The Force steps in: Sci-fi fans turn to the dark side in clash at Norwich Star Wars convention

Organiser Richard Walker at the sci-fi and film fair organised by Norwich District Star Wars Club.  PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY Organiser Richard Walker at the sci-fi and film fair organised by Norwich District Star Wars Club. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Wednesday, May 15, 2013
3:52 PM

Rival sci-fi clubs had to be separated by ‘the force’ when police were called to break up feuding fans at a Norwich Star Wars convention.

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The family event threatened to turn to the dark side and escalate into a fight between costumed characters when visiting Doctor Who fans clashed with Star Wars enthusiasts.

Officers were called at around 2.30pm on Sunday when members of the Norwich Sci Fi Club were refused entry at a fair co-hosted by Norwich Star Wars Club at the University of East Anglia.

More than a dozen sci-fi fans from both groups – including several in fancy dress – were involved in a bitter exchange outside the venue, sparked by the arrival at the event of Jim Poole, treasurer of Norwich Sci Fi Club.

He was asked to leave the convention as he approached Doctor Who actor Graham Cole for an autograph, leading to a stand-off which was only calmed by police and university security. He and organiser Richard Walker exchanged words inside before taking their dispute outside.

Police confirmed that they had been called to reports of a man being assaulted at the convention, and arrived to find a dispute between two groups.

But a spokesman added: “After lengthy investigation, talking to witnesses and reviewing good CCTV footage, it was confirmed that there was no assault. The two rival groups were spoken to and advised to keep out of each other’s way.”

Mr Walker, 63, claimed the visiting club had been trying to undermine the convention by posting comments on Facebook, but Mr Poole said he had attended “in good faith” to collect autographs from two actors for a Doctor Who signature diary to be auctioned for charity.

Both sides said there had been a long-running rivalry between the two groups and the events they organise, but told the Evening News they hoped they could resolve their differences and share their love of sci-fi.

After police were called by Mr Poole, he was asked to sit in the back of a police car while officers spoke to those involved. Police at the scene described the altercation as “very minor”.

More than 1,000 people had attended the convention in the UEA’s Lower Common Room, which was hosted with Hollywood Cinemas.

The convention returned this year after a three-year absence and, despite the altercation, was described as “a very successful day” by Mr Walker.

He added: “We will be back next year with an even bigger and better fair.

“It takes about six or seven months to organise a fair, but it’s been really good.”

The convention reunited the four remaining bounty hunters from the Star Wars films for the first time, and also featured a large auction of memorabilia in aid of Cancer Research UK.

Norwich Sci Fi Club is staging the Nor-Con Norwich Sci Fi convention on September 8, at the Norwich North Holiday Inn on Cromer Road.

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