What is a Science Fiction Convention?
It’s a place where you can have fun. Until this year, I’d never been to a convention. 30 years ago I was too shy to come to anything like this. Back then, Lancashire wasn’t a hot-spot of SF-conventioning. Dale-Con 3 was the 3rd Rochdale Annual SF event. I thought I’d pop along.
Make your way to Spotland, the football ground of Rochdale AFC and Rochdale Hornets RLFC. Park up for £3 if you’ve driven. Make you way past a parking lot containing a Delorean,
to the club shop entrance in the Main (Co-operative) Stand. Be greeted by a suitably attired (and sozzled) Cap’n Jack as you enter. The event lasts all day and is split between two stands; the executive boxes in the Main Stand, and the concourse behind the Pearl Street End the goal mouth.
You walk from one to the other, a distance of 100 yards, around the corner of the pitch. As you walk from the Main Stand, to your right, you see exit gate 16 which leads to the collection of cars. It’s a parking lot with a trip down SciFi memory lane and includes Ecto-1 Bumblebee and other cars as well as a 10 foot animated Rex. You can walk between them to examine the cars in detail. I did. Rex proves to be of great interest to the kids. It’s Saturday, 20th of June 2015, 10:30 am, and drizzling slightly. the Delorean, with all its flashing Back to the Future lights and electronic, time machine wizardry, is unfazed. The Delorean is of course based on a real car, the DeLorean DMC-12.
Leave the cars and head under the Pearl Street End. Just before you enter the [-] stand, there is a life-sized Tardis plus mannequins.
Through to the concourse behind the goal mouth, there is coffee and other eats – traditional football fare. For the football fans out there, I can attest that the super sized hot dog at £2.50 is well worth a go. I’m making these notes at around 11 am and the bar is open. It’s warm inside so I get some fresh air by exit gate 16. A reporter, with cameras and equipment dangling, pauses in his mad dash to finish off an energy drink. Then he’s on his way to the next shoot. There’s plenty of children about with lots of talk on Jedi Knights, the Delorean and Captain Jack. This Captain Jack is from Rochdale but I’d guess he’s good for a few more shots of rum, at most.
The order of events is given on the list you receive as you enter. My list reads:
I miss the first event which was at 11:30am – I was trying my best to wolf down the monster hot-dog. It is cooler next to the pitch.
I watch about. Most of the stand seating is inaccessible. The front few seats in the disabled viewing area are free. I sit on one. Drizzle has turned to rain and I can hear it on the roof up above. It hammers for a while.
The GM Ghostbusters walk past followed by a lone Stormtrooper. The Dead Town team are doing their best to blur the lines between visitors and attractions, with dead face-painting / dead hand-painting on-demand. It looks dead good :-). I chat to a couple of the guys from the Village Bakery, Littleborough.
Families emerge from the Main Stand to make their way to the Pearl Street End. Sometimes they are accompanied by Storm Troopers, the SWAT team, one or both Spidermen, the Klingon… there’s plenty of choice.
A child determinedly splashes in one of the puddles. One of the undead, (or is it just plain dead?) attractions stumbles past several times. Is he lost? I tell him there are toilets nearby. He acknowledges my witticism and lumbers on.
The first Questions & Answers gets under way.
Normally I am prepared, but this time I think of nothing. Perhaps I am star-struck. It lasts an hour – double its allotted time. There is discussion about the opportunities of working in film and the soulless nature of CGI. The compère is good and she steers the session well. The tit-bits are interesting but they are the currency of conventions and belong to those who lived them rather than blogged up – I choose not to note them. It is hot though and I eventually dump my raincoat and jumper in the car (everyone else is in shirt sleeves).
The second Questions & Answers session is delayed. We are all hot. The equipment to live stream the sessions, not to mention the press of people (refreshed by the open bar!) made it even warmer. Josephine Gillan seems about to give a demonstration on how to cool breasts, but keeps her cool. I reflect that 30 years hasn’t dulled my interest in attractive women. After some delay, Q & A Mark II begins. It isn’t as long but is revealing in more ways than one. Pixie Le Knot is petite. She persuaded to demonstrate some contortions. Perhaps I ought to watch Game of Thrones. The compère asks if there any final questions.
I chat to the lads from the Village Bakery. One of them decides to ask Pixie and Josephine to pose on either side of him. They do, it’s a photoshoot with each contorting her body.
It’s approaching 4 pm. I ask myself what’s it all about? People in character for fun. Plato’s admonition on the dangers to actors of stepping too fully into the characters they play, springs to mind. When you’re putting on a show for fun, do you really want to analyse too deeply. It’s the kind of question that won’t improve your performance.
What’s in it for the punter?
The chance to be photo’d next to the Tardis, or on the Game of Thrones Throne, or to way-lay costumed superheroes, denizens of Dead Town, Stormtroopers, Darth Vader, Klingons and more at the slightest chance of a photo opportunity. A place for eager children to take Jedi classes (kitted out with retractable light-sabres). While this goes on there are TV & film memorabilia, T-shirts, framed pictures, decorative confectionery and tons of franchise figurines.
Dale-Con 3 was well attended and neither too big nor too small. There was a good mix of traders, events and guests. The Q & A sessions were well compéred and this made the event for me. I admit to heading straight for comic book dealers misleadingly title Retro TV Toys – misleading for me.
After which I had a look & see over at The Black Box part of Bright Books – an independent Rochdale based bookseller. There was too much to take in, but in hindsight, this was a great way to spend a few hours. Don’t expect to be immune to its blandishments, I came out with a ‘Dead America’ T-shirt, modelled on a Captain America theme (of Marvel Comics fame) + speciality, liquorice flavoured marshmallow. If you wanted fun there was plenty of attractions to keep you busy. The event was promoted by Red Cape Marketing; I’ve collaged some of their promotional material below:
Q&A’s were livestreamed on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUGhXcTjWYM
Related You Tube vidoes: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=dale-con+3+red+cape+marketing