Staff Writer & Content Editor
There has been much excitement over the pond following Chris Colfer’s late night tweet on 22 May announcing that he was going to do his first book signing, and first real public appearance excluding 2011’s Glee Live tour, in the UK. Though Chris’ tweet stated the signing would be in London, on googling the venue, we discovered it was actually in Kent about an hour away from central London. As soon as the tweet came through, I knew that we’d be making the trek out to the shopping centre. The planning then began.
We always knew that we would be camping out the night before and had planned to get to Bluewater Shopping Centre before the Waterstones closed on the Saturday. However, on receiving a tweet from the bookstore just after 9am stating that the first person in the queue had arrived at 9.10am (28 hours before the 1pm signing was set to begin) and that there was at least one other fan there from Moscow, we decided we needed to head out earlier than planned.
This was further cemented when they tweeted again at 1pm that there were already 10 people in the queue.
We headed out from London just after 5.30pm and got to Waterstones a bit before 7pm. At that stage we were numbers 74 and 75 in the queue. With 18 hours wait ahead of us, we settled in for the night immediately locating key necessities (toilets, Starbucks and food) and making friends with those in the queue around us. One of the best things about these kinds of fan events is making life-long friends and getting to spend time with people who actually ‘get you’ and you can let your passion and enthusiasm for a person, show, book, band, etc. flow knowing those around you understand where you’re coming from. We hooked up with an older lady who had driven from Yorkshire to the event, a girl from North London, and a group of girls who had been driven over from Wales. They were going to go back to a hotel and come back in the morning, however after about 5 minutes they came back and joined the queue. The queue did attract a lot of confused looks from shoppers and every now and again all you could hear was “It’s a book signing, Chris Colfer, no he’s in Glee”.
Given how big Glee is in the UK, this was really only the second opportunity like this for UK fans to get together and “Gleek out” (the first being Darren Criss’ London gigs following Glee Live in 2011) and they certainly came out in their hundreds. By 9pm when Waterstones closed, the queue was already well over 100 and by 2am it was close to 200 and fans kept streaming in as the night progressed. While it was pretty impossible to have any decent sleep, it was hilarious to see the shopping centre looking like a zombie apocalypse fallout shelter with people dressed in their PJ’s and onesies with sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows, trying to catch any rest they could.
Very little actual information about the signing was released and rumours swirled all night: how long was he going to be signing for, the queue was going to be closed at 250 people then 450 people then 500 people, that if you weren’t here by 7am there’s no chance you’ll get to meet Chris, etc. Eventually the queue was closed just before 10am at around 546 people. Fans were free to join the reserve list though there was no guarantee that they’d get to meet Chris. An hour before the signing was to begin, the reserve list was at 200+ and the queue itself wrapped almost an entire lap of the shopping centre floor.
As we finally got into the last hour before the signing was to begin, at the request of the hilarious Waterstones Bluewater twitterer (seriously read their tweets from the signing), a number in the queue started breaking out into a few rounds of Glee songs starting with what else but “Don’t Stop Believin’”. Then, not long after 1pm, the queue began to move. Excitement, adrenaline, fear, nervousness were at an all time high.
We were trying to work out how long each person would get with Chris and then what time we would probably get in there. We guessed it would be about 10-20 seconds each and that we’d have another half an hour to wait. We were pretty spot on. They were letting groups of about 5 people into the signing. You went past security and Waterstones staff and had to wait behind a big Waterstones barrier. This was probably the worst part of the entire experience. You know that Chris is just behind the screen, but you can’t see him. Apart from the fact that you know the signing desk is set up on the other side of the barrier, the group in front of you are freaking out and frantically trying to take photos kind of gives it away. Suddenly the queue moved and Chris came into view and all those hours waiting were worth it. Seated in front of us behind a table draped with a black tablecloth and copies of his books on it was Chris. He was dressed in a white long sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a black tie and blue jeans and looking mighty fine.
Unfortunately, high on excitement, nerves, lack of sleep, the majority of us were shaking so much that we couldn’t get many good pictures of him. It also didn’t help that the way the signing was set up, while you were waiting to go up the person seeing Chris was basically in your way of a direct shot of Chris. However, we could see him and he was there.
