Keep calm and go to a con: Help support a U.K. Expo in Milwaukee
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While the first pop culture British Invasion occurred during the mid-1960s, a second, more subtle one is happening today. Many of the leading heartthrobs at the cinema are putting on their best American accents; thanks to BBC America and Netflix, the cult status of British shows like Peep Show and The IT Crowd is being eroded by American fandoms; Doctor Who and Sherlock have fan communities to rival any Star Trek convention. With thousands of potential budding Anglophiles, the time seems right to get them together in one place and let them argue or write fanfic about each other. A currently running Kickstarter hopes to further fund an upcoming Milwaukee convention dedicated to James Bond, sonic screwdrivers, and, uh. Paddington Bear.
Organizer Molly Katzfey is no stranger to conventions, having almost 10 years of experience on the other side of the rope. Since moving to Milwaukee, Katzfey has been involved with Anime MKE, a successful spring convention that recently celebrated its second year in the Delta Center. “I started in art and production. I moved into the media division and became the director of the area. I handle the archival stuff and outward facing production,” Katzfey says.
Katzfey and her husband, a comic illustrator, got the idea for the British expo three years ago while working for Anime MKE. The city was trying to get events into the city, but a Doctor Who convention seemed like a tough sell. Something that appealed to a wider audience seemed like a better idea. Why limit cosplay to Dr. Who and Red Dwarf? Why not Stig from Top Gear?
Another question: Why turn to Kickstarer? Katzfey and her husband had originally partnered with another convention, but the deal fell through. “We want to lower the badge costs,” Katzfey says. “The money is also to bring in both new and older guests. A con like this has an appeal to a wide audience, but if you make the badges too expensive, younger fans aren’t going to be able to go. I love TARDIS down in Chicago, but it’s $75 to get in the door.”
The duo originally booked the expo in the airport Wyndham, but found themselves in need of a new home when that hotel suddenly and without warning became a parking lot. They landed at the Hyatt, which Katzfey thinks will help their chances at becoming a successful show. “We’ve got some neat things planned, like a formal ball, an underground rave, and a tea room in the Polaris,” she says.
Katzfey is currently talking to a few actors for possible appearances. (Flying actors in from England is more expensive than getting voice actors to come in from Texas.) Licensing is also an issue. Since the BBC owns the rights to most of its shows, its sets the fees at what it thinks the market can bear. Happily, there are already two confirmed guests: Bill Fliss, curator of Marquette University’s Tolkien collection, and the interactive steampunk murder mystery group Steamcentury.