David Bell, Church Farm, North Kelsey, Lincoln, LN7 9EQ
John Bray, 28 Russell Court, Oakhill Crescent, Surbiton, KT6 6EE
Andy Croft, 217 Chichester Rd, Portsmouth, PO2 0AL.
Steve Green, 33 Scott Rd, Olton, Solihull, B92 7LQ
Rhodri James, 25 Wycliffe Road, Cambridge, CBl 3JD
Donna Laughlan, 16 Tonbridge Rd, West Molesey, Surrey, KT8 OEL
Ethel Lindsay, 69 Barry Road, Carnoustie. Angus, DD7 7QQ
Joseph Nicholas, 5a Frinton Rd, London, N15 6NH.
Pat Silver, 83 Cavendish Road, Patchway, Bristol, BS12 SHH
I would like to comment on the current state of the so-called "fan room" at major conventions such as the Eastercon -- a state exemplified by the fan room at this year's thrash in Blackpool, the programme for and participation in which was virtually non-existent. I am not concerned here with the expertise of those who organised it, or with whether there were a sufficient number of people to support it, but with the fact that for far too long the fan room has been run as though "fan" meant solely "fanzine fan", and (worse) that other fans were excluded solely because they did not publish fannish fanzines. To a certain extent, this is a consequence of the early history of fan rooms at Eastercons -- they were conceived in the mid-seventies initially as a means of attracting people into fanzine fandom (because in those days, kids, other forms of fanac barely existed) and transforming them from passive consumers of programme items into active participants; but because the running of these rooms tended to be left to fannish fanzine fans they soon concentrated on this aspect of fandom, often providing a haven for such fans wishing to avoid the rest of the convention (in the seventies, kids, we thought that even 500 members were Too Many) --but the rise of other forms of fanac in the early eighties, toppling fannish fanzine fandom from its long-held pre-eminence, made such elisions untenable, even downright indefensible. It seems, however, that few if any people have attempted to resolve this conflation of "fan" with "fannish fanzine" --specifically, to rethink the fan room's use of the term "fan" and open it out to encompass the rest of the convention -- and in consequence the fan room has marched like some unstoppable zombie through Eastercon after Eastercon, each committee perhaps thinking that they'd better have one because their predecessors did too, but unaware that it no longer serves any real purpose. The fan room at this year's Eastercon perhaps indicates that the concept has now reached the absolute end of the road; that it has decayed to such an extent that it is no longer salvageable and should be quietly consigned to the dust of history.
((I agree with Joseph about the redundancy of the fan room, and have argued the case for its removal for many years, especially when I've been asked to organise one by committees who obviously think that it's simply a place for old fogies to hide in. The purpose of a fan room and fan programme is to provide items about on FANDOM and not SF. Ok, there will be silly games as well to provide some fun, but it is primarily the place for people who are involved and interested in fandom for its own sake, and there seem to be very few of them at conventions these days, so let's do away with it. Speculation simply incorporated fan-programming into the programme as a module of 4 items and had no fanroom.))
Along, perhaps, with multiple programme tracks in general. Illumination perhaps had two or three more tracks than it could actually sustain, and while it might have been the design of the hotel that made the convention seem to be spread thin rather than that the number of attendees was lower than usual, it was noticeable that the audiences for most of the panel discussions I attended could generally be numbered in the low twenties, while for some items I looked in at the audience barely made it into double figures. Since this was the first Eastercon we've attended since Jersey's in 1989 -- and that in turn was the first since the Brighton Eurocon in 1984 -- I'm clearly in no position to say whether this is an inevitable effect of the recession or part of a continuing trend to small audiences regardless of venue and item; but I'd be willing to bet that (a) small audiences are an obvious consequence of multiple programme tracks, and (b) the recession is making them smaller still. If so, then it really would be time to rethink what the Eastercon is for --the question I raised last time, but which neither Rhodri James, David Bell, nor Bernie Peek manage to address. Perhaps they think matters are all right as they are, and that no questions are necessary -- although Peek's suggestion that fandom is better off without some people is eerily similar to the intolerant remarks some fannish fans used to direct at other fans about fifteen years ago. That sort of response wasn't particularly edifying then, and it certainly isn't edifying now.
This is purely a personal view of Illumination. I worked on tech but had no other involvement with the management of the con.
