This was to be a memorable weekend in more ways than one...
I'd been trying desperately to get two new zines in print for the convention. I'd got all the editing and layout done and the innards of the zines had already been copied. The hiatus was caused by the cover. Andy had allowed me to twist his arm into doing a cover for Star Four, but no sooner than he'd agreed to do it, than his life was invaded by real work. Needless to say, real work takes priority over unpaid work for fanzines. I asked him if there was any chance he could manage the cover before Cult TV and he said he'd give it his best shot and agreed to mail it direct to the copy shop.
Around 10 in the morning, the copy shop phoned to say that the art for the cover still hadn't arrived. We were planning to leave in a couple of hours... We had to go to the shop anyway to collect 'Not to Know' a new B7 novel by Harriet Bazley, so we crossed our fingers for the postal service to get its act together and departed. We reached the copy shop at midday to find that the disc with the art had arrived about half an hour earlier and the staff were frantically doing things with it. They're lovely people at the shop I use - amazingly helpful - I've been printing there for years now, even though there are other shops closer to home.
Half an hour later, we had the first half dozen copies of Star Four with covers and bound. With strict instructions from Jane to keep the zines resting on their spines for the next hour to allow the glue to set evenly, we departed for Torquay.
Nothing worse than an hour long traffic jam got in our way and we arrived in time to get everything set up in the dealers room before the evening meal. The dealers room was in a less than ideal position, but I wasn't to realise how bad it was until later in the weekend...
Tea time was when I started catching up with all my friends. One of the good things about Cult TV is that it's a half-board convention. You get breakfast, evening meal and accomodation included in the price. Admittedly the food in holiday camps is somewhat variable (I've acquired skill over the years in knowing which menu items to avoid. eg. Tomato soup can be any kind of thin, red liquid, but smoked mackerel can only be smoked mackerel - albeit a small portion.) You all get to eat at the same time and the programme allows for the meal times and it does make for a good social group.
The first night, the service was absolute chaos. I opted for salad simply because it was self-service and it was obvious that waiting for a waiter would involve us being late for things after the opening ceremony (I'd already given up on the ceremony itself.) Things did imprve on later days, but I would never recommend Barton Hall to anyone as a place to stay.
My mind is already blanking on the evening, but I think I spent a fair bit of it in the bar talking to Gareth and to Frank Maher. Frank's an amazing guy - did stunts on B7, but has worked all over the place and on all sorts of things. He's far older than I would have guessed from looking at him. He was a paratrooper at Arnham. He doesn't do stunts now, but gets paid to write action sequences for movies, etc. (I haven't seen Die Hard, but he had sequences in both movies.) Anyway, he was a great guy to listen to and I got to chat to him several times over the weekend. He and Gareth are old friends and were clearly delighted to meet up again after 20 years.
I really should mention the video programme here. Although, I didn't actually get around to seeing any of it - videos are usually low priority for me - Cult TV has the widest ranging video programme of any convention I have ever been to. There was stuff I'd have liked to see, I just seemed to be doing something else at the time! (usually in the dealers room) To give you an idea, you could have seen all of Knights of God, episodes of Kit Curran, Jonathan Creek, Space 1999, The Worst Witch, Maid Marion and her Merry Men, The A Team, Hostile Waters, The Bill, Cleopatra 2525, Relic Hunter, Dad's Army, Captain Scarlet, All of Ambassadors of Death, Catweazle, Highlander, Pulaski, UFO, Public Eye, The Protectors, Magnum, A Foreign Field, and The Invaders. And that's only the programme from Friday noon to Friday midnight. Many of these were episodes chosen beacuse they featured actors who were guests at the convention.
Saturday - up for breakfast. Barton Hall can murder scrambled eggs, but the rest of the breakfast was fine. I was sharing a chalet with Anne Wells and she proved to be a most agreable person to share with. I always like to share at conventions, talking over what you've done is half the fun.
I went along to Frank Maher's talk, followed by Gareth's. Both interesting, though Frank was even more intersting on a one to one basis than he was on stage. Gareth asked a question of Frank - can't remember exactly what now, but the kind of happily derogatory question that you toss at an old friend when you know he'll laugh rather than take it as an insult.
