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This weekend, Xena fans from the UK, Europe and beyond gathered at the Hilton Metropole in London for an unforgettable weekend and the first Xena convention in the UK for many years. This was the first time Lucy Lawless had appeared in the UK and the weekend included two concerts by Lucy at the Carling Academy in Islington.

Other guests this weekend included Joe LoDuca, the fabulous composer of all the music on Xena. Joe was also working with Lucy on her concerts. Also in attendance were writer/producer Steven L Sears, Paris Jefferson (Athena), Adrienne Wilkinson (Eve) and Brittney Powell (Brunnhilda).

The weekend kicked off on Friday, however I had to work and then brave the London traffic on a Friday evening, so I missed Adrienne's talk on Friday. The cabaret was a little, shall we say low-key. Brittney Powell brought up some volunteers to belly dance, while Steve Sears and Adrienne Wilkinson sang and the bloke from Creation led a group of people in singing Bohemian Rhapsody. Hmm.

We then had the first meet and greet party for us Gold attendees which was attended by Brittney, Adrienne and Steve. As usual, all the guests were very friendly, but as is often the case at these sorts of events, most of the guests had a minder who shepherded them around the room so you had to be quick or persistent to get to chat. We actually saved our chatting for the Saturday!

After registering and a quick browse over the meagre merchandise on offer (why didn't they get other dealers to come to give a bit more choice or even revenue?) most of Saturday was guest talks, videos and the first part of the auction. There was a really nice tribute to Kevin Smith, including some concert footage from previous cons and an absolutely brilliant music video to "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better". That's one I'd love to see again. The music videos Creation shows vary a lot. Some are quite poor, some like this one, are excellent. They should take a look at Myk's brilliant ones - Meredith Brooks' Bitch is superb, and incidentally one of the songs Lucy sang!

Anyway, the guests included Paris Jefferson - a favourite of mine, and an entertaining speaker; Brittney Powell, who I would never have recognised and I didn't think was that great. She didn't talk too much about the show, which is what I wanted to hear about. Steven L Sears has been around the Xena Convention scene for ages, but he is such a great guest. He really knows the show and the characters and gives great answers. Good bloke!

So the time was drawing near, time to get over to Islington and Lucy's concert. I was really excited about this. I'm a huge fan of Lucy's but wasn't too sure about her singing (didn't like many of her Celebrity Duets songs) although everyone had said what great fun her shows were. The venue was a good size - not too big, not too small. The seats were right in front of the stage, with us people standing around them, but where we were on the right hand side, we had a great view. The atmosphere was brilliant. Everyone was really stoked up about the gig, and when Lucy came on promptly at 8pm, everyone had a good laugh at her outfit - fishnet stockings under leather chaps and black knickers. Lots of whooping ensued!

Lucy did appear a little nervous at first. She'd only had a few days to rehearse with the band of British musicians and Joe LoDuca, and of the songs, apparently only one was a song she'd done before. An ambitious set, however I thought the music choices were really good. The songs suited Lucy's voice with no soppy ballady ones (unless you count Total Eclipse of the Heart!) and plenty for Lucy to belt out. I was impressed with Lucy's voice. Although she was caught out with the timing a few times, this was undoubtedly due to the brief rehearsal time. She delivered the songs really well and knows how to work an audience! The shots of Lucy's bum in those fishnets are all over the place by now! She also pulled up her kickers to reveal they were indeed Battlestar Galactica knickers with "FRAK ME" printed on them. I thought that was hilarious! Lucy seemed to enjoy the banter with the crowd and her Kiwi sense of humour went down well. (She mad a few jokes about Boris Johnson, the new Mayor of London and how he's an old Etonian buffoon which I was amused to read as an Italian buffoon on one con report! Lost in Translation...)

I can't remember all the songs she did, although I recognised most. When Doves Cry, Losing My Religion, GLORIA, I Touch Myself, Total Eclipse of the Heart, Bitch, Superstar, Halleluja...can't remember the others right now. It was really entertaining, and as it was my first close up with Lucy, I was really thrilled at the whole thing (even if my feet were killing me from the standing up!) I saw Lucy at Pasadena in 2001, but I don't think it really counts unless you can look them in the face, so this was just great fun. The show lasted about 90 minutes and I'm pretty sure everyone there enjoyed themselves. Lots of smiling sweaty faces afterwards! My camera managed a few good shots, but huge thanks to my friend Helen who clearly has a better camera and can use it like a pro! Look at some of these brilliant shots. I cheekily borrowed her memory card and stuck them on my laptop. Thanks Helen.

Back to the hotel and the Dessert party (which I misread and thought if would be camels and sand!) where I chatted with Steve Sears (he was so lovely!) Paris (very briefly before her minder pulled her away...grr!) and Adrienne (sweet as always). This included desserts - ice cream, cheesecake etc. Not a bad selection.