First of all let me say that I enjoyed the con. I had no problems whatsoever with membership or hotel bookings and in advance of the con the committee were very helpful when I had need to communicate with them.
Throughout the 2-year run-up period I was impressed by the information and PR's that were produced but the communications seemed to fall apart shortly before the con and never recovered. Shortly before the event the level of communication was low and meant that, e.g. the film team had to chase the committee for information and instructions rather than the other way around.
At the con the lack of communication and apparent lack of proper planning/admin. continued. For instance, although the Green Room team had been supplied with a list of programme participants and their needs nobody had thought to provide the tech crew with a copy of the list, so we were repeatedly confronted by programme participants expecting equipment that wasn't available.
The film/video programme was not well publicised by the convention and the video team ended up producing their own publicity posters outside the film room.
Programme alterations and other information was poorly disseminated. There was no central information board; rather there were several boards scattered around on any of which information might appear.
There didn't appear to be any proper organisation of gophers with the inevitable result that there were very few gophers. Although I worked a considerable number of hours on tech I only twice encountered a drinks gopher. If you wanted a drink whilst on duty - and remember that the sound desk was situated next to a hot radiator that could not be turned off - you had to persuade someone to chase around to find a person who could authorise it. Why was the desk next to the radiator? Because the tech budget was very low, most of the kit was borrowed/cobbled together and there weren't any longer cables available to enable the desk to be sited elsewhere.
I gather that the low tech and film budgets were due partly to the decision to have a fireworks display. It was a wonderful fireworks display and I certainly wouldn't grumble about the decision, except that once again the tech budget was very limited. Furthermore there appeared to be little attempt to borrow some of the equipment that is well known to be available within fandom. At least one of the people who owns and regularly uses such kit and who is well known to the committee was not asked if he would be attending or if he could loan equipment. I do not know whether or not there was some political reason for this, but it is inexcusable to deprive con attendees of something which could enhance the convention for that sort of reason.
I don't want to get into the "tech versus the rest" argument here, but I heard a number of remarks to the effect that panellists/speakers could not be heard in the main hall. Yes, I know the old saw about "the bad workman blames his tools" but there really is a limit to what you can do with equipment which is not designed for that situation.
The hotel was greatly improved since I was last there (for Frontiers) and had been redecorated throughout. This time the door didn't fall off the wardrobe when I tried to open it as had happened on my previous visit! It is obvious that the hotel have worked on the visible bits first (not unreasonably) as the electrics in the big hall are just as chaotic as ever. We were assured by the hotel that the eccentric heating system and electrics were due to be worked on however.
There were some problems with the hotel which could be attributed partly to poor negotiations on the part of the committee. Breakfast finished at 10am which I consider to be unreasonable, especially when the hotel made a point of closing down the dining room as fast as possible, by switching off the lights amongst other tactics. On one occasion one of the hotel staff actually removed a serving spoon from my hand at precisely 10am because "breakfast FINISHES at 10, 'Madam' ". OK, so I should have been there a bit earlier but when you have been running the equipment in the video room until after 3am (and it not even interesting, at least to me, being Anime and obscure media stuff) you want all the sleep you can get. Unless you got to breakfast early there was no vegetarian option, and NO MUSHROOMS until the last day. The fast food bar was not bad, but the only vegetarian option available there throughout the convention was a vegetable lasagne. It was quite a nice vegetable lasagne but were a vegetarian I'd have got awfully bored with it. As for dinner, the restaurant closed at 2030. Prompt. Once again the lights were turned off despite the fact that people were still eating. The bars were pretty good although once again there was no fruit juice other than the little (and expensive) bottles despite the fact that there were "orange juice drink" dispensers fixed to the bar. I'm not a beer drinker so I can't comment on that. The trouble was that the hotel is trying to be a 4-star hotel but the staff still have a holiday camp attitude.
Reading that lot back it would appear that most of my grumbles about the con are relatively minor ones.
((My first impressions of the hotel were bad as I was given a room that hadn't been serviced by 4 p.m. and the shower was broken, so I asked for a new room. The building work and porter controlled lift didn't help make the hotel look good on arrival either.))
