We take a break from your regular scheduled programming to bring you the latest news from Chicago. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause and assure you that, following this, full reports on previous places visited will continue to be aired as usual.
It’s hard to describe what the last weekend was like, even amongst those I shared it with. We used words like “amazing,” “awesome,” and “intense,” but those on their own don’t do justice to the experience we had. Every place on this trip I have been to so far has been incredible, and I’ve loved it all, but all in different ways. The beauty of the Grand Canyon is not comparable to the pretty streets of San Francisco, and, in the same way, the fun I had at Walt Disney World was different from the fun I had this last weekend.
Think about, if you will, something that you’re passionate about. Perhaps it’s your job, or a favourite hobby like quilting, or hiking. Perhaps it’s a particular food, or a sport. Think about what it’s like when you’re indulging in that passion, and the enjoyment you get from it. Think about how excited you can get when you share that with other people, and how they get excited in return. Think about other things that tie into your passion, like documentaries on it, or new products that have been released for it, and how that can give you a thrill too. Think about what it would be like to be gathered in the same place with 4000 other people who shared your passion.
Now imagine that passion is Harry Potter.
That was Leaky Con 2012.
It began on Thursday 9th August, and the Hilton Hotel in Chicago didn’t know what had hit it. I would love to have had more in-depth conversations with the people staying at the Hilton not attending the conference, because they must have been completely confused by the people filling every corridor dressed in robes and carrying wands, talking about Hogwarts, and Starkid, and the Whomping Willows, and Potter Puppet Pals.
We had four days of panels and workshops, discussions and meet-ups. You could walk into a room to find people seriously debating the similarities between Harry Potter and Star Wars, or the importance of Fawkes the Phoenix in Dumbledore’s life. The presenters may have been academics, or youtube famous, or sixteen-year-olds. The people attending were equally varied, and came from all over the globe.
And I mean all over.
And yes. A lot of them came just for the convention.
I met people from Germany and the Czech Republic, and plenty of attendees from Australia. It was not uncommon to hear a British accent, or to hear people complaining about the flight from New Zealand. Such a mix of people meant that everyone had a different point of view, and I think that was one of the things I loved about the conference.
We had four days of waiting in lines. Lines for signings, lines for special events, lines for food, and concerts, and buying merchandise. We had lines for registration and lines for the leaving feast. The running joke was that it wasn’t Leaky Con at all but “Line Con.”
The funny thing was though, that even though we did do a lot of waiting around, it rarely was a bad experience. To be surrounded by people you had so much in common with meant that you could strike up conversations easily, and pass the time discussing Snape’s morals, or your favourite scene from A Very Potter Musical. There were loads of people in costumes, and they wandered around, perfectly happy for you to have your picture taken with them, or sign your book if their costume was so frighteningly perfect you felt as if they were that character. And then of course there was the singing.
For those who haven’t delved very far into the Harry Potter fandom it’s hard to explain the music culture surrounding it. There is the musical, called A Very Potter Musical, which now has two sequels (A Very Potter Senior Year was performed for the first and only time on Saturday), and there are people like Hank Green who have written songs which may as well be Harry Potter anthems, like “Accio Deathly Hallows.” And then there are tens upon tens of Wizard Rock bands.
Harry Potter fans rarely do things by halves, so if they know a song, they know all the words by heart, and chances are so do half the people in the line. People brought guitars. That should tell you all you need to know.
Playing Quidditch, Muggle style.
We had four days of catching glimpses of celebrities. Whether they be stars from the movie, like Evanna Lynch (who played Luna Lovegood), who was waiting behind me in the line at Starbucks on Friday morning, or actors from Glee, or the youtube famous Starkid. We went to panels where they discussed what it was like to be part of the Harry Potter phenomenon, and panels where they discussed their latest project. There was even a yoga class run by Evanna Lynch and Devin Lytle (of Starkid fame). There were authors there too, like John Green and Maureen Johnson, and literary agents who discussed how not to get published, all adding to the feeling that this was a very in-crowd.
We had three nights of concerts. Wizard rock bands like Tonks and the Aurors played to a crowd of wildly energetic fans. The Ministry of Magic had their songs sung by the majority of the audience, and by the time Harry and the Potters came on just before midnight on the first night, the entirety of the ballroom was going crazy. The floor was shaking as thousands of people jumped up and down in time to the beat, screaming the lyrics fiercely into the dark.
The Esther Earl Charity Ball.
This was a group of people who shared one love, and knowing that everyone else shared it too meant that they were unafraid to be themselves. Harry Potter is not exactly the most mainstream passion to have, and the nature of society means that it’s not always easy to broadcast your love for it. This was a place where you could broadcast it, and have it reflected back threefold. I’ve never seen a group of people dance as crazily as that for five hours, night after night. I’ve never seen a group of people as easily pleased, as happy to let go, and as welcoming of every other person in the group.
We had shared in Harry’s journey, and we had shared the discovery of that. We’d waited impatiently for each book, and pored over magazine pictures of who was going to be portraying our favourite characters. We might have toured Oxford and taken photos of the Great Hall, or visited Hogsmeade in Florida. We’d made wands out of the sticks in our backyards, and Sorted all our friends and family. This was a story that had reached into our childhood, and stayed with us as we grew.
Perhaps that was what was so wonderful about Leakycon; I felt as though not only could people there understand me, but that I could understand them, and some of their story. Sure, I loved the academic side of it, and I loved the literary side of it, and I loved the partying side of it. But what I loved most about Leakycon was getting to share Harry.
For those four days, Harry Potter became more than a kid’s book, or an idea concocted on a long train ride. It became real, and all of us there were part of the magic. We were magic.