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Stellar opportunity for Star Wars researcher

The Star Wars European Celebration at the London Excel.

The Star Wars European Celebration at the London Excel.

A University of Portsmouth academic made the most of an out-of-this-world research opportunity when he attended one of the world’s biggest Star Wars conventions.

Reader in Popular Media Cultures Dr Lincoln Geraghty and colleagues from the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries mingled with stormtroopers, droids, cast and crew when they set up a University of Portsmouth booth at the four-day Star Wars European Celebration at the London Excel.

As well as a chance to promote the University and the faculty, the event – billed as the ultimate Star Wars fan experience – gave Dr Geraghty the perfect opportunity to gather views on the latest film, The Force Awakens, and the forthcoming Rogue One.

Dr Geraghty, who is part of a research group, The World Star Wars Project, examining fan culture around the Disney film franchise, said: “The event was a real success. We interviewed 92 people over the course of the convention, gathering some really useful material that will contribute not only to the long-term research project on Star Wars but will form the basis for a joint authored book just on the convention itself.

Dr Geraghty, second from left, with, from left, a student volunteer, CCI business associate Steve Jones, Dr Rebecca Janicker and CCI faculty registrar Peta Tattersall.

Dr Geraghty, second from left, with, from left, a student volunteer, CCI business associate Steve Jones, Dr Rebecca Janicker and CCI faculty registrar Peta Tattersall.

“Star Wars fandom is such a rewarding area for study because of the diversity of fans you get to meet and talk to at gatherings such as celebration. The notion of community is such an important thing within fan studies it was important to be at the event to really understand how it plays a part in the success of the franchise.

“Some initial reactions to the interviews we filmed would be that people went to the convention for all sorts of reasons. Some we talked to were not even fans of Star Wars. But what was common to most was the sense of comradery they felt once they entered the building.

“The convention brought people together to celebrate Star Wars as part of wider popular culture, and in these testing social and political times, many fans related how they felt happy being in a space where they could be proud of who they were and what they liked.”

He added: “The event also gave the team a networking opportunity and a platform to advertise courses at Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, and the kind of research carried out in media and cultural studies – particularly in trying to understand and analyse the economic, historical, social and cultural impact of global media franchises such as Star Wars.”

World Star Wars Project member Dr Tom Phillips, of the University of East Anglia, interviews R2 D2.

World Star Wars Project member Dr Tom Phillips, of the University of East Anglia, interviews R2 D2.

Dr Geraghty, who received an innovation accelerator award from the faculty to fund this part of his research, was joined at the event by fellow Star Wars researchers Dr William Proctor, of Bournemouth University, which part-funded the project, Dr Richard McCulloch, of the University of Huddersfield, and Dr Tom Phillips, of the University of East Anglia.

Earlier this year Dr Geraghty was keynote speaker at a Star Trek 50th anniversary conference at DePaul University, Chicago, where he shared the stage with Brannon Braga, a former executive producer of Star Trek.

 

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