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Return to Gauda Prime 3

Return to Gauda Prime 3 – October 4, 2015
reviewed by Paula Black

They say that the third time's a charm and perhaps it's correct, as this last get-together called Return to Gauda Prime 3 was just that - charming. I think I am a fair judge, as I have attended all three mini-cons and have enjoyed each of them in their own way. The real difference in this one, as compared to the last two, was the inclusion of guest and fan panels, which I think added tremendously to the day.

Many of us arrived early in order to help with the set-up of the con and were put to work almost immediately! The event was again held at the Village Hall in Steventon, Oxfordshire, and the venue was a perfect place to host the many and varied displays of genuine and replica props, costumes and fan collections.

We bustled around setting up chairs for the panels, risers for the panelists, and tables for the various guests and displays. Purplecleric's Mum was our tea lady again, and she kept us refreshed with coffee and tea throughout the set-up period. This year the refreshment area was actually in the hall itself, rather than the side room like last con, and I think that was not only better for the overall running of the event but it let people take a break while not missing out on any of the attractions of the main room. There were various cakes and cookies for sale (Editor's note: and Paula's special delicious goodies!) and a nice little alcove with tables and chairs to use to enjoy the treats. I thought the colouring book pictures and crayons intended for the children was a very nice and thoughtful touch for the day - although I don't recall seeing many children there. The pictures were not wasted, though, as many of the attendees – who were well into adulthood - took breaks and coloured their own pictures. They got much amusement in doing so, and displayed them on a nearby bulletin board afterwards. But that is the magic of fandom. You can escape the adult world for an hour or two, and revert to being a star-struck and innocent child once again.

This year we had Clanger68 and Exterminator's wonderful displays. They not had only their replica props on display, but many genuine, screen-used props from Blake's 7 itself. It's always a joy to see things like the baby Orac - the actual baby Orac! Or a well-made Orac replica. The highlight this time had to be Exterminator's replica of the flight control console from the Liberator Flight Deck. It was amazing to see it full scale! Many of us had our photos taken beside it, as it was so amazing! It was not small by any means, so grateful thanks to Exterminator for bringing such a wonderful, if bulky, replica!

There was also Littlesue's colossal Blake's 7 collection to peruse. I think we all are a bit envious (in a good way) of her collection. Thanks, Sue, for lovingly collecting it and displaying it all for us to see. Of course, one of our cons would not be complete without the Horizon merchandise table. Supreme Commander Diane manned the table, which was stacked with just about everything a fan could want. Brad and I stood looking at the merchandise and counted off all the things we had bought over the years from Horizon - it seemed we had one of just about every item she had on her table! Geeks, I hear you cough!

There was also a table for Ian Kubiak, organiser of the Cygnus Alpha convention earlier in the year. He brought with him the director Vivienne Cozens as a special sponsored guest. Ian had quite a display of photos, together with autographed photos from his convention for sale A big thank you to Ian for helping make this get-together even more special.

Of course, a Return to Gauda Prime con would never be complete without the massive costume display by B7Gary. The number of costumes this man has, and his knowledge of them, is simply staggering. This year he concentrated on the costumes designed by June Hudson. Along with his, others displayed their costumes as well. It was very satisfying to see Coser's costume from Weapon reunited with its gloves. June Hudson owns the gloves and generously brought them with her so they could be displayed together with the original costume. Wow!

The highlight of the day for me was the addition of the fan and professionals panels. This year we were happy to have three talents who had helped to make Blake's 7 what it was and is: director Vivienne Cozens, actor Nick Joseph and costume designer June Hudson. This panel was hosted by Ian Kubiak, and he was an insightful and knowledgeable moderator for the three panelists. Of course, we all fell in love with June Hudson. She was intelligent and knowledgeable about her career and told us many interesting and funny stories. The same was true of Nick Joseph – he always had a funny story ready, and we were excited to learn after so many years that it was Nick who created the character Og in Animals and not David Boyce, the actor listed in the Blake's 7 Programme Guide. Nick told us that the actor booked to play Og got sick and so Nick got the call to play the iconic animal.

