On the 12th of April I flew from London to Orlando to attend Star Wars Celebration. For those who don't know me personally, this was a dream come true as I have a slight obsession with the franchise. I attended Star Wars Celebration Europe in 2016 but this was going to be different. This time the event was being held to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of A New Hope. And it didn't disappoint in the slightest.
My two main goals for attending were to get into the live stages for the 40th Anniversary and The Last Jedi panels. This meant I had to sleep inside the convention centre for two nights with little to no sleep. For those that were there doing the same, I think it's safe to say we reached Jedi Master level in queuing.
The sleep deprivation was worth it though. Rian Johnson visited us the night before The Last Jedi panel and spent roughly 4 hours meeting each individual fan, signing their passes and taking photos. What a guy. The actual panel itself was great. We were the first people to see the new trailer and some of the main cast members were on stage answering questions without giving anything away. It was good fun.
The highlight though was the night before. The 40th Anniversary panel. I expected old cast members to make appearances but was blown away when George Lucas made an appearance, as well as Harrison Ford. I don't think anyone was really expecting that. The crowd went wild. As they did when Warwick Davis introduced Mark Hamill, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew. Seeing all these guys, my childhood heroes, in the same room as me, on stage at the same time, was incredible.
George Lucas then began paying tribute to Carrie Fisher before her daughter Billy Lourd took to the stage and delivered a very emotional speech about her late mother. It was starting to get quite emotional. As a tribute video then played on-screen there were many people in the audience, me included, struggling to fight back the tears. The strong, independent princess we all grew up with was gone. It was finally sinking in, for me at least. It all became a bit overwhelming. We were all physically and mentally drained from being awake most of the night, I personally hadn't slept for over 24 hours, and I'm pretty certain I wasn't the only one, so it was understandable that emotions were high. We were already weak, regardless of what we were witnessing.
As the tribute came to an end I was relieved that I'd managed to hold it together. That was until a curtain opened revealing the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, joined by the one and only John Williams. It's been a lifelong ambition to see Williams live, and when they started playing the Princess Leia's Theme I lost it. And so did everyone else around me. It was an experience I will cherish forever. Unforgettable.
When I wasn't attending panels, I was out on the show floor looking at the all the merchandise and exhibitor booths. There were countless highlights which I won't bore you with. On Saturday I spent most of my time taking photos. I've posted my favourites below. My photos don't do these individuals justice; the amount of detail, creativity, skill and time put into their costumes is incredible. Everyone was a pleasure to talk to. Thank you to everyone for agreeing to let me take their photo.
I get a lot of stick for being a Star Wars fan (or for obsessing over it) but I'm not ashamed. It was a big part of my childhood, just like sport was for others, or anything else that interested people when they were young and stuck with through adulthood. Being at Star Wars Celebration makes you realise that despite what people think, there are thousands of people who share the same interest as you and being surrounded by like-minded people and being able to openly express my love of Star Wars and talk about it to so many people felt amazing.
I hope you enjoy the photos!
P.S. Big shout out to Nancy and Justin. You guys are awesome!