Illumination seemed to go pretty well, though my personal experience was pretty bad. That's my problem. It was interesting to see the similarities with previous Eastercons and how things worked out differently. Things were not as much in the middle of nowhere as was Beccon '87. and it was almost possible to describe the hotel layout in the same terms as for Speculation, but the differences were significant. Compared to Speculation, it also seemed a much better organised weekend.
((I can't agree about the layout being like Speculation. The longest walk between rooms was 100 paces, in Blackpool it was closer to 400.))
I wasn't impressed by the presentation of the Sou'Wester bid, and I decided to hold off on joining until I saw the first PR. There was a little aggro over the question of how much the hotel was charging for function space. It is, on reflection, pretty obvious which previous Eastercon Ben Brown was obliquely referring to. I'm not sure that is relevant. Isn't it a choice between the convention paying the hotel, and thus sharing the cost among all members, and the hotel getting the same money from those members who stay in the hotel, through higher room charges? Okay, there are the bar prices as well, but I hope you see the point. Maybe there is scope for somebody with experience to do a piece on presenting a bid, as well as on convention publicity in general.
((Yes, the cost of functions space, room rates and bar prices are all up for negotiation. It seemed to me that the Sou'Wester committee simply hadn't thought of any of this by the time they put up the bid, making it impossible to estimate how much it was going to cost us if we voted for them. If they had been opposed by any bid that could state definite prices they would probably have lost. The famous £53 single room debacle at the Speculation bid session arose because we wanted to be able to quote firm prices at the bid, 2 years in advance, rather than make vague commitments to getting low room rates.))
I was very happy with how the con went. Given the inexperience of the committee, we seemed to anticipate most problems. Certainly I had no regrets in trying to give a different flavour to the Eastercon, and not attempt the 'organisation to death' methods of the big con-runners.
Anyway, here are a few problems we had:
The fireworks were a lot of hassle. With so many local groups to deal with we still didn't know whether they were on or off the weekend before the convention. Public liability insurance was very hard to organise too. We'd planned them to start at 9.30, but had to move them forward at the council's insistence, which upset the masquerade and showing of Roger Rabbit. But the final display was superb, and I felt it was worth the £1500.00 (£1200 fireworks, £300 insurance) it cost. I've heard complaints that we could have spent the money elsewhere, possibly on an American guest. But we were happy with Paul and Geoff, so in practice the money would have been put in the film programme, which we wanted to keep low key in keeping with our aim to get people to participate.
Always do the Voodoo board by BADGE NAME, sorted by BADGE NAME. This was always intended, but Rhodri ran out of time to re-sort the list by membership number he got, and my first attempt at a replacement was done by real name, as that's how I know people.
Supply tech with the microphone requirements for each item. I set up the programme database with details of the times, places, people and kit like OHPs needed, but assumed that PA kit was in place for all the rooms and needed no changes. They need to know the type of item to set up small microphones for panels, stands for speakers or lapel microphones.
Computers can be used in programme items. The mass participation game of Sim Earth was superb, with the video projector putting the PC display on a big screen. The picture was fuzzy, but the atmosphere excellent, with cheers as new forms of life evolved, and shouts from the back to "turn up the volcanoes", and "hit 'em with a comet". The electronic mail demo had some technical hitches, as the cheap PC to video signal card we used did get confused easily. Set up time is a problem, with video projector an unknown quantity, and the video stream people keen to start up their programme, so it would have been better to have the item later than Friday night.
Don't feel the need to keep the main hall fully in use. As we had limited programme space, and wanted a very full programme, we put some items in there that rattled badly.
Get plenty of people to organise the programme. While Anne handled the fan programme, originally Ivan was to handle the rest of the programme, with me supplying the science programme and database. When Ivan decided he couldn't face implementing the programme he'd devised, all the work fell on me. While I managed to find enough people, a lot of Ivan's mould breaking ideas proved too hard to implement without lots of love and attention. It's easy to arrange slots for items you have no personal interest in, but it's very hard to be enthusiastic about them. Most of the items that weren't literary, silly or science had a keen sponsor, and the dearth of comics items was because no-one came forward, and I couldn't be bothered to hunt for them.
The best solution would be have one person on the main committee, controlling the database, and liasing with publications, membership, tech, ops and hotel, with a subcommittee composed of people to organise areas they are interested in. The Golden rule should be: 'only organise events you'd want to go to', and to keep the Eastercon a broad church, find a broad sub-committee.
