Imagine this: a couple of Slytherin students pass you in the hall, laughing. Hanging on the wall is a poster for the next S.P.E.W. meeting. Severus Snape is scowling at a group of first-years making a ruckus as they walk to their next lecture, meanwhile, you notice a girl to your right with a kickass thigh-holster for her wand.
If it sounds like some extraordinary Harry Potter-related dream, you’re not completely wrong. LeakyCon is an annual convention hosted by popular HP fansite, The Leaky Cauldron. Since it’s beginning in 2009, LeakyCon has aimed to celebrate primarily the Harry Potter fandom, but also related subjects, and to create a safe space for people to nerd out together. One of this year’s two installations was held in our very own Portland at the Convention Center.
For four days, attendees of Leaky had the opportunity to attend panels and lectures, go to meet ups, watch musical acts and engage in hyper-interactive conversations with fellow festival goers on topics ranging from “Civil Rights and Segregation in Harry Potter,” “Crackpot Theories,” and “Body Image in a Way-Too-Conscious Culture.”
With over 120 panels, two wrock (“wizard rock!”) shows, dozens of meet-ups and a closing ball, a Quidditch tournament, a hall of crafty vendors and appearances by HP cast members (Scarlett Byrne, Ellie Darcey-Alden, and Devon Murray), there was something to feast your eyes on at every turn.
Thursday night I had the pleasure of rocking out to sets by Harry and the Potters, the Whomping Willows and Hank Green (of Vlog Brother’s fame). The crowd ranged in age from junior high-aged to adults, which made the entire thing an amazingly entertaining spectacle. Many people were dressed in various house-representative robes, cross over cosplays (Harry Potter + Dr. Who, what!), or incredibly intricate representations of distinctive characters like Fleur Delacour, Bellatrix Lestrange or even Harry Potter himself.
Friday I spent the day ducking in and out of lectures, meet ups and panels. Being around fellow HP fans (ranging in intensity) like myself was a lot of fun, and while the main objective of the weekend was to have a great time, I was interested to see a lot of discourse on important topics like equal rights and body image. Ever-passionate, the weekend highlighted how important it is to have community and a safe space for like-minded individuals to share their ideas.
“Marginalization in Harry Potter” tackled some serious issues concerning both real and fictional groups not represented in the series, as well as what that means for us as readers and consumers. “Female Creators on Youtube” showcased dozens of kickass women who are creating art in a forum largely dominated by men. “Defending Draco Malfoy: That Potter Boy is an Unreliable Narrator!” – my favorite roundtable of the weekend – featured passionate discussion on the point of view of the story and whether or not we, as readers, are biased because of that. There’s nothing quite like dozens of people in a room waving their wands around with something to say!
All and all, the weekend showcased a great time and a perfect snapshot of a fandom that many of us enjoyed at some point in our lives. The sense of community, the entertainment factor, oh—and the butterbeer!—made for a hell of a time, and a good story or two to share.