In this week’s blog it’s time to indulge my inner geek! I say my inner geek, I’m not even remotely ashamed; I’m a massive fan of Harry Potter! Anybody that knows me well will probably already know this. For those of you who don’t share my love, I will try and keep this blogisode quite neutral. Don’t get me wrong, I probably will talk about it quite a bit (don’t panic Potterheads), but it’s just as much about the experience, and me attempting to throw in some bad jokes as any other episode in the blog.

So in this case, my tickets were booked for a screening of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone at Manchester Arena. What made it so unusual was that it was a screening of the film accompanied by a the London Philharmonic Orchestra! The film was being played with full sound, however in place of the usual soundtrack, there was a live performance! It’s such an iconic soundtrack that it seemed a great opportunity, plus I’ve never seen a live orchestra before (unless you count when I played the trumpet in the orchestra at my junior school, I don’t!).

My only issue with booking these tickets was that the only available performance was on a Tuesday night! Trying to get all the way to Manchester in time for a show after a full day of work was not my idea of a good plan. Especially so early in the week, knowing it would be so long before I would be able to switch my alarm clock off and have a lay in. On top of this was the fact that the last train seemed to be slightly earlier than on a weekend, or maybe it’s because I’m used to seeing matinee shows and leaving earlier. This left me with a panic on about how long the show would last and if we’d make it in time for the last train! I had visions of sleeping in some dodgy motel near the train station as we waited for the first train back the next day.

Despite the less than ideal circumstances, I was determined to make the most out of the evening. It was a new experience, I had excellent company and it would all involve Harry Potter! The perfect combination in my opinion!

So after bombing it home from work and the quickest change in history we made our way to the train station. Now when I say the quickest change in history, it is bending the truth slightly. I did get my clothes changed quite quickly but then hastily threw a random assortment of cosmetics into my handbag, leaving the hair and make-up department to be done on the train. I was relatively impressed with my attempt at hair but you can imagine how well the mascara looked…

Again, it is always nice to have an excuse for looking a mess… Haha.

There we were, on a crowded train from Doncaster to Manchester, wondering what to expect as we found our seats on board the train. I seem to have a habit of quite interesting train experiences, in that I normally meet somebody random. By random, I sometimes meet quite annoying, is that a bit harsh of me? Is it so bad to want a nice conversation with my friend as we travel? Added to this is the fact that Laura also has a habit of attracting quite “interesting” personalities and you can imagine what to expect from our journey!

We managed to find ourselves a friend! To say the guy who came and sat opposite us was quite chatty is like saying All I Want for Christmas is just a little bit Christmassy! To be fair he was very interesting (and I mean that in the usual sense of the word) but he didn’t exactly stop to take a breath in between each interesting comment and didn’t seem to think our input was entirely necessary. We’d barely reached Meadowhall and I had quite the headache developing, as well as a slight fear that he’d be accompanying us all the way to Manchester! I’m sure we’ve all had that train journey accompanied by the over chatty passenger! Or is it just me? Hopefully you’ll all understand the relief I felt when he got up to depart at Sheffield (not only relieved at the peace we were left with, but also at the absence of the smell of the beefy crisps he was eating quite enthusiastically!).

With the rest of the journey passing quite peacefully and in good conversation, we soon found ourselves at Manchester and set about finding our way to the arena. It’s not an area of Manchester I’ve been to before so the fact that we actually got there is quite the achievement! It was also quite a sight. We initially tried using our “sense of direction” (evidently not great at the best of times) then we used the city centre maps! Having had little success with all our previous attempts, we eventually resorted to being “tourists” and using the Maps app on our phones, following SatNav all the way there! Every now and then we had to dodge into a shop doorway out of the way of passing pedestrians while we worked out quite which direction the arrow was expecting us to go!

