I recently hosted VWORP! a Doctor Who convention in Manchester. Over one thousand fans descended on the city centre’s Printworks for a whole day packed full of events, and while behind the scenes it was a bit hectic it was an amazing day. I also got to speak to the shows branding managers.
Big shout out to Mark Cookson and Gareth Kavanagh, the event organisers. In the pre-event briefing I said ‘just put me in the room on the day and I’ll do the job’, and blimey, though it got a bit stressful on the technical front, it was incredibly rewarding. Doctor Who fans are the best. With loads of guests, interviews and panels crammed in to one day I didn’t get a chance to see everything, but I did get the opportunity to meet ‘my Doctor’ Peter Davison which was a special moment.
I met Christel Dee, the current online brand manager and host of the Doctor Who fan show on Youtube, and interviewed Edward Russell who was brand manager during Russell T Davies tenure on the show. When it re-launched in 2005 it was a big gamble by the BBC, quickly becoming a big flagship show, and fascinating to hear how the ‘brand manger’ role evolved eclectically along side that success, and how licenses were toys, books and merch were granted. Chatting to Edward, and Jamie Hill (monster actor and formerly of the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff) we discussed the challenges faced by such a passionate fanbase, custodians of the show during it’s time off-air and when fan created content strays into copyright infringement.
One thing I wanted to pick up on was Doctor Who branding, as it does a particularly unusual thing. It re-brands every few years, often with the arrival of a new actor as the Doctor, nothing wrong there. However it has two logos (one for the classic show and one for the current show) and the most current ‘new’ logo is always in use. Meaning that what the ‘new’ logo is, its used products with older Doctors which looks a bit odd, but is actually ‘on brand’.
Doctor Who has a fanbase that crosses age and gender and the convention was a great way to celebrate the show’s past and serve as a ‘warm up’for the new series with Jodie Whittaker – the excitable topic of discussion on everyone’s lips that day. This new convention will hopefully be the first of many. It’s not the first time I’ve hosted a Who con – to meet people in front of and behind the camera – and hopefully it won’t the the last.