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Lego convention built on more than plastic bricks

Lego, apparently, is not just child's play
Lego - Robin Sather
Professional Lego builder Robin Sather sits among the 250,000 pieces of building blocks he fashioned into Hong Kong skyscrapers at Aberdeen Centre a couple of years ago. Sather is bringing Brick Can, a Lego convention, to Richmond on April 21-24 at the River Rock Show Theatre. Photo submitted

Lego is not just child’s play.

Robin Sather, a certified professional Lego builder, knows that well.

And thanks to a four-day Lego convention called Brick Can that he is organizing at the River Rock Show Theatre on April 21 – 24, fans, both young and old, will be able to celebrate the Danish toy that helped revolutionize constructive play when it was introduced in 1949.

Sather, now 50, remembers the first Lego set he received when he was about four years old.

It was a flea market purchase his mom made.

“It was a little plastic tub full of probably 100 bricks,” he said. “And I still have some, actually. And my love for Lego has never really stopped.

“It was always my favourite toy, and when I grew up I was always a Lego kid. Even into high school and college, when it was extremely uncool in the pre-Internet days, I thought I was the only one who continued to like Lego as an adult. And it kinda became a closet hobby.

“I never grew out of it and I never stopped building.”

It’s that allegiance to Lego that Sather, who lives in Abbotsford, said he is tapping into as Brick Can is the first convention of it’s kind here. Seattle has an annual show called Brick Con that is held in the fall, and Sather worked with organizers there to create a complimentary event north of the border.

“It’s been long overdue,” he said. “The adult fan clubs here, there’s three of them – the Vancouver Lego Club, Abbotsford Lego Users Group and Victoria Lego Users Group – all really wanted to do something for years and the pieces kinda came together.

“Everyone is super-stoked.”

Sather said he anticipates about 5,000 will attend over the four days.

The event will be divided into two parts. The first two days of Brick Can are reserved for adult fans with a host of seminars, Lego games and displays from some talented Lego building fans.

“The event’s core is an adult fan convention,” Sather said. “So, we’ll have about 225 adult fans coming from all over Canada and the U.S. bringing extremely cool creations with them. And we’ll have a couple of days with all the kind of geeky Lego stuff you’d expect adult fans to have fun with.”
Sather added the River Rock Show Theatre will be transformed into a Lego Paradise with hundreds of displays on hand.

“Lots of people are registering their MOCs (My Own Creations) and we’ll have a huge train and town section, a lot of castle oriented stuff and a large art, sculpture and mosaic area.”

There will also be a child-sized Lego robot and a chance to enter the Lego Friends building contest.

The public will then be allowed in for the event’s final two days that will include the opportunity to build their own creations.

Those 12 and under attending will also go home with a free Lego kit Sather, as a certified Lego builder, has put together.

So how do you become a Lego pro?

Sather said the Lego company cherry picks people who are already doing interesting things in the Lego fan community.

“I was looking for something that would indulge my fantasy of becoming a professional Lego builder without having to move to Denmark or some headquarters in the east. I wanted to stay in B.C,” he said.

So, he pitched Lego with the idea of hiring external professionals back in 2005, outlining a training and certification course that would qualify successful applicants to wear a Lego badge and have the freedom to embark on organizing regional events, festivals, fairs and full-blown conventions such as Brick Can.

“They loved the idea and now there are 15 of us worldwide,” Sather said, who now works full time for Lego.

Asked why he thinks Lego has had such a long-lasting appeal, Sather said the toy helps foster creativity.

“Plus, it’s been around through much of peoples’ lives in North America and Europe, as well. It’s a touch point for a lot of people,” he said. “But the thing that really resonates for me is the fact it’s nearly infinitely creative in terms of what you can make. There are rules in the way that things connect. So, it’s a structured creativity.”

Lego also helps breaks down barriers, he said.

“You put a pile of bricks in front of anyone, of almost any age, and their fingers will automatically start making things happen. That’s quite remarkable, because it doesn’t happen necessarily with a pencil and blank sheet of paper or a lump of clay.”

Brick Can runs April 21 – 24 at the River Rock Show Theatre. Tickets are available through TicketMaster and cost $15 for those aged four and up.