Interview for MJVibe.com by Ilia Mizani

In just over 5 weeks’ time, Kingvention – The Michael Jackson Fan Convention will return to London to celebrate our idol, Michael Jackson. With no Kingvention in 2018, the event returns during a year that has been challenging for the MJ fan community.

I caught up with organiser Pez Jax to find out what’s in store at Kingvention 2019, their plans behind a very public display of support for Michael and how the preparations are going for what is set to be the MJ event of the year!

There’s five weeks until Kingvention – How does that make you feel?

Stressed! Haha! No, that’s really exciting that we’re this close, but there is still a lot to do and not a lot of time. My life has literally become, day job – home – Kingvention work – sometimes sleep – repeat! 

The event has moved to a different venue this year, why did you make that decision?

Well we’d done three years at the Park Plaza in Victoria and the team there were always great to work with, but we just felt this year, we had to go bigger. We want to really make a statement with Kingvention this year. It’s a celebration of Michael Jackson, it’s here and it’s proud! So we got ourselves a full theatre! I don’t really think that has set in yet just how big the jump has been. But this is the world’s greatest entertainer we’re talking about and he deserves the very best!

How many fans are you expecting to attend?

I think we’re going to exceed the 300 mark this year which is funny because when we planned the first Kingvention in 2015 we planned for around 75 fans, but the response has always been overwhelming. It’s a 15 hour day of all things Michael and I think that’s something that nobody can turn down haha!

Talk me through a typical Kingvention…

Well for the team the day starts at 5am! We have around 5 hours before the doors open to go around, finish setting up, check microphones, welcome performers, straighten banners, all the last minute touches. Sebastian is busy checking all our health and safety and that everything is where it should be – he’s the logistics behind the entire event, so it literally would not be possible without him. Meanwhile Mayah’s probably got a foot and two hands somewhere trying to keep one of the many Michael banners stuck to the wall as I tell her “left a bit…right a bit” haha! Clotilde and Perrie are folding the 500th t-shirt for the shop and Dean is testing lighting cues with the stage team. Everyone is flat out!

Then the doors open at 10:30 / 11am and there’s around an hour where the shop is just insane – A lesson – Never stand between an MJ fan and a hot t-shirt! Haha! We then open the doors to the interview space (which this year is the theatre) we have the interviews, then the screening, then there’s a meet and greet and the evening celebration – loads happens in between, but as a kind of basic day structure, that’s it….then I get into bed around 4am!

What’s your favourite part of the day?

You know, I’d say the first hour after the doors open, because fans are literally walking around hugging each other, running up to people they haven’t seen in ages, catching up, taking pictures and selfies – It’s exactly what it means to be part of a ‘community’. I love seeing it! And I get lots of hugs too!

Ok, let’s talk about that giant mural…

Haha! Well every year we like to have a sort of mural of Michael and it seems to have grown in size. The last one at Kingvention 2017 was huge and I just kept thinking…how do we top that?!

So, when we first visited the venue I turned to the team and said “how cool would it be to cover the entire window in Michael!” It’s like 10 metres right?….and they just looked at me! We looked into it and when the costs came back, my heart sank a bit because it was so expensive, but I just felt like we had to do it. I wanted the fans to have something incredible to take their photo with, but more importantly, I wanted anyone walking past the venue to see this giant Michael Jackson to show he is celebrated, he is still loved and nothing anybody says in no b*llshit movie is going to change that!

So we’ve been receiving donations from all over the world to make it happen and the response has been so amazing and I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed and is helping make this a reality!

For someone attending Kingvention for the first time, what can they expect?

A fantastic time! I’m a little bias because this event means so much to all of us who work on it, but the reason we keep coming back is because the fans tell us how much they love Kingvention. We took last year off so I could get married, plus it’s a year’s work to pull it off, so we needed a break after three consecutive years. But, yes, I’d say a fantastic time – it’s 100% about celebrating Michael with like minded people and there’s so much passion and energy in the room, people of all ages from all over the world coming together – it’s what Michael was all about – unity and love. 

Plus they’ll be exhibits and things – Oh this year, we’ve got these really cool never-before seen Polaroids from the special effects team who made Michael into a robot in Moonwalker with pictures of him dressed in the full robot get-up on set, so we’ll showcase that with the bust from the 2017 event.

This year’s line-up – Larry Stessel, Darryl Phinnessee and Siedah Garrett… that’s pretty amazing!

I know right?! This year is going to be really exciting as they’re such a great mix – You’ve got Larry who was behind all the short-films on BAD and Marketing for Thriller & Off The Wall, Darryl who has been on every single Michael Jackson solo tour and the incredible Siedah – I mean, she dueted with Michael himself! They’re all people who have these amazing, positive stories to share about the man they knew.

The interviews have always been really surprising and I think you end up learning so much more about Michael that you didn’t already know (if that’s possible!)

Live Interview with Eddie Garcia from Kingvention 2017
Panel discussion from Kingvention 2016

How have the preparations been this year?