Personally I was disappointed with the number of items I'd organise that went by without feedback. My main satisfaction was the science programme I'd devised, implemented and attended, and that's the level of involvement I'll concentrate on in future. Anyone want a science programme?
(In response to Jonathan Cowie's criticisms in Conrunner 17)
Clashing items; these are a result of bad planning or last minute changes (which always happen due to, for example, Isaac Asimov dying a fortnight before the con). There is another use for a database here, having an 'Item Type' field that can be compared to recognise clashes automatically! Then we have asking people to perform outside their areas of expertise; this is almost invariably the result of somebody being confused, and the only possible action in those circumstances is to say, "Er, but I don't know anything about X." If participant's don't say, conrunners, not being notably telepathic, won't know. Conrunners certainly do know that many authors have some unusual specialities, and the chances of forgetting exactly who could do what is really quite high.
Lack of notification of changes; sadly this is an easy, sometimes unavoidable mistake to make. Not an excuse, I know, but nonetheless true, and given the usual highly changeable state of any convention programme I can't think of a good way around the problem. Perhaps a database could produce automatic change of item notifications? Not my field, I'm afraid. [Late addendum; John Bray says that this would be difficult with the usual database technology, and probably not very useful, and that my suggestion of an 'Item Type' field wouldn't stop many clashes from occurring either. Oh well, such is life.]
Lack of liaison between panel participants; I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at here. Many items need little discussion beforehand, for which purpose the Green Room is ideally suited. Some, like interviews, need preparation, and it is understood that the interviewer will arrange something with the interviewee. Beyond this, surely it must really be the programme participants' responsibility to do something if they want to do a lot of arrangement beforehand? They could always, dare I suggest it, ask.
Cons do not provide equipment; cons often aren't asked to provide the right equipment. I well remember running around Speculation digging out the slide projector that a certain local lecturer had omitted to request until the start of his programme item!
Not asking far enough in advance; this is a fair criticism of most conventions' programme (dis)organisation, but again there are times when this simply has to be. The obvious example, again, was Isaac Asimov dying on us; a retrospective was an obvious thing to do, at two weeks' notice with little idea of who would be most appropriate beyond asking various critics not to be too nasty...
In short, the only way to prevent these problems from becoming problems is communication, as Jonathan nearly says. Con organisers aren't telepathic (well, I'm not), and if some famous author were to come up to me, clouds sullying her normally radiant brow, and say something like, "I'm afraid there seems to be some confusion over this matter...", I would certainly think nothing the worse of her. Or him.
On the advertising front, frankly I can't be bothered to go to the time and trouble, not to mention the expense (yes, I will moan, it's my convention and I've worked hard for the right to moan about it) of differentiating between forms that go out to different places, just to give myself the job of counting all the various forms and ignoring everything that comes in hand-written! I just don't think that the results will be that useful. We already know a certain amount about where to place ads; either or both current Eastercons' PRs and Souvenir Books, Critical Wave, Matrix, maybe the worldcon's PRs if you're after an international membership, and so on and so forth. Most are willing to do swaps. None of this is any substitute for flyering conventions and going around beating up people with a receipt book, which in turn is more reliable than trusting the grapevine to get anything through accurately.
Computer use in convention organisations: pen, paper and lever arch files are perfectly fine, nay, excellent for 100-200 person cons such as Armadacon and the Unicon, but everything gets out of control when you move up to dealing with 700-1200 people. Even then, the posts that actually need to database information are the Membership, Hotel, Ops and Programming departments, and Ops can get away with just the membership list and volunteer forms.
The Illumination committee had a definite advantage in keeping the membership and hotel databases on a portable PC. Every time we had a query with the hotel, Steve was able to handle it in seconds since he had nearly instant access to all the information from what people had requested, what they had been assigned and what the hotel had been told. Also (somewhat inevitably, I fear), his cross-referencing could determine who was sharing with whom rather more readily than the hotel's system could. Hotel booking software, like manual hotel booking systems, is written on the assumption that all the people for a room will arrive together and most likely be a family, all booked under the same name. This is not true of fans, as most people will have found out by now.
I left school 20 years ago (that gives away my age doesn't it?) but have no difficulty in either understanding or using computers. I'm actually seriously considering going back to college to study computing properly.
