I’ve been looking forward to the Easter Weekend for quite a while now. But not because of any religious reasons. It’s primarily to do with the fact that in Ireland, the Easter weekend means that you get a four day weekend. But it also means that there’ll be a Star Wars convention taking place somewhere in Dublin for the majority of that four day weekend.
The convention that was taking place over the Easter Weekend was called “Invasion” and, more and more, is becoming a well know entity in the Irish landscape. A lot of the reason that it’s so well known and so well promoted by so much of the Irish media is that, in what’s almost the antithesis of George Lucas’s raison d’être, Invasion is run by fans for fans (and families of fans) and it’s organised to benefit charity. Invasion exists to raise money, but not to make money. This year, Invasion was organised to benefit the Autism Society of Ireland.
Last year, I had to miss out on Invasion due to some scheduling conflicts, but I made sure a long time ago that the Easter Weekend this year would be free so I could attend. When I found out that the convention was taking place in a venue called the RDS this year, I was even happier. The RDS is the venue where I saw my first concert oh-so-many years ago and it’s where I passed the majority of my college exams. It’s also where I failed a few of my college exams, but I try not to dwell on that. The RDS is easy to get to, it’s well served by amenities and best of all, it’s a lot bigger than the venue that Invasion was held in last year.
Everybody that I talked to who was at Invasion was absolutely complimentary about it. They liked the way that it was organised, they liked the props that were on show, they liked the fact that the celebrities who were present were accessible and didn’t charge a fortune for autographs or photos, they like the fact that the profit for the endeavour went to charity. Most of all though, they liked the sense of enthusiasm that permeated the whole show.
The event was held in the Main Hall of the RDS and every time I’ve been to an event or concert or show in the Main Hall, you’re pretty much in the event as soon as you walk through the doors. But for Invasion, when you walked through the door, you found yourself in what was pretty much the food hall / rest area. Kids were running around, checking out what they had been bought, parents were checking their wallets to see how much they spent and Stormtroopers were posing for photos with anyone who asked for a photo with them. For me, it was a great start to the day — having walked through the door, I’d already gotten one of my favourite photos of the day with a friend of mine and two members of the Emerald Garrison.
Walking in to the Event Hall, the first thing you see is the wall lined with retailers’ stalls and the ocean of merchandise that you know you don’t need, but you just want for some reason that you can’t quite explain. Some of local comic shops in Dublin were represented, which meant that there would be at least a few familiar faces at the show. But there were more retailers there than just the ones I’m familiar with. My favourite was the stall that was selling the iron cast-wirework Star Wars figures. You could tell that each piece was a labour of love. And while it wasn’t actually a Star Wars piece, the wirework Predator statue that was up for sale was just beautiful and creepy all at the same time.
At the end of the seemingly endless line of retail stalls, to the right hand side, the world seemed to open up to a million flashes of red, blue, green and purple. On the right hand side of the retail-alley was the actual Invasion. It was full of Emerald Garrison members dressed as a myriad of characters, it was full of life-sized vehicles from the movies, it was full of props and custom made busts and armour. And off to the side of the Invasion Hall was a line up of stars from the Star Wars movies, from Greedo to R2-D2 himself.
The marketing for Invasion made it very clear from the outset that it was being organised as a family event and the timing of it over the Easter Weekend didn’t do anything to hurt the family vibe. But for me, the instance that really made me notice that this wasn’t a purely nerdish event was seeing Darth Vader walk across the show floor with a trail of about twenty kids all walking in line behind him, like he was some sort of Pied Piper of Evil. And seeing a group of kids outside of the event hall beating the hell out of each other with plastic lightsabers was actually worth the price of admission all on its own.
The last Star Wars show that I was at was Star Wars: In Concert in March of last year, and Invasion was just as enjoyable as the concert was, but in a different way. At both events, Emerald Garrison were in attendance and gave the events a much more festive, interactive feel. The concert though, was all about nostalgia, about hearing music that you grew up with, hearing it in the best way possible and being transported back to the first time you heard it. It’s something that only a few pieces of music can do.
Invasion was all about the future, about the kids who will one day be adults and who will take fandom in to the next generation. I’ve always felt that Star Wars is the default science fiction epic and it’s the one that kids latch on to first. If the kids of today grow into the adults of tomorrow and take with them the enthusiasm that I saw at Invasion, Star Wars will grow to be more powerful than you could possibly imagine.