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Cygnus Alpha 2 - 9th April 2016


CYGNUS ALPHA 2 CONVENTION
9th April 2016
The Waterman Centre, Brentford, London

Guests:
Cast: Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, Jacqueline Pearce, Stephen Greif, Glynis Barber, Sasha Mitchell, Ania Marson, Alistair Lock, Derek Smith
Crew: Bill Lyons, Colin Davies, Dee Kelly Robson, Roger Murray-Leach




REVIEW BY ANNIEW

Vila: They say it's wide open.
Avon: What is?
Vila: Freedom City.
Avon: So I've heard; Wide wide open.
Vila: Got everything a man ever dreams of, they say
.

So what did I dream Cygnus Alpha 2 might provide?

A chance to hang out with like-minded fans, for openers. Definitely to make some personal contact with my heroes. To learn something new about the series. It wouldn't hurt if there was an opportunity to get a souvenir as well.

And did it measure up?

Well, it got off to a great start the night before, with a meal shared with Horizon friends and a quiz that revealed our team’s disturbingly competitive desire to win. Before we started, Andy provided everyone with consolation prizes of B7 trading cards, and Paula supplied delicious fudge. These were lovely, but we craved the Golden Liberator prize and were pretty gutted to lose because we couldn't identify what the "I" in IMIPAK stood for. (Yes, I know you've got the answer but you weren't there!)

The next day it got even better: Mrs Olag Gan revealed her terrific Avonesque cosplay costume and I got my first glimpse of Phil's completed flight deck; so beautiful that it brought a lump to my throat.  

There was a fascinating panel with the writers of Games and Gold, costume designer Dee Kelly Robson and the legendary Liberator designer Roger Murray-Leach. According to Bill Lyons, Belkov was meant to die at the end of Games but Stratford Johns fought to keep his fate ambiguous in the hope that the character might make a second appearance. Colin Davis told us how he planned his scripts for Blakes 7 and Triangle. We learned that Servalan was forced to wear wellies on a particularly hilly location shoot. And Roger's original Liberator design drawing was rescued from a skip where the BBC had abandoned it. This was all new stuff to me. So far, so brilliant.

Next was the first of the queues for autographs. Paul Darrow was on irrepressible form, chatting to each of us like old friends. Was I ‘Annie’ because of the musical which he hated? More like Annie Get Your Gun. Ah, he loved those old westerns. Perfect!  

But of course everyone wanted to talk to Paul so the queues for his autograph got longer and longer... and longer…

Queuing for photographs....

Queuing for more autographs…

Queuing... Queuing…

I think only the British could queue with such indefatigable stoicism. Or make the experience bearable by such friendly exchanges and banter.

Michael Keating told me about a wonderful ramble he'd recently enjoyed in Spain, and the incomparable Jacqueline Peace called me ‘baby’. What a darling!

Another panel. Stephen Greif told us how much he enjoyed attending conventions. Glynis looked lovelier than ever and with the naughtiest glint in her eye, explained that she was prevented from reprising Soolin for Big Finish because of copyright issues. A message from Chris Boucher was read out: He wasn’t well enough to attend the convention, but sent his good wishes. He may or may not be the person preventing Glynis from reprising her role - but Stephen gallantly promised us he'd sort it out with him!

A photo shoot, alone on the flight deck. The Liberator temporarily mine.... Maximum Power! Federation lackeys beware!

A final panel. Sasha Mitchell, who is nothing like sullen, plain Arlen, revealed that she had only just reached her seventeenth birthday on the last day of shooting Blake. Just a kid, she was subjected to rumours of death threats from fellow school girls when the episode was shown. In contrast, Derek Smith was a comparatively elderly 29 when he embarked on his acting career, while Alistair Lock told us he only became an actor in order to avoid being beaten up in the playground. He also treated us to a memorable Slave impersonation!

So, how did Cygnus Alpha 2 measure up to my dreams?

