My wonderful roommate, Blair, is studying abroad in London right now and was one of the crazy fans who camped out for the Harry Potter premiere! Seriously, she was all over newspaper pictures and was interviewed. She was right up front because she’s hardcore like that. That’s why I’m so thankful that she was awesome enough to do a post on the event. So, here she is giving lots of details and great photographs from the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Red Carpet! Thanks, Blair! (*P.S. After the cut, Blair’s taken some great up-close pics of the HP7 Stars!)
No one really understood why I brought a sleeping bag to class, and my explanation didn’t help.
I got a few “No one else will be there at 2pm!”s and “You’re a crazy person!”s, but I didn’t care- I was headed to Leicester Square to camp out for the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 World Premiere right after class. I’d made up my mind months before I even arrived in England for my study abroad semester, and reason and friendly ridicule weren’t going to stop me.
I stopped once on my way there, to buy those little handwarmer packets you put in your gloves and boots when you go skiing.
There were about 40 people already there when I arrived at 2pm the day before, as I knew there would be. A practically toothless, middle-aged woman dressed as a witch at the front of the line told me where the end of the line was. Slightly embarrassed, not sure whether it was for her or for me being a part of this crowd, I walked down the line of about 10 tents and arrived at a group of 3 normal-and-friendly-looking girls at the end of the line, sitting in chairs they’d brought.
Crap. I forgot chairs. I didn’t think about a tent. Oh well.
I sat down on my borrowed sleeping bag next to them, and like any good-and-chatty Texas girl, I made some new friends out of these strangers. To my surprise, they’d just met each other too. In fact, two of them decided to meet up at the premiere while on a message board.
This made me feel better about having come alone…and about having people to save my spot any time I’d need to use the McDonald’s bathroom down the street over the next 29 hours.
Two German girls and a Japanese guy who barely spoke English became part of our “camp site.” Several other Americans, also studying abroad, joined us an hour later. They had already left their chairs with the British girls and had gone on a journey to get gloves and food, which we had to explain to the group of angry men right behind us. I didn’t feel badly for these men anyways, as they had brought tons of glossy photos to get signed and came to almost every premiere in Leicester Square. The British girls explained their supposition that these men were either in the business of selling autographed photos on eBay or were primarily autograph seekers. Either way, their “business” did not sit well with the rest of us Potterheads.
We spent the next 10 hours disappointing people by sending them to the other side of the square, where they found out that they were hundreds of people from the front instead of just 50 people back. If they gave us any trouble, we’d call over our security guard friends. Much to my delight, I was actually able to use the phrase, “Don’t make me call the line police!”
In addition to the Potter arrivals, tourists and journalists were taking pictures of us all night. Some tourists would ask us what we were doing. Others would walk right up in our faces and take pictures. Those that asked us had varied reactions: we heard “that’s so cool! I’m jealous!” and “umm, you’re really weird” with equal frequency.
A woman from NBC came and interviewed my new friends on camera. I refused to be interviewed lest my name and face be shown in American media and hurt my esteem in the eyes of future employers…or potential husbands who decide to Google me before a first date. Of course, anyone I marry will have to adore the fact that I would spend 29 hours waiting for a Harry Potter premiere, but that’s more like a fifth date revelation.
We ate pizza. We took bathroom breaks. We chatted. We watched the continuing set up in the square for the next day’s event. We added layers.
By midnight, I was wearing seven pairs of socks in a sleeping bag in the tent that my new friend Amanda had gone to buy once we realized how miserable it would actually be to spend the night outside freezing with only umbrellas to block the torrential rain that was expected.
Luckily, it only rained a little bit and I’d managed to get a few hours of sleep. (Several people from our group were always awake outside the tents to watch for line cutters.) I only awoke once, when one of my warmers inside my shoe had gotten too hot and started burning my skin. I rectified the situation as quickly as I could, but this did require removing seven socks.
At 7am, we were told to pack up our tents. The security guards compacted the line, now with thousands of people. A few more radio stations interviewed us, and by 9:30, they opened the gates to the inner square, where the main events of the premiere would be taking place.
They let us in about 40 people at a time, which was nice. We were able to set up our spots by the barriers next to the future red carpet before the next group was allowed in behind us.
I spent the next 10 hours in a 1-ft. by 1-ft. space, only occasionally managing to bend down enough to sit on my sleeping bag. I didn’t drink anything that day. Though they allowed exits for the purposes of bathroom breaks and several of my friends made it back to their barrier spots without problem, I wasn’t about to leave that spot.
Throughout the day, we watched workers put up more banners, try out the pyrotechnics, and slowly-but-surely slice and lay down the red carpet into a circular path around the inner square. It was actually nothing more than thick felt material held together by visible tape. We were certain that was just the lining, but it turns out, when hundreds of people are walking on it during an event of this magnitude, the nasty little “red carpet” ended up being perfectly fine.
A few men spent more than two hours trying to fill a large divit in the brick with cardboard in order to stabilize it under the red carpet, lest Hermione catch her heel wrongly in the hole and trip. Considering we still had hours left to go, observing this parade of incompetence was our highest form of entertainment. Their final solution was to rope off the four square feet of hole-y (George ear reference!) red carpet entirely. It looked ridiculous, but it was the best they could do.
