Last weekend I attended the annual Fan Weekend in Skærbæk, Denmark. It was my second time there but looking back through the news archive it appears that I did not post a report last year so I guess I had better do so this time.
There has been a LEGO event in Skærbæk on the last weekend of September for the past 12 years. For the first ten it was organised by the LEGO community team and it was feared that the 2014 event would be the last when they decided not to fund it anymore. But, thankfully, a team of AFOLs stepped up to take over and as a result the event lives on, bigger and better than ever.
Skærbæk is a small town on the west coast of Jutland, some 50 miles/80km from Billund. The event is held at the town's leisure centre/holiday park which provides accommodation in the form of log cabins.
(New Elementary and Brickish ambassadors enjoying the early evening sunshine...)
It's a truly international event. Most people are from Europe, of course, but among this year's 520 AFOL attendees were some from New Zealand, Japan, Australia, Brazil, and the USA. In total, some 28 countries and 50-odd recognised LEGO User Groups (RLUGs) were represented.
It was also well attended by people from LEGO this year: the entire community team was there, a multitude of designers (Marcos Bessa, Mel Caddick, Pierre Normandin and Jamie Berard to name just those I saw) and many others from the company, including owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, could also be found wandering the halls and happy to chat with anyone who wanted to.
The event runs from Friday-Saturday: Friday is setup day, then on the Saturday and Sunday the public can visit the exhibition halls from mid-morning while presentations and workshops take place elsewhere in the building. This year these ranged from designers Marcos Bessa discussing his LEGO Direct sets and Mel Caddick explaining her work on extended line sets to sessions about the LEGO House and LEGO Rebrick. There is also an AFOL Lounge where exhibitors can chill out or enter building competitions.
A dinner for AFOL attendees is held on the Saturday night: some 420 were catered for this year, apparently, and it is a great opportunity to meet and chat with those from other LUGs. After dinner an auction of highly desirable items takes place and then the legendary 'after party' starts in hut number one, where one can sample alcoholic beverages brought by attendees from all over the world until the early hours while putting the LEGO world to rights.
(420 AFOLs in the same room)
It is therefore a great event to network, to put faces to online names, to meet old friends and of course to make new ones, whether over a shared love of the brick or single malt whisky at the Saturday evening event. I was particularly pleased to meet Brickset contributor MeganL who came all they way from California to be there. It was the first time we had met.
The three talks I attended were excellent. Marcos Bessa is well know among AFOLs and is responsible for some of the best Super Heroes sets as well as many LEGO Direct sets. In his 50 minute presentation he discussed the latter and the 'Easter eggs' contained within (his initials on number plates, birthday marked on calendars etc.), and also touched on the controversial subject of the Ghostbusters Firehouse and its alleged similarity with the LEGO Ideas project. One thing I did not know was that as a member of the Portuguese LUG Comunidade0937 he managed to get the numerals 0937 (LEGO upside-down) into the set number of his first Direct set, 10937 Batman: Arkham Asylum Breakout, as a tribute to the club.
(Marcos Bessa at the start of his presentation)
Mel Caddick detailed her work on extended product lines such as the seasonal sets and those for co-promotions with the likes of Toys R Us and MSC Cruises. Unlike many other design teams she is very restricted with what she can use: no new parts, re-colours, printed parts and so on but as we have seen she is still capable of producing some of the best sets in recent years. Unfortunately her talk coincided with the last half hour of lunch being served so I missed the second half of it (apologies Mel if you are reading!)
Finally, I attended a Q & A session with Jan Beyer, from the LEGO community team, and Jamie Berard. A lot of ground was covered including why the winter village toy shop was re-released but why the Cafe Corner never will be, why colours like sand red, an AFOL favourite, have not been resurrected, and also interesting information about designing sets for for certain age groups.
The public exhibition halls (two indoor football pitches) house the wide variety of MOCs brought by attendees as well as a large shop selling sets at well below Danish RRP and also several traders selling old sets, minifigures and loose parts.
(One of the two exhibition halls)
There were many large world-class models on display and also a lot of small highly detailed constructions that were transported there in hand luggage, by those of us that arrived by air.
Although it's a public event, models are displayed more for the benefit of fellow AFOLs than visitors, who numbered just 2000 over the weekend this year. I did not take many pictures, I left that to the experts from Brick magazine who were photographing everything for their forthcoming Skærbæk digital special.
If you have never attended you should seriously consider going next year. It is difficult to get on-site accommodation because it sells out fast but there are a lot of alternatives nearby including on the beautiful island of Romo a few kilometres away.
Overall it is a hugely enjoyable event and one I can highly recommend. To get more of a feel of what it is like check out the Facebook group. Will I be there again next year? You can bet on it. The cabin has already been booked...
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the organising committee headed up by Caspar, Stephan, Thomas and Lluis for doing such an amazing job, Gary for chauffeuring me around all weekend, the Bricks and Fairy Bricks boys for their company, and everyone who stopped me to say hello. It did not take long to give away all the Brickset minifigs!