Middle-earth is still top of mind for a group of passionate Hobbit fans who have just reunited in London to celebrate the one-year anniversary of their visit to New Zealand.
The company of fans, along with their favourite wizard – Sir Ian McKellen – assembled in London last weekend to remember The Hobbit Fan Fellowship’s trip to the real Middle-earth, New Zealand.
Organised and hosted by UK fellowship participant Kyle Pedley, and with the help of Warner Bros. Pictures UK and Tourism New Zealand, the event saw around 40 fans fly in from around the globe including the United States, Mexico and Eastern Europe.
Guests were treated to an exclusive screening of the extended edition of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies at Warner Bros. as well as a video message from director Sir Peter Jackson from Wellington, New Zealand, and a Q&A session with a panel of guests. These included ‘Gandalf’ - Sir Ian McKellen, Royd Tolkien-J.R.R. Tolkien great grandson and writer, and broadcaster Brian Sibley who was jointly responsible for the BBC Radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings in 1981.
Other fans at the event included a contingent of Middle-earth cosplayers ‘The Galactic Knights’, who were showcasing some of their ‘Hobbit’ and ‘Rings’ inspired costumes and replicas, and The Tolkien Society chairman, Shaun Gunner.
The reunion event was “an incredible, unprecedented celebration of the impact that both these films and last year’s incredible competition have had on people all over the globe,” Kyle Pedley said.
“To have such a dedicated group of fans, who formed their own genuine fellowship over the course of a magical week in New Zealand last year, reunite from all corners of the globe for this special occasion was just an absolute joy to behold and be part of.”
A wizard’s Middle-earth
Sir Ian McKellen has a strong connection with New Zealand as the only principle cast member to appear in all six films, and looks back on his time in New Zealand fondly.
“My favourite place in New Zealand is wherever I happen to be… There’s so many familiar places there as I was there on and off for 13 years, but the place I do keep going back to is the obvious one really; Milford Sound. In particular the drive around from Queenstown.”
While McKellen’s favourite filming location was New Zealand's highest peak Aoraki Mt Cook which looks over Lake Pukaki, a vibrant turquoise lake that fills an elongated ancient glacier-carved valley.
The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest was an international search conducted in 2014 by Tourism New Zealand, Air New Zealand and Warner Bros. to find 75 of the world’s biggest Hobbit fans and bring them to the real Middle-earth - New Zealand. Over 140,000 people registered for the competition, and completed a series of tasks and challenges to showcase their knowledge of New Zealand - home Middle-earth.
The winners and their partners were flown to New Zealand for a trip which included real film locations from the movies including a tour of Hobbiton, Matamata, a traditional Maori welcome ceremony in Rotorua, bungy jumping in New Zealand’s adventure capital Queenstown, a visit to Weta Workshop in Wellington, and a preview of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies with Sir Peter Jackson at his private studios.
Memories in Middle-earth
The reunion was an occasion for the fans to reflect on their time in New Zealand and make plans to visit again.
“I think the scenery is just fantastic, but also the spirit of the people there as well as place just seems so Middle-earth. There is just no other place like it, it’s so wild and new, and feels so welcoming,” said Viktoriya Georgieva (Bulgaria).
“I loved the Hobbiton movie set. That day we went up skyline and then went to Matamata to the Hobbiton movie set and that was absolutely amazing,” said Zoe Rae Critchley (UK).
“I think we’ve all caught the bug. I hope to be able to go back on holiday and see some of the things that we didn’t get to see while we were there. My wife and I have even been talking about moving there and finding work there hopefully, touch wood on that one,” said Samuel Parker (UK).