I confess I could never have dreamed there would be THAT much queuing, or how exhausted it would make me feel. But I had not expected all the guest speakers to go out of their way to make a personal connection with each of us. I had also under-estimated how much I would learn about the series, and the willingness shown by Ian and his staff to make the day work well for all of us.

I left wishing I had had access to the Liberator Treasure room, so that I could have bid in the auction for the Federation Blaster, and with my bag full of goodies, my head full of happy memories and my shoes filled with aching feet.

Even my husband, who had accompanied me with no real love for Blakes 7, admitted that the convention had had some hugely enjoyable moments - although he still could quite 'get' the enthusiasm I was showing!

So a pretty special day, you might say. Or as Avon put it:

"Great. Wonderful. Terrific."

Apart from those queues.



***




A DUTCH ALIEN'S REVIEW by LURENA

It was a long-held wish to meet my forum friends in the flesh and to attend one of your famous Blake’s 7 conventions. My friends Brad and Paula had signed up for this convention, so wouldn’t it be great to be reunited with them? And when I learned that my long term pen-pal Lorna had decided to attend CA2 too, I thought I would give it a go.

So there I was in your country. Finally.

On Friday, I met Brad, Paula and my first forum member, the kind Spaceship Dispatcher, in the hotel lobby. They invited me to join them for a visit to Kew Gardens with its world's largest and most amazing collection of living plants.

Back in the hotel, Paula introduced me to the Horizon "gang". It was lovely to meet forum members who told me they had been looking forward to meeting me. That made me feel at ease, as I am pretty shy by nature. I can't remember who said: "Oh, you are really tiny!" which was fun.

I was grateful to meet Travisina and our Supreme Commander, who keep the forum and fandom going. Now I can put faces to names of Trevor Travis, Clanger68 and Wendy, Meegat, Anniew, Sweevo, Mistletoe and Mistletoe Minor, Hugbot, Sopron, Ellen and AnnaGrant - apologies if I forgot to mention someone, no insult intended! And oh, yes, Scott came over on Friday especially to meet us-from-abroad, wasn't that a great gesture?

The Horizon dinner at the Watermans Arms pub was perfectly organised by Spaceship Dispatcher, with good food and service. Clanger68 treated us to an entertaining quiz, complete with incentive prizes and the top prize: a Golden Liberator - which, in good tradition, got nicked before the quiz was over!. I was on the Supreme Command HQ Team with table-companions, Travisina, Supreme Commander, Brad, Paula, Mr & Mrs Olag Gan - and we won the quiz. It would have been embarrassing if we did not, don't you think?

But then we were saddened when the Supreme Commander told us that Gareth Thomas was in hospital, and we all signed a card for him, sending our love and wishing him get well soon. None of us expected him to pass away so soon…

Lorna and I met on Saturday morning, a wonderful moment in our friendship history. Then on to the Watermans Art Centre for the convention, where one of the most enjoyable things was touching, analysing (and criticizing...) the original B7 costumes. I noticed that they were very well made, and it was amazing to detect some interesting details.

At 10am we had our Horizon group photo taken. There were quite a lot of us, and it took some effort to get everyone in the picture. The photographer had to ask some people to sit in the front and one person please to crouch a bit lower… that was me. For once in my life I was too tall! It made me laugh so much it almost spoiled the photo! But it turned out well and I got all the autographs on the back of my Horizon group photo.

I happened to meet Michael Keating in the foyer, the moment he just arrived. He chatted to me until it occurred to him that he should have already been in the green room! What a kind gentleman he is.

Stephen Greif is a lovely man, too. He took a relaxed amount of time for a chat at the signing session. At one point I told him I that Travis should return, as the man who died in Star One was a clone (as in one of our short stories). Stephen's eyes started to twinkle and he got it. "Well, here I am! I'm available!" Brad told me later that Stephen seemed seriously interested in the tie I made him with the small Liberator… so I may have a job to do.

I asked Michael to sign one of my drawings. He said he liked it very much, and asked if he could have one, so I promised to make him one… so, I have another job to do.

