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Why do I go to conventions? My Supernatual Asylum story!

I have come to realise there are two types of people in this world - those who love something so much they will attend a weekend-long convention just to talk about and fangirl over it, and those who really just don't get it. Last weekend my friend Lana and I drove up to Birmingham for the weekend to attend Asylum, a bi-annual Supernatural convention held in the UK. I've written this post as a kind of Q & A as over the last few weeks I've had a lot of questions about the convention scene and what motivates me to be a part of it.

Q: Wait, what's Supernatural?
A: For those who maybe don't know me too well, I have a slight (read: severe) obsession with an American TV drama called Supernatural. It airs over here too, although a little behind, and is currently being shown on E4 on Tuesday nights. It's quite a niche, cult following kind of show and follows two brothers, Sam and Dean Winchester, as they fight against various evil and supernatural forces. Vampires, demons, ghosts, flesh eating monsters, you name it, it's been in the show. It's now in its 10th season and this is largely due to the strength of the show's followers, not our numbers, which makes it something pretty special to be a part of.

Q: Why do you love it so much?
A: I had watched Supernatural on and off for years, but properly got into it while at university. I would sometimes feel pretty lonely and it gave me something to focus on. I would go on tumblr and discuss it with people after each episode and it gave me a sense of community. What keeps me watching is this idea of a constant flux between right and wrong, that the Winchester brothers are fighting evil but have to make the kind of moral choices every day that would send an everyday person reeling. You end up rooting for the cause and being taken along for quite the emotional roller-coaster. There's humour, heartache and after 10 seasons a sense that you're a part of the story too.

Q: Why did you decide to start attending conventions?
A: Although while at uni I managed to get Lana into watching with me, the show is fairly small in followers and we're very widespread. Fans travel far and wide, even from Europe and America, for the Birmingham conventions, and it's THE place to be able to talk freely and excitably about something many people in my everyday life haven't even heard of, let alone watched.

Copyright Em Davey 2015

Q: What are conventions like?
A: SO much fun. Asylum conventions, like many other similar events, consist of panels with the actors in which they answer questions from the audience and get to chat with us, as well as opportunities for autographs, photo opportunities (see mine above with the lovely Jared Padalecki a.k.a. Sam Winchester) and more intimate meet and greets. Asylum 14 had I think over 2000 attendees so it was very busy, but so exciting to have people that totally get your obsession to whoop, cheer and laugh along with.

Q:  Does it cost a lot?
A: It all depends on what you want from the weekend. A standard ticket for something like this will set you back anything from £80-300, and include entry to the panels and most autographs, while top-billed guests autographs are extra as are any photo ops you may want. Some people spend thousands but I had my heart set on one extra photo which set me back £80 on top of my £108 ticket. Compared to the state-side conventions which are a bit larger, this is fairly cheap! I then had to factor in food and drink, petrol and two nights at a nearby Travelodge but I think I spent less than £300 on the whole thing.

Copyright Laura Bussey 2015

Q: Do people actually dress up?
A: It's generally referred to as 'cosplay' as people put way more effort into their costumes than they would for your everyday fancy dress, but yeah, a lot of people do! It isn't mandatory and many people just go as themselves (me included) but you'll see a large number of people dressed as characters, often with cool twists such as gender-swapping the character. I don't indulge in it but I love seeing the effort people put in. It's not expected and you definitely don't have to worry about not wanting to!

Q: I don't have anyone to go with, do people go on their own?
A: I went to my first convention on my own and it was a great experience. Most cons have dedicated Facebook groups where you can contact people who are also there alone and speak to seasoned attendees if you have any questions. I spoke to a few soloers online before I went and met up with them there. Even if you struggle socially it's easy at a con as you already have one great thing in common!

Q: Are they worth it?
A: I won't like, big conventions can be stressful. There is a timetable to navigate for the weekend to make sure you're seeing or meeting everyone you want to, and often a fair amount of queuing to do for things like photo ops. That said, the camaraderie of the whole event is just unrivalled. Supernatural attracts misfits and people just looking for somewhere to belong and fit in, and these conventions are definitely a bit like a homecoming for fans. We bond with each-other and get the chance to connect with actors who express nothing but gratitude for their fan-base. Last weekend was full of laughter and unforgettable moments, to the point that my post-con blues had me in tears the following Monday when it was back to reality.

There are conventions for so many different things across the UK and Europe. Just have a Google and see what you find. If you love something, don't ever be ashamed to celebrate that! Whether it's a book series, game universe, comics, TV show, film....anything!! Embrace the fan within you.

If you're a fellow Supernatural fan, tickets for Asylum 15 and 16 are on sale now here. Season 9 is currently airing on E4 on Tuesdays at 10pm.

A very special thank you to fellow attendees Laura Bussey and Em Davey for allowing me to use some of their fab photos from last weekend for this post to help supplement my rubbish iPhone snaps - pro-tip, do not forget your camera!!

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