As some of my more long term readers (hello!) may remember I often went on about ConVivial. This was a science fiction convention which I helped run at the end of May. With a Victorian theme. We had picked this theme mostly because we, as an all male committee of avowed waistcoat wearers, would find the costume easy to do. Not that we
expected much in the way of costume from the punters, or indeed expected many punters. Oh how wrong we were.
Conventions are, from the point of view of those running them, very
confusing things. There is always something demanding your attention. Be it a lost item organiser or an unexpected demand for overhead slides one is always rushing back and forth and you never truly get a chance to appreciate what is happening around you. Thus I shall now detail the things that I remember in no obvious order at all.
Costume: I was astounded by this one. Most conventions get but a smattering of costuming attendees. Indeed the last Eastercon I attended had practically none. So quiet was it that I stood out in my usual cod Victoriana as having put the effort in. Which I so did not. And yet for the dinner on Saturday night of ConVivial, admittedly starring Queen Victoria, every single person attending had some form of costume. Every man had a collar and tie. Every lady had a fine evening dress. I was stunned. The rest of the weekend went just as well. There were tweed suits, boaters, A line skirts, bustles and many a long train. Made me feel underdressed so it did.
Beards: A personal favourite this one. I had decided to grow a beard for that authentic Victorian air. And I was not the only one. I actually found myself in a conversation about moustache wax at one time. There is something ineffably wonderful about having sculpted facial hair. And you get some weird looks as you wander through the hotel with the full cavalry whiskers. I am currently trying to work out where and when I can next wear them.
Games: Oh were there a lot of silly games. And a lot of silly people to take part. There was Airship Racing, Croquet, Pin the Bustle on the Lady, Never Mind The Balderdash, Test The Empire, The Ascot Races (replete with bookmakers and Suffragettes) and even a casino. Which brings me to;
Gambling: Our Master of Games had a bright idea. Why not introduce some betting into the Horse Racing to add some interest. After all, it was just a couple of stuffed toys waddling across the carpet. Then the thought went, let us extend this, allow betting all weekend, and award a prize for the greatest haul at the end. Maybe even sell a few chips for donations to the charity. Oh boy was it popular. We couldn't get people off of the tables during the Friday night disco. The bookie could barely keep up at the races. And the card games went on into the wee small hours of Sunday Morning. In the end one man won by a landslide and, considering how much money the charity received from him for chips, I think he fully deserved his prize of a small plastic roulette wheel.
Freebies: One of the nice things about conventions, especially fan run ones, are the freebies. You can invariably look forward to going home with some free books or maybe even a T-Shirt. In an effort to get people involved we had decided to give away Absinthe or sweets depending on taste. And oh was that popular. People happily consumed their freebies and then came back for more. Also we had a raffle. The prizes included sensible things (the remains of the Absinthe), odd things (battery powered soft toys) and the plain surreal (an overhead projection slide of Brad Pitt from Troy). And it all went. I think it is safe to say that it was the first con I had ever been to where everyone came away with something.
And this all leads to Charity: very early on we decided to donate our profits, if there were any, to charity. Due to the wondrous generosity of our members who threw money at sweets, absinthe and gambling tokens like it was going out of fashion we ended up giving over four hundred pounds to charity. And that, if nothing else, makes it all worth while.
So go out there, take part in conventions and have a great time. Oh and run one just as silly as this one so I can take part.
Next Time - How the Flexitone drove one man to madness.