I missed Glynis Barber, because her queue was too long, and I was waiting in the queue for Paul Darrow. I didn’t want to miss the chance to say thank you to the actor of my favourite computer expert. And I got that chance! He spent a lot of time chatting with me and even spoke a line in Dutch! Lovely. I asked him to sign his autobiography and to please add a favourite Avon quote. Which he did.

Alistair Lock was also very nice to meet during the break. During a bit of professional talk, he joked that he would call me if an alien with a Dutch accent should appear in a script. So when I came to his signing table, I suggested perhaps we should exchange our autographs!

All the other guests were gentle and kind. I had a short chat with everyone: Bill Lyons, Colin Davis, costume designer Dee Kelly Robson (I met her later in the corridor to say goodbye. Perhaps there was some recognition of theatre manners?)

Being a huge fan of the Liberator, I bought a copy of the original design and had it signed by Roger Murray-Leach. I hope I pleased him with a suggestion for his next visit to my country, as he visits it twice a year.

Ania Marson was lovely to meet. It was her first convention. How hard it was to recognise Largo in Derek Smith! It was a delight to have a chat with this friendly gentleman.

I noticed that Sasha Mitchell was nervous, and she told me she didn't know what to expect. In the interview we learned she had hard times in the past when people didn't separate the character Arlen from the actress Sasha. I still cannot believe Sasha was only 16 years old when she played Arlen. We supported Sasha when she took stage under the "boo" of the audience. Fortunately that boo was not seriously intended and Sasha coped with it very well.

Jacqueline Pearce was great; professionally strong and enjoying the day. I was one of those who were still chatting to her when the curtain closed and the last interview started. Jacqueline stayed at the convention to the very end, and got a well-deserved thunderous standing ovation.

The interviews were a very new experience for me. These were relaxed and open interactions between the interviewees and the audience. There were many interesting stories and information. For example, Roger Murray-Leach told us that that the original Liberator design had been rejected, and ended up in the rubbish bin. The writers Bill Lyons and Colin Davis told us about how they were inspired by a mini-cruise, in the bar and naughty book stores. We learned how different it was working at the BBC in the old days. And more…

But the interview time was pretty short and I agree with many in the audience that we could have listened to them for hours.

The photo sessions were great fun, not least because you could pose in the perfect life size replica of Liberator’s pilot station that had been created with so much love and dedication by Exterminator. He and I were very pleased to finally meet after many years of forum contact!

I had my group photo shot with the crew, and solo photos with Paul Darrow and with Michael Keating. I would have loved one with Stephen and Jacqueline, but my budget didn’t allow for more, and I wanted to support the Parkinson’s charity and raffle.

Guess what? Another once-in-a-life-time: I won a raffle prize! I won Jacqueline Pearce’s autobiography - the book and the audio - how great is that? And I admit, it was the item I wanted most. I was pleased to hear the at the charity had raised over £600 for Parkinson’s UK.

I ended the day in the Watermans Arms pub for a relaxed dinner with those who didn’t need to go home yet.

It was a wonderful weekend, full of surprises. I still feel grateful that I was able to meet so many kind people. Thank you Brad, Paula and Lorna for making the weekend so special, Spaceship Dispatcher for organising the dinners and the Kew Gardens visit, Clanger68 for hosting the entertainment, Ian and his crew for the convention, the Blake’s 7 actors and creators for being such wonderful guests, Gary for bringing his costumes, Exterminator for his brilliant model work, Damien May for his artwork and all of you lovely bunch of fans for your company and fun!



***


REVIEW by SUSAN BOWDEN

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

I'd spent Thursday evening packing, preparing and praying we wouldn't step into stormageddon the following morning. Mistletoe Minor and I didn't want to arrive in Brentford looking like the proverbial drowned rats.

The weather decided to play ball – thank you! We travelled to Waterloo to pick up a mainline train to Kew Bridge, and on exiting the station we turned right to walk to the Premiere Inn – Doctor Who: Turn Left immediately popped into my head!

As we would be staying until Sunday morning, we thought we’d make the effort to actually unpack. It's all too easy to be lazy and switch on the television when you're feeling tired. Travisina joined us at around three o' clock - time to load up on caffeine, snacks, and conversation.

