Portus 2008 Reports: Jim Dale Q&A

Reporting from Dallas, Toni Gras, longtime friend of HogPro and Harry Potter Fan Zone Reporter. Take it away, Toni!

Portus 2008: Day One and Two
Toni Gras, HPFZ Reporter

Harry Potter Educational Fanon (HPEF) has produced another FAN-tastic conference for Harry Potter adult fans! At the Hilton Anatole which overlooks the commanding Dallas, Texas skyline, Harry Potter fans from both U.S. and foreign destinations have converged for fun, frolic, fantasy and fandom for four days, July 10-13. I was amazed at the organization and the massiveness of the conference – guest speakers, panelists, keynote lecturers, vendor tables, an art gallery, banquets, Quidditch games, Wizard Rock bands, Potter movies, banquets, teas, dessert minglers and even a podcast. My head is spinning at the offerings and the choices available for any given time slot. The efforts of the staff of HPEF is awe-inspiring. Their task was not a small one. They have succeeded in their efforts!

Last evening I had the pleasure of listening to two Wizard Rock bands – Moaning Myrtles and Mud Bloods. The crowd was enthusiastic and sang along with the songs. The groups were interacting with the audience and smiles and cheers abounded when their sets were done. Each and every evening of the conference.hosts different Wizard Rock bands, the last evening culminating in a concert with all of them.

On a more literary note, I have witnessed guest speakers who have delved into the Potter books with deep analysis and thought and have perfected their methods of presenting detailed presentations……

Edmund M. Kern, the author of “The Wisdom of Harry Potter: What Our Favorite Author Teaches us About Moral Choices”, holds a PHD in Early Modern European History and is currently chair of the Department of History at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin. His discussion was entitled Harry Potter’s Post Modern Popularity and indicated that “Harry is a victim of fate”. Dr. Kern indicated that rules are broken in the life of Potter and his friends when circumstances dictate that they must be in order for evil to be defeated in the long run.

Dr. Henry Jenkins is the head of MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, is author of 12 books and hosts his own official web blog entitled “Confessions of an Aca-Fan” at henryjenkins.org. He presented the keynote luncheon on July 11 which brought forth the mass phenomenon of the Harry Potter books and movies and their effect on media and society. Dr Jenkins indicated that “everyone can find a space for their imagination” regarding the Potter books. He also spoke about “immersion” and giving oneself over to a fantasy world. Media has taken ahold of the Potter fandom and perhaps taken it places which author J.R. Rowling never meant it to go.

Webmaster of HogsHead.org (formerly Sword of Gryffindor), Travis Prinzi, gave an enthralling talk entitled “Christ in the Forest: Aslan and Harry Walk to Their Deaths” in which he presented a correlation of authors Rowling, Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. He presented the similarities of their works and main characters (Harry, Frodo and Aslan) and how they fulfilled their role as a Christ figure in their defeat of death and evil. Look for Travis new book, soon to be released by Zossima Press.

Other panelists presented an opportunity for the audience to discuss various topics including the roundtable by David Gras entitled “Harry Potter: A Bridge Between Two Worldviews”. Mr. Gras led an interested audience in a discussion on whether Rowling, like C.S. Lewis brings the message of the Christian gospel through the world of Harry Potter by bringing forth the Christian symbolism used within Harry’s journey.

All work and no play make Harry a dull boy so it’s off to the podcast with webmasters from Mugglenet, HP Prognosticationsm, Snapecast and more – and then later to the Quidditch matches!

The Voice Behind the Books: Jim Dale

Attendees of Portus 2008 had the honor and pleasure of hearing “the voice behind the books” (i.e, Harry Potter books, of course!), Jim Dale, MBE (which stands for Member of the Order of the British Empire, an honor he received directly from Queen Elizabeth II in 2003). Mr. Dale hails has a distinct and unique voice that can change into many different voices as his will. He has, in fact, received the Guinness Book of World Records award for creating the most voices in one project for Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows book.

His natural enthusiasm poured forth in the press conference that HPFZ reporter, David Gras, attended that morning. In that conference, Mr. Dale stated that he loved the environment of the symposium and thought that the costumes were fantastic. David learned that the Harry Potter books were the first audio book series Mr. Dale had worked on. He also learned that J.K. Rowling not only approved of Jim doing the readings, but spoke with him on a number of occasions. When David asked him if, after finishing his first book reading of Sorcerer’s Stone, he had any thought of the impact the books would eventually have on the world, Jim stated that he knew the books were going to be the new literary “messiah” on a worldwide scale.

At the plenary session directly following the press conference, Mr. Dale entered the room to a standing ovation. Mr. Dale then proceeded to read various passages from the books, which enthralled the audience and received commanding rounds of applause after each selection. Everyone especially enjoyed his reading from “Goblet of Fire” when Draco is turned into a ferret.

In between readings, Jim told that one book is 27 hours of reading. He also indicated the intenseness of the actual reading of the books and how something as small as a sniff or turn of the head could cause a re-read of the entire section. He told of some inspirations of some of his voices – for example, Dobby’s elf voice came from a dwarf he had actually heard in a crowded elevator; McGonagall’s voice is from his aunt. Dumbledore is initially an inspiration from actor John Houseman. Snape’s voice comes directly from his good friend, Alan Rickman (yes, the actor who actually plays Snape!) Harry is his own voice – just younger, Ron is from an uncle, and Hermoine is an old girlfriend!