Of course, a certain Horizon member was overjoyed to learn this fact, and immediately asked for his autograph and to have a photo taken with him. (Winks at Trevor Travis!). Vivienne Cozens had a lot to say about how she shot the two episodes she directed, Sand and Games. It was a joy to meet her and she told me she was surprised that people even remembered Blake's 7 after all this time. I informed her that although we could not match the numbers with Doctor Who fandom, we are a loyal bunch and are all good friends, which to me makes it all the better!

We also had a fan panel, discussing the merits of each individual series. On the panel were JustBrad, defending the first series, Travisina defending the second, AnnieW defending the third, and Trevor Travis - or should I say an Og impersonator - defending the final series.

I should explain for those of you who were not able to attend: The panel members were introduced in place by moderator Clanger68. That is, until it was time to introduce the series four defender. Trevor Travis came out from behind the stage curtains in full Og headdress and defended his series the entire time with said head gear on. I shudder to think what first time attendees thought of it all, let alone my waving of the dreaded Welsh Street Sign from my seat in the front row! These were just little 'in' jokes special to our fandom, New People! Just be thankful that the National Trust and Little Chef were not mentioned. That would mean having to explain it all to you, and then you'd probably want out of our fandom...

This year, there was a very lively quiz, put together by Clanger68, and we all got a chance to show off our Blake's 7 knowledge! For a donation to Macmillan Cancer Support, you could answer all the questions and get the chance to win one of the awesome prizes, which included autographed photo collages and a costume portrait donated by June Hudson. The prize draw was a suitable finish to the afternoon, and a lot of fun indeed. Amazingly, my husband Brad won the replica Federation gun! There was no way we could 'smuggle' the gun through customs, but luckily a good friend will post it to us for the Christmas holidays.

So to recap, it was another fine day for Blake's 7 fandom. A chance to meet and catch up with old friends and our Blake's 7 family, and a chance to meet new friends and welcome them into the fold. There was ample time to chat with people, and to peruse the displays and offerings at the various tables. We were entertained by genuine Blake's 7 cast and crew, and joyously entertained by our fellow Forum members in the fan panel. The organiser Clareblues and her helpers should all take a bow in appreciation for the hard work done and the smooth, almost seamless, running of the day. We are most grateful for your hard work that paved the way for us all to kick back and have a wonderful afternoon in Steventon. I sincerely hope we have another get-together real soon!


4½ Events for the Price of One
by Hugbot

It was different this time. I was no longer a newbie but a seasoned veteran (RTGP3 being my fifth Horizon event), I knew many of the people, and I knew the location. After last year’s taxi disaster, I wisely decided to set up base directly in Steventon in a B&B diagonally opposite the village hall. I could walk home from the pub, stumble out of the door to take part in the event and go back to Didcot railway station by bus (well, at least I thought so).

1. The pre-event
It was different this time. Purplecleric was again the first member of the gang whom I met, but this time there was no need for scrutinising glances in order to identify each other. Instead, she had already seen me from the inside of the pub when I came round the corner, and welcomed me at the door. There was already quite a throng assembled in the pub. Unfortunately, a few of them already left about a quarter of an hour after my arrival, and that was the time when my brain got slowly back into gear after the long journey.

A lovely evening ensued, filled with catching up with each other, having a pint or two and a hearty meal. I had my first fish and chips for... well, only five weeks, but nonetheless they form part of my Holy Trinity of English cuisine (together with English breakfast and cream tea), and it was great to enjoy them again so soon. But the real highlight of the evening was of course something else: I hadn’t seen any of those present since May or even April last year, and it was a real treat to meet them again. The atmosphere in the pub, the meal and in particular the company somehow made me feel as if I hadn’t travelled to a foreign country but come home.

2. The proper event
It was different this time – for two reasons. The first one was the fact that I already knew many of the attendees, and people approached me in a different way to last year.

