Report by Susan Bennett

Arrived in Birmingham on the day before the con, and luckily I had managed to get a lift to Stoke from the friend with whom I was attending the convention, so I didn't have to worry about Train times. We had decided to arrive a day early, mainly because I was so busy at Who's 7 last year that I only managed to leave the hotel for five minutes, and this time I wanted to take time to explore the area. Also, I was looking forward to a swim in the hotel pool. Guess who forgot her swimsuit...

Despite that, I was glad to have the extra time to settle in and recover from the journey before the start of the events, and by the time things began to move on Friday I was more or less recovered from a week of frantic organizing, and worrying that some emergency or other would prevent me from attending.

The hotel itself was very nice, if slightly difficult to navigate for the geographically challenged like me, and the staff all friendly and helpful. My room overlooked the carpark, and it was nice to look out at breakfast time and watch the world go by.

It's a real novelty for me to have breakfast just 'appear', so I'm sure I looked a complete idiot each morning as I marveled over all the different things on the tray. What a pity that this didn't apply to any other meals! The restaurant always seemed to be full and we were never at the bar at the right time for the cheaper food, so it was out to McDonalds. (Via the local branch of Toys-R-us, which did nothing for my baggage problem.) On the plus side the hotel served nice coffee and sandwiches were available most of the time, and there was space to sit down and chat to other fans.

On the Friday we registered and I made straight for the merchandise. Spent some money in the Horizon shop, but the lack of zine dealers meant that I spent very little overall. Picked up the new Horizon zines, and a T-shirt, some photos and two tapes later I moved to the dealers room, where I bought Judith's new zines and Sheelagh Wells' tape.

We queued for ages for autographs but it was worthwhile, because although they ended when we got near the top of the line we did get tickets for the next days session. Just as well too, because I think I'm getting too old to stand in queues for hours :-) Another benefit was that I saw tapes for sale on which Jacqueline Pearce discusses the character of Servalan, very reasonably priced at 5 each.

Later it was down to the main hall to hear Jackie and Stephen. I hadn't seen either guest before and enjoyed listening to them talk about their time on B7, especially Stephen. Not only is he better looking in person, but he had a *wonderful* voice. More on that later.

Next was the pub quiz. Tanya and I had our photo taken with two other fans, not having noticed that the whole room was watching us until David Walsh began to comment and had us all rolling around with laughter. Met lots of SC citizens (hello to Vicki, Sarah, Calle, Jenni, Colin, Val, Alison, Steve, Judith, Robert, Ellie and anyone else I've forgotten) and then it was on to Jenni and Colin's room party which was great fun. I had interesting conversations with lots of you, thus ensuring that my mind was wide awake while the rest of me was exhausted. I expect this is typical of cons?

And I won't go into details about what Steve Rogerson was doing to my Avon teddybear, but I have the picture to prove it!

Suggestion - Anyone nervous about meeting others at B7 cons should bring one of Marian Mendez' bears with them. Wonderful conversation starters, and I think the bear had more photos taken of it than most of the guests! Marian makes bears for most of the B7 characters, and they are all hand made and fully jointed; they come with a certificate of ownership and their own costume, which can be made to order. Mine has studded outfit from the forth season that comes complete with leather boots and a belt, and my bear wore it on the Friday and Saturday of the con. (Outfits can be bought separately, so he wore his Horizon outfit on the Sunday.)

Saturday dawned, and I can't remember if I made it to the opening ceremony or not, it being at the most unsociable hour of 10:00 am. Well, it was unsociable when you had been to a Space City party the night before... More Stephen Grief in the main hall but I missed "Backroom Boys", a panel also in the main hall with Chris Boucher, David Maloney & Judith Smith, because I used my ticket from the previous day to get my autographs. We attended the photocall in the afternoon, where I got one good picture and resolved to save up for a zoom lens. <g>

It has been my ambition to hear Chris Boucher speak ever since I saw the first run of B7, so as you can imagine I was very keen to attend his panel. Despite this, I was so sure that people would be queuing for hours for tickets that I nearly didn't bother. Thankfully Tanya insisted that I check it out because there were loads of tickets and no people queuing for them, and I couldn't believe my luck. It was all I could do to stop myself from jumping for joy there and then! I really enjoyed the workshop, and had to smile at his comments on actors changing his lines. Having had a few of my poems altered, I could sympathize. I never did find the courage to speak to him, apart from asking for his autograph, but meeting Chris Boucher was special to me.

The rest of the day was spent in the main hall and meeting other fans. I managed to miss the Mastermind, which I had been looking forward to, but unexpectedly saw the fancy dress as it was running late. There were some great entries, and I particularly liked the little Decima in the children's section and the Clonemasters in the adults. David as Servalan was superb.

At the cabaret the guests made an effort to entertain us, which I thought was nice of them. I enjoyed Gareth's reading, but it was Stephen's that held my attention for longest. He read a poem, and that story by Oscar Wilde about the children in the giant's garden, the name of which escapes me at the moment. I hadn't heard it in years and I have always liked that one. And Jackie's story about the melon was priceless! It's the *way* she tells them.

On Sunday morning I woke up in time to miss the bloopers, and completely forget what I attended that morning. It could have been the art room, as I remember going there at one stage. Here I liked the photos and contact sheets best, although the models and costumes were also interesting.

The afternoon was spent in the main hall, although I didn't have the energy to face the long queue that had formed for autographs from the Sunday guests, and then it was off to the bar to discuss B7 until the early hours of Monday morning. I hadn't actually planned to stay up this late because of the 10:30 checkout the next morning, but I had forgotten about so many people being at the dinner with the guests, and this left the place very quiet indeed until the dinner was over. It really only livened up then, which I thought was a bit of an anticlimax at the end of the con, but overall I had a really wonderful time.

There were long queues for checkout on Monday morning so we waited until last, and seeing everyone gradually dispersing was nice because it gots rid of that "I have to go home while everyone else is still here" feeling. Of course it helped that I was staying in England until the following Sunday :-)

Now all I have to do is get used to being back home!

Susan Bennett


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