Star Wars had been my life growing up.
By guest journalist Kobi Omenaka
I was three when “Return of The Jedi” was released so was too young to watch it at the cinema. But somehow, I absorbed it into my consciousness, and the stories and experiences have been an inherent part of me; persisting some 40 years later.
I’m mildly curious about conventions. The cynic in me sees it as a cash-grabbing promotional ploy full of queues, waiting for things to happen and paying over the odds when you get to the front of the line. That said, when Star Wars Celebration 2023 was announced to be hosted in London, my giddy child self rose to the surface and ordered my middle-aged incarnation to march right over and check it out.
Kobi @ Star Wars Celebration 2023
Star Wars Celebration has been the go-to event for fans since its inaugural outing in 1999, set up primarily to celebrate (i.e. promote) “The Phantom Menace”. It has since evolved to include exciting announcements and panels, strengthening the Star Wars fan community. In 2016, when London last hosted the event, “Rogue One” was announced, the film which introduced us to Diego Luna’s “Cassian Andor”. The 2022 Celebration in Anaheim, California, the first since the pandemic, gave us more intel on the “Andor” TV show, a series which would go on to be critically acclaimed and my favourite of the Star Wars franchise.
On the morning of the first day, my middle-aged self was berating my child self for putting us through this. Celebration 2023 took place at The ExCel centre, heartbreakingly far from Central London. Yet as I stepped onto the underground platform at Kings Cross, I could feel the buzz of excitement growing. Every stop closer to the ExCel Centre brought more and more fans together in number, excitement, solidarity, and respect for each other. When I arrived, child me had fully taken the reigns. The detail, time and effort many of the Cosplay fans had gone to was disarming and left me feeling under-dressed in my “Yoda” t-shirt. No one cared, of course. We were all here for our love of Star Wars.
The main event of the day was first up. The “Lucas Films Studio Showcase” where a dizzying array of Star Wars announcements were detailed, from the “Ashoka” TV series being given a release date to the first peak at three new Star Wars films. Each announcement was accompanied by key cast and creatives; each met with a deafening roar from the audience.
I was struck by the culturally diverse range of people appearing on the stage before me with each announcement. “The Acolyte” announcement is an excellent case in point. On the stage stood Amandla Stenberg, Manny Jacinto, Lee Jung Jae, Dafne Keene and black British actor Jodie Turner-Smith. This universe has undoubtedly come a long way from the first film, which is a pleasure.
The cultural diversity wasn’t as apparent in the attending fans, which did give me pause for thought. I know plenty of POC Star Wars fans; maybe something about the convention aspect serves to be a deterrent. I was, however, struck by the number of people from the disabled community who were in attendance. I don’t remember much in the way of disabled representation in cast or crew and is something I’d love to see addressed in future stories.
The whole of my day at the Star Wars Celebration was fantastic. My middle-aged self concedes this. I did end up waiting in multiple lines for multiple overpriced things, but ultimately I was glad my child self had control enough to bring me here.
Although I think my child self shouldn’t have access to my wallet next time.
Find out more about Star Wars Celebration here.