After that it was back to the dealers room. It turned out that I'd mostly guesed right as to what would sell at the convention, but had underestimated demand for "Blake's 7: The Inside Story". I'd assumed most people had it and had only brought half a dozen copies. They all sold quickly, but then it is a really good book. Browsing at your peril - it's full of interesting anecdotes about the series. Star Cops also sold well. That wasn't a surprise. Star Cops zines always go well at Cult TV which attracts people from lots of fandoms. Totally different crowd from those who buy B7 zines. Star Cops fans are nearly all male, B7 fans are far more of a mixture. New B7 zines sold moderately well, old ones less so. I did sell two copies of Star Two though, which means there are now only two left (grab fast if you want one as I won't reprint it. Some of the stories will go up on the web when it sells out, but I'm not in touch with all the writers now, so there are some stories that won't go up because I can't ask permission.)
I went to a workshop on commedy writing which was interesting, though not quite what I'd hoped for. Ken Rock's tips on selling overseas were interesting though. You can sell a gag to several different countries, especially if it's a visual joke. If it's a good verbal joke and it isn't based on a pun or something that won't translate (eg. they don't have window cleaners or paper boys in some European countries) then they will accept it in English and translate themselves. Just don't try that trick on the French.
Another stint in the dealers room, chatted to several people thinking of coming to Redemption. We'd arranged it so the Redemption stand was next to mine so that Steve, Anne and I could all take it in turns minding shop while one or two of us went off to programme items.
Rough Magik. I wanted to see this, and in any case, I had strict instructions from a friend who's a big Paul Darrow fan to tell her all about it.
The working title was 'The Dreamers' and to be honest I prefered this once I'd seen what the show was about. But I guess 'Rough Magick' may sell better.
It's horror, which isn't really my genre, but Paul is certainly well cast in his part. It opens with a scene of a woman doing a magic ceremony and we slowly realise that she's going to sacrifice her own children. Afterwards she is visited by a group of men, including Mr Moon (Paul). She says she was dreaming. One man asks if she was dreaming while she did it. No, she says. I dreamed it and then I did it.
She starts reciting a line - something about 'he sleeps'. Mr Moon instantly picks up on this and gives her a line in return. Then, in my favourite scene of the whole programme, they recite this litany taking alternate lines between them. He is obviously familiar with her kind, though he does not give the impression of being one of them. He's a scientist with another specimen. The recitation confirms to him what she is (a 'dreamer') and also for a brief moment makes them seem alike.
Judith with the Real AVON top
Photo by Anne Wells
Later one we meet an associate of Moon's called Kenneth. Associate is a tricky word to use in Moon's case. It is evident that Kenneth is useful to him and has given him some kind of sigil which is used where dreamers are held in prison (in solitary confinement is some special place by the look of it), but Moon is also willing to risk Kenneth's life to get more information from him. Using drugs, he forces Kenneth to relive something that happened to him at the time of the Falkland's War. As a psychiatrist, observing soldiers under combat conditions, he came across something very different - a harmless-looking farmer who is not at all what he initially seemed. The farmer killed, and subesequently rather grusomely dealt, with an Argentinian patrol. It slowly emerges that he is some other entity inhabiting the body of the farmer. The "Chosen One". If I understood it correctly, he is of a race that fought Cthullu long in the past (and possibly other gods too). They seemed to have developed the concept of being extremely nasty to deal with something even nastier. Not people you'd want to meet on a dark night.
At the time Kenneth's flashback ends, we are uncertain as to whether or not he has been taken over by the Chosen One.
All in all, it was a good production, though horror isn't really my genre so I've no great desire to see more. My only complaint was that the soldiers were too polite. I find it hard to believe in soldiers who virtually never swear.
After Rough Magick came the Cult TV awards. This ceremony goes more upmarket every year and the guests and attendees are encourage to dress for it. Gareth looked great in a dinner jacket and bow tie and his wife looked lovely too.