I have seen a lot of hate directed towards Chris online about what a diva he was and how he has no love of his fans; however, nothing could be further from the truth at the book signing. It looked like he spent a good 10-20 seconds with each person. He spoke to each person and looked them right in the eye. He was engaging, interested in what they had to say, and looked both pleased to be there but also a bit overwhelmed with the interest in him. He made sure that each fan had their own time with him without feeling rushed, but he was also conscious of trying to see as many people as possible.
There was a three-book maximum at the signing which worked perfectly for me as I was able to get copies of the two books signed for me, and it’s my niece and goddaughter’s 7th birthday next week so I was able to get her a signed copy of The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell as part of her present. Chris and Darren, their work and what they’ve done and achieved, have both meant a lot to me and helped me get through some things, especially over the past three years. Given I knew I’d only have a few short seconds with Chris, I wrote him a hopefully coherent letter (it was 6 in the morning) about how I felt and his impact on my life. Even if he never reads it, it was good to get those thoughts and feelings down. So juggling the three books, the letter, my camera and my iPhone, I approached the front of the queue. Luckily a Waterstones employee was on hand to take the books and give to Chris’ publicist who then passed them onto Chris as you approached the table.
As we got to the front of the queue we were told to turn off our cameras and no photos at the table. It had been previously advertised that there was to be no posed photography due to time constraints so this wasn’t a surprised. While I would have loved a photo with Chris (still there on my bucket list), I felt that this was so much better as you were able to focus directly on Chris, and he on you, and have a real conversation and connection (rather than having a camera shoved in Chris’ face and viewing life through a camera preview screen, as is so often the case nowadays). Some people had the right idea bringing their fathers (happy Father’s day, Dad), boyfriends, or other disinterested parties along to be photographers and thus were able to get better pics as well as ones of them with Chris – something to remember for next time.
Kirsty was up first:
Around 1.20 I got through the doors and I could see him sitting doing the signing. I had to stop myself from losing it there and then. Everyone knows Chris Colfer is attractive through the pictures and Glee and interviews, but in person he is so much more attractive. I tried taking pictures but my hands were shaking so much I couldn’t manage it.
Finally my time came and I was in front of him, and he was just darling. I gave him the photo of the one-eyed. He wanted to know why it was missing an eye and if it was alright now. I was actually able to reply it was ill, and yes, he was very happy in London Zoo. I got a “Hey sweetie,” and a “Thanks Sweetie,” so left happy. It was less than a minute but it was so worth it. He was just so gracious and lovely and I was surprised that he looked “older” than I expected. Once we got round the corner there was much crying and shaking. Everyone I saw was just so, so happy they had gotten to meet him and say thanks for everything. So I left Bluewater with 3 signed copies of Chris’s books (including one for a dear friend who couldn’t make it due to his GCSE’s) and the knowledge that I had met him, and it was everything I had hoped for.
Then it was Clare’s turn:
Chris was just wonderful. As I approached, I received a brilliant smile and a welcoming “hi sweetie.” I greeted him and gave him my letter, which he thanked me for as he took it. I told him how much I liked The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell and how much I was looking forward to the sequel. I asked him about whether there was a book signing planned for The Enchantress Returns as I was going to be in LA on holiday not long after it was being released. He said he didn’t know at that stage but that hopefully we’d be in LA at the same time. I wished him luck with the sequel to which he thanked me (I got another “sweetie”) and then we said goodbye. In all I probably spoke to him for about 20-30 seconds, but for those seconds his entire focus was on me. He looked me in the eye the whole time; was interested, open, and accessible, and was even more delightful than I anticipated. He also looks much older and mature in person than on TV and in pictures. Plus his freckles all over his face are just adorable and something that very rarely appears in pictures. And his eyes, just stunning.
He stayed at Bluewater till about 4.15pm and left having pleased so many UK fans who went away unbelievably tired but oh so happy. He appeared to have had a great day as well, tweeting the picture below after the event.
Thanks so much to the incredible Bluewater Waterstones staff and Bluewater security for being so helpful and dealing with all us fans ever since Chris tweeted almost a month ago. I bet today was the first time the phone has gone silent for so long. I am so grateful to Chris and his people for arranging to come to the UK and can’t wait for the next time I can go to something like this.
After this event, I’m even more in awe and enamoured of Chris than before. Here’s hoping there will be a Land of Stories 2 US book signing tour because if dates work, I’ll definitely be in line at the LA one.