Being a Babylon 5 fan, I had registered for the largest B5 con ever, Wolf 359 in Blackpool, months before the event. You can imagine my surprise and delight when I heard a few days before I left that Gareth Thomas would also make an appearance at this convention.
However, the first few days there was NO indication whatsoever that Gareth would really be there. I asked one of the organisers and was told rather contemptuously, "This is a *Babylon 5* convention, you know." Then I asked Sheelagh Wells, who was also there with husband Joe Nazarro, and she even pretended to be angry at Horizon for putting it in their N/L because there had never been any question of Gareth attending.
As it turned out it was all a well-kept secret and Gareth *did* turn up - on Sunday night during the SFX Awards Ceremony. His appearance was meant to be a surprise for JMS who had won the award for best SF series. The award was presented to him by Gareth in full GP Blake dress and make-up. JMS has always said that Blake's 7 is one of the series that inspired him to write Babylon 5 (one of the others is The Prisoner) and he was quite overwhelmed with Gareth's (or Blake's!) appearance. Sheelagh, who had done Gareth's make-up, later told me that JMS was shaking when he accepted the award. She herself was crying.
Gareth, as Blake, made a short speech in which he said amongst other things that he still continued to fight. JMS said how B7 had always been one of his favourite series and that it had such a great ending (to which Gareth jokingly replied, 'Thank you very much!'). Then they both left the stage, but not before Gareth had managed to give Claudia Christian, who co-hosted the event, a kiss on the lips.
I had hoped that Gareth would perhaps walk around in his Blake outfit en make-up for a few minutes so I could take photographs, but unfortunately he didn't do that. Of course he did show up at the hotelbar later, but was whisked away by the con organiser after half an hour to go out with the B5 actors. About two hours later however he returned, telling us that while he enjoyed meeting the B5 people he couldn't really relate to them and was glad to be back at the bar to chat to fans. Gareth always goes out of his way to make himself available to his fans - when we left about 4 am he was still there, at the bar, talking.
The next day we slept late so we missed Gareth's autograph session in the dealer's room. After that he was of course in the bar again, surrounded by fans, until Sheelagh came and, reportedly, dragged him away while he tried to hold on to the bar rail!
Nicolene van den Berg
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