I would like to qualify Steve Pritchard's assertion that you don't need a computer to run a con. I would agree totally for a small convention, and I'd define that as being up to about 100 members. At that size I would use a card index system and indeed it is remarkably quick to shuffle through the cards to extract those of interest for particular purposes. Much over 100 attendees however I would find it easier to use a computer. What Steve probably hasn't taken into account is that a computerised system can be quicker, easier, more flexible and very much faster and more efficient - PROVIDED that you set up your systems properly in the first place. It is necessary to think very carefully about what you want to get out of a system before you start putting things in because it is not easy to change things in retrospect.
If you get it right, everything can be run from one master database. Address labels, lists of hotel booking requirements, lists of who owes what, lists of volunteers (for the use of the various function managers), badge blanks, letters to groups of people, e.g. volunteers. If you combine the database with an accounts programme you can run the accounts direct from the master database too, thus saving even more work.
The place that people usually run into trouble with computerised records is in not planning properly in the first place. It really does require very careful thought and planning in advance.
All this doesn't require a terribly expensive and sophisticated machine. I have run membership lists on computers ranging from a BBC B up to an IBM mainframe (thank you, work). A larger machine certainly makes it easier to work with and if you have a PC you have much more choice of business (e.g. accounts) software than with some other machines, but even a humble Amstrad PCW can perform some surprisingly sophisticated activities.
From which lot you may conclude that I LIKE computers.
Sorry Bernie but I must disagree with on using Critical Path Analysis (CPA or one of its cousins). They are essential and I suspect you were doing it with out realising it from the rest of your comments. Some people are under the misleading idea that unless something is set out in one of the standard forms for CPA then they are not doing it. Not so. The formal methods have been evolved to make life easier and the process more efficient. Sometimes they were introduced merely to keep commonality across a large organisation so people from one are. could understand an other area's work.
All conventions MUST use some form of CPA or the Con would never happen. After all, if Publications didn't send out the first PR until after the Con there would not be many people there. On a less obvious level if you don't have fixed cut-off dates for material for the Programme book at a sensible time you end up with somebody putting it together the day before, or even, as happened at a well written about Con on the first day as well. At a working level with planning the programme it is needed. If, as happens all too often you are short on tech. equipment like microphones, CPA would show you that you can't have two items on that need all your kit at the same time in different rooms. I know from appearances that this, area is very rarely thought of by most committee's, but please, please do. The same thing goes for personnel: of course if you only have X number of bodies working they can only do so much. For a big Con I would go so far as to suggest that the use of a formal CPA method should be considered essential to save on time, money and effort. If I had wind of a Worldcon bid that was not planning on using CPA I would seriously consider giving it a miss as I have little doubt that the cockups would be many and varied. Eastercon's would be recommended to use a formal method but could get away without IF, and only IF, they have a good informal system.
I disagree with Bernie Peek that the use of proper project management techniques isn't justified for "even a worldcon". Even an apparently very simple project can benefit from the use of CPA/PERT if for no other reason than the fact that producing a plan in that way forces you to think very carefully about what is involved/required. By the time you get to the size of an Eastercon, the level of complexity and the quantity of admin. required is such that setting up such a system is well worth the effort. A smaller project doesn't really need such formal planning but some system of planning and control is necessary, even if it is a set of lists on old computer cards. I'd be very reluctant to run a worldcon without some such system.
The use of such techniques enables you to monitor progress; it flags up to you which are the really important deadlines; it gives you advance warning of potential admin. problems; it ensures that you don't forget something really important and it also lets you know which items you CAN set aside for later attention or if necessary drop entirely.
I use PERT techniques even for small projects both within fandom and outside and find it extremely valuable. Software is available for PCs but unfortunately tends to be included as part of an expensive project management package and requires a fairly powerful machine to run it. It is possible to do a remarkable amount on paper, although you will not have the same facility for quickly trying out alternative ordering of activities that you have with a computer system.
