Brick Live 2016 Event Report

The UK’s biggest LEGO show returned to Birmingham at the NEC last weekend for another four days of fan exhibitions, merchandise stands and interactive entertainment. For newbies to Brick Live, there was plenty of fun to keep visitors enthralled for a day or so – but for returning guests, it was very much a case of ‘been there, seen that’.

The one exception, of course, was the ever-expanding Fan Zone, where AFOLs from all over the globe came to showcase their latest and greatest models. This area was thankfully even bigger than last year, with more floor space devoted to showing off the LEGO community’s work, and with plenty of new models on display, visitors weren’t short of creations to marvel at.

Kevin Hall's Beauty and the Beast castle.
Kevin Hall’s Beauty and the Beast castle.

Kevin Hall’s Beauty and the Beast castle proved to be a real showstopper. The giant structure incorporated a number of inventive building techniques, and even mixed LEGO with technology, thanks to a proprietary augmented reality app Kevin had developed specifically for the model. When holding a tablet up to certain trigger bricks on the front of the castle, a virtual rose appeared, in a great nod to the source material.

Lewis Aylmer, meanwhile, brought part of his wonderfully nostalgic collection, all originally released over a 12-year period from 1958 to 1970. Like most of the AFOLs displaying their collections and creations, he was happy to talk to visitors – and certainly knew his stuff, including the minute differences between the American, British and European versions of the boxes on his tables.

Elsewhere on the convention floor, TT Games had a significant presence, with demo booths for both LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens and LEGO Dimensions. The latter had a much-talked about promotion running alongside it, wherein attendees had to collect 20 different character cards in order to redeem their own playable Green Arrow minifigure (first released at E3).

The queues to collect Green Arrow were a perfect place to trade cards.
The queues to collect Green Arrow were a perfect place to trade cards.

On paper, this sounded like a great way to make sure everyone had chance to get the minifigure, without hordes of collectors snapping them up for their resale value. In practice, however, the system was about as convoluted as it comes, and only really resulted in spending half the day queuing to get the right combination of cards.

Shopping opportunities were predictably plentiful, with independent sellers and customisers setting up stalls next to the ubiquitous Toys R Us pop-up store. Savvy shoppers could find surprisingly decent discounts at the outlet, with freebie polybags to sweeten the deal. The entire shopping area of the convention floor took up enough space that you could be sure to leave skint, but not empty-handed.

The Toys R Us store proved typically manic.
The Toys R Us store proved typically manic.

The usual gamut of brick pits, mascots and mosaics were present and correct, and the stage area allowed for more Dimensions focus as well as a place for weary parents to rest their feet for a few minutes. But if you’d been to Brick before, this was all par for the course – really, the only new attraction was the larger, more varied Fan Zone, and all the new models located therein.

Whether that alone was worth the entry price is, of course, down to personal preference. But for next year, the show’s organisers will definitely need some new tricks up their sleeves to keep it feeling fresh for returning visitors.

Chris Wharfe

I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then. You can follow me on Twitter at @brfa_chris.

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