him on how cool they were and he showed up at my table. WEARING THEM!
Skilled doesn't cover it. These guys are artists, working in a medium with seemingly infinite possibilities.
So, next year I'll be back. With a bigger display. And ideas that push my design skills a bit further. Maybe the GARC finishing line and podium. Or the zombie apocalypse streetscape. A graveyard scene might be fun. Or Star Wars. Everyone likes Star Wars...... Because, godsdamnit, I may be a noob, and a cleft-thumbed idiot, but I'm competitive. I may never be the best one in the room, but I hate being the worst.
Now, the pictures:
Quentin Slobe's utterly amazing castle.
One of two giant City displays.
Approximately a quarter of Joanna Kendall's harbour. Made up of 1x1 plates and wedges. One by one by one by one by one by one by where's my bloody gun....
Dale Horsley's immense, detailed, and utterly joyous Pirate Cove.
Ben's castle. Talented little so-and-so.
You think this looks cool, right?
I MEAN, LOOK AT HIM! I BET HE'S NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO VOTE!
Talented, talented boy.