This time last year I was under a fair amount of stress as I was in the final planning stages of heading on the longest journey of my life so far and also my first flight ever.
As some of you may know the journey was to Los Angeles, California for the giant Gallifrey One Dr Who Convention. To cut a rather long story which was told in another blog entry a few months back short the event was very enjoyable if somewhat fatiguing including a combined attack of jet lag and light headedness due to a rather powerful American energy drink that led to me recovering in my room instead of attending the opening ceremony.
Due to the sheer expense and the jet lag I’m opting out of Gally this year, my original plan had been to attend the event bi annually but having missed out on a ticket to one of the few British events that even comes close to Gally’s choice of programme and friendly sociable atmosphere. I’m seriously considering changing that to annual from next year.
Sadly most of the large scale “cons” in this country esp ones in the London area aren’t really cons in any real sense of the word but instead seem to be cynical exercises in extracting as much money from fans as possible by charging them anything from £15 to £45 for an autograph. Thankfully most of the “talks” are either free or a lot cheaper which is just as well because a lot of these events are held in huge echoy venues not remotely designed for Q&As at all.
An increasingly large part of me wishes I’d started attending cons in this country back in the days when most of them were run by fans for fans. I didn’t really discovers conventions till the early 90s which seems to have been the tail end of that time. I have fond memories of Panopticon ‘92 a far from perfect event but the fact that it even had a screening/video room just goes to show how much these things esp in this country have changed.
Sadly the video room was one of the few things I didn’t manage to squeeze into my Gallifrey One experience which left me a bit miffed that it wasn’t active for longer as their programme of fan films was rather attractive.
While I’m back on the subject of Gally this blog entry is dedicated to various people who kept me company and helped me generally during that event.
There’s probably too many to list but it certainly includes the team from The Staggering Stories Podcast, who probably didn’t appreciate me hassling them with excited conversation as they tried to check into the hotel. It also includes Tardis Tara who gave me the best advise I had all weekend when an attack of light headedness probably brought on by poor diet, lack of energy and a caffeine overdose caused me to be one of the few people there to miss the opening ceremony. Also worth mentioning are Trev from The Doctor Who Podcast who I bumped into during my bus tour of LA the day before the con and I almost fell asleep sat next to the next morning as the con itself started! Finally I’ll thank Nancy and Lewis from The Happiness Patrol Podcast who along with Tara and her husband David kept me company during the long wait between checking out of the hotel and catching the shuttle to the airport.
Sorry, that got a bit long didn’t it for acknowledgements and I’ve managed to miss people out sorry Paul of The Pharos Project who did afterall guide me through my first airport experience.
Oh….what’s that? Think I’ve just seen a sign post saying “Get Back on Track!” So here we go let the rambling continue as I attempt to chronicle my fan and maybe even other activities during 2011.
Way back not long before I headed off on that epic length journey to Gally I attended my first residential, multi day sci fi convention. The event in question was The SFX Weekender 2, held at the rather aged Pontins Holiday Park in Camber Sands. The “Appartments” which was the rather over kind name given to the accommodation were rather drafty, built about 40 years ago and didn’t look like they’d changed much since then apart from possibly the odd change of appliance. My main memory of the accommodation was one evening when I decided to grill some bacon and the place turned out to be so small that I ended up dashing between the kitchen and the door to waft the fumes away that were setting off the smoke dectector! In the end and in sheer desperation I opened the front door and took the suggestion of a passing stranger and temporarily removed its battery. Much as I love a bit of bacon that was the only meal I had of it during the con.
More fun happenings during that event included being on back to back pub quiz winning teams, one of which I joined by sheer luck on the first night as it was one of the few places to sit down in the packed pub.
Other fun happenings included a midnight screening of the horror classic An American Werewolf in London only slightly spoiled by the fire alarm going off at one point which immediately led to a rapid shout of “Press Pause” from Paul of The Pharos Project, we were only stuck outside for 5-10 mins but in the cold February weather conditions that was more that enough for many who had foolishly not grabbed their coats on the way out. To be fair to SFX the event on the whole was well organised and one of the few hiccups with this came on the day of Keeley Hawes’s panel and signing where the hot conditions of the venue caused her to cut the signing short and go home one of my few disappointments having lugged an Ashes to Ashes boxed set with me to no avail. It’s to my great regret that this year’s event has sold out because even though the rail journey there would have been complex it would have been well worth it for the event itself.
