This past weekend, October 16th-18th, was the first ever convention dedicated entirely to Hannibal (the TV show). It was put on by a company that organizes other conventions so they knew what they were doing, but no one really knew what to expect from a convention dedicated just to one show. Fortunately, Hannibal has garnered a bit of a cult following thanks, in part, to the way the producer and actors embrace the fan base.
I found out about this convention before getting to England and I knew I had to go. I didn’t want to spend money on a hotel since I was traveling alone, so I just packed up everything I needed and figured things out as I went along. I showed up at the Renaissance Heathrow Hotel with a small bag of clothes and a purse looking to meet fellow Fannibals. I hung around in the coffee shop for a while where I met a group of older adults from the US, Germany, Canada, and England. The first day of the convention was mostly for checking in, purchasing photo sessions or extra autographs, and a meet-and-greet with the actors for the Gold pass holders. I continued to move around that afternoon meeting people here and there. In the evening, there was an opening ceremony to introduce all the actors before the party.
The actors that attended were Aaron Abrams, Scott Thompson, Lara Jean Chorostecki, Katharine Isabelle, and Kacey Roh all of whom are Canadian actors. Mads Mikkelsen, who plays Hannibal himself, was still on his flight during the ceremony, but they promised he’d be there for the party. Four of us who had gotten together that night weren’t gold pass holders so we didn’t get to attend the meet-and-greet. After the ceremony, we hung around for a bit and I decided I would go into London to stay with a friend and that I would charge my phone before we left. The lobby had cleared out for the party but as we were walking past the hotel entrance to find an outlet, Mads Mikkelsen entered with a group of people. He was in a rush to get to the party, but he walked right past our group. The four of us collectively froze as he was coming towards us and I think he realized because he smiled and cheerfully said “Hello Fannibals!” I’m still not entirely sure which of us made a sound, but collectively we got at least a “hi” and a wave out in response. As soon as he walked past we all just stopped and freaked out a bit. We were later commenting on how English that moment was: that we didn’t run at him or scream, we just sort of froze and politely said hello.
I was lucky enough to have a friend in London with a spare bed in her flat willing to let me stay there for the night. Saturday morning I took the tube back and met up again with my new group of friends at the con. Saturday was full of panels and autograph sessions with the cast. The first panel was with Scott Thompson, a Canadian comedian, and Aaron Abrams, who’s got a similar sense of humor. The two of them together was just like watching a comedy show, with a bit of Hannibal talk mixed in. The panels were all completely open to audience questions so they mostly filled the time telling jokes and stories. The other panels were with Lara and Kacey and then Mads and Katharine. The panel with Mads inevitably went overtime because the line for questions was out the door. As a fan, I appreciate the way he handles questions because he did get invested in exploring the character he played so he always takes all questions seriously and usually has thought out responses to what Hannibal’s motives were.
Saturday evening was also the costume contest. I did have a costume, and got a professional photo in it, but I didn’t sign up in time so I didn’t get to participate in the show. That was fine with me, though, I hung out with a girl I had met dressed as the same character and we sat front row and cheered for the other cosplayers (or Fancy Dress as they say here). After the contest was a dance party for the fans and after that I took the night bus into London with a girl from the con and stayed with her at her uni housing.
Sunday was a little more relaxed. We all got our autographs from Mads Mikkelsen and talked about shows on the West End with him. He was extremely friendly and took the time to genuinely answer any questions people had. After all the autographs and photos were taken we had some last panels to attend. Scott and Aaron had another hour of comedy, which included a reenactment of Dirty Dancing as Hannibal and Will from the show. After Mads and Kacey’s final panel, the convention had a closing ceremony where the actors thanked all of us and wrapped up an exciting Hannibal filled weekend.
Obviously, no one wanted it to be over but a lot of people were leaving that evening after the ceremony. There was a pretty good sized group of us that had to say goodbye. After the convention was mostly cleared out there were three of us left that were still staying one more night, so we decided to go out to a nearby pub for dinner and chatting. We spent hours talking about Hannibal, Doctor Who, American football vs rugby, and many other things. Eventually, we faced the dreaded reality that the weekend was over and we said goodbye. I slept on the floor of another friend’s hotel room and took the bus back to Egham on Monday morning.
The nerdiness didn’t stop there, though! Monday afternoon I met up with Sarah and Meike at the train station and we set off to Watford to go on the Harry Potter Studio tour. We had about an hour on the train to get there and then a shuttle ride out to the movie studio. I’m just going to say it now to get it out of the way… it was magical. The tour is self-paced so we just jumped in an earlier group so we could stay longer. We watched a little intro video filmed by Daniel, Emma, and Rupert and then we got to enter the doors of Hogwarts into the Great Hall. The guides were there to give us a bit of trivia but then we were set off on our own to explore the multiple sets filled with props, costumes, wand making demonstrations, broomstick riding photos, and the occasional Death Eater wandering around menacingly.
Part of the tour took us outside to the Knight bus and Privet Drive. One of my favorite things was seeing the animatronic props and demonstrations. Certain things were set to move every now and then like a self-stirring caldron, self-knitting scarf, and smaller animals that looked around. There were also sections for set design, original concept art, and the costume department. Experts were also around to explain the type of work they did for the show. One of the wand makers shared a funny story about how often Daniel Radcliffe needed a new wand when he was young because he was always using them as drumsticks and snapping them. He would need multiple replacement wands every few hours on some days.
The last part of the tour took us past the full model of the Hogwarts Castle. This was another part of my weekend that I just didn’t want to end. We took our time through here listening to the film soundtrack that was playing and taking photos of the castle from all angles. The last room had shelves up to the ceiling that were filled with hundreds of wand boxes each with the name of a cast or crew member who worked on the show.
I am extremely sleep deprived and a little behind on school work but this weekend was one of the best nerdy adventures of my life. I met some amazing Fannibals from around the world and I got to meet most of the actors from one of my favorite TV shows. I got to hug Mads Mikkelsen and tell Aaron Abrams not to worry about messing up scientific terms in his dialogue because even people who study science don’t get them all the time. I got to journey to Hogwarts and explore the sets of the most important story of my childhood with friends from Royal Holloway. Now I’m back to “real life” where I have some papers to write and music to practice, but I’m so happy this weekend turned out the way it did.
Until the next adventure!