If any of you are British, you’ll already know that it can be fairly solitary being a Brony on these shores. Most meetup numbers are beaten by lunch socials in Alaska, mentioning Ponies to outsiders gets a battering instead of a Brohoof, and the 2nd series hasn’t even been shown on TV whilst Cadence toys sit on the shelves. But every so often, you get a good look at what’s bubbling under the surface, and how passionate, talented and fun loving fans over this side of the pond are. Last weekend at BUCK, it brewed over the surface and turned a small corner of Manchester (or Manechester) into a Pony Utopia of Cosplay, Friendship and £4 pints of beer.
I was unsure coming out of Manchester Oxford Road train station whether I would see any attendees out in public – instead keeping hush to avoid confrontation in an occasionally hostile City. I couldn’t have been more wrong – two steps made outside, and I spotted two girls dressed as Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy. A friendly tip of my specially bought press fedora (standard for a press reporter, I hear) and my day was made already. I was a bit early, so decided to grab a coffee, watching gradually more and more Bronies headed towards the convention centre. Not before I decided to spill half a mug of Americano over my jeans like an idiot, I followed them down. I heard that near to the 500 person capacity had sold out, but you don’t garner how big a number that is until you see it – a massive line snaking up to the glass facade. Luckily enough, I spotted some friends from my Liverpool and NW England meet up group near the front of the queue – but, in the spirit of Brony friendship and kindness, I decided to initiate cutsies and get close to the front of the line (sorry.) A slight delay went quickly with a rousing chorus of “YEAAAAH!”s and chasing of bubbles spread by a Slenderman, and we were welcomed into the place by Saturn – eccentric even by Pinkie standards. We were in!
Compared to the adjacent Manchester Central the Bridgewater Hall is fairly dainty, yet still comfortably held all guests – paper mache wings and all. With any luck, the convention should hop over the tram lines next year to Bridgewater’s much larger neighbour. Outside the exhibition rooms, a Brony paradise of merchandise – loadsa emone changing hands for official and fan created toys, artwork, plushies and even pony crochet. After buying an awesome Fluttershy bottle opener from Sparkle Swirl and a few packs of trading cards (LUNA Tattoo!), I told Firenze “8″ (don’t ask…) and went off to the mane event – a Q&A with the Producer and Director of the Bronycon documentary, here for recording as well as answering some questions and showing some awesome clips from the big event earlier in the year. Again, being the the ace reporter I am, I decided to hassle Crescendo from Everfree Radio for the panel and pretend I was a big shot. But i digress – the work that’s going into the documentary, and the plans for it going beyond the Blu-ray sets are really promising – and with what was shown to us in the captivated crowd, this could go a long way to dispelling some of the generic stick that we’re subjected to. Following that, and a bit of a mixup with the crowd, I wasn’t able to get back inside after this for the panel with some of the Brony musicians – so decided to check out two crazy people take on what I can only describe as DiscordDiscordRevolution, and grab a professional reporters beer with a couple of blokes called Mike Brockhoff and Laurent Malaquais.
Given their VIP stance and the work they had do to, these guys had time for almost everyone there, from sheepish autograph collectors to shouting over people they had met the previous week at Galacon. They were accompanied by a voluntary camerabrony from Canada, who volunteered his services at Bronycon over his work holidays (on Twitter as @CapitalBro, and one of the mane donators to the documentary over from Switzerland, who fronted more than $10,000 towards their work. Having a chat with all four, as well as other bronies in their gravitational pull of awesomeness was a real treat, and gave me a better idea of why Mike and Laurent, along with John De Lancie, Lauren Faust and Tara Strong want to make this documentary happen – to make people on the ‘outside’ realise what a friendly and caring community this can be, beyond the typical presumption held by not only Fox News fans but also friends and family. The only discouraging part of the conversation – being told by some Dutch bronies that Heineken is like cat pee to them – it’s my favourite. I got the standard pictures taken and promised to catch them later, after grabbing some food at a McDonalds nearby (now raided by Bronies all ironically buying Big Macs). And even that as random – finding myself talking to a group of people I didn’t know. But again, that was magic – because, for one day, I was friends with everyone.
After returning to the Brony’s den, I joined the group huddled around a projector to hear a message from both Amy Keating Rogers and John De Lancie, who was schedule to join the Bronycon guys but had to bow out due to work commitments. Following this, it was a case of just milling about and trying to take it all in, half asleep after the earlier beer and food combination. I was interested in seeing the progress of the Budding Friendships game coming out soon, but even some intervention from the fans couldn’t get the demo working. I slipped out to check up on Pony Odeon, a dedicated cinema theatre for Pony Episodes – from personal experience, you’ve never watched My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic until you find yourself singing along to “At The Gala” with about 100+ bronies. Unfortunately, my day was cut short here, due to a problem at home I needed to attend to, which resulted in not being able to get there on the Sunday too (I missed a Crackle cosplayer!). A quick goodbye to all the friends I had made that day, and a rockin’ brohoof from Laurent, and I was on the train back home.
I mentioned at the start that you rarely see the level of support for the show on British shores than you may find elsewhere in North America. Last Saturday truly Bucked that trend (pardon the pun). It’s always nice to feel a part of something bigger than yourself – whether you find it in Religion, Sport or Ideology. And for the first time in a while, I felt that sense of belonging in this massive and unique fandom. There has been some negativity between bronies recently (including from myself) following what did or didn’t go on at the corresponding Everfree NW last weekend. But on reflection on my first experience of a mass gathering of My Little Pony fans I know that the vast majority of fans are friendly, diverse and all-around excellent, and are a true testament to our core values – Love and Tolerance.
(My sincere thanks to Saturn and the rest of the BUCK team who made it such a special event, all the guests of honour that featured throughout, Mike, Laurent and the rest of the filming team (the drinks are on me when I hit Vancouver & LA in February!), my friends from the Liverpool NW Meetup group, the vendors of some spectacular merchandise (inc. Sparkle Swirl who I didn’t realise it was until ARGH told me on Twitter), the crazy guys at McDonalds who tried to nab my Fedora for their Derpy plushie, the amazing Pinkie Pie cosplayer for unknowingly agreeing to marry me (forms are in the post!), the lad from the Navy who’s name I didnt catch, and everyone else there on the Saturday and Sunday!)