Let me give you two examples: I left my B&B more than an hour before the official opening of RTGP3 and went for a stroll, but as I passed the village hall, I spotted Paula, TT and Exterminator and greeted them. I did not want to disturb the preparations for the event, but I decided to go inside just to say hello to a few more people. As a funny coincidence, I met Little Sue carrying her red picnic box into the hall while I carried Exterminator’s red picnic box into the hall. I briefly talked to a few of the people who were already busy setting up the stage, when I heard someone say, ‘I think we should close the doors, otherwise even more people will get in too early.’ To which another one replied, ‘Hey, don’t worry, it’s okay, that’s Hugbot.’ How great was that? Obviously, I was already recognised as a well-known and respected member of the inner circle who could be granted the privilege of walking in at the wrong time!

But as I did not want to throw a spanner in the works, I left the premises and continued my stroll around autumnal Steventon. When I reached the level crossing, I heard footsteps approaching fast and someone calling my name – another thing that could not have happened the year before. Who could know me in this village? When I turned around I spotted Spaceship Dispatcher catching up with me. The barriers were closed, and SD primed his camera to take a photo of the train soon to be awaited.

‘Don’t you see more than enough trains at work?’ I wondered.

‘One can never see enough trains!’ he answered.

I did not question this. After all, I also tend to have a closer look at tractors and combine harvesters since I translate training material for a well-known manufacturer of agricultural machines.

The train duly arrived, SD got his photo, the barriers opened and we continued our venture into the peaceful Sunday morning roads of Steventon. To SD’s delight, the barriers of the level crossing closed again when we came back so that he could take another picture.

But this feeling of being known was not the only difference to RTGP2. This time, there was also a programme. We all had great fun last year chatting with each other, having tea with friends, admiring the original props and the replicas and dressing up in the original costumes, but I doubt that a mere repetition of last year’s event would have been as much fun again. People say that one needs ‘rituals’ in life, but when rituals are simply repetitive they easily become meaningless and boring. One also needs some new impulses every now and then. Fortunately, our organisers had wisely provided these new impulses with some side activities like the very popular colouring pages and in particular with the guest panel and the fan panel. Despite these extra activities, the schedule was not too busy and left enough time to chat with each other, to have tea with friends and to admire the original props and replicas. (And there were still several people with whom I didn’t talk half as much as I would have wanted to.)

The colouring pages were not only fun for those who did colour them but also prompted some interesting discussions – especially the one with the green-faced Blake:

‘Look, he did a Martian Blake!’

‘I thought it was a motion-sick Blake.’

The highlights of course were the panels. Both were very interesting and entertaining, and both hosts – Ian Kubiak and Clanger68 – did a very good job in presenting the talks. Our professional guests told some fascinating stories (now I know where they bought the raw material for some of the more... uncommon costumes), and our fellow fans were admirably well prepared to defend their respective seasons. Although we have watched each and every one of the 52 episodes more than once, there is always someone who points out a surprising aspect during the rewatches, and at this panel we got some new insights into episodes that we already thought we knew by heart (especially Harvest of Kairos).

June Hudson proved to be a really grand lady, and I got the feeling that she enjoyed herself very much during the mini con. She eagerly took part in the Q&A session for the fan panel, and when it came to drawing the prizes for Clanger’s quiz, she spontaneously dedicated one of her signed costume cards to the raffle.

Speaking of June Hudson, you might think that her style of costume design is unmistakable. And yet someone nearly carried away Ellen’s raincoat together with the original costumes when we packed up!

There was only one really bad thing about RTGP3: It ended much too soon. But at least I could still enjoy the company of my Horizon friends.

3. The après-event
It was different this time, and I am not talking about the little accident I had last year. ‘Don’t let him have the chips!’ Sopron warned, remembering last year’s disaster. But don’t worry, this time I did not choke.

This year, only a dozen survivors of the con gathered around one long table at the Cherry Tree. Of course we talked about RTGP3, but also about the decaying quality of TV in general (based on something June Hudson had said during the panel), the differences between British and American cooking (with special attention to gravy)... in short, about life, the universe and everything.

Regarding TV quality, one topic of particular interest was the abominable shows where real people volunteer to publicly make fools of themselves. I managed to quote a friend of mine who once said, ‘Watch these shows for ten minutes. And then slowly say to yourself, “They. Are. All. Allowed. To vote.”’ This became some sort of catchphrase during the evening, and it even cropped up once the next day. It seems that my friend had hit the nail on the head.