Many attendees were travelling from around the country/world and all traces of tiredness were easily shrugged away as we hugged and caught up with everyone in the hotel lobby and restaurant. It was happy hour at the Premiere Inn, although even those of us without a drink in our hands were on a natural high as we anticipated a fun weekend.

Spaceship Dispatcher had arranged a group dinner at a local pub. The landlord and all the staff at The Waterman’s Arms were extremely welcoming; reserved tables and all the meals we'd ordered in advance. Conversational banter and laughter resonated around our corner of the pub - everyone genuinely likes one another in this fandom.

The evening progressed and Clanger68 (Andy) began the B7 quiz. There were four teams, four rounds and a Guess Who or What image round. What is it with number four? Shouldn't it be seven? LOL

Anniew, Annie's hubby (observing all our madness) Mistletoe Minor, Hugbot, Ellen, Meegat and I made up team Sula Chesku! Maybe Anna's sharp mind would home in on Brentford, travelling back to the future in order to help us win the Golden Liberator.

Andy, bless him, handed out Blake’s 7 collectors cards (four each) to all participants; a terrific consolation prize. The cards brought about huge smiles and swapsies... not that we were willing to trade our Avon selections!

It's fair to say that all the ladies in team Sula Chesku were competitive! Hugbot, Tom and Minor patiently put up with our insistence that Image 1 on the Who or What picture sheet was Travis 1... until we realised it was actually Avon. Whoops! That could have been embarrassing.

The quiz came down to a tie-break: Sula Chesku vs Supreme Command Headquarters. With four new questions to answer in record time, we failed to accurately determine what IMIPAK stood for. The first I and the second P were incorrect. We lost by one point... ONE POINT! We were robbed. I demand a recount! But the Golden Liberator will be time shared (thank you Travisina) and the quiz really was enormously entertaining.

A massive thank you to Spaceship Dispatcher for arranging the meals, and likewise to Andy for the dedication he put into organising the B7 quiz.

Those who stayed at the pub had more stamina than me. I headed to bed around ten thirty, watched TV and failed to sleep, which is par for the course at hotels. Rising early, we nibbled at breakfast, all bleary-eyed apart from a chirpy morning person in the restaurant happily singing while she ate her oats. The lady in question knows exactly who I'm talking about!*

Wrapping pastries in napkins and hastily gulping orange juice, it was time to hop, skip and jump down the road to the Waterman Centre where we would be spending the day at Ian Kubiak's Cygnus Alpha 2.

I ended up first in the registration queue; it was a fluke, but I quite liked it. Once inside the theatre, we discovered that there was an allocated seat for each individual ticket number. There were a few empty places on the ends of every row, which a member of the CA team said we were welcome to use.

First on the agenda was the Horizon Group Photo. Exterminator Phil's Liberator pilot station is an extraordinary achievement; it looked just like the original, but without the scratches. All those stunningly recreated working parts - yes, I did press those buttons and worked the controls. How could anyone resist? Phil is a genius! And the seat really does attempt to get to know you intimately; I found this out for myself during the individual flight deck photo, where we had fun wearing a teleport bracelet and holding a blaster whilst standing in position behind the flight station.

But back to the group shot: twenty-six Horizoners participated. The photographer (Robin Pritchard) took his time, ensuring everyone could be seen in the shot. Pilot Travisina was our Jenna Stannis on the day - a big grin plastered across her face, just like everyone standing there, knowing this was an opportunity to relish. It's a photographic memory that will always make me smile. And to those who were running late and didn't make the shot or were unable to attend the event, I'm sure you will have a chance on another occasion.

We made it back to our seats in time to hear Ian welcoming everyone to Cygnus Alpha 2, and thus began what would prove to be a frenetic day.