Saying that a worldcon doesn't require high-level planning is grossly underestimating the complexity of the project. A worldcon runs for 6 days or so, plus the couple of days either side when the committee is working effectively full time. It will have a cash flow of around £150k. There are multiple parallel programming streams. There is a multitude of other activities to co-ordinate; tech ops, general ops, art show, guest liaison, programme planning, masquerade, films, security, transport, hotel bookings, publishing and more besides. The number of people involved with the central management and management of the sub-functions (e.g. films, art show) is perhaps 40, plus all the others who get involved with the practical operations at the event. That's bigger than many small businesses, and it should be treated with the same respect as managing a business. Even an Eastercon is a not inconsiderable project with cash flow of around £10-20k and a plethora of things to co-ordinate. The all too common attitude that a large con DOESN'T warrant good management techniques is one of the main reasons that large cons often run into admin. problems.
You see, I am not a paragon with a super-power memory. I rely on good planning and VERY good records which are properly indexed so I can lay hands on whatever information I need very quickly. I hate working in chaos and dislike the stress that it causes, so I minimise the potential for chaos to break out.
What a wonderful idea; an official committee nagger (Bernie Peek, p23). Wish I'd thought of it!
Martin's article about committees makes me tremble at the thought of being involved now, shades of the 5 person worldcon committee of which I was a member way back when.
Ref. Martin Easterbrook's article: Although most of Martin's advice should be blindingly obvious, empirical evidence indicates that sadly isn't the case. As I see it, there are essentially two species of committee: the chair-led version, where other members are there to follow her or his instructions, and the open debate, where decisions emerge from the meeting. Novacon 13 fell into category one, but Phill Probert had the good sense to sound out individual members beforehand so as to avoid trampling our opinions underfoot. Novacon 14 was category two, although I set up an "inner cabinet" (myself, Martin Tudor and Paul Vincent) prior to the first meeting, and our initial policy outline pretty much set the agenda - of course, this system requires collective responsibility. I actually voted against one of Novacon l4's more controversial decisions (you can no doubt guess which one), but took the subsequent flak; after all, I still retained the option of resigning if I felt strongly enough (just as Tony Benn chose to do when he fell out with Jim Callaghan).
When I was working as a technical meetings secretary some years back I had the wonderful pleasure of telling a pompous ass who suffered from verbal diarrhoea that while HE wasted hours, I took minutes. I also had the enormous pleasure of responding to the question as to whether I was "getting all this" with the response "everything that's relevant", having ostentatiously put down my pencil some 10 minutes earlier. The trick with taking minutes is in distilling the points that really matter from the dross. The only things that are really essential are action points and decisions. If my minutes from a major con meeting run over a couple of pages I start looking at them carefully to see if I have missed the point and become distracted into irrelevancies.
I like the Helicon system of producing some of the reasons for their actions in their fanzine and keeping it separate from the working minutes. Even if a committee doesn't want to publish such a fanzine it might be worth producing such a document for the committee's use if someone can be persuaded to produce it.
I smiled at Martin's comments concerning fan relationships and "who is/was/isn't sleeping with who". Last time I ran hotel bookings for a convention I included on the form the question "Is there anybody who you REALLY don't want to share a room with" and assured people that I wouldn't divulge it to anybody and would destroy the paperwork as soon as I had sorted out the bookings. It's not just ex-lovers who don't want to share rooms; I can think of several people who would drive me nuts in a very short time and I am quite sure that there are many people who REALLY wouldn't like to share a room with me! (I know perfectly well that I am opinionated and bad-tempered, and that's AFTER I've had my coffee!).
Always try and combine committee meetings with some other event, like a party. This allows general chat to occur outside the meeting, so the meeting can be more structured, and makes it more worth while for people who have to travel some distance to get there.
Ref. badge names, I have always made a point of using real names for all filing purposes at registration and for other admin. purposes. I will put any name that anyone wants onto a badge but I won't use it for other admin. purposes, unless of course someone wants to be addressed solely by their badge name - and that includes the address on any material I post to them. If someone doesn't mind the post office knowing them as "Furglesplat Rateater the Glumph" then I will use that name, but I want to be able to use one name only for all admin. purposes. Some badge names cause headaches in the filing too; which part of that name would YOU decide to file it under? "R" for "Rateater"? "G" for "Glumph"? That's another reason I prefer to use mundane names if at all possible; they are less likely to cause that sort of problem. For Follycon I devised a set of basic rules as to how I would file things and defined for example which part of a hyphenated name I would use. (Hello, Neale Mittenshaw-Hodge). That information was included on the information sheet I sent to all who volunteered to help on registration and I had extra copies to give to at-the-event volunteers. That's one of the apparently inconsequential bits of planning that actually makes a surprising difference to the way things run on the day, and it's amazing how much easier it is to work registration when you know that everything is filed in a consistent manner.