Having already covered Gallifrey One I’ll jump past it to Invasion which I attended a mere four days after landing back in the UK and therefore still rather jet lagged! I’ve been attending the one day Invasion Conventions since about 2005, they aren’t perfect events with their almost constant shepherding of guests and lengthy queues for autographs that make you miss seeing other guests take to the stage. Unfortunately 2011’s event was rather under attended and looks like it was the last this despite a guest list with every one from actors Rodney Bewes, Jacqueline Pearce and John Levine through to Writers Rob Shearman and Nick Briggs(though I’m not sure about his presence due to my jet lagged memory!) Most memorable events that day were John Levine’s rather jaw dropping appearance on stage which some of you may have heard in episode 100 of my podcast Tim’s Take On through to me having rambley conversations with a sympathetic group in the signing room. Don’t the weather that day was ideal either not a huge contrast to LA but definitely more rain in one day than we had in one week there!
My fandom excursions briefly became more local back in March when Hyde Fundraisers came to Cambridge to exhibit their fan made Dr Who monsters and TARDIS in The Pitt Building, 6th Doctor Colin Baker was also on hand meeting fans and signing but sadly I wasn’t informed he be charging for his autograph so that’s another signature I lost out on in 2011 though thankfully one I already have in this case. So I had to make do with taking a few photos of him one of which he kindly posed for before heading for his lunch.
Fan fun switched to it’s more usual location of London again late March for the first of two visits to The Doctor Who Experience at Olympia Two. The Experience is a fun if slightly odd mixure of an “interactive” Doctor Who adventure you’re led through and a more standard exhibition which thankfully celebrates both classic and new series eras of the show though from what I hear it almost wasn’t that way. About the only frustrating aspect of this attraction is the compulsory nature of the “Experience” bit which if you’re on a repeat visit due to changes in the exhibition you might want to dodge. I’m sure some people would gladly pay a few pounds less simply to look round the exhibition and the shop. Summer of 2012 the whole attraction is moving to Cardiff Bay in Wales, it’s not known at this time if that premises is any larger than its London home which although far from tiny could probably best be described as medium sized compared to the huge exhibition at Earls Court a couple of years back.
April saw a more social event the Dr Who #twub crawl which was organised by Helen Thomas who at the time was working for a tour company. A group of nineteen of us headed down the Thames touring various pubs occasionally interrupted by the chance to see somewhere Dr Who had filmed over the years. We were an eclectic and fun bunch some came in cosplay even I who doesn’t normally indulge in such things donned a Fez bought earlier that day which certainly proved adequate protection from the sharpness of the wind, possibly the most memorable of the cosplayers was someone who’d come as the 11th Doctor but on a whim had bought a mop from a pound shop on the way to join us! Helen had been toying with plans for a picnic last summer to reunite some of this group but sadly so far that’s yet to happen.
Not all of my trips to London last year were fan related, over Easter I had a long walk round Westminster and the area around Buckingham Palace photographing and videoing the sights and sounds of London the day before the Royal Wedding it was kind of a mixture of star spotting and eccentric obsessives gathered on central London’s streets. Dead opposite Westminster Abbey where the service would take the next day and also opposite Buckingham Palace were two giant media villages so the world’s TV Broadcasters could have studios facing the key locations. The most memorable moment of this star spotting came in the early evening just as the Six O Clock News ended on BBC One it became apparent that its presenter George Alagiah has a bit of a heart throb following as a few of his younger fans approached him for an autograph.
The next day a couple of the roads in our neirbourhood were closed for a Royal Wedding Street Party, I popped out and managed to nab myself a few cakes but was too busy watching the main event itself on tv to enjoy the barbeque or the band, who stupidly scheduled their evening set during Eastenders! Still if nothing else I guess the event proved there is something approaching community spirit round here even if I still barely know most of my neirbours.
In late May I took the afternoon off and headed to London for my first experience of the Dr Who fan meet up known oddly as The Tavisode, this was the 5th anniversary of this event which by early evening consisted of about twenty of us and eat up roughly three booths of the pub. We even had a couple of members of that rare breed I tend to refer to as “Fan Royalty” if for no other reason than they’ve either reached some level of status through their work or have simply been around fandom so long that they seem somehow more important than some of us. There was a very nice 5th anniversary cake made by the aforementioned Helen.