The first interview panel consisted of Bill Lyons (Writer - S4 Games), Colin Davis (Writer – S4 Gold), Dee Kelly Robson (Costume Designer – six episodes in S3) & Roger Murray-Leach (Designer – Liberator)

Bill Lyons revealed how Belkov (Stratford Johns) was supposed to die at the end of Games but Johns performed it in his own inimitable style because he believed there was more mileage to be had in the character. Colin Davis talked about a booze cruise (with £200) and the way episodes and scripts were frequently discussed over a pint. In Season 4, the Scorpio crew would need to 'get stuff' - money being one of those things they would have to acquire. Dee Kelly Robson particularly liked dressing Servalan, and Roger Murray-Leach talked about the frustrations he'd felt with the stage crew mistreating the Liberator set, leaving it looking as if it had encountered a plough, and how he "aged a decade every week".

Everything related to the guests, with the exception of the photo shoots, took place on the same stage, with the first autograph session crossing over with Michael Keating, Stephen Greif and Paul Darrow.

The Autograph sessions started with controlled organisation: tickets 1-20, 21-40, 41-60, etc. In order to remain on schedule, we were advised to collect our autographs without engaging in conversation with the guests.

It all became about queuing at this point: queues to my right, queues to my left... queues on the stage, attendees moving at a snail’s pace towards the autograph tables. I talked with folks from around the country whilst waiting in line. Sci fi fans are a sociable bunch, and the only good thing about weary queuing.

I'd brought a selection of items to have signed - Liberator Chronicles CD sleeve notes, B7 DVD sleeves, photos, books... and having those collectable trading cards from the previous evening proved handy.

Gold and Games are series 4 favourites, making it a pleasure to meet Bill Lyons and Colin Davis. It was a thrill to shake Roger Murray-Leach's hand and Dee Kelly Robson is a gracious lady.

Michael Keating is a sweetheart, and there is never a lack of conversation to be had with Stephen Greif. Stephen is genuinely enthusiastic about recording his previous Big Finish audios. He remembers the stories and mentioned how he would like a book deal; I was holding Paul Darrow’s Lucifer: Revelation at the time.

Everyone, myself included, gravitated towards Paul's queue. Mr Darrow’s gregarious personality is irresistible. He's acutely aware of every conversation, sharp as a pin and engaged with every person in the queue.

Refining multiple conversations into a relatively short amount of time, I talked to Paul about Lucifer: Revelation, mentioning I that I had bought Genesis but hadn't yet read it, in case he kills Avon. “Read it and let me know what you think,” he said, with a smile that spoke a thousand words.

The Avon trading card I asked Paul to sign resulted in the following comment as he stared at his image on the card: “I used to be really good looking.”
I paused a fraction too long!
“You’re supposed to say: ‘You still are!’” he smiled.
“You still are!” I echoed, returning the smile.

I also had a chance to talk with Paul about Churchill's People. He appeared in the first episode (Pritan), which I saw recently during a screening at the British Film Institute. Paul recalls details with amazing clarity, naming his fellow centurion, and we had fun talking about the mist effect used in the invasion sequence and the minimalist polystyrene beach his character walks across in the concluding scene. If anyone has the chance to watch Pritan in the future, I promise you'll find his Marcellus character will leave a lasting impression - much like Mr Darrow.

With the autographs overrunning, it was inevitable the schedule would break down, resulting in Paul having to leave before everybody was able to get his autograph. The session was brought to a halt, and those still stuck in the black hole queues were told that they could hand in their items and Ian Kubiak would ensure Mr Darrow would sign them at a later date.

This was done at Cygnus Alpha 1 when Sally Knyvette, Steven Greif and Jan Chappell, had to leave. Although it didn't affect me on either occasion, I know that Ian will again be as good as his word where this is concerned.

Calling time on the previous autograph session brought about a merged second panel, with Glynis Barber (Soolin), Jacqueline Pearce (Servalan), Stephen Greif (Travis 1), & Michael Keating (Vila).

Michael and Jacks talked about an episode of Pointless Celebrities they'd filmed. I won't give away any spoilers but they mentioned it would be shown on TV in August. Stephen credited Paul Darrow for convincing him to start attending conventions, and how he regretted that he hadn't done it sooner - "I always have fun at these events."

