Being involved as a trustee of Vasculitis UK brings a diverse range of experiences. Vasculitis UK has fantastic fundraisers and fundraising support. This support comes in all forms; as well as all the wonderful fundraisers who take part in walks, marathons and cycling events, there are other more “unusual” events. We are sometimes asked to take part in these events and it has involved dressing as pirates for a nautically-themed charity ball, or as witch and wizard for a fundraising Halloween party. The most unusual was a recent invitation to attend the “Film and Comic Convention” in London – a very new and different experience for us.
In February of this year, very sadly, the actor Harold Ramis (best known as Dr Spengler in the ‘Ghostbusters’ 1980s series of films) lost his life to complications from Vasculitis. He had suffered with this awful disease for two years. “The Ghostbusters” still have a huge fan base in the UK, but those boys and girls who were fans in the 80s are now mature adults, creeping towards middle age, with more money in their pockets to indulge their fantasies and enthusiasms.
Apparently there are many Ghostbuster groups of enthusiasts around the UK. They all meet occasionally to relive the Ghostbuster experience, attending the various film and comic conventions held throughout the UK in the Spring and Summer, whilst supporting different charities at the same time.
Following Harold Ramis’s death, the UK Ghostbuster enthusiasts tried desperately to find as much information as they could about vasculitis, a mysterious disease that not one of them had heard of before. Eventually they made contact with Vasculitis UK through the VUK website contact page.
We were then asked if Vasculitis UK could be their chosen charity for 2014/2015. They asked for collection buckets, promotional material and information leaflets to share at these conventions. The first convention was in the Spring of this year in Newcastle, followed by another in Milton Keynes. As the UK Ghostbusters have learned more about Vasculitis their eagerness to support people diagnosed with Vasculitis has grown too.
The most recent Film and Comic Convention Weekend was in London at the vast Earls Court Arena. John and I were invited to go and join the Ghostbusters at their stand and gain first-hand experience of visiting one of these conventions. We were joined by Jacqui Moran, another VUK trustee, who lives in London.
On arrival there was a long queue for tickets, fortunately in the lovely warm sunshine. It was very entertaining watching all the fanatical followers attending the convention, many dressed in their favourite fantasy character costumes – from “Star Wars” Storm Troopers and “Planet of the Apes” primates to Dr Spock, “Dr Who” and Alice in Wonderland look-alikes. Being “Oldies”, I’m afraid the significance of many of the costumes was rather lost on us!
On entering Earls Court we could hardly believe our eyes. There were dozens of stands, all devoted to their own particular film or comic series. There were stands with celebrities signing books and comics, a stage where people could act-out their favourite character in front of an audience, and participation stands to have your photo taken with your favourite character.
We walked around in a daze, absolutely amazed and astounded by the variety and colourfulness of the stands, the enthusiasm of the people involved and the good humour and smiles on so many faces. 80,000 people had passed through the main entrance on the Saturday and on the Sunday almost the same number were expected to attend.
We were made very welcome by the Ghostbusters; it was fab to meet them all in person: girls and boys with an age range of around 30 to 40 years old! When we arrived at their stand they had already collected over £500 for VUK and had run out of leaflets and promotional material! We all chatted for a while and we met the founder of the group who informed us that they would like to make VUK their permanent official charity and support us in the foreseeable future.
Jacqui, John and myself came away from our new experience of attending the “Film and Comic Con” with smiles on our faces, having seen so many friendly people enjoying themselves. We made new friends and had the thought that this might not be the only Film and Comic Convention we will attend!
Story by Susan Mills
Click the banner below to see the UK Ghostbusters with VUK at ComicCon.