Brick 2015 – The London Review

Brick 2015, London, UK on Sunday 13th December – a mammoth LEGO event that many (myself included) have been looking forward to ever since Brick 2014. I wasn’t able to attend the AFOLCON this year so this report will only cover the exhibition itself…but what an exhibition it was!

I arrived not too long after doors opened to the public with my AFOL fiancée and a non-AFOL (but intrigued) friend of mine. As he’d never been to a show like this before – or even a LEGOLAND park – I was curious what his general thoughts would be afterwards.

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As soon as we walked through the main doors we were greeted with the overwhelming buzz of the room. LEGO everywhere as far as the eye can see. There are a couple of thoughts you might have on arrival to any event of this size, similar to arriving at a theme park. Either you meticulously plan and work out where everything is in advance so you can make sure to get to everything you want to see or… just walk in, embrace it, and discover as you go. We went for the latter.

What was immediately obvious to anyone on entering was just how popular LEGO has become. This might seem like a rather obvious statement but the critical and commercial success the LEGO Movie has brought, along with more female-friendly themes courtesy of Friends, and I doubt we would have been able to have an event quite on this scale in the UK even a few years ago.

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As we started to walk through the enormous hall, we first passed the gaming zone where several stations were set up with Tt Games titles including Jurassic World and previews for the upcoming Avengers game. I suppose it must be a little harder to preview Dimensions at an event like this for risk of people walking off with the special minifigures, but I was excited to see some massively scaled up versions of the minifigs close by, which were hard to ignore (conveniently advertising their availability for purchase at Toys R Us).

Continuing on, there are endless forms of entertainment to cater for all the family. The Fun Radio bus which was there last year was around again as were plenty of brick pits with red, purple, and white among the colours with which to build from.

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The great thing with a LEGO show like this is that it’s very hands-on. Other than the Fan Zone (which I’ll cover shortly), you’re constantly encouraged to get your hands dirty along with your kids and build until you can’t physically build anymore. It’s absolutely brilliant. If you want to build a tower, build a tower. If you want to add your name or a personal message, then perhaps the giant stud wall is worth a detour for. Maybe you’ve always fancied making a car to race with where there are loads of hilly slopes for you to send your creation flying. Not only that, but there’s a sense of accomplishment when you get to lift the LEGO trophy afterwards. One area that I didn’t venture into (but was rather fascinated by) was the Mindstorms robotics section. I’m not well-versed with robotics of any sort, but have always thought it could be rather fun to programme a Mindstorms brick and bring my LEGO models to life. I saw many wide-grinning children throughout the day clutching First LEGO League certificates and what was obvious was these sorts of areas could likely be inspiring the engineers of tomorrow. A very gratifying thought.

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If you’re more the browsing sort then rest assured, you don’t have to play with the bricks to have a good time. There were regular shows at the Dance Zone which featured a small group of bouncy Friends-a-likes who would get everyone dancing and guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Last year I remember ‘kid-friendly’ entertainment being blasted out of the speakers from the main stage and it was unavoidable wherever you were. What worked better this year was the layout, meaning that if you weren’t near the Dance Zone at the back, it wasn’t as imposing as previously which was much appreciated.

The main stage had presentations throughout the day, so we managed to go and watch Phil Ring from Tt games introduce the upcoming Marvel Avengers game. It was very interesting to hear him discuss what went into the game, as well as seeing actual gameplay in action along with the plethora of characters that will be available. Particular standouts included Squirrel Girl and Stan Lee, both that have their own custom Hulkbuster suits. Another great feature is when you play as Tony Stark, you can access his HUD like you see in the films and select which Iron Man suit you want to access. It really does look like an amazing game, with some awesome hubs and an impressively large New York open world. I look forward to its release.

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All of these things I’ve mentioned so far are well and good, but I haven’t even covered what is undoubtedly the main draw for AFOLS who come to visit. The Fan Zone.

This is an absolutely massive section which displays unbelievable LEGO models from AFOLS who have travelled from all around the world to exhibit their latest creations. I was there from the morning until right before closing, but I can guarantee that if you attended every single day of Brick 2015, it still wouldn’t be enough to thoroughly appreciate every nuance and detail that goes into these stunning models.

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Here, every type of LEGO fan is catered for and will find something to love. Whether it’s the intricate architectural skyline of Chicago, a myriad of Star Wars builds – including a couple of very striking mosaics, Steam Punk builds, Classic Space, giant model aeroplanes, vast amounts of train sets, Jurassic Park alongside a stop-motion film on loop, a 3,500-strong minifigure rave party complete with flashing disco lights and booming trance music, right down to gigantic City displays we could only dream of recreating with our own limited number of sets at home.

