by Scott Oakes
You would have had to have been hiding under a rock for almost a decade if you haven’t at least heard of The Walking Dead, the apocalyptic character-focused hit series from AMC. It is the actors of these characters that fans had the opportunity to meet last weekend at Walker Stalker London, a The Walking Dead centric convention held at the Olympia.
Held across two days, fans of the series had the opportunity to meet a variety of actors, not just those of The Walking Dead prestige but Denis O’Hare of American Horror Story and Freddie Highmore of Bates Motel to name but a few. Other attractions included a ‘Walker experience’, question and answer panels starring the special guests and a range of booths selling merchandise, comics, action figures and other gifts.
Having attended the convention for the full weekend, it was outstanding to see just how many people were in attendance. Both the comic and television series clearly resonate with fans and the atmosphere was glowing. Previously it could have been said that these kind of television series-centric conventions were only worthy of being held by the likes of Doctor Who, Star Trek and Star Wars with huge cult followings, but The Walking Dead really has crept up to those high ranks. It is a strong contender, proved by the fact this is Walker Stalker’s second year in London and by attending these kinds of conventions you can gain insight into just how passionate it’s fans are.
With every convention comes cosplayers and at Walker Stalker they were out in force. You only had to walk three feet to see another Negan cosplay and if you didn’t have the opportunity to meet Jeffrey Dean Morgan himself then it was especially great to see them! It was adorable to see the children of fans dressed as characters too, kids cosplaying Carl, baby Negan and even Baby Shiva! The cosplayers did phenomenal work in the effort they had given to their costumes but also in their friendliness with strangers who would ask for photos, giving up their own time to make the days of others that bit better.
Dedication. Dedication was crucial with this convention and you could tell these fans had it. The queues for even the smaller guests or former stars were immense at points in the day. If you had particular guests in mind that you wished to meet, it was beneficial to have a plan in place. Working around the schedules of actors who had photo ops and panels to attend was the most effective way to maximise your potential of meeting the majority of guests you wished to. Unfortunately there just wasn’t enough time in the day, therefore using what time you had effectively was important. There was almost a sense of there being too many actors to meet – too much choice and the time just went by too fast.
“A convention fit for the family – The Walking Dead family” – Letitia Lemon (convention attendee).
A major down side to the gargantuan queues was missing the panels in fear of losing your queue place, which unfortunately required reading them online afterwards – it seemed bizarre having been there for both days! It was never quite clear why the queues were so big; the volunteers did great jobs in managing queues; possibly too many tickets were sold, it could have been the VIP/Silver, Gold and Platinum attendees having priority or simply just all the fans wanting to cram in as many meet and greets and signings as they could. Whatever may have been the reason, it highlighted that if you can afford it, it pays to spend a little more on the higher-priced, higher-priority admission tickets.
The convention would and will continue to appeal to The Walking Dead fanatic and merchandise collector. That being said, there is room for improvement on the merchandise offered at booths. It would have been great to see more limited edition items available that you couldn’t find anywhere else. Small changes and improvements could make this convention perfect.
Particular praise has to be given to Michael Cudlitz (Abraham, The Walking Dead) and Josh McDermitt (Eugene, The Walking Dead) who despite the event closing at 7pm on the Saturday and 5pm on Sunday, still stayed late both nights to make sure everyone who wanted to meet them had the chance to, knowing that its hard to meet all your favourites in just a couple of days. It was testament to their characters; they understand the fans are the driving force of the show and by doing so was their way of returning the favour. It was also noted that other guests had shown their gratitude and appreciation to fans.
“Our highlight by far was Norman Reedus making my son feel so special, giving him a free autograph and a bar of chocolate. He came away from his autograph table grinning like a Cheshire cat” – Shelley Parker (convention attendee).
The fans of this convention are the main reason it made its way over to London and will be the driving force in it returning year after year. The passion, dedication and positivity of its fans highlight too why the series does so well with ratings, The Walking Dead has become one with the people and that is why like the convention, neither of them are going anywhere anytime soon. See you next year.