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  • Writer's pictureJordan Blaza Olsen

London 2023 - Star Wars Celebration Europe

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

I’m writing this blog while on a train to Durham, to visit my cousin and her family. Brick houses of different shapes and sizes as well as open fields greens, trees, and farm animals grazing. The clouds are fluffy and white with greys underneath. The sky is light blue and the sun is behind me. Some of what we have passed through looked familiar, but my memory is very foggy. I have been here before but my mind is not allowing me to fully remember.

It might have been 10 years ago since I first visited the UK. I’ve lost all pictures from that time except for a few I shared with some family and friends. I remember flying into Amsterdam, spent a couple of days there, then took a train to Belgium for an afternoon hot chocolate. I continued onto Paris for a couple of days again, went for a quick walking tour of the popular sites, had a couple of meals and went out to a nightclub. The next day I continued my trip to London where I was supposed to meet a man I knew in Los Angeles who would be there to vacation with me. When I arrived at my hotel, the manager greeted me with an apology that the man I was supposed to spend time with would not come. He gave me an envelope with a letter and some spending money. The man paid for my room and dinners at the hotel restaurant. I felt awful, humiliated, and broken hearted. I did my best to enjoy my stay, met up with some friends I knew through the early days of social media, and never heard from the man again until a few years ago. I got my apology and closed that chapter. I promised myself I will return on my own terms, and I did.

This time I came here on my own. I’m older, wiser, more confident, and not waiting for any man to make me happy. With a couple more broken heart experiences plus the tragic passing of my late husband, I travel to see the world for myself, carrying memories and wishes of what could have been. I planned on going to Edinburgh to see a man I once knew but decided to cancel that. I reminded myself that if any man wants to see me, then he will come to me. Not the other way around. That’s how I met my late husband. But that’s another story.

This story is about Star Wars Celebration Europe. It seems like a galaxy far, far, away, doesn’t it? So much has changed in the last 10 years. In addition to becoming a widow, I also left my career in public health only to enter a new career in social justice. I also left my aspirations to be a “somebody” in the entertainment industry along with being a party-girl. I entered the world of cosplay in 2016 as a way to escape the difficulties I was experiencing and was reminded of my love for Star Wars in 2022 when a dear friend invited me to Celebration in Anaheim, California. As I dove back into why I loved this universe, I found inspirations for new cosplays and was reminded that from the first movie, I intrinsically understood its message of hope. There is hope for something better than what is now, and that hope is a fuel to move forward. Hope is also a foundation for change and a pillar for what is good and what is right.

Star Wars Celebration Europe was held at the ExCel, a destination I tried to go to for other cosplay conventions but just never happened for me. My desire for this trip is to openly experience the convention and see the UK with fresh perspectives. I think I held back my excitement a little too much that the pictures don’t seem to be enough. Now that I can travel more comfortably, I effectively utilized my resources to treat myself to a first-class experience. Was the Jedi Master VIP Badge worth it? It is, if you want or need convenience and assurance in attending the premiere panels on the main Celebration stage, take a break in a lounge for refreshments, significantly shorter lines getting in, and advanced purchase options for VIP merchandise. It did make me feel very special being one of the first to see the premier trailers, hear the announcements and be close to the stage, close to the celebrity guests.

The drawback is you don’t get to spend most of the convention with friends unless you find each other between panels and the lounge or if they have VIP badges themselves. This experience brought up a core principle in “con’ing”, fun time with friends. It was a bit lonely at times and not as thrilling especially you can’t share the excitement of the news, other than with other VIP strangers, because you don’t want to spoil it for others. I’m catching myself even now, the journey gets lonely and writing becomes therapy. We spend most of our lives in a journey to somewhere. How we go on that journey matters.

I did enjoy all the new things coming from the Star Wars universe and I got to cosplay some of my favorite characters. I enjoyed getting photographed and felt validated having the camera crew come back to me on all four days for some clips. I think I signed 7 or 8 release forms but none of the moments were shown on the closing video. I felt disappointed even though it was never a guarantee. I told myself be grateful I got to experience it at all but I’d be lying to say I’m not bummed about not getting a feature. I did get highlighted by the Executive Producers of the Star Wars Visions series for my cosplay of one of the characters. They said it on stage, “You win!”. But because it wasn’t on screen, I couldn’t really share it with my friends. They weren’t there. Some social media acquaintances who watched it livestreamed did ask if I was the one referred to. So, that’s some validation.

I got a few professional photos but a lot more con-goers photos and videos. I did meet a lot of new people, more social media mutuals, and quite a few strangers. I felt very accomplished to have brought and worn four out of five cosplays. I was able to pack them well and assembled in my room. I felt good about learning how the train system worked even if it’s just for one stop from the hotel to the ExCel. I walked about 3 miles a day, about half of it in heels. My legs and feet were tired. I also felt accomplished not wearing a corset for any of my cosplays. I immediately realized I didn’t need a tiny waist or at least to shrink my waist size for anyone or even for pictures. I wanted to be comfortable and to have others accept my cosplay for what is it. Even without my usual efforts in cosplay, I was greeted with generous appreciation, hearing “spectacular”, “phenomenal”, “amazing” even in passing.

The highlights for me were the panels where new shows were announced, trailers shown, the new storylines for the movies, and celebrity appearances. I am excited about Star Wars Visions 2, Ashoka, The Acolyte, Andor Season 2 and Skeleton Crew. I loved the moment when Daisy Ridley was announced as the new Jedi Master then she walked on stage! I loved the trailer for Visions 2 and the new original everything they're going to show us. I loved how the new movie timeline will tell how the time before the first Jedi, how the Republic came about and the new Jedi's and Jedi Master. We also got to see advanced Fan Screening of The Mandalorian Chapter 23 a week before it was released. All in all, it really was being at the Celebration Stage that became the highlight.

That’s just the Star Wars Celebration Experience. I’ll write something separate for the rest of my stay in London and a separate one for my visit to Durham. Check back later and or visit me on my other socials, links below!

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