So we got close enough to see the arena and our stomachs began to rumble. Not sure how much time we had, we weren’t sure whether fast food was our best option, but decided to go for a sit down meal instead. It seemed that we had plenty of time so why not! We headed to Zizzi’s and got seated in quite a nice little booth situation, we set to work looking at the menu. This was a challenge in itself! Not just because I found there was little I am actually allowed to eat based on my dietary requirements. But has anybody else tried reading a menu as you sit with a friend you’ve not seen in a long time? You have to keep reminding yourself to shut up so you can actually read the menu.

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We settled on our options and at the last minute I ordered a cocktail that was staring at me enticingly from the menu. The drinks arrived and I decided to pop to the toilet (had to check in on the mascara situation). By the time I made it back to the table the food had arrived! I couldn’t believe it! Such fast service I was well impressed! The food was fresh, hot and incredibly tasty! It left me with the moral dilemma of knowing that you really shouldn’t eat all of the pizza, but at the same time you REALLY wanted to. I mean REALLY. So I decided to give the crust a miss and save my appetite for what matters (surely crust is just empty calories unless it is cheese filled?).

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It seems Zizzi’s realised more than we did, just how quick we needed to be! It’s a good job they were quick as we made it to the arena just in time to get seated and take a quick snap of the stage before the lights went down.

Now I’m a massive fan of Harry Potter at the best of times and to me the soundtrack is totally iconic! So as the film opened and I saw the orchestra beginning the opening notes of Hedwig’s theme I got shivers down my spine! It’s absolutely mind blowing to see the soundtrack we all know and love played in real life. I found myself trying to work out which of the instruments play those well-known notes and not knowing whether to pay more attention to the orchestra or to the film.

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Some could say that it’s the same old film, the same film I’ve watched hundreds of (if I’m being honest, possibly a lot more) times, why would that be so interesting? Well not only did the orchestra hold a massive appeal, but it made a massive difference that I was watching it with such a large audience. We were encouraged to get really involved, to imagine that we were there, to make it a more active and involved experience!

We were encouraged to cheer our favourite characters (I found myself disappointed knowing that Luna Lovegood wouldn’t appear in this film) and to boo the villains. Now there’s no surprises really that Harry, Ron and Hermione got quite the roar! The level of noise given to Albus Dumbledore and Hagrid really didn’t surprise me at all. But Draco Malfoy did a great job of splitting the crowd, what do you think? Would you cheer or boo?

What absolutely amazed me was that Fred and George Weasley barely got a titter… There was a half-hearted clap for the comic duo yet the crowd went absolutely wild for Oliver Wood. I mean really? He hardly compares! There was also quite the emotional moment as the audience applauded the legend that is Alan Rickman as he rocked up on the screen in his legendary role as Professor Snape.

What absolutely devastated that me, was that by the time it started, and with the intermission taken into account the show ran on quite late! At least, I’m assuming it ran on late, we had to leave early to catch the stupid train! Why is it that train companies/event’s organisers don’t have some level of co-ordination about these things? We just about managed to watch the first game of quidditch before we had to make an awkward early exit. To make matters worse as we attempted to exit, the venue staff kept asking us if we were leaving. It was like rubbing salt in an open wound! YES we are leaving!!!! I’m sure you can see from the devastated looks on our faces that we are clearly VERY happy about it…

But we managed to make the last train, and as we made our way home, we mourned the fact that we’d spent the majority of our evening on trains and had to miss out on the best part of the film! I definitely think if we were to do this again (they advertised the same event for the Chamber of Secrets next year) we’d plan it better next time! With eyes barely open and fighting back yawns we made our way towards Doncaster. Imagine our joy when we went through Sheffield and our friend got back on the train… You just couldn’t write it!

So that was our evening, which character would have got your loudest cheer? I reckon Neville got mine!

Plus we were cheering our favourite lines, I’m quite fond of “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live!” I think I might take it up as my motto…

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3 thoughts on “Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone in Concert

  1. Sounds like a great event. What a shame you couldn’t see it to the end! Train timetables are so frustrating! Can’t believe the stranger on the train made 2 appearances😀

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