With only a few hours left until the stars arrived, the promised torrential rain came. Even though it was only for a few minutes, it brought set-up to a standstill and got us soaked, even under our umbrellas.
I told myself it just added to the story. And it did, especially for the media, who seemed much too excited to be getting footage of crazy fans in the rain. The more ridiculous our dedication, the better the story. And though I heard them ask patronizing questions to elicit absurd and obsessive answers from the fans in the crowd, and though they repeatedly asked us to scream things like, “We love Harry! We love Harry!” when they’d start rolling, I totally get it. I’ve done my share of laughing at news stories about Star Wars fans, “gamers,” and people who wait in line at Mac stores for the newest Apple product releases. I guess it was my turn.
At about abut 5:30, the movie trailer began rolling on the large screens to the sounds of our delighted screams. Contest winners began walking the red carpet into the theater, and we got our first big announcement from the MC:
“LADIES AND GENETLEMENT, WELCOME TO LEICESTER SQUARE: RUPERT GRINT!!!”
There was something incredibly exciting about the fact that Ron Weasley had just stepped out of his limo. We couldn’t see anything on the outside, where the cars pulled up, because of decoration and barriers. But we could hear the thousands of people who didn’t make it into the inner square.
We followed flashbulbs and the sounds of screams as the announcer announced the arrivals of Tom Felton (Draco), Daniel Radcliffe (Harry). He also announced when “the entire Weasley family” had finally arrived. The rest, we just listened for.
They slowly made their way, past loads of autograph signing, and into the inner square. We couldn’t see their entrances from our side because of the backgrounds set up opposite us for the actors to pose in front of. They posed for photos for the media opposite us, and then they began making their way around the circle red carpet, autographing and doing interviews with different media outlets.
I saw Emma Watson (Hermione) first. It was such a strange feeling, being so excited to see another human being. After all, that’s all she is: another human being who performs in front of a camera. But it was like, in that moment, I was a part of the Harry Potter world that I’d loved from the books and movies for so long.
Rupert Grint was the first to autograph in my section. It was surreal, having him stand inches in front of me, signing autographs and appearing genuinely happy to be there. Whether one can be content while being screamed at from all sides is beyond my knowledge, but all of these actors did a good job appearing so.
Also making it to our section were: Tom Felton, Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom), Afshan Azad (Padma Patil), Jessie Cave (Lavender Brown), Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick/Griphook), Jamie Campbell Bower (Grindelwald), Chloe Moretz (not in Potter, but the little girl from Kick Ass), Katie Leung (Cho Chang), and Natalia Tena (Tonks).
The following people signed in the other sections and got taken away by their handlers before they could sign in ours, but I still got to see them do interviews and pass by me: JK Rowling, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, James and Oliver Phelps (Fred and George Weasley), Timothy Spall (Wormtail), Alfie Enoch (Dean Thomas), Imelda Staunton (Umbridge), Helena Bonham-Carter (Bellatrix), Bonnie Wright (Ginny Weasley), Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood), Julie Walters (Molly Weasley), Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley), Clemence Poesy (Fleur), and some other famous British people that I don’t know anything about, like Tom McFly and the X Factor contestants.
I don’t care about autographs (I really don’t get the point of having someone’s signature on a piece of paper), but it sure was fun taking pictures to capture these amazing moments, whether or not the actors thought I was creepy for snapping shots inches from their faces. Maybe by now they’re just used to it. They sure do a good job of being outwardly thankful for the fans. When asked about the commotion, almost every actor commented on how great it was to see people still this excited for them and the films after all these years. I was happy to show them that that was true.
The whole experience was amazing. And it’s not because I worship these actors, or even because I worship Harry Potter. I don’t. However, it has been a huge part of my life. Not as a form of escapism, but as a form of making me better appreciate the world I do live in. I think I’m a better person because of the themes and lessons in Harry Potter. I’m a more educated person because it taught me to love reading. I’m more aware of the complexities of real people because of the characters J.K. Rowling created. And I have a few stronger friendships because of the bonding I’ve done over the years through Potter, whether it was driving two hours each way sophomore year of college with friends to see a midnight showing of Goblet of Fire, reading all day in a park with my two best friends the day Deathly Hallows came out, feeling closer to an acquaintance after learning we both have a few Wizard Rock songs on our iPods, or spending 29 hours camping out with total strangers from around the world to see some people walk a red carpet.
For a few hours, I got to be a part of the commotion. I got to be a part of that world. I forgot that I hadn’t been to the bathroom in 8 hours. I forgot that I couldn’t feel my freezing toes and that I was being shoved against a barrier to the point where I was later surprised my ribs weren’t bruised. I was just there- a part of a celebration of what these books (and movies) have meant to us. So when my friends asked if getting there at 2 p.m. the day before was “worth it,” a simple “yes” doesn’t do justice to the real answer.
Dumbledore once said, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
I am a Harry Potter fan, and this was a damn good choice.