When the first attendees went home, the rest moved closer together. Suddenly someone brought up the topic of ‘creepy British kid shows’. Ellen and I couldn’t believe our ears when our British hosts mentioned stone monkeys and roadkill rabbits. In order to prove that they were not just making this up to fool us, Scott went to his room and came back with a tablet computer. He showed us some excerpts of Monkey and Hartley Hare on YouTube, and then unearthed other gems of British children's TV like Captain Pugwash, Roobarb & Custard, Crystal Tips, Hong Kong Phooey (at least I knew that one!) etc. The guy from the pub who rummaged around in the background pricked up his ears when he heard the familiar music of another show. ‘Hey, that’s Jamie and the Magic Torch,’ he beamed, ‘I loved that!’

Maybe I should have grabbed Scott’s tablet and shown you some of my childhood experiences like Die Sendung mit der Maus (The Programme with the Mouse) or Hase Cäsar (Cesar Hare – a much more well-groomed equivalent of Hartley Hare). Well, maybe next time.

4. The day after
It was different this time. The day after RTGP2, I went on a solo venture to Abingdon Gardens (Pressure Point location visit). This year, several people asked me what I wanted to do on Monday. I had already planned to visit the White Horse, but public transport to Uffington was a bit on the poor side. Fortunately, PC had wisely decided to take Monday off and Ellen was also still in Steventon, so we embarked together on an expedition to the Valley of the White Horse. We met on Monday morning in the car park of the Cherry Tree. Scott and the Clangers were still there and saw us off, and then PC took us in her car to the White Horse. It was a wet day, but nonetheless we had much fun. Topics discussed on the way included horrible student accomodation, slugs and snails and differences between British and American English (‘If I said, “I love wearing suspenders,” then Ellen would think I’m just a little old-fashioned while PC would think I’m a bit kinky.’ – Rest assured, I don’t wear any suspenders, neither the British nor the American kind.)

Standing at the site of the White Horse is a puzzling experience. What you see of the horse at that point are some abstract lines in the ground. How did they do it? After all, they couldn’t just place a guy at the opposite side of the valley and phone him to ask, ‘Does it look like a horse now, or do we have to move the line another few feet down the slope?’

It was also great to have PC with us as a local guide who could give us some information about what we saw. So we learned that Dragon Hill was the place where St. George slew the dragon and that the bald spot on top of the hill was caused by the poisonous effect of the dragon’s blood. (Many years ago, I wrote a fantasy story where someone slew a dragon whose blood had exactly the opposite effect, ie a rapid growth of all the plants on the spot. Must have been a dragon with a different blood group.) According to an old superstition, one can avoid getting pregnant by standing on the eye of the horse and spinning around several times. For some reason, I was not tempted to try that.

Next, PC led us to another fascinating site, the neolithic burial chambers of Wayland’s Smithy. Even the sun came out when we reached this site. Nonetheless we longed for a hearty meal in a dry pub. Our table in the King Alfred’s Head in Wantage was decorated with a world map, which was very appropriate for our international group. We showed each other where we lived and tried to figure out the home towns of other members. At that point I finally remembered that I had brought along a postcard with an aerial view of Flensburg, which I now produced so that at least PC and Ellen could have a glimpse at it.

We brought Ellen to the railway station of Didcot Parkway, where we said goodbye to her, and a little later PC and I parted in Steventon. Another eventful day was – nearly – over.

5. One last pint ... or maybe two
It was different this time. Last year, I stayed in East Hendred in the middle of nowhere, but as I was located at the centre of the Steventon megalopolis this year, I could go out for one last pint in the evening. As I sat there, enjoying my stout and some crisps, savouring the atmosphere of the pub, one of the two guys at the neighbouring table suddenly approached me. ‘You look like the intellectual type, full of intricate knowledge’, he began – and tried to recruit me as team member for the pub quiz. Although I was flattered by the compliment (how did they know?), I nonetheless declined. I have never even witnessed an original English pub quiz, and I didn’t know if I would be up for the challenge in a foreign language. I tried to politely explain my reasons, saying that I was from Germany and adding, ‘So if there are any questions about English history ...’, which he concluded by saying, ‘Oh, then we are all in trouble.’ But shortly after our conversation, the two chaps found a team that they could join.

