Thousands of Harry Potter fans gathered at Kings Cross train station in London, U.K. on Friday to celebrate the biggest ever Back to Hogwarts Day, held annually on Sept. 1.
Travelling from across the country and even beyond, Potterheads arrived on the concourse clad in Hogwarts-branded robes, scarves and ties. Despite a nationwide strike that meant most other rail services had been cancelled, the departures board showed a train bound for Hogsmeade scheduled for 11 a.m. (outside Kings Cross a small picket line manned by members of train drivers union Aslef quickly found itself engulfed by wannabe wizards).
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Inside, “Made in Chelsea” star and self-professed Potterhead Sam Thompson was tasked with hosting proceedings from a specially-erected platform in the middle of the station. “It’s meant so much to me since I can really remember,” Thompson, who boasts three Harry Potter tattoos, told Variety of his love for the franchise. “I feel like everyone’s just so happy. Coming here is like coming home, I absolutely love it.”
After interviewing the cast of Potter play “The Cursed Child” and giving away some prizes, Thompson led a countdown at 10.59 a.m. alongside 10-year-old Arnav Paturkar, the winner of a competition to find the U.K.’s most enthusiastic Harry Potter fan. At 11 a.m. a supremely British-sounding voice boomed out across the loudspeakers: “May I have your attention please. The Hogwarts Express is now departing from platform 9 and ¾. All students are kindly reminded to stick to your ticket and board the carriage at once. All aboard.”
After the announcement, fans were invited to stick around to enjoy Butterbeer, which was on sale outside the station, pose for photo-ops with props provided by Warner Bros. Discovery and stop by a PlayStation 5 booth where they could play Warner Bros. Games’ “Hogwarts Legacy.” The entertainment will remain in place throughout the weekend.
Before the crowd finally dispersed, Thompson also invited Londoner Manish Pindoria onto the stage where he proposed to girlfriend Pavneet Kaur Bason with a plush Niffler (a bling-loving magical beast) who was holding an engagement ring. Pindoria had reached out to Warner Bros. Discovery earlier in the week via Instagram to plan the surprise. “She’s a crazy, crazy, crazy Harry Potter fan,” the groom-to-be told Variety after Kaur Bason accepted his proposal.
“I’ve read the books about 50 times. I know all the lines from the films,” Kaur Bason acknowledged. The couple are planning a traditional Indian wedding for November although they said they would consider some Harry Potter themed centerpieces for the tables.
Originally started by the fans themselves to commemorate the day Potter and his pals board the Hogwarts Express for the start of a new school year, Back to Hogwarts Day has morphed into a global phenomenon, with Warner Bros. Discovery now taking charge of proceedings. A rep for the company told Variety this year’s celebration has been the biggest to date, with so many fans descending on Kings Cross the station was forced to shut its door in the run-up to the 11 a.m. countdown. Across the country, U.K. theater chains Odeon and Everyman will also be screening the Harry Potter movies over the weekend.
19-year-old Caitlin and Paige, 15, were among those who arrived in Hogwarts gear to celebrate the event. They had travelled down from Norwich, approximately a three-hour drive away. “We love Harry Potter and we love dressing up so we wanted to come here and see what it was all about,” Caitlin, who was wearing Hufflepuff robes, told Variety. She said she had been a fan for “a really long time” and was also excited about the upcoming TV adaptation of the books.
YouTubers Gwen, 31, and Marine, 24, had come to London from France specifically for Back to Hogwarts. During their visit they are also planning to go to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden. The duo grew up with the original films, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, but are open to watching the new TV series. “At first we were kind of sceptical about it because it feels weird to have someone play Daniel Radcliffe’s part, but then we just thought it’s exciting,” Gwen told Variety. “We’re getting a new Potter series and it’s just going to be a new way of seeing the words. We’re just a little worried Hogwarts isn’t going to be the same.”
For those who couldn’t attend Back to Hogwarts in London, Warner Bros. Discovery have more events planned across the globe and online:
On Sept. 1 at 10am PST/1pm EST the Wizarding World social channels will broadcast a special 30-minute special packed with news and updates as well as some fun and games. They have also released a new Instagram effect enabling fans to turn themselves into Chocolate Frog cards and have a surprise on TikTok for those who want to cast some spells.
250 Cinemark theaters will re-release “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Parts 1&2” while Max subscribers can participate in a “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” watch party on Sept. 1 at 5pm PST/8pm EST by following @HarryPotterFilm and @StreamOnMax as well as the #BacktoHogwarts hashtag.
Harry Potter fans should head to Milan train station where they can enjoy a number of photo opportunities from Sept.1-2, including life-size models of Harry, Ron and Hermione.
Fans visiting “Harry Potter: The Exhibition” in Paris are invited to partake in a giant interactive quiz while competing for house points. Guests will include French voice talent for Ron Weasley and Harry Potter and costume designer Jany Temime.
Screenings of the Harry Potter films will be held in Barcelona and Madrid.
Cinemaxx is showing all eight Harry Potter films across the country throughout September and October. Last month the country also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the books’ release in Germany by breaking the world record for number of fans dressed as Harry. 4,453 Potters showed up, smashing the previous record of 997.
From Sept. 1-3 fans in Chengdu can enjoy a pop-up Back to Hogwarts event including photo opportunities, interactive sets and a lifesize Platform 9 and ¾. There will also be a light projection show and wand illumination ceremony while cinemas are set to screen Harry Potter.
Village Cinemas in Victoria are hosting special Harry Potter screenings across 15 locations.
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