‘What is SFW’ – this is probably one of the hardest questions to answer! It’s probably easier to explain what it is not.
SFW, or SciFiWeekender (it also stands for Science Fiction! Fantasy! Warriors!) is a weekend event which doesn’t take place over a weekend! It actually starts on a Thursday evening, and goes on to the early hours of Sunday Morning. Sunday is often spent nursing a sore head and feet from all the music and dancing, and making your way back home again.
It’s not a ComicCon, in that we don’t want people to be queuing for the whole event, and missing loads of great stuff, just to get an autograph from your favourite actor. We also don’t want aisles and aisles of dealers selling the same stuff you see everywhere else. We want the event to be fun, to be interactive and interesting, to challenge your mind and your creativity and not your pocket.
We don’t want our special guests to be sitting behind tables and spending all day signing autographs. We want them on the stage and telling stories of their craft and work. We want them laughing and taking part in crazy games and panels. We want them to have as much fun meeting all the attendees as they have in meeting the guests.
The attendees describe the event as ‘Geek Camp’ where you are as likely to meet Darth Vader or the Doctor on their way to Breakfast, as you are to find yourself sitting next to a party of Orcs or characters from the Muppet Show.
It’s an event where there is always something happening. Our invited guests range from big-hitting stars of television and film, like William Hope, Brian Blessed, Paul McGann and Nicholas Brendan, to your favourite authors like Kevin J Anderson, Paul Finch, Bryony Pearce, Dacre Stoker and Samantha Lee Howe, to the superstars of comic art like Simon Bisley, Glenn Fabry, Boo Cook and Simon Davis. We have Publishing Legends like Dez Skinn and David J Howe … effects and cosplay experts like Mark Cordory and Tabby Lyons … there’s the Pop Up Puppet Cinema with entertaining takes on old classics … and these are just some of the ‘daytime’ guests.
Each evening, the event transforms into a party spectacular, with full evenings entertainments across multiple stages, presenting a varied and uniquely ‘geek’ form of entertainment. Expect everything from quizzes and our very own version of ‘Just A Minute’, to full sets from rock and pop bands like Professor Elemental, Doctor and the Medics, The Radiophonic Workshop, and Darth Elvis. There’s comedy from John Robertson and The Dark Room, crazy music dance discos fuelled by the very best DJs, including in the past Pat Sharpe and Craig Charles, and of course often featuring our very own video DJ Level-Up Leroy!
What event can boast an opening ceremony where, to the strains of Queen’s thumping ‘Flash!’, Flash Gordon himself, Sam Jones, is escorted on stage by a bevy of dancing girls all wearing ‘Flash’ T-Shirts and dancing away to the sound of thunderous applause.
Yes, you can get autographs from the guests, but there’s a numbered queuing system which means you only queue when your number batch is called. And it’s in the main hall so you don’t miss anything that’s happening on the main stage.
And there are many books to buy from the attending authors with free autographs, original art is available from the artists, and many will do you a unique sketch if you ask them …
Other tables sell original sculptures or leather goods, dragons or cups … anything and everything is available in original designs and styles …
Cosplay is a big part of the event, but you don’t have to take part … just stand back and admire the skill and creativity of the costumes and outfits which span every conceivable element of geek culture from cartoons and comic strips to television and film and beyond! There’s a cosplay competition with heats and a finale on the main stage so everyone can get to appreciate your work! Even the Half Assed Cosplayers get in on the act with costumes made from whatever came to hand half an hour ago … everything is taken in good humour and no-one is left out! One thing’s for sure, you’ll never feel overdressed!
We have three rooms of events and activities going on at the same time. There’s guest interviews and one-on-one chats, demonstrations of art and other creative ventures, panel discussions featuring guests and attendees, riotous artist panels, and author panels covering every aspect of the creative process. There’s video presentations, including showings of new films and chats with the directors and stars. We have other activities to enjoy, including Escape Rooms, drinks sampling, Orc Training Sessions, Jedi Training, Treasure Hunts, impromptu dance-offs and flashmobs … anything and everything goes at SFW as long as it’s fun and safe.
If it all gets too much, then there’s restaurants and food stalls offering meals and snacks of all persuasions. Several bars too, so there’s always somewhere to get a quick drink … and if you need a lie down after all that, then you can retreat to your luxury caravan where the ultimate in self-catering awaits! Basically, whatever you want to stock it with!
So what can folks expect in 2021 from the long delayed and much awaited SFW XI/XII taking place in April?
Well, probably some of all the above … including confirmed guests Robert Picardo from The Howling, China Beach, Innerspace, Star Trek and Stargate and much more besides, and actor and performance artist Mark Steger, who you might know better as the Demogorgon from Stranger Things, but also from The Nun, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Stan Against Evil. Plus many other guests to be confirmed, including actors and actresses, artists from comic and cover, authors of all persuasions … and top SFW favourites Brian Blessed and John Robertson, who promises a very special outing for his award-winning comedy game show The Dark Room!
Evening entertainment will be jumping with an appearance from the American rock band The Protomen and their spectacular geek-themed stage show as well as all the usual SFW madness and dance craziness which tends to take place. Expect banging DJs playing the best selections of music to get your feet tapping and you up and boogying in your best cosplay outfits on the dance floor.
There is no party like a SFW party … so if you want to be part of the biggest SF Festival in Europe, if you like anything and everything geeky and fun, if you enjoy watching, listening to and sometimes drinking with the guests, if you think that spending 3 days at ‘Geek Camp’ with around 5000 other like-minded souls might be just what the doctor ordered … then get booking now!