I'm a seasoned, if somewhat lapsed, convention goer. I've done them all, the Trek cons in the mid 1980s to the big Blackpool Babylon 5 bashes in the 1990s. The last Doctor Who con I attended was the Panopticon in Manchester way back in 2002. A one day event at Fab Cafe in Manchester seemed the best way of gently easing myself back into the way of all things con wise.
...he has started to resemble Pertwee with his mane of silver hair
You're a bad dog baby, and I don't want you around...oh, I thought you said Gilbert O'Sullivan
A good line up from the Classic Series of Doctor Who was present: Frazer Hines, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Sophie Aldred, Nicola Bryant and Mark Strickson. Which does kind of beg the question these days as to whether they'll have anything new to say. Surely, their anecdotes will be etched permanently on the brains of most fans of the original series? I suppose they'll be fresher to younger fans who've only just decided to investigate the back catalogue of the series having seen the new series ponce itself in all its multi-media, cross platform glory since 2005. Still, we got some very interesting anecdotes about Mark winning the role of Turlough and nearly being eaten by crocodiles, McCoy on King Lear and kid's telly legend Tony Hart, Aldred on that other legend Brian Cant, Bryant (doing a wearing sunglasses indoors Audrey Hepburn on us) on her failed career as a ballerina and Baker...well Baker has started to resemble Pertwee with his mane of silver hair. Same spiky attitude too! All had very positive things to say about new boy Matt Smith and there was a general thumbs down for the new series indulgence of Doctor/companion 'romance'. Don't ya just love the stoicism of Classic Series ming-mongs! And a big thumbs up for Big Finish which quite rightly kept the flag flying during the Wilderness Years.
"I'm just crazy about Tiffany's"
"I say Jamie, that is a BIG one"
Perhaps we should just hold a virtual con on Twitter?However, the question here is not how entertaining the guests were, and by and large I did enjoy the Frazer Hines and Mark Strickson chats for, in the former, the lovely impressions he did of Pat Troughton and, in the latter, a interesting jaunt through his wildlife film-making career since resigning from the role of Turlough. Conventions have moved on from the days when you'd go and watch new episodes of whatever show you were into and swap fanzines and they are now more about being able to meet people in conducive surroundings whilst also being able to pop into a panel discussion when you feel like it. They are about social interaction and even a one day event such as this must recognise that it's as much about friends meeting up and having a natter than it is watching Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy play a version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire no matter how much fun it might be. It's still great to see those we have loved interacting with fans and overall each panel was entertaining but I just wish it had taken place in more convivial surroundings. In the background, 21st century social interaction was in full flight as instant reactions hit the web via Twitter. Perhaps we should just hold a virtual con on Twitter? You'd be £25 better off for a start. Mind you, you wouldn't get McCoy and Baker recreating the playful antagonism that existed between Pertwee and Troughton that kept many of us convention whores entertained back in the day.
...one of several hundred East European prostitutes crammed into a shipping container, suffocating to death
Mark Strickson trying not to say 'fuck' every five minutes with strategic positioning of pint
Eastern European prostitutes, yesterday
The huge problem that Fab Cafe had yesterday was that it is simply too small a venue to cope with an over-subscription of attendees. I personally felt like one of several hundred East European prostitutes crammed into a shipping container, suffocating to death on the rank, Flanders like stench from the venue's loos and, no doubt, from various orifices during the long, often frustrating, hot day. This was then compounded by having the signing sessions about ten minutes down the road to the Tiger Lounge, the kitschier cousin to the Fab Cafe, where the great British tradition of queuing was upheld as we waited for guests to sign bagfuls of merchandise in the environs of what looked like a lap dancing club. And that's no exaggeration as some attendees were clearly intent on getting the remaining contents of Zaavi covered in florid handwriting by a, shall we say, slightly grumpy Colin Baker. Me, I just admired the Tretchikov paintings on the wall and gossiped with the Behind The Sofa triad.
"I'll get you Baker" (c) Behind the Sofa
Its heart was definitely in the right place but the Fab Cafe's one day event did remind me of how frustrating conventions and similar events can get when guests don't arrive on time, the venue is overcrowded to the point where you would quite happily walk out the door, the loos resemble a WW1 trench, egos and self-importance are flying all over the place (and that's just the fans) and the organisers don't communicate the reason for the delays. It was probably a nightmare to organise and my sympathies do go to Erica Egerton of the DWAS Liverpool group for trying to hold all this together. My suggestion, if you indeed want it, would be to find yourself a better venue or at least organise within your means and not oversell the event.
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Catch Arthur Chappell's review here
Pictures courtesy of the very fabulous Dave Cooper and Tim Drury