I do have a few comments about the Illumination ones that might be useful. They were, I'm afraid, rather over-arted, but jolly pretty with it. The actual names were computer generated from a copy of the membership list, but I did make sure beforehand that A.N.G. Mittenshaw-Hodge was going to fit on, which he did nicely in 14 point Trinity (equivalent to Times-Roman) font; judging from comments at the con this was too small, many people needing to peer at badges closely to work out who they were talking to. I can confirm that using a computer and a mail-merge programme works nicely, as that's basically what I did. I would however recommend that if you do this you scan in the whole badge image and print everything at once; lining up pre-printed badge blanks through a laser printer simply cannot be done with the millimetre accuracy you otherwise need.
The other point worth noting is that the Unicon also has a badge machine, which is currently in the hands of the Scone committee after doing service at the Eastercon (thanks, guys!). At any given moment, the current and/or previous Unicon committees should know where it is.
Those who dislike pinning badges to their expensive T-shirts and jeans, and don't have a convenient handbag strap to attach their monicker to may like to imitate Dave Lally (voted Most Exciting Fan in the Illumination Silly Awards, bizarrely enough). He has for years attached his badges and ribbons to a piece of card wrapped around his wrist, neatly solving all the problems.
For Illumination, we adopted the following scheme:
All ordinary badges have the same artwork, except for the personalised committee ones with their pink triangles (several people came up and congratulated me for my support to the gay rights cause, though Rhodri still claims it was coincidental). The committee icons were a nice idea, but it's very hard to find something appropriate to some of the roles.
We varied the ink colour for full and day memberships, because the design was very dense, and would have obscured any coloured paper. White space was left for name and membership number, with Rhodri laser-printing the names as an overlay. A larger font would have been easier to read at a distance, but would have scuppered Mr Hodge.
Ribbons are a good idea. People feel more involved, and you can play a few jokes like our "Not Tim" ribbon. Its hard to draw a line on the number of groups to have their own ribbon, so a catch-all "Staff" one is useful. Generic "Hero" ribbons to be given out for outstanding help would be a good idea. We used our "Prize" ones in that way to reward the fireworks team etc.
In 1988 a committee member from Elydore seriously told Follycon that we should not run the national SF convention at Easter because they (Elydore) had a tradition of running their convention at Easter and we (Follycon, the national SF con) were taking away their potential members!!! I believe that that was the second Elydore - unless someone knows better?
A question; is/was Galacticon/Elydore older than the Unicon, which started up in 1980? David Bell's comments suggest that this might possibly not be the case, but don't say so in as many words. I ask merely for information (or mostly for irritation, whichever you prefer).
I did not see the item from Joseph Nicholas where ELYDORE was mentioned but would like to thank David Bell for his summary of the various GALACTICON & ELYDORE convention years.
I think we went back a little further than 1982 but it was a long time ago and I cannot now remember the exact dates'
We took a rest a couple of years ago as running two (and sometimes more) conventions a year left us yearning to know what life was like out there. The experience of not having to sit down and process convention paperwork in the evening was a novel one'
Still, we had an enjoyable break but then Richard Carpenter mentioned that 1993 was the tenth anniversary of the HTV series 'Robin of Sherwood' and 'wouldn't it be great if...' plus we had already decided to hold an Easter media convention on Guernsey in 1994, (Two of our four committee members live there so we thought it would be nice if they did not have to travel for a change) so here we are organising another two conventions.
The break was great and I think necessary for all committee members once in awhile - It starts the ideas flowing. I have enclosed details of the two events. One is a 'straight' convention, whilst the other, ELYDORE, is a combined Full board/Travel holiday with a convention in the middle - Should be fun.
I'll close this with best wishes to all committee/convention runners be they current or potential.
If anyone wants to send us details of their events for a reciprocal mention in progress reports etc please let ELYDORE/GREENWOOD know.
