Cult TV '97

Haven holiday camp Caister, 24-27 October

It's a long way from Dorset to Norfolk... Sarah and I started out around 10am and still arrived too late for the opening ceremony at 4.00. We had to do a quick detour near the start when Sarah realised that she'd left her booking confirmation behind and went back to get it. Turned out that it was a good thing she did. We spent our first half hour of the convention arguing with the Haven staff. Sarah had paid for her chalet in advance and had the receipt to prove it, but the holiday camp had no record of her payment. This was eventually sorted out after many arguments, but if she hadn't gone back for that receipt... I had problems of my own. I'm suffering from pain in my knees and had asked for a chalet close to the dining hall to reduce the amount of walking I had to do. Somehow, they had managed to interpret 'close to the dining hall' as 'bang in the middle of the site'. As I didn't want to visit anything on the far side of the site, this wasn't madly helpful, but they did get it fixed in the end.

After this rather inauspicious start, I picked up my convention registration and volunteered to help steward. They were very short on stewards at this convention, whch was a shame as they make a real effort to run a wide-ranging video programme and that's hard to do without enough stewards.

Once we'd set up my table in the dealer's room, I made my way to my first stewarding slot. This proved to be a real turkey. 'Raven - the Journey'. Some kind of American show about a martial arts expert looking for his lost son. Not my cup of tea at all. Still, I sat through it, radio in hand. The unenviable task of the steward is to stop anyone messing around with the video and to call in tech if any problems develop. After Raven was thankfully over, I took in the Simpsons and a comedy called 'Up the Elephant and Round the Castle' which featured Marina Sirtis as a barmaid from a European country with interesting local customs. That was quite amusing - pity she didn't get to do comedy on TNG.

Feeling in need of company after that, I wandered into the disco and watched for a spell while chatting to a couple of the crew. It was really too loud for my limited voice though. Come 11.30, I departed for my favourite part of the convention, the After Dark session. This is a long established Cult TV tradition, a late night, in-depth discussion session. Tonight's discussion focused on media coverage of fandom and reached some rather depressing conclusions. How much does the media love of portraying fans as 'anoracks', to get a laugh from their readers, discourage people from trying out fannish events like conventions? Is there a false belief that you have to wear fancy dress and be able to speak Klingon to be able to attend such events? In fact, I saw very few people in fancy dress at this con, possibly because of the weather. Norfolk in October is cold. Went to bed around 2 in the morning.

Saturday. Spent half an hour in the dealer's room chatting to Steve and Sarah. This was a very multi-purpose dealers table. I'd brought along the zines, although I didn't expect to sell many because this isn't a big B7 convention. As Jackie Pearce was apearing, I'd offered to take along a batch of Sheelagh Wells' bookmarks and audio tapes. The Servalan bookmark proved to sell quite well; I expect Jackie ended up autographing several of those. Sarah had brought along a load of second-hand TV magazines and fanzines, and Steve was there to help publicise Redemption. All three of us are on the Redemption con committee, so it was a good chance to advertise the con and maybe sell a few registrations.

At 9.30 I went to join Jackie's autograph queue. She was the only person I queued for - there were many guests here, but I'm not much of an autograph person as a rule. I'd never seen Jackie before, but she's someone I've always wanted to meet. You could have knocked me down with a feather when she looked at my name badge and said, 'Hello, Sheelagh asked me to give you her love.' I floated on air for at least the next hour! Jackie's guest interview was of course the next important event. This was very enjoyable. Jackie is amusing, outrageous and delightful (and if I look as good as her when I reach her age, I'll be well pleased). When asked about the forthcoming B7 radio play, she described with a great gusto a scene in which Servalan is lashing Avon. This image of Servalan has obviously got a firm hold with some people as in a later session she mentioned some of her fan mail. Her favourite read, 'Dear Ms Pearce, please come round my house and tie me up and beat me; but please do it after ten as my mother doesn't go to bed until then." Jackie said that although there is inevitably something of herself in Servalan, she isn't Servalan. Indeed, there are times when she wishes that she could draw on Servalan's character when she's in a situation that could use that commanding presence. Servalan's never there when you need her. Jackie's first interest was the ballet, but she was unable to become a ballerina (height I think) and so went into acting. If she could become any person who'd ever lived, she would choose Rudolph Nureyev because his dancing was pure magic and gave so much pleasure to people. Her favourite TV soap is Emmerdale because it is so appallingly bad. She watches it regularly and greatly enjoys it. She said she'd quite like to play the lesbian vet! Jackie has done nude modelling work and says that she likes to be an inspiration to artists - her publicity photo that was on sale at the autograph session was a painting of her wearing little more than a strategically placed robe. I wish I could remember everything else she said, there were many stories, like the time she was caught taking canabis resin through customs, but I'm hoping the con video will have good coverage of her sessions. will hopefully have details of the video when it is available.

Went back to the dealers room. Sold a few zines, handed out a few flyers, chatted to passers by.

Went to a workshop on TV make-up. That was very interesting and deserved more than the dozen people who turned up to it. Did you know that hairpieces and moustaches are incredibly expensive? The hairs are individually fastened onto the net backing. Each hair has to be the right way round so that it won't snag when being combed, and colours have to be carefully mixed as natural hair is never all one colour. A lot of the hair used in wigs comes from Italian nuns!

More dealing, more talking. The dealers room was fairly quiet overall. I chatted to some of the other dealers. Steve (not Steve Rogerson on my table, but Steve from the Who Shop on the next table) is a real fan of Jackie's. He's got her outfit from Pressure Point. I tell him I've got Blake's shirt and he says he used to have one of those, but a different colour from my one. He had the blue/grey one; I've got the brown one.

