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Seibertron.com interview with Simon Plumbe of Auto Assembly 2010 (exclusive info inside)

Transformers News: Seibertron.com interview with Simon Plumbe of Auto Assembly 2010 (exclusive info inside)

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 5:35PM CDT

Categories: Event News, People News, Interviews
Posted by: Delicon   Views: 83,940

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If you're a frequent visitor to Seibertron.com (as we hope you all are), you'll already know that we offer the most comprehensive coverage on the various Transformers conventions, both domsetically and abroad. While BotCon is easily the largest Transformers convention in the United States and TFCon can say the same for Canada, they are hardly the only TF conventions out there. "Across the pond" in the UK there is one annual Transformers event that has grown to the point that it has broken records and become Europe's largest Transformers convention, having pulled in just over 500 attendees last year. Recently, we caught up with Simon Plumbe, organizer of that convention which he has named Auto Assembly.

Delicon: On behalf of myself and the rest of the staff here at Seibertron.com, I'd like to say how privileged we are to have a special guest today in Simon Plumbe. Simon is the founder and the organizer of Auto Assembly, Europe's largest Transformers convention. Simon, we humbly thank you for your time today.

Simon Plumbe: It's my pleasure - thanks for being interested in us and for all your support over the last few years!

Delicon: There are obviously millions of Transformers fans all over the globe, but only a select few have been involved in putting together a Tf-themed event on the scale of Auto Assembly. What inspired you to take on such a venture and did you have any idea years ago how big it would eventually become?

Simon Plumbe: Well, I've been active in science fiction fandom for 21 years now and obviously involved with Auto Assembly for the last 10 years, and Auto Assembly's origin started then. Back in 1989 I founded Infinite Frontiers, Auto Assembly's "parent" organisation which is a non-profit making sci-fi group. Originally, it started as a Doctor Who fan club, but quickly evolved into a sci-fi organisation. A Star Trek fanzine soon followed, then a Star Trek convention in 1996, followed by a Star Trek club with regular monthly meetings. It was from these meetings that former team member Sven Harvey suggested doing a one-off Transformers meeting similar to our Star Trek ones. The event was planned, publicised on a limited basis and had a fairly decent turnout of 30 people - Auto Assembly was born! Another followed about 6 months later with 61 people, a bit more elaborate and ambitious and it seemed as if we were obviously onto something.

Delicon: Was there a particular year when you got a first real glimpse of just how big Auto Assembly could actually be?

Simon Plumbe: Things really took shape in 2003 when the UK's other Transformers convention Transforce took a gap year. We expanded quite a lot, hired a large hall, invited a couple of guests and had over 230 people attend from all over the UK. Auto Assembly had arrived!! Things just grew from there really. Since then there have been some behind the scenes changes and for reasons I won't go into here, I took sole charge of the convention for Auto Assembly 2009 and I'm now driving it with a new vision and it's grown into the sort of scale that I envisioned a few years ago making it into the sort of sci-fi conventions I used to attend and I think the attendees have responded really well to it. I brought in a new committee late in the day last year and they really rallied around me and helped save the convention and they have done a fantastic job. I've pulled talent in from a lot of the major UK forums and websites and fan groups and I think it really has added a lot to the convention and we've got a great team to really take the convention forward for the next 10 years and beyond!

Delicon: Last year it was well publicized that AA broke the magical 500 attendee mark. How many attendees have registered so far this year and is there any kind of limit as to how many guests you could possibly accommodate?

Simon Plumbe: This year it has been incredible! At this point last year we had about 120 pre-registrants but so far we are already up to just under 200! Going by that number, we are well on track to not only beat 500 but shatter that total. In fact, I think we're on course to have this year being the first total sell out so we will have to turn people away so I'd seriously suggest that people don't leave it too late to book their tickets! We have set an attendance cut off point of 550 people per day for the convention to keep things comfortable and within the hotel safety limits. As we are using four function rooms in the hotel we don't think any part of the convention will get too crowded at any time and we think that 550 will keep things nice and friendly and informal for everyone, including the guests. As I said, that figure is each day though, so the total figure could be a lot higher taking into consideration that some people may only be there for a single day.

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Delicon: That brings me to my next question. Although there was some speculation otherwise, is it safe to say from your last statement that you will again be offering single day passes for the convention?

Simon Plumbe: We have had people asking us for a while whether or not we are going to be offering one day tickets again for Auto Assembly 2010. Well I can now exclusively reveal that not only are we doing this, but they will be going on sale in the next couple of days! We are doing things slightly differently to last year though. Last time we set an allocation for one-day passes then released them slowly over several months. This time we are limiting it to just 75 one day tickets for Saturday and the same for Sunday and that is it. All the remaining tickets are weekend passes only so once those 75 have sold out on your chosen, the only way you will be able to attend is to book for the other day, or the full weekend. Price wise, we are freezing the ticket price from 2009 and one day tickets will be £25 for adults, £18 for children, students and senior citizens, and free for under 5s.

