2016 in Review: The Year We Returned to the Wizarding World
THURSDAY 22ND DEC 2016
Merlin’s beard, what a year. It has been a great rollicking adventure for anyone who has kept space in their heart for J.K. Rowling’s words. As New Year approaches, let’s take a little moment to celebrate everything that’s happened in 2016.
This year we got to see the eighth Harry Potter story in stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: the story we never thought we’d get. Previews began on 7 June, the Gala Opening was 30 July and the script book went on sale moments after midnight, as we crossed into Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling’s shared birthday, 31 July.
The production received effusive acclaim from critics, five-star reviews, standing ovations and, in November, the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Play. J.K. Rowling promised to get that play to as many Harry Potter fans as possible around the world, and sure enough plans are afoot for a Broadway production to open in Spring 2018. It’s been quite the most extraordinary, feverishly anticipated theatre event of the year, and a major achievement for director John Tiffany, playwright Jack Thorne and everyone else involved in the production.
Then, in November, we slipped into another era of magic altogether. We were invited to follow endearing-but-brave Magizoologist Newt Scamander to 1926 New York, in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: the story we never expected!
Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller and Colin Farrell joined the wizarding world – and everyone was suitably sentimental about it.
In the pouring rain at the European premiere of Fantastic Beasts, Ezra Miller told me that he’s always felt a part of the Harry Potter family because ‘that world is inclusive, it makes you find your own magic.’ That, perhaps more than anything else, is the beating heart of this fandom and this franchise: Harry Potter devotees are still very interested in finding their own magic.
Both play and film have brought beloved old characters back into our lives – perhaps characters we never thought we’d see again – and introduced us to new ones. We’ve been invited to corners of J.K. Rowling’s imagination we never even dreamed we’d visit.
This year we also discovered our Patronuses, were sorted into Ilvermorny houses, learned about Wizarding Schools across the globe as well as the history of magic in North America. And, just like the old Potter days, we waited in queues outside cinemas and bookshops at midnight to get our hands on new stories.
From Jim Kay’s exquisite illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, to Pottermore Presents, it’s been quite a year. And on top of all that, we’ve been promised four more Fantastic Beasts movies. This year has been frantic and huge and mad and wondrous. It’s been unlike any other year in the history of Harry Potter. Let’s do it all again, shall we?
Covering all of these events, for me, has been an utter joy. I cannot tell you what it’s meant to me. It was a delight to meet the casts and creative teams of Fantastic Beasts and Cursed Child. But the most significant, humbling, enchanting thing has been meeting other people who adore this world like I do.
I’ve met brave, wonderful fans at events around the world and been genuinely moved by their continuing loyalty to the world they first entered with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I’ve seen them in costume as Harry, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore, Umbridge, Hagrid and Snape. I’ve seen them, recently, as Newt, Tina and Queenie. I’ve seen them in Muggle clothes with a casual Gryffindor scarf wrapped around their necks. Whatever costume you’ve been in, you’ve all been so wonderful – and it was such a pleasure to meet you.
At a midnight screening of Fantastic Beasts in London, I met a woman dressed as Lucius Malfoy who told me she was engaged to the Death Eater beside her – and they met on Pottermore. I met a man at Comic Con dressed as Newt Scamander, who said he’s only truly survived being bullied because he could find the good in the world through the Harry Potter books. I saw the beautiful way fans mourned the death of an extraordinary man, one Alan Rickman, whom we lost tragically this year.
I’ve seen first-hand what this fandom is made of, and it’s made of love, tolerance and courage. In my humble opinion, there is no greater fandom in the world and no greater set of stories, places, spells, adventures and characters to adore.