Sunday was the final day of the convention, and an influx of day attendees as this was Lucy's appearance. Before that we had Joe LoDuca, who was very nice but a little non-specific. Time he had some new photos too! The same one has been used since the show began!

Of course it was Lucy that many people were waiting for. Unfortunately, Creation always make people come up to a microphone to ask Lucy questions, which I am not a fan of. Too many people go up just so they can get one to one time with Lucy and there were far too many duff questions. Lucy looked quite tired, and the questions didn't help in my opinion. However, she did perk up and gave lots of entertaining answers. Sadly there are a few oddbods around, and while asking questions from the audience worked fine for everyone else, I suppose there would be a load of people who would just put up their hands and ramble on just as they did when queuing at the microphone. Anyway, we learnt that Priestess Leah was based on Rik Mayall from the Young Ones (how did I miss that??) Crucifixion is painful, there was no schwing when Lucy kissed Kevin Smith, Lucy's favourite episodes were the Debts and Sin Trades (the 2 t shirts I took to wear!) and Been There, Done That, that the Marlborough area in New Zealand is Lucy's favourite place, that her musical heroes are people like Nina Simone, Patti Smith and Annie Lennox and other bits and pieces. Lucy was very gracious and funny, despite looking very weary. She was only signing for us Gold attendees, which is still 200 or so and I know comparing my autograph (I was in row C) to a friends (in row G) her signing hand clearly got tired too, however she was pleasant and had a smile and a few words for everyone.

I was heading home after that, while many of the convention goers headed back to Islington for show number 2. Lots of people went to both gigs - dedicated fans! I did consider doing that myself, but 42 to stand is a bit expensive when you've done it once.

One of the things I always love about Xena conventions is that everyone is very friendly. You can be in a queue for autographs or drinks and pretty much turn to anyone to begin a conversation. I spoke to lots of old friends as well as lots of new people, and that friendly atmosphere is something I think is just brilliant. It was also quite amazing to see so many people there considering the show has been over for 7 years and while it's back on Bravo intermittently, it was never a big hit here. There were lots of European people - Germans, French, Italian, Czech, French, Bulgarians - as well as a few Americans (I saw Missy Good although I didn't say hello.) It was also interesting to see how many people were there for their very first convention. Made me feel quite old to be sitting next to a girl who watched it when she was at school and still likes it so came to see Lucy. Obviously, Lucy Lawless was the huge draw. I don't think anyone - even Renee would attract such a crowd. Indeed, Renee headlined Creation's only other UK convention a few years back and I didn't go! (I know, call myself a fan...) It is quite heartening that the show has many fans still and this was a brilliant weekend.

My only gripes; the convention was pricey as was the hotel. A central London location meant it was a little tricky to get to. I drove (London drivers are lunatics!) although most did use public transport. I think 115/night not including breakfast is expensive for a hotel, and most things in the hotel cost a packet too. That's London I guess. A hotel near Heathrow would have been much easier to get to and more reasonable. The organisation was also a bit mixed. When Lucy was signing, lots of people NOT in Gold were coming up to take pictures. Not that surprising. They paid up to 150 for the weekend but weren't going to get an autograph, so you can't blame people for wanting a closer look, however, this soon became chaotic as people didn't take a picture and move away, they just stood there. Eventually the Creation people started moving them back, but surely they could have got Lucy to just walk once round the hall or something to give people a few photo ops, or moved the autographs to another room so that you weren't having her sitting there in front of her fans, but saying "no, don't come near." It was a bit like putting a plate of food just out of reach of a starving person. I was also a little miffed that a few attempts to say hello to Sharon Delaney just got me a couple of brush offs. I know she was busy but the guests managed it. Also, the official t shirt was disappointing. I have a feeling Creation will have quite a few left. The idea of Lucy as 50foot Woman walking over Big Ben was good, but it didn't look anything like her. Bit like the old 12inch Xena doll that was just Barbie in a wig! I know it was probably a question of cost, but I'm a t shirt nutter and I didn't buy one. False economy there I think. The black one was a bit better (I did buy that one) but expect to see the white ones popping up in bargain bins soon..

Despite a few moans, there were far more pluses than minuses about the weekend. Lucy is a very charismatic performer and for most of us, seeing her talk and hearing her sing was a huge thrill. She's one of the main reasons the show was as popular as it was, and she comes across as a really genuine person too. Brilliant to see her. I also enjoyed meeting Steve Sears a lot and got to chat to him at one of the parties. So nice to see one of the major forces in the creation of the show still loves it and appreciates us fans and the community spirit that surrounds the show. Thanks for a great weekend (but not central London next time please!)

Click on the thumbnails to see larger photos. The first 7 are Helen's pictures not mine. Please don't pinch them!

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