Delicon: Can you let our readers know the time and place for Auto Assembly 2010, as well as the rest of the pricing structure?

Simon Plumbe: It's taking place over the weekend of Friday 13th(!)-Sunday 15th August 2010 in the Holiday Inn Birmingham City Centre hotel, Birmingham, England. To avoid confusion, there are two Holiday Inn hotels in the centre of Birmingham but the one we are using is specifically called the Holiday Inn Birmingham City Centre. We've got varying ticket prices dependent on age and discounts for families.Adult (16+) full weekend tickets are £45, Children, students and senior citizens are £35 for the weekend, and under 5s are free. We also do a family pass which is £145 which covers two adults and two children All of those are rates are for the full weekend. The Friday starts from about 6:00 pm until about 10:00 pm (really just as "starter" for the weekend) and the main convention is from around 9:30-5:30 on Saturday and 9:30-6:00 on Sunday. There is also a special evening programme on the Saturday from 7:30 until around 1:00 am that is exclusive for weekend attendees only (as is the Friday evening programme)

Delicon: What can you tell us about the Friday and Saturday evening programs that might make a prospective attendee consider registering for the entire weekend?

Simon Plumbe: Friday is very much a pre-convention social gathering - the dealers will be setting up and we'll still be doing some of the pre-convention setting up, but we're opening up the Main Hall and bar to attendees. We'll have some videos running, possibly a quiz or two, most of our guests will be around and we will no doubt have another one of our live fan dubs on the big video screen but really it's a pretty informal fun night. Last year we finished the night off with a group trip to the cinema to see Revenge Of The Fallen and we are still talking to the same cinema about trying to do something again this year.

Delicon: Wow, those are just the Friday activities?

Simon Plumbe: Yeah, that's just Friday night! Saturday night is another exclusive night for weekend attendees and this is probably the highlight of the weekend for me personally, because Saturday is party night! The main convention will end at about 5:30 pm and will re-open at 7:30 pm and the night is going to be running on until around 1:00 am. We're going to have two concerts by rock band Next Of Kin (one will be a set featuring covers of songs from the 1986 animated Transformers movie and the set later in the night will be a general mix of stuff into the early hours), we'll have a cosplay fashion show/competition, our script reading featuring Garry Chalk, our second voice actor and several fans performing a brand new script written by Simon Furman (see our Youtube channel for all three parts of last year's script) and maybe a few more surprises that we're working on...all this and a bar that will be open all night long! Most importantly though, ALL of this - the Friday night, the Saturday night mparty, the workshops, autograph sessions... EVERYTHING is included in the ticket price! Apart from your travel, hotel bill, food and whatever you spend in the dealers room, you won't have to pay for anything that takes part at Auto Assembly 2010. Well, obviously, apart from the raffle and auction!

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Delicon: That sounds awesome! I imagine that beyond the parties, many many other things will be going on as well. Is it possible to explain in words to someone what Auto Assembly is all about and do it justice if they have never been to one?

Simon Plumbe: I'll try. We hope that from the minute people arrive at the convention, until the time they leave they'll find plenty to do and have a weekend that they will never forget! I don't think there's any one thing that I could single out about the convention, but over the years it's definitely changed, even more so in the last 18 months with our change of committee since I took sole charge of the
convention backed up by a new team... the main thing I would say is that it is a weekend long social event, a chance to spend a few days mixing with fellow Transformers fans One way I like to think of it is that you could go to the convention alone and go home with several hundred new friends! Last year, almost everyone said that they felt that meeting friends, and the social aspect of the convention was the hightlight for them so in a way, you could look upon the convention as a three day party! Obviously, there's a lot more to Auto Assembly than just a place for people to meet though. There will be dealers from all over the UK and further afield with toys for sale ranging from G1 to RotF and beyond, video screenings, rare toy and art displays, quizzes, competitions, workshops, games, a costume competition, a live band, guest talks including 8 comic guests, and 2 voice actors, a live script performance with our voice actors on stage...and that's not even half of it!!

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Delicon: You didn't mention it just now but I've heard that AA has also become a haven for video gaming. Do tell!

Simon Plumbe: Most years we've tried to have a video games area at the convention and several times we've worked closed with games publishers to have their support - thanks to Atari one year we had Playstation 2 in-store units sent along to showcase their game, along with demo discs to give away to all our attendees and one fan went home with a PS2. This year we wanted to do something a little different. It's been 25 years since the first Transformers game was released on any format and we wanted to showcase the best (and worst) of these and give people a chance to play as many of these as possible and expand our games area as we could so we're getting as many old computers and games consoles as we can and the games to go with them, and setting up a dedicated Games Zone. We're going to have everything from the Commodore 64 right up to the Playstation 3 and everything in between and while a lot of games will be familiar to those attending, we're sure most people will see games they have never played before and we're pretty excited about it.