One of my favourite moments of the entire convention was when Alex (the head committee member) did a routine with Sooty who popped up from behind a black box. I really don't know how a routine in which only one of the characters can be heard by the audience (I trust everyone knows that Sooty can only whisper in ears) can be so funny, beats me. It was great though, and both Alex and Bill Oddie got squirted with water. (I've long had an interest in puppets, so this was a real unexected treat for me, though it sounded as though everyone else was enjoying it too.)
Blake's 7 won 'best returning series'. Travis was entered in the hall of fame as a best villain. Sorry, I can't recall the rest of the awards, though I did notice that they were a good spread, which I appreciated as it suggested that people had been thinking about their votes rather than just voting for anything associated with their favourite show. I know I voted for Oliver Postgate in one category and Thunderbird Two in another as well as a few B7 related things. I also avoid voting in categories where I can't make an informed decision. If I only recognise one or two names on the list, then I skip that category.
Photo is by Julia Jewel
Shirley had asked before the con if we could do a script reading of All Change, so a group of us gathered into mine and Anne's chalet after the award ceremony and enjoyed our evening. Most of us had two parts, but at least that meant we all fitted into the chalet! Shirley does an excellent Orac and our actor for Slave also had the voice spot on.
There was also a casino (with play money) operating that evening. I missed it, but those who went said it was great fun.
Sunday - to my amazement, I was still able to get up in time for breakfast. I'd been to two 'After Dark' discussion sessions by now. They start at 11.30 and end a lot later. They tend to involve just the kind of esoteric discussion that I love - do more TV channels mean more choice of programmes? Do people abandon old cult shows when new ones come along? - that kind of thing. There also tends to be some discussion on the ins and outs of running conventions, which I also find very interesting as other people's experiences can be educational.
Saturday had been cold and wet. Sunday was very cold and very wet. There were tornado warnings on part of the south coast. The rain started coming down sideways. We had to go outdoors every time we needed to get in or out of the dealers room. The dealers room was on the basement level and had no heating. I hit breaking point mid-afternoon. When Steve and Ann got back from seeing Hattie Hayridge, I made my apologies and left through the driving rain to find anywhere that was warm. I managed to catch the B7 blooper reel by pure good luck and then joined the autograph queue. I still couldn't thaw out though. I was stiff all the way up my back from being on the verge of shivvering for so long. Eventually, I made a decision to head for the venue with the largest amount of body heat, so went back through the weather and found myself listening to Caroline John. About two hours after leaving the dealers room, I finally thawed out and felt like a human being again. An experience I never want to repeat.
I should add that it wasn't entirely the con com's fault. The venue had changed hands a few months before the convention and as several other conventions who have had the same thing happen can testify, this tends to mean that everything you agreed with the venue flies out of the window. The site had converted from a camp aimed at holidays for senior citizens to a young people's activity centre. What should have been a gym was now a place for indoor rock climbing. (I still find it hard to believe that the venue couldn't provide any heating at all though.)
I don't really recall much of Sunday beyond being cold. Gareth popped down into the dealer's room for a while to sign some of the Together Again tapes for me, but it was so miserable getting to the dealers room (you couldn't get there without braving the weather and there were no signs in any case) that very few people were around. I think I went to a talk about Sooty (for those who don't know, Sooty is a small glove puppet of a yellow bear with black ears and has been around for two generations on stage and TV) in the morning. There were lots of other interesting looking workshops that I missed. There were fewer of us to look after the dealers tables than usual, so we couldn't get away as often. We sold some Redemption memberships and certainly had some interested people who will probably sign up later.
I skipped dinner. Barton Hall food was wearing on me. I didn't want to face the rain again and I was feeling a bit low anyway. I was also chatting to friends (who were also avoiding the food by planning to eat in Torquay later) and they were more interesting than food.
Luckily I was more with it later as we had our entry for 'Famous for Three Minutes' to prepare. Steve had suggested doing something around the Prisoner, so we'd all brought what we could in the way of jackets/blazers. I'd nicked my husband's white jacket that he got married in and Ann had sewn black tape around the border. With my black polo neck and Ann's black trousers, it looked surprisingly good. Steve had the black jacket with white trim, making him number 6 and me number 2. Except that we twisted it around and made a play on the Prisoner escaping Barton Hall rather than the Village and used a con badge to make Steve number 323.