I was tempted to stay a little longer to watch the quiz, but I was already a little tired. I hope to get to know this integral part of English pub culture at one of my next UK trips, preferably in the company of some of my local friends.

Epilogue: The kindness of strangers
It was different this time – or was it? No taxi hassle to get to Didcot Parkway railway station this year. The bus stop was just around the corner from my B&B. I had already looked up the timetables at home (sometimes, the Internet really comes in handy). There was a bus at 10.01, but even if I missed that one I could still go with the 11.01.
At several minutes to 10, I was at the bus stop. A toothless old lady and a business man were also waiting. And waiting
And waiting.

At 10.20, the business man suddenly exclaimed, ‘This is getting annoying!’ (Oh, I just love British understatement!) He went to fetch his car. I didn’t know what to do. There was still the possibility of taking the 11.01, but what if that didn’t come either? Maybe I should try to call a taxi despite the disaster of last year. While I was still thinking about it, the business man came back in his car and offered us a lift, which I thankfully accepted. This way, I made it in time to Didcot Parkway and then to Heathrow... where my flight back was delayed by approx. 45 minutes.

Many things were different from last year’s RTGP event. But one aspect remained the same: I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with my fellow Horizonists. And I would like to do it again.


Return to Gauda Prime

Sung to the tune of Phil the Fluter's Ball - Click HERE!

I bet you know Horizon,
The best Blakes 7 fan site.
They have an annual meeting,
Return to Gauda Prime.
And Claire sent out some invites
All Blakes 7 fans to call
To come and keep her company
At Steventon Village Hall.

And when writing out,
She was careful to suggest that they
Brought models and their fan stuff
To delight them one and all,
And the more they brought, she told them all,
the better the convention
The more the fun and jollity
To be had there in the hall

With a colouring of the crew,
(Poor Avon found himself in pink!)
A fan fic challenge and
A quiz - complete in time!
Ian, Alan, Fiona handing out their leaflets
Oh, hadn't we tremendous fun
At Return to Gauda Prime?

There was Little Sue and Mum, with a fan fic collection
There was Andy and his wife, with their models, guns and ships,
Exterminator came with the Liberator flight deck
That he'd used amazing skill to completely resurrect.

Immured in the kitchen with delicious cakes and biscuits,
Fiona's mum and son made sure we didn't wilt
Costumes preserved by Gary, rightly took the centre stage.
It seems the crew wore everything except perhaps a kilt!

With a chattering as friends met up
From England and from overseas,
June Hudson signing drawings
And Nick and Vivienne's autographs

The Supreme Commander
Selling magazines and mousemats
Oh, hadn't we a load of laughs
At Return to Gauda Prime?

And along with all this
Ian hosted a forum
Where Vivienne talked directing
And playing Games with Sand;
June, how she contrived
To make amazing costumes;
And we learned that poor Nick Joseph
Had been lucky to survive!

There were sweets from Paula
And a crocheted Baby Og.
Ellen's knitted bracelets
We were so proud to display
Sweevo recording and SD with his camera
And Scott who did most everything
To smooth along the day.

With a hug from Hugbot
And a doffed hat from our Sopron,
Lots of lovely chatting
With a lot of lovely guests
The time careering by and
No cross words to be spoken.
Oh wasn't it just the best time
At Return to Gauda Prime?

A fan panel where
JustBrad got up to show us how
Great arguing from Jackie and
Some killing stuff from Og
While Annie played it safe
Tongue firmly stuffed inside her cheek
Recommending Kairos as a winner to the mob.

Then, oh so sadly
It was time for us to say goodbye
Just a prize draw raffle which
I yearned might all be mine!
Then back on the train,
Reflecting as I journeyed:
What fun and friendship I had found
At Return to Gauda Prime.


Photos by Spaceship Dispatcher, Paula, Hugbot, Scott
RTGP3 Banner by Scott


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