Delicon: Something very enticing to fans at a large convention such as this is always the guest roster. You mentioned 8 comic guests as well as 2 voice actor guests. Now in past years, I know Auto Assembly has featured such "names" as Dan Gilvezan (he even mentioned Auto Assembly on the Shout! Factory Transformers cartoon DVD set), Ian James Corlett, Gregg Berger and Simon Furman. What special guests have been announced so far for Auto Assembly 2010?

Simon Plumbe: Well, we had more guests than ever last year but being honest we felt that we probably had too many and not only was the guest area too crowded but it didn't give the guests enough time on stage either, so we thought that this year we're focusing on fewer guests but choosing guests we know people want to see either returning or to see for the first time. So bearing that in mind, comic wise we have the return of Auto Assembly regulars Simon Williams, Liam Shalloo, Kat Nicholson, Jason Cardy and Kris Carter. Returning after a one year break is the legendary Simon Furman and making a welcome return after his Auto Assembly debut in 2006 is Guido Guidi. With our guests of honour, we have our first two confirmed - Garry Chalk who needs no introductions, and Transformers Animated lead character designer Derrick J Wyatt, who is being brought to the convention thanks to sponsorship from the guys over at http://www.transformertoys.co.uk and http://www.transformersanimated.com We are still in talks with our final guest of honour (who is our second voice actor for the convention) but we DO have another guest to announce right now and right here!!!

Delicon: By all means, don't you let me hold you up! I'm sure our loyal Seibertron.com viewers are eager to know!

Simon Plumbe: Well, he was such a hit last year that we couldn't resist inviting him back. We are proud to announce that once again we are going to be joined by IDW Publishing's artist/writer Nick Roche!

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Delicon: That sounds like a pretty star-packed lineup to me. I understand that many of your guests will have items such as prints, original comic art, commissions, pre-signed comic issues and more for sale. Is it also true that they will sign all of these items for free?

Simon Plumbe: We always insist that our guests don't charge for autographs. If they bring things along with them to sell then that's fine with us, but if fans bring their own things then we don't allow guests to charge for these things to be signed. Artists will be selling prints and charging for sketches, and all our attendees will have postcards in their goodie bags with characters that the actors will have played so they have something that they can get signed, but
if they want to buy a photo from the actors then they can. Obviously, we want people to be sensible and not abuse it though. If people take a pile of comics to Simon Furman and ask him to sign all of them, then they have to expect him to say no at some point as it's not fair to expect our guests to sign hundreds of items for every attendee! However, our autograph and guest system is handled VERY informally so all attendees have the chance for autographs all weekend and our guests have plenty of time for themselves too!

Delicon: That's a really nice thing that you are able to do. Speaking of "doing nice things," I've heard that Auto Assembly has in the past used a portion of the proceeds to raise money for charity. Can you elaborate on that and will that continue this year?

Simon Plumbe: Yeah, that's something that we've always tried to do. We're a non-profit making event (ever since I set up Auto Assembly's "parent" organisation, Infinite Frontiers, back in 1989 it's been non-profit making) but for conventions at least, we've had some form of charity fund-raising element added to it. We tend to have a charity auction and raffle as part of the programme and - if we are in the position to afterwards - put some of the excess funds from the convention to charity as well. This year's auction is already looking quite impressive with a lot of signed photos of various voice actors from G1 onwards, original comic artwork, signed comics, and lots more besides! Last year Gregg Berger got involved in the auction and became a guest auctioneer for part of it, which really helped raise more money but really made it an entertaining part of the weekend as well and we hope to get one of our guests to do the same again this year.

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Delicon: Earlier on, you mentioned that Auto Assembly now has its own Youtube channel. What sort of content is provided there and roughly how often is it updated?

Simon Plumbe: We're trying to use the channel in two ways - first as a news/information channel to give people as many updates on the convention as possible and all the breaking news and developments and go into the sort of detail that we couldn't go into anywhere else. Secondly, we have a massive archive of material that we have recorded since the first event back in 2000 and we wanted to share it with everyone so we're slowly going to be editing it and releasing it on there. Originally, we were looking into releasing a DVD from Auto Assembly 2009 and we had about 14 hours worth of footage to use, but as this plan has been shelved, a lot of this will be uploaded to Youtube in time but we decided to start with the interviews with Gregg Berger, Ian Corlett and Andrew Wildman along with the script reading. In terms of updates, we'll aim to upload at least one video a week, possibly more including our news bulletins.