"I am not number; I am a free fan," he cried as he hurled the badge to the floor before being surrounded by me and my minions whom I had summoned up from the first row of the audience to slowly engulf him to the sound of manic laughter and the phrase "You will never leave Barton Hall..."
Oh, yes, and Rover was a space hopper. (and that will only make sense to Prisoner fans, I'm afraid.)
Spike (Photo by Anne Wells)
Ann dressed as a Victorian gentleman for the disco. (I've never heard of Adam Adamant, but that was the theme for the evening.) Janet and Chris had gone the whole hog and hired period dresses which I duely ventured forth to admire. Not being a disco person, I then retired to the After Dark to discuss the future of conventions and why people do/do not go to them. A really interesting session that ended around three in the morning. We discussed all sorts of things - should conventions provide facilites for children? How do you maximise use of video rooms? Does the internet make people more/less likely to go to conventions, etc.
I like the people who run this event. I still like them even after being nearly frozen to death in that **** dealers room. I guess that has to be a recommendation of some kind. This is a convention I keep coming back to and the depth of the After Dark discussions is one reason why. (Not to everyone's taste though. Ann was bored after five mins the only evening she came, and left to do something else.)
When I fought my back to the chalet around three in the morning through the wind, rain and general turmoil, I was rather surprised (typical British understatement there <grin>) to see that the felt roof had come off and was hanging to the ground like a curtain. Slipping inside, I was reassured by Ann that it wasn't in fact our roof, but had blown off the top of the hotel! Only slightly reassured by this, but desirous of sleep, I crawled into bed anyway.
Come morning, it turned out that the roof was from Rita's room and that a fair bit of water damage had seeped down to the ground floor (and could be seen among the remains of the disco). A couple of other rooms had been affected and convention staff had been checking affected rooms until four in the morning to make sure that people coming back late were aware of the problem and could move elsewhere.
Stephen Greif's guest talk gave us a break from discussing disasters - we knew by now that parts of the country were cut off and that no trains were running south of Birmingham. I'm afraid I can't remember the guest talk - they tend to merge into on another in the memory when you've been to a few conventions. It was enjoyable though, and Jackie Pearce joined Stephen on stage for a while. That was the end of the main programme. I packed, and then Richard phoned on the mobile to say that he'd arrived and had loaded the stuff from the dealer's room. (getting there from Dorset was actually no problem - the road works had been abandoned and there was no traffic jam.) We hung around for the closing ceremony and then departed.
I was one of the lucky ones. Fans heading for the north of England were offered the chance to stay an extra night. Ann took a B+B in Torquay with Chris and Janet (avoiding Barton Hall food), but she didn't get home until Wednesday afternoon as they were forced to stop overnight in Shrewsbury.
If anyone had anounced a convention at the Adelphi after an ideal Cult TV weekend, I might have had reservations. The Adelphi has a mixed reputation... However, that reputation includes on the plus side that it is warm and dry and has lots of indoor dealer's space and good quality food. Thus, when the con com announced that next year's Cult TV was to be at the Adelphi in Liverpool, I was with them all the way. So were plenty of other people by the sound of it. By the time I left on Monday, over 140 people had booked for next year, and that was without a single guest having been announced.
You see, that's what Cult TV is really about. They will go for a large number of guests right across the range rather than a few big names. They'll only get a fraction of those they ask, and you won't have heard of half the ones they do get, but turn up to the talks and workshops and you'll discover why they were invited. Stuntmen, special effects people, actors, make-up artists, writers, they all have something interesting to offer and unless you are totally wedded to just one fandom, then you'll find interesting surprises. This year's guest list included Peter Purves, Bill Oddie, Hattie Hayridge, David Croft and Xenia Seeberg as well as the Blake's 7 guests, but the hit of the weekend for me was Frank Maher. I'd never have come to hear Jeff Smart either (wouldn't even have known the name), but he was very interesting and I'm sure the same goes for many other guests that I never had time to catch up with.
See you at the Adelphi?
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