That was the weekend that was, wasn't it! Let me tell you something straight off: chairing a con committee, rather than just serving on one (as I have the honour to do for UFP, and to a lesser extent Novacon and Mexicon) is a whole different kettle of fish, especially when working under the constraint of having to put the thing together in three months rather than the usual eighteen months/two years. My only previous experience of this was the FIB/UFP New Year's Eve party last year (to be repeated this year incidentally) and that went off all right so...
For those who haven't yet realised, Confetti is of course a lot of little bits thrown together at the last minute, and if nothing else, achieved a massive escalation of my office phone bill, resulting in dire warnings from the powers-that-be that such occurrences would not be welcome (noted!). A lot of little bits was certainly what it felt like right up until the glorious moment when the punters started flooding through the doors.
The philosophy behind the committee structure was to try and bring in people who, while having attended and quite possibly helped out at many cons in the past, had not actually been directly involved in the organisation and running of one. I'm not entirely sure that Sarah, Gail. and several of the Execs knew quite what they were letting themselves in for! I think we're only just still on speaking terms! None of this was helped by the shortage of time which hung over our heads like something out of Edgar Allen Poe, and meant that some of the usual acoutrements of a Trek Con (like the fiction competition) fell by the wayside. Despite all this, the idea of bringing new people through is one that Dave Liddle and myself intend to repeat for Holodeck in 1990, which will at least give us the comparative luxury of time to think.
Coming to the con itself (and I must thank you for all your thank you's), I must confess that given a committee which included Dave and myself, I was a little worried (no, actually, very worried) that people would get the idea that this was some kind of son-of-UFP, when in fact nothing could have been further from the truth. I'm happy to say that these fears proved completely groundless. Everyone seemed to be aware that the con had been put together on the back of the proverbial fag packet, and came looking for nothing more than some entertainment and a good time - actually the secret of successful attendance at any con - with the result that the general atmosphere was excellent. The hotel was adequate to the task of handling the event, and the only gripe I have has to be about the numbers.
We anticipated and budgetted for 250 attendees. which seemed reasonable. despite the lateness of the advertising and the competition offered by Greenwood, which was taking place the same weekend, but alas and alack, it was not to be. Final numbers were around the 150 mark, which not only meant that some of the programme streams (especially the films) were rather undersubscribed, but more importantly from our view, ConFetti had an operating loss. Before analysing the causes of this, I must state strongly that this is not an appeal for funds. We already had contingency plans in place to cover such an eventuality (which were updated constantly as revised registration figures came in), and all the bills are being paid. There will also be a donation to the con charity (Gt. Ormond Street) once we have finalised the accounts, but this won't be as large as we hoped.
Firstly, the initial budget - 250 attendees. The committee as a whole felt this was reasonable, even though we were short of advertising time and there was a competing event (Greenwood). No late Trek con in recent years had gone below this figure, even Galileo when they had to compete with DFK at Midcon. We knew that four club newsletters were due out before the con, which would cover most of the "target audience", if I may use such a phrase. Although budgetting was tight overall, we saved on expensive equipment hire by using our own videos and TVs in the video rooms, and cut corners wherever possible. Up to a month before the con, it was becoming clear that registrations were coming in slowly, and it seemed likely that only the announcement of a guest could pull in the numbers we needed, and that this would have to be done quickly. We were already in negotiation with two potential guests, finally settling on John de Lancie.
At this point we discovered that one of the major newsletters, BSFR, would now not be issued until after the con (through no fault of their own, I might add) thereby depriving us of a valuable outlet for this news. Panic stations! Thanks to the good offices of a number of fans, and a sleepless night or two, SF shops across the country were leafletted, and press releases sent out to most of the local Midlands papers. Word of mouth to fan groups would also (we hoped) help generate the numbers we needed to break even (now down to around 200 through some creative rebudgetting). But, it was not to be, although the local press coverage gave us extra attendees, several of whom brought friends after they had seen what we had to offer.
Of course, if we hadn't agreed to have John de Lancie as a guest, we would have more than broken even, although numbers would probably have been a little less, but provision for an American guest was within our original budget. Everyone who saw John seemed to agree that he was an excellent guest, and by and large a good time was had by all. At the risk of sounding like a scruples dilema, what would you have done?
Finally on this subject, I must air a personal grievance. I mentioned earlier that we knew of four major newsletters to be published before the con. As already mentioned, BSFR's publication was delayed, but Confetti was listed in both FIB and Beyond Antares. However, STAG, supposedly the largest British club, failed to list Confetti at all, despite the fact they listed RECCON for August 1989, which was ratified at the same bid meeting (at UFP in May). Despite tbe fact that I know and like the STAG committee, I find this lapse inexcusable, especially since in this case it could well have made the difference between profit and loss for Confetti.