Delicon: A lot of colletcors attending conventions are more and more interested in collecting exclusive items that are either only given away or put up for sale there. However, I understand it's a pretty difficult process to get exclusives produced. Where does AA stand when it comes to offering exclusives and where do you WANT to stand?

Simon Plumbe: We have been trying to arrange for an exclusive toy for a LONG time but it's difficult. Not being an official convention takes away a lot of power from us to be able to do something like that, and even if we were, the cost would be astronomical and we would need a business partner to take on the cost risk. We have been approached several times now by companies who manufacture the
unlicensed accessories such as Powered Commander, but that's not a route I want to go down - either we get something official, or not at all. That's why I was so excited last year when we had the convention exclusive cover variant of All Hail Megatron #13 and I'd like to do something similar again this year.

Delicon: Well, while it may not be a special edition figure, Auto Assembly does still give out something called "goodie bags." Can you explain the kinds of items that are included in those?

Simon Plumbe: The goodie bags are something we have been doing since 2003 and it's just something we wanted to do as a "thank you" to all our attendees for coming along to the convention. We know that for some people, the cost of attending the convention can be quite high so even if someone doesn't have enough money to buy a lot, we wanted EVERYONE to be able to go home with something so the goodie bag was born. We don't know exactly what will be in this years yet apart from 2-3 postcards, a keyring, comics, stickers, pin badges, but what you get will vary depending on when you register - the earlier you book, the more you get! We're also going to have some more exclusive postcards in our goodie bag - we're looking at either two or three new postcards and a keyring in the bag for everyone, and we may have more keyring designs on sale. As always, I am constantly going to be talking to companies to get more items donated right up until the last possible minute to give everyone the best bag of gifts we can!

Delicon: What can you tell us about the workshops that will be held this year?

Simon Plumbe: Last year we ran a number of workshops over the course of the weekend and we know they were all a hit with the attendees and we are hoping to run all of these again. We have already confirmed that we will be runing a comic colouring workshop with IDW colourists Liam Shalloo and Kris Carter, we are hoping to have another children's art workshop as part of our dedicated children's programme of activities and if we can persuade him again(!), we would hope that Nick Roche will do another art workshop. As well as that, we are hoping to run another kitbash workshop over the weekend so there will be plenty of hands-on activities for people to get involved in. If anyone else wants to run workshops, activities or events of their own over the weekend, we do have our Alternative Programme Room that is bookable by attendees so it's completely open-ended. Right up until the convention itself, we have no idea what extra programme items could be taking place!!

Delicon: In the past, UK transformers fansite Transformers @ The Moon has been on hand to show off some ultra rare figures, notably their massive Lucky Draw display last year. Will TFTM be participating in a similar fashion this year?

Simon Plumbe: Well, Steve and Dave Mapes from Transformers @ The Moon are now official sponsors of the convention - they're bringing Derrick Wyatt over - but they are also members of my new committee and they are in charge of the toy display! They do have an idea for something special this year. It won't be lucky draws this time as they wouldn't be able to top last year when they showcased their entire collection, but they have got some pretty good ideas lined up, some of which are still in the works.

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Delicon: We're just about out of time today. Simon, is there anything you'd like to say in closing, either to returning AA attendees or those who are reading this and possibly still on the fence?

Simon Plumbe: I just want to thank everyone who has registered so far for AutoAssmbly 2010 and to thank everyone for their support last year in helping make Auto Assembly 2009 the biggest Transformers convention in Europe and smashing the 500 barrier that we've wanted to break for so long, especially after the problems I had in the run-up to the convention making sure it actually still went ahead. If you are planning on coming this year, all I will say is hurry and book up while we do still have places available as you won't regret it, especially as we make more announcements over the coming weeks and if you're not sure about coming just check out the videos on Youtube -
ours and ones other people have recorded - and see what you missed last time and maybe that will change your mind!

Delicon: Can you give everyone one last quick reminder of the time and place of Auto Assembly 2010?

Simon Plumbe: Yeah, it's 13th - 15th August 2010 at the Holiday Inn Birmingham City Centre, Birmingham, England. Auto Assembly will start at around 6:00 pm on Friday for weekend attendees only and at around 9:30 am on Saturday / Sunday for single day attendees.

Delicon: Thanks so much, Simon! For more information on Auto Assemby 2010 and further updates as they become available, please visit http://www.autoassembly.org.uk. You can also find AA2010 on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/auto_assembly) and Youtube
(https://www.youtube.com/autoassembly) Of course, Seibertron.com will continue to have extensive AA2010 updates, also. Simon is also a registered member of our Energon Pub forums so he is accessible there
as well.
Credit(s): Simon Plumbe, Auto Assembly 2010

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