AWAY, AWAY, WHERE ONLY MEMORY CAN FIND YOU… AND PHOTOS…. AND GPS… AND WHEREIS… AND, YOU KNOW, PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE KNOWS.

I don’t know when you started your year, but for me, this is the first weekend of 2016.

For the first time in six years, I’ve actually managed to have some proper holidays, and while New Year’s resolutions are fine and dandy and wonderfully worthwhile things, I’m damned if I’m going to remember what they are when I’m sitting in a Kripsy Kreme at 10 o’clock at night with a vanilla slice doughnut in one hand and a fuck-off-sized banana malt milkshake in the other.

In other news, we spent a week in Melbourne, and yesterday I recorded a 1.7kg gain at my Weight Watchers weigh-in……

Nominally, the trip happened because the kid’s grandparents took them away for a week, but it was really a chance for me to exhibit at my 2nd Lego exhibition, the incredible Brickvention, where something in the region of 26,000 members of the public descended upon the Royal Exhibition Building to view the works of Lego artists from all over the country, for Lyn to catch up with her cousin Sue, and for us both to catch up with our good friend Grant Watson. Plus, you know, Melbourne.

Let’s start with the Lego, shall we?

BRICKVENTION

I’ve been niggling abut getting over to this massive exhibition for a couple of years now. Brickvention 2016 took place at the Royal Exhibition Building, a beautiful old building next to the Victorian Museum. The 2-day exhibition is preceded by an AFOL day: an entire day set aside for seminars, mutual admiration, frenzied discounted-sets buying, fan auctions, lectures, drinking and an enormous game of Dirty Brickster. The day started at 9am. We arrived in Melbourne at 6am. It’s fair to say that working a full day, then going straight to the airport to catch a red-eye flight, then dropping your exhausted wife off in the middle of a strange City by herself while you fuck off for 12 hours of self-indulgent Lego activity is not a practice I’ll replicate next time I do this event.

I have a very loving wife.

The AFOL day itself was a lot of fun. Registration was accompanied by a goodies bag that would be the envy of most of the professional conventions I’ve attended– a backpack stacked with free Lego, including an exhibition-exclusive set designed by Australian AFOL Shannon Sproule; branded high-quality water bottle; exhibitor t-shirt; and a range of vouchers designed to make me feel welcome and pampered. Bloody worked, too. Once I’d picked up my goodies and signed up for some of the ore interesting events, I sahayed into the several-thousand square feet building to admire the astonishing skills of the other builders, and meet my co-exhibitors.

Due to distance, unfamiliarity, and weight restrictions, I was making perhaps the smallest contribution of any exhibitor: a 32×32-stud module towards a Micropolis collaborative build. Micropolis refers to a tiny-scale modular City built collaboratively by any number of contributors: the Brickvention version contained contributions from Queensland, South Australia and Victoria as well as my spaceport-in-a-backpack. I placed my little offering at the edge of the city, met and chinwagged with Cherie and Shaun Patrick, Queenslanders who had made the journey down to be a part of the build, then spent the rest of the day wandering around in my own little world, taking photos, going back again and again to the commercial stalls for just one more custom-printed block or baseplate, and generally geeking out like a geeky little geeker geek.

After meeting Luscious for dinner, we both trooped back to the hall to show Lyn the much-more-impressive-than-her-husband’s works on display and to finish the night off with Dirty Brickster, a round-table game that involves unwrapping mystery Lego packages and then madly stealing them off each other while the rest of the crowd hoots and hollers in mock outrage. Having picked up a sweet submarine set at 20% off earlier in the day, I set my eyes on a duplicate that was unwrapped late in the game, and came away with it in a state of high glee, the calls of ‘Dirty Brickster’ loud in my ears as I casually swiped it from the person who’d swiped it from the person who’d swiped it from the person who unwrapped it. Stolen three times, the set was officially out of the game and under my chair: a great part pack of colourful elements that will find their way into a spaceship MOC very soon.

Saturday and Sunday were spent behind our display table, answering questions and chatting to the unending stream of visitors who attended the public exhibition, bar a couple of hours on Saturday when I snuck out to join Luscious at the National Gallery’s Hamer Hall to see visiting naturalist Steve Backshall on stage, a pre-paid performance that was a much-anticipated highlight of the trip. And then, after three days of full Lego immersion, it was all over, and I said goodbye to new friends like Damien Saunders and Paulius Stepanius, and old ones like Sue Ann Barber, and headed out into the night for four days in the supposed cultural capital of Australia with Lyn.

Before that, though, we’re going to need a gallery:

Brickvention! After 7 hours on a plane, a 45 minute walk from the hotel, and 27 hours since any form of sleep, I make it!
The Royal Exhibition Building is a modest, understated little thing…
Modest. Understated.
It’s hard to decide what the design brief for the lights were, but ‘giant, fuck-off’ seems to have been mentioned… 
40 feet above our heads, someone has folk-arted flowers on the ceiling. Which begs the question: who even decides to haul a Nanna that high, and how do they do it?
My modest little contribution joins the table.
The full Micropolis display, with my module on the right side. 7 contributors from WA, Queensland, South Australia and Victoria, including Sue Ann Barber, Cherie and Shaun Patrick, and Tim Burdon.
Every exhibitor received a brick-built badge consisting of 1×6 bricks with their name and the exhibition year engraved upon them. Here, AFOL Tim Matheson models a multi-year badge that might just have taken the whole concept over the edge……
Scottish builder and author Warren Elsmore takes us through his work.
Dirty brickster…. dirty brickster……
So many displays, even a dedicated NoLSO (Non-Lego Significant Other) like Luscious can find one she wants to be seen with.
A mildly popular event……
And what of the displays themselves? Here is a small (and I mean small) selection of what was on display. Where I know the name of the artist I’ve denoted it, but nonetheless, mad skills abound. 
Even in brick form, the Lancaster is a thing of beauty.

Ryan McNaught’s Titanic. An absolute behemoth about 6 feet high and eight long, with unbelievable detail and narrative moment in every inch. 

He also contributed this. I’m sure he processes tax forms or something equally boring in his spare time…

As if that wasn’t enough, Ryan also undertook a live ‘mystery build’ with patrons over the two days, creating these life-size, wearable and sittable, versions of the classic 886 space set. Talented sod.
Audrey, by Tim Burdon.
A classic space diorama by Donna Mee and family, from Tasmania, that had me drooling in nostalgia lust.

 

SHIP is an acronym that stands for Seriously Heavy Investment in Parts. Any questions?
God, I love spacecraft. 

Classic Space SHIP. I actually heard my inner ten year old squee.

More airborne beauty.

M-Tron. A space series that arrived after I had moved on from my childhood collecting. That colour scheme is insane.
Greebling: the addition of small detail designed to give texture and visual interest. Got it?

 And what of Melbourne itself? Well, that will need a part two, tomorrow.

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