It’s been more challenging this year. I think with everything that’s happened, there’s even more pressure to get it ‘right’. Fans need a break from all the online drama and blue-tick spats and we want this year’s event to be that break. A great time, you know? It would have been great to have more fan clubs help spread the word so that more fans could know about it, but it’s been a bit of a muted response and…

Why do you think that is?

I don’t know to be honest, maybe people don’t like us? maybe they think we’re making ‘money’? (which couldn’t be further from the truth) maybe they’re busy with other projects…I’m not really sure. But to be honest, I think all that shouldn’t matter. This is not about me, or the team or who is shouldering the debts…this is about the fans having a chance to celebrate Michael with others and meet people who worked with him. As clubs, it’s up to us to spread what’s going on in our community because we’re providing a service for the fans. Like, if there’s someone I really wanted to meet, who is organising it isn’t important to me if i’m going to get a great experience out of it – I eat ice cream because it makes me feel good, not because I care about the company making it. Haha!!! I’m not bitter though, a lot of bridges have been built this year because I think we all see the bigger picture, so I’m sure that’ll continue. 

You recently shared that you’d declined requests for members of the media to attend…

Yes, we’ve had quite a few requests from various media organisations wanting to come and cover Kingvention, and my first thought has been, why now?! Obviously, we know ‘why now’, but we’ve been doing this for three years prior with no media interest, now we’re a hot topic? I don’t think so! As we said in our announcement, Kingvention isn’t a gold-fish bowl for the media to sit and gawp at us and then make judgements. It was easier to say no and decline requests. I mean, would Michael want the press there?…. actually, maybe if we all agreed to chant ‘F**k the press, Michael is the best’ he would haha! – But, to re-affirm – we’re not offering media accreditation.

You have an exhibit about Neverland this year, was that always in the plans?

No, originally it wasn’t. Basically, two years ago, I started writing and putting together a book about Neverland, it’s like 80% done, but then I felt this year was not the right time to be releasing that…it just wouldn’t look right, like “hey, buy my book about Neverland” – No! Haha! So we decided to extract bits from that and do a sort of mini-exhibit which celebrates the REAL Neverland, focusing on it’s history and how Michael developed it, you know, like building a Train Station in December 1993 and officially opening it in 1994…that sort of thing.

Are you making a point there?

Yes!

But seriously, I think it’ll be really unique to explore this incredible place that Michael built for sick children to have a bit of escapism and some of the stories we’ll share are really beautiful. 

You’re unveiling a picture of Michael which is going to be made up of hundreds of images of the fans titled ‘Tired of Injustice’, how did that come about. 

We wanted the fans who couldn’t be at Kingvention to still feel a part of it wherever they were in the world and this lets them do that. I think the fans get a rough ride, especially of late! We’re the ones coming forward with facts and yet the response is to dismiss us as crazy – I guess the ill-educated find that easier than accepting they were wrong, right?! Simply put, we’re just tired of the injustice where Michael is concerned and this piece reflects that. 

The evening celebration is a 5.5 hour party, which you’ve called HeartBreakers this time, why is that?

Because ‘Heartbreaker’ is amazing, underrated and needed elevating! Michael was ahead of the game on Invincible and it was between that or ‘Rock With You’, but the team voted overwhelmingly for Heartbreakers. It used to be called Club 30s but with a new venue, we felt it was time for something different.

What’s the vibe like usually during the evening celebration? 

Electric! Everyone is on the dance floor and it’s amazing because it doesn’t matter if you can dance or not, everyone is just enjoying hearing Michael’s music LOUD! One moment which is just…ahhh…just so emotional is when ‘Heal The World’ is played and everyone forms a massive circle around the room holding hands, then on the key change everyone runs into the middle and is jumping up and down and hugging and smiling… Now I’m not a crier, but last time I had a lady who’d travelled from New Zealand holding my hand, A disabled lady hugging me and I was linked arms with a guy from Brazil and I just became awash with emotion – this is why I love Michael, he brings people together in a way nobody else could. 

What would you say to someone who wants to come in a sequin jacket or white socks and loafers?

Do it!!! Many people do and there’s literally Michael t-shirts from every era. One year a lady bought her baby in full MJ attire – it was the cutest thing. I’m really bad at choosing which MJ top I want to wear so I changed five times throughout the event last time haha! I’m challenging someone to beat that!

Finally, before I leave you to get on with preparations, anything else you’d like to add.

Erm, yes… Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has and continues to support Kingvention! We always wanted to have an event that we think would be of a standard that Michael could attend and that’s what we always strive to achieve, but it’s only possible with people supporting the event and making the most out of it. I’ve made some friends for life from those I’ve met at Kingvention and that’s all because of Michael, so I’m eternally grateful!

Ilia Mizani

Follow Ilia on Twitter @iliamizani

For tickets to Kingvention, please visit – www.kingvention.com

You can still donate to the Kingvention Mural here –
https://www.kingvention.com/donate/ or here –
https://www.gofundme.com/f/michael-jackson-3-story-high-at-kingvention