Perhaps you should tell Bernie Peek about Touchwood 2, at the Shepperton Moat House Hotel on the weekend before Magicon. Even I've been to a couple of cons in the London area, as Bernie defines it. And what about the World Fantasy Con last year? I don't disagree about the problems an Eastercon, or a Worldcon, would face, but people are running smaller events without being swamped by walk-ins. That may be working because these events are more specialised. If you want to avoid attracting all and sundry, aim the convention at a small group. Or make it expensive, as was the World Fantasy Con. This approach also affects publicity. If you have a certain style of convention in mind, tell people the sort of programme item they can expect, and turn those ideas into reality on the day, you can get two hundred fans who are on your side, rather than five hundred who mostly feel cheated by what actually happens.
The trouble is that part of the image of what a con will be can be defined by previous conventions. For Worldcons, that suggests a certain amount of American glitz, as emphasised by reports in, for instance, Locus. And what do you do if a few fans publish accounts of rather drunken room parties and how they sat in assorted bars all weekend rather than attend the programme? And who is going to try to put on a convention in the London area when people, apparently through ignorance, keep saying it cannot be done at all?
Badges... I have just attended the first British mystery con at Nottingham and that was the only part of the organisation that got criticism they had only typed the names so that one spent a lot of time peering unsuccessfully at them.
The whole weekend the organisation went without a hitch. The panels were all about books, the writers and readers mingled all talking about books and I came away with the same satisfaction I used to feel at the early SF cons. There were only two visual events. Bus took us to a cinema to see a special preview of a TV adaptation of Julian Symons THE BLACKHEATH POISONINGS. Afterwards there was an opportunity to discuss it with the director, script writers and Symons himself who celebrated his 80th birthday that weekend. Also present was the cast member who played the part of the murderer and very keen to know when we first suspected this person. To be shown on ITV in the Autumn. The other time the bus took us to a theatre to see Sheila Hancock in Ruth Rendells' A JUDGEMENT IN STONE.
I would really rather attend this than the Eastercon. My last visit was to the one in Glasgow, I have two strong memories of that... seeing a woman and man in a "Hall" costume. She led him with a chain round his neck. The other was a reading of a story about a "bunny rabbit" with a woman prancing about dressed as a bunny. Nor shall I forget the small audience for a talk about SF and the large one that seemed obsessed by TWIN PEAKS. Ok if that is what people want but I will not waste my money on it.
Follycon successfully scrounged various items of equipment from commercial companies, mostly for the creche. Several national companies gave us toys and other creche equipment in response to letters asking for help. Talk to Chris Bell about how she did it for us. I have never tried to get financial sponsorship however and I would be reluctant to do so for fear that we would be forced to change the character of conventions.
Thinking around that one actually crystallised for me where so-called "professional" conrunning becomes objectionable. Good organisation is not objectionable provided what is does is enables congoers to do what they enjoy without interference and irritations. In other words, the committee should organise themselves and the business side of the con as well as they are able, in such a way as to permit congoers freedom to do as they please as far as possible.
In response to Bernie Peek's comment that a Megger is adequate to test electrical equipment for safety, I must regretfully say not true. Until the Electricity at Work Regulations came into being Bernie would have been correct. Under the new rules there is a requirement for most equipment to have their earth systems tested with 3 nominal current depending on the cable plus a flash test. The machines to do the additional tests are usually referred to as Portable Appliance Testers and cost typically £3-400 for the bottom end ones. They have to be calibrated annually at a further cost of around £100. Note that the prices are coming down slowly. To hire for a week one will typically cost around £35 + transport + VAT and you would require a qualified electrician to use or at least supervise. [Available from Livingstone Hire Tel. 0800 88 6000]
No, I haven't ever had any problems over showing copyrighted videos etc. but in any case I won't show films/videos unless they have been hired properly under a theatrical renting agreement or have other proper permission to show them. That's one of the reasons I am unhappy about some of the media material which is shown at conventions. For one thing it is dishonest, for another it is illegal. Furthermore, just because (to the best of my knowledge) a convention has never been checked on for such things, it doesn't mean that we never will. I hope that that question was not angling after justifying the use of copyright material illegally.
Phew! Told you I could just write and write, didn't l? Goodness know how many words this is; I'm doing this on the machine at work and it is designed primarily as a typesetting programme and doesn't have a decent spell-checker or a word count, at least not one that I've ever found.
((3509 before editing, actually Pat.))