Reflections on AFOLcon / The LEGO Show 2012

Hello folks. Well I’m in my hotel room, preparing to return to London after probably the most important five days in my year. There’s been a lot of unnecessary stress leading up to the event, and there has been some unnecessary stress during the event, but as a whole I really enjoyed the experience.

Particularly this time around I was miffed about not being able to book a room closer to the venue, due to the prices of hotel rooms: even Premier Inn was prohibitively expensive. I’ve had to spend a small fortune using public transport – which I had to figure out myself, because bus routes in Manchester appear to be privatised and, when asking for any help with going places or bus fares, cue the typical “deer in headlights” customer service stare – which, of course, could have been better invested in LEGO.

However, I realised there were very good reasons for having the event in Manchester. As well as being virtually next door to the LEGOLand Discovery Centre, Manchester is also a very large city (albeit full of people with weird accents), and a lot of visitors. A similar event in London would be much more expensive, both to set up and to attend, and although there are allegedly more LEGO enthusiasts in the south of the UK, I don’t think The LEGO Show would attract as many people – London’s very much about conforming to what’s seen as acceptable. I wouldn’t be surprised if the event was held at EventCity again, although I missed the convenience (my convenience) of Deansgate.

Anyway: just about everybody who displayed their MOCs at the show clearly brought their A game. Although there was obviously a lot of attention given to the bigger models, and especially those with trains and other moving parts, there was never the impression that one had to have something big to display. Even though my load this year was roughly half of last year’s, I’m thinking I may go even smaller next time.
Some of my favourite exhibits at the show included: the massive Netherlands railway bridge, complete with high speed trains; the “turtle” robot factory; the large Paradisa-themed town (complete with custom licence plate!); Iain’s train layout, which was directly next to my exhibit; the Friends models, which included both the official sets and custom-made buildings; and of course the Futra CS concept car.

Even the sellers represented this time around: there were stores from the UK, Germany and Holland, as well as a makeshift official LEGO store, all with lucrative items. I didn’t spend as much as last year (I’d been waiting for the auction), but I made a few decent purchases, including a couple of hedgehogs and some white lampposts – and my first ever cypress tree!
Also, I was determined to win something in the auction this time around, having missed out the previous year. I had no idea what was in the auction until around two hours prior, and even then there was a very agonising and annoying wait until bidding started. But I did win something: 250 of these babies in white, along with some 2×4 bricks in chrome silver.

There are two things I would improve on for next year’s event:

My sociability. With the larger venue and greater number of people I found it hard to adjust, and even then I felt I didn’t do enough interaction. I think many people had realised that SilentMode isn’t just a clever name!
Having said that, there were a small handful of people whom I felt weren’t friendly toward me personally, even though they seemed to be friendly to other people. Whatever background there is to that, there will inevitably be those kinds of people at large events, and the best I can do is discard them. Nobody has to like everybody, and in the end I’m all about LEGO, not popularity.

The barriers. We had the same problems as last year with the barriers between visitors and the models, in that they were much too insecure and kept getting pushed forward. At my display there was at least one group that “played” with the figures and touched the models, and I’d even lost a Gorilla Suit Guy (presumed stolen – remind me of who said they weren’t going to be popular?). I’ve heard at least one other person had one of their models stolen too.
All I’m going to say is that those people will have to live with themselves knowing they are thieves, and anyone complicit with them are thieves too – they’re not FOLs.

A few other people have posted their pictures on Flickr, but here’s my AFOLcon / The LEGO Show photoset – I will be adding more as I process them. In the meantime, a big shout out to the organisers of the event and everyone else involved; here’s to next year.