A question/answer session followed where around a dozen conference attendees asked questions of Mr. Dale. At the end, Mr. Dale left to another standing ovation. Both HPFZ reporters, David and Toni Gras, felt honored to be a part of this audience.

Check out Travis Prinzi’s reports over at The Hog’s Head, too!


  1. Portus 2008
    Dallas Texas
    Day Three-Four July 12-13, 2008

    Toni Gras
    HPFZ Reporter

    Final thoughts on Portus 2008…..

    The Death Eaters Have Arrived!

    It was a bit startling to be walking through the luxurious Hilton Antole and see not just one, but at least SIX Death Eaters. They huddled around Lord Voldemort played by (s/he who shall remain nameless). Their costumes (or were they?) were so realistic that one could feel the chill in the hot and sultry Dallas air when they gathered in the lobby. When I interviewed “His Lordship”, he explained to me that they all met on Live Journal and planned to convene together for this conference – in fact, more were due to arrive at any time. As I studied the intense make-up work, I could tell this was not an amateur costume. Much hard work and painstaking effort had been taken to cover every little detail, down to the non-nose and red eyes of His Lordship. As we talked, I could tell these were
    die-hard (no pun intended — or perhaps there is!) Potter fans intrigued with the dark forces of the Potter movies.

    I was impressed with the amount of dedication and work it took to re-create these characters and applaud this dedicated group for adding a bit of spice to the conference — many turned heads and flashing cameras ensued whenever they walked by; as I understand, the Christian church group in the same hotel had many prayers coming our way!

    Muggle Masquerade

    July 12 saw one of the biggest events of the Portus 2008 conference and one which most attendees look forward to as a highlighted event – the Masquerade Ball. This is an event in which you can let your costume fantasies become real for a night, becoming whoever you may desire either in or out of the Harry Potter world – and no one laughs – but instead applauds and takes your picture. Costumes were plain and simple as the Hogwarts school robes to elaborate such as Dumbledore with his long flowing white beard, Snape with his very pronounced nose and black-as-black hair, Lucius with his white-as-white flowing hair and ?Wizards and witches of all genres, as well as fairies and princesses. Various potions disguised as alcholic beverages were available for purchase including ones entitled “Sevies Love Potion” (for chocolate liquor loveres) and “Ravenclaw” (for Red Bull and vodka lovers!) to name a few.

    The center piece of the ball was the giant Portus 2008 ice sculpture surrounded by a table of finger foods. The stage was set with purple and silver balloons and attendees danced the night away to Wizard Rock while lights flashed on and off around the ballroom. A true Remember-all Potter celebration of the last night of the conference.

    Wizard Rock

    What is a Harry Potter conference without Wizard Rock groups?! Portus conference attendees were treated to many musically talented young Wizard Rock groups. Moaning Myrtles, Mudbloods, Whomping Willows and Remus Lupins played hard and intensely to enthusiastic cheers from their young (and young at heart) audience. Heads bobbed, bodies jumped up and down and couples and singles danced while the Rock groups played during the opening night, masquerade ball, unplugged in the Common Room, and on on the last night for a fantastic conference farewell concert.

    Interview with MoM (Minister of Magic), Bekki Oliveri

    As the conference was winding down on the fourth and last day of the conference, I had the opportunity to interview one of the main forces behind the conference, Bekki Oliveri, Minister of Magic of Harry Potter Educational Fanon (HPEF), the group that has gone through hours and hours of tireless effort to put together a conference of this caliber for Potter fans….following is an abbreviated version of the interview – the entire video interview will be broadcast shortly…

    Q: In one word how has the conference been?

    Q: Please expound:
    A: Great group of attendees, alot of excitement in the air, great costumes and presenters – everyone together sharing their love of the Potter books.

    Q: What was the most challenging aspect of organizing something of this nature?
    A: Getting the amount of volunteers that are needed. Being a non-profit organization (501(c)3), HPEF relies on volunteers to put the conferences together. Without volunteers, it could not happen.

    Q: How many people are involved in the organizing of this conference?
    A: 14 chair people and 75-100 volunteers.
    Q: Did you get the participation you had anticipated?
    A: We were a little lower in numbers this year comparerd to last year, but we still enjoyed those who attended.

    Q: What is in store for the future?
    A: “Azkatraz 2009” in San Francisco – yes, close to the island that was used as a real prison in San Francisco Bay called Alcatraz! And in 2010, the conference in conjunction with the opening of Universal Studios “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” in Orlando, Florida.

    Thank you Bekki!

    Ending Comments

    Even though the books have finished, no one wanted Portus 2008 to finish. I saw conference attendees with sad faces on the last day of the conference, getting ready to check out of the hotel and into the “real” world. Some I almost did not recognize without their robes and hats on. Many commented that this was a wonderful escape for them, a true vacation from the realities of life. Much had been learned (after all, this IS an educational conference!). A closeness and strong bond had been developed — we are not alone in our admiration for the world of Harry Potter – we are not freaks — perhaps a bit eccentric – but, hey, wouldn’t life be bored if we were all the same….. Thanks to the organizers of this wonderful event, the presenters, the Wizard Rock groups, the volunteers, the panelists, the keynote speakers, and the attendees – we are all captured by the magic!

Speak Your Mind