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In short, it was incredible. Some exhibitors I recognised from other shows (including last year’s Brick 2014), but there were plenty of fresh-faced newbies, including someone who was visiting the UK for the first time in order to display. We were visiting on the Sunday and, I must admit, I was expecting after nearly 3 days of talking to the public that most LEGO builders wouldn’t be in the mood for much more. On the contrary. They couldn’t be more friendly, obviously appreciative of the positive comments that they were receiving from the casual LEGO fan, right down to discussing the technical details of certain SNOT-building going on in their MOC. We all know the LEGO scene is an overwhelmingly positive one with everyone having a love of the brick, whatever their age. What is fantastic about an event like Brick, is the chance to share that passion with everyone that comes to your display. I’ve wanted to exhibit at an event for a long time, and I think after chatting to some first-timers this year, I’ve never felt so ready to give it a go…

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Other notable brick-built creations were scattered around the hall courtesy of Bright Bricks and LEGOLAND Master builders. I definitely recognised the giant Hagrid and Buzz Lightyear models, but I was very excited to see Smaug, Gandalf and Bilbo ones in a Hobbit section that I’d not come across before.

I’ve been told by my fianceé at this point to add what was undoubtedly her highlight of the day. The amazing Santa-Kitty model. A special festive edition of Uni-Kitty complete with Father Christmas hat and light-up torso. If they were for sale, we’d probably be saving up for one already along with the giant 2×4 pink brick beanbag sofa found in the Dance Zone.

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Whilst the experience of the day was generally extremely positive, not quite everything is as awesome as it could be. The food stalls left a lot to be desired, with a fairly poor queuing system, a lack of menu on display and, most frustratingly of all, absolute rip-off pricing. How my miniscule and somewhat tasteless cheese baguette sandwich came to almost £5, I’ll never understand. We all know they’ll make money and can charge what they want, but next year I’ll be bringing a picnic in my bag and I’d highly recommend doing the same to avoid taking out a second mortgage to afford their prices. Sort it out ExCeL.

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The good news was there were other more exciting ways to part with money as Brick Lane was in full swing at the far end of the hall. Among the stalls and boutiques was a surprisingly well-stocked Toys R Us which even had most of the exclusives including Wall-E and Doctor Who sets. I managed to get hold of the rare Ultron Hulk minifig with a purchase so I was already off to a good start. If you were hoping to get some Christmas shopping done and looking for something a bit more unusual than your standard LEGO sets, then there was plenty to find. Both Blocks and Bricks/Culture were there with sizeable crowds at both stands showing how popular these LEGO magazines are, as well as popular LEGO book publisher Dorling Kindersley.

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4:30pm, and the day was starting to wind down signalling the end for another year. Whilst it was bust most of the day and didn’t show any signs of being empty, it wasn’t anywhere near as heaving as the Saturday I visited last year. This was much more enjoyable as I felt we could get to things we wanted to see and do without being barged at every moment. If you went, then I hope this was similar to your experience, and if you’ve yet to go maybe we’ll see you next year.

All in all, a resounding success for the guys behind Brick 2015 and no doubt likely to become a regular fixture in our LEGO calendar we’ll continue looking forward to.

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NB. In case you were wondering – my friend hugely enjoyed the show as it far exceeded his expectations. In fact he was eyeing up the Minecraft sets with a look in his eye that’s only too familiar to most AFOLs…

LEGO SYSTEM A/S

1 comment

  1. Ferg

    I went on Saturday and enjoyed it a lot. After the crowds from last year, I decided to hit the event a little later and the crowds had certainly thinned out. Something I’ll certainly consider if I head to Brick 2016.

    The fan zone builds were absolutely excellent and the definite highlight of the show. Brick Lane had some interesting stuff (although little bargains to be had; prices were often amazing (in the sense that ‘I’m stunned that someone is charging that amount. And that someone may consider paying it!’)

    The layout of the whole event seemed ill thought out. Brick Lane and the Fan zone (actually pretty much everything) pushed into what seemed to be one half of the area and then lots of not much else occupying the other half. A bit more room given over to Brick Lane would have afforded stalls to spread out and for them to be far less crowded.

    The stage was far less annoying than last year, but there was little going on that I could see. Certainly nothing that attracted me to sit down and take a look. But at least the bloody singing wasn’t a constant irritant like last year.

    DK were offering some great bargains, but no free figures; by the time I got there they were all gone which I was a little disappointed by – they really should have been better prepared for the numbers of people attending.

    I was glad to see lots of new builds though, fearing I would get a repeat of a lot of last year’s displays and they really were the best feature of the day for me.

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