Went to a discussion session on Babylon 5. Has the end of the shadow war caused the series to go downhill? I love this sort of session with everyone tossing in their own point of view and commenting on the way they see the series. Listening to actors is always interesting, but fan sessions can throw up all sorts of divergent opinions. I bumped into Ed Bishop (Commander Straker from UFO) at one point in the convention and apologised that I'd have to miss his guest talk as it was my turn to look after the dealer's table. He said never mind, I'd heard all his stories now. (I'd seen him two weeks before at Starfleet Experience) What he said was true up to a point (Ed was actually very interesting to listen to and I wouldn't mind seeing him again), actors do tend to have a finite number of anecdotes - there are only so many so many things that can happen when filming any given series. Fan sessions can be a lot more varied than guest sessions as fans typically know the series details better than the cast and can offer numerous different interpretations of events and why they took place. Fan sessions rarely resolve anything, but they spark off all sorts of entertaining ideas.

Tea, followed by the charity auction. Not much here that I wanted. The only items that I was interested in went for more than the few pounds I was prepared to pay for them. The whole auction seemed to be overloaded with micro-machines. The top selling items that I remember were a signed photo of Caroline Munro that went for 50 pounds (there's no accounting for taste...), a Dr Who chess set that eventually went for just over 200 pounds (but the auctioneers really had to struggle to get past the reserve price) and Terry Walsh's stuntman's association jacket. Terry did some of the stunts on Blake's 7. Terry's a fun auctioneer. He quite cheerfully insults and flatters people who aren't bidding high enough. I don't go to auctions to buy; I go to be entertained by the auctioneers.

After the auction, it was more stewarding. I hit lucky this time and enjoyed an episode of 'Randall and Hopkirk' followed by an early 'Saint' episode. I'm ashamed to report that I didn't recognise Ed Bishop until I heard him speak. Well, it was long enough ago to be in black and white... That's my excuse anyway.

11.30 and off to the After Dark session once more. They had a decent heater in this time. (I nearly froze the night before) 'Reruns and Remakes' was the topic. Should a series be allowed to run on for endless seasons, or should it stop while it is still at its best? What's the best way to end a series? With a bang like Blake's 7? Which series do we want to see repeated that never seem to get repeated? Which is best, satellite or cable? Why do film-makers insist on making movies like 'Mission Impossible' that simply alienate fans of the series? Did the film of 'The Saint' bear any relationship at all to the books and the TV series apart from the name? As you can gather, we rather got our teeth into this one... Got to bed appallingly late, but who cares?

Sunday. In spite of going to bed in the early morning, my internal alarm clock still kicked me awake at 7.00 (or was it really 8.00? The clocks had gone back during the night.) Chatted to Steve over breakfast and swopped several good ideas for entertaining things to do at conventions. Sat on the dealer's table for a while (all right, behind it, if you want to be pedantic). Went to a session that should have been a 'Prisoner' role playing game, but it was cancelled because not enough people showed up. Pity, it sounded interesting. (It was rather cryptically described in the programme, which may help account for the low numbers). Went and watched some of the guests instead. Was rather glad to have a chance to see Ed Bishop again. The real star of this session was Barry Morse though. I begin to understand why Cult TV invite him back year after year. The man's amazing. 'Barry Who?' I hear you say. Well, he was the detective following the Fugitive and he was Professor Bergstrom in Space 1999, but mostly he's just one of these amazing raconteurs. Give a question and it will start a string of anecdotes that carry happily on for ages. By my reckoning, he has to be about 80, but he's an exceedingly spry 80.

The next guests were Lis Sladen (from Dr Who), Annette André (from Randall and Hopkirk) and Jacqueline Pearce. I was supposed to be looking after the delaer's table, but the woman on the next table looked at me, looked at the empty dealer's room and said 'Go and watch Jackie'. I decided she was entirely right and went forth to be entertained by Jackie once more. I don't really think the anecdote about the waiter is repeatable here... Annette André has a good line in ghost stories.

The program was a bit shuffled from here on as Norman Lovatt had had transport problems and arrived late.

Back to the dealer's room. More zines, more of Sheelagh's tapes. More Redemption flyers. Sold our first dealer's table for the convention. It sounds dull, but I enjoy chatting to the people who come past.

That evening I was stewarding once more. I wasn't madly interested in watching the cabaret, so they fitted me into a stewarding slot with sighs of relief as it wa a hard time-slot to fill. Suited me fine. I got to watch Dr Who: The Androids of Tara for the first time and greatly enjoyed it. It's a complete rip-off of the Prisoner of Zenda and entirely tongue in cheek. I wasn't the only person enjoying it either. Finished stewarding and went to watch Norman Lovatt perform. He was Holly from Red Dwarf, but is also a professional comedian. He was entertaining, but not madly so. Maybe I should have watched another Dr Who episode...

After Dark once more - The Future of Conventions. I think this one went on until about two in the morning (or was it four...) An extemely interesting session as far as I was concerned, covering a wide range of factors. What different people want from conventions: do they prefer new guests, old guests, workshops, etc. The inns and outs of financing conventions, copyright, the peculiar differences of X-files fans from the rest of fandom, etc. There were a couple of extremely interesting stories that it would probably be libellous to repeat. I went to bed a tired, but happy camper.

Overall, an enjoyable convention covering a wide rage of fandoms, but made especially enjoyable for me by Jackie Pearce and the people in the After Dark sessions.

Next year, thank heaven, they're holding Cult TV in a nice, warm hotel in Telford!

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