Glynis looked at ease talking about her time on Blake’s 7. She drove a conversation about series 4 at Big Finish. It’s a complicated topic... but knowing everyone on the panel showed enthusiasm certainly proved to be a crowd pleaser.

Seats were vacated again in order to queue and queue and queue for the final autograph session: Alistair Lock, Derek Smith, Sasha Mitchell and Ania Marson in signing area 2, with Jacqueline Pearce and Glynis Barber occupying signing area 1.

Alistair, Derek, Sasha and Ania were utterly charming, nothing was too much trouble for them.

It's always a treat to have the deliciously naughty Ms Pearce in attendance. I had recently bought a copy of Call me Jacks, which she was kind enough to personalise at my request. Jacks continued signing in the background (wine to hand) while the final panel took place at the front of the stage. (It didn't impact on the panel.)

And this was my first time meeting Glynis. She was lovely, finding a corner of my S4 DVD sleeve to write her autograph. I hope she will be attending more B7 related events in the future.

The photo shoot: It's rare to find anyone happy with their own picture; we all find fault in our appearance and the same is particularly true when it comes to photo shoots. I prevaricated over whether to have a group and solo picture; eventually sticking with a Paul Darrow solo photo. It isn't my first by a long chalk, but what can I say...

I muttered (to myself) my concerns as I stepped across the flight station, worried in case I accidentally broke any of the controls. “Don't worry about it,” laughed Paul, obviously hearing every word. “We did it all the time on the show!”

“I know,” I replied. “Every week!” It brought about a conversation about 'creaking' and breaking props. We were still talking and laughing as the photographer clicked the camera, which is the reason we look amused in the printed photo.

The third interview panel was with Alistair Lock (Zen & Orac), Derek Smith (Largo - S2 Shadow), Ania Marson (Geela - S1 The Web) and Sasha Mitchell (Arlen - S4 Blake).

Alistair relayed how he made his peers at school laugh to avoid being bullied. And with a prompt from Ian, he treated everyone to his rendition of Slave. Derek Smith is a lovely gentleman, who was thrilled to be invited to a convention. He talked about how he got into acting. I wish I could recall what Ania spoke about; but sadly I think there’s some psychic ‘The Lost’ vibes at play here making me forget every word.

Sasha Mitchell came onto the stage quoting her line from Series 4, episode 13, Blake: "I'm a Federation officer!" Approving pantomime boos from the audience ensued, fully appreciating the way Sasha entered into the spirit of the convention. She had played Arlen when she was seventeen - I hadn’t realised the character was meant to be quite so young.

We’re almost done …

The blaster that was used during the photo shoots sold in the auction for £240.00 - and a kiss on the cheek from Jacks Pearce! Jacks then assisted with the raffle, with all proceeds going to Parkinson's UK Charity. I actually forgot to buy tickets! I know, right! The chance to win a teleport bracelet would have been lovely. Although I never win in raffles; could have bought the entire book and still found I'd lost.

Jacqueline Pearce received a well-deserved standing ovation as the convention came to a close. What an amazing woman!

Ian brought together an interesting mix of guests. They were friendly, charming, extraordinarily accommodating and completely engaged throughout the day. It was a real pleasure to talk with each one of them during the autograph sessions, as well as listening to their interesting stories and anecdotes during the panels.

The photography team was professional and hardworking. Hydra Shirt Colin looked exhausted. And yet he tracked down every person in the theatre in order to ensure they collected their photos.

I’d like to also extend my thanks to Steven Pacey, who couldn't attend but kindly personalised individual photos to those who'd bought early tickets to Cygnus Alpha. And thanks to Damian May for providing every attendee at the event with an A4 cast picture - a kind gesture and one which proved invaluable.

Ian Kubiak is to be applauded for his willingness to hold a Blake's 7 convention: everything he did in advance is appreciated. Jo, his wife, stood out as a smiling beacon throughout the day, and his entire family remained outwardly calm, patient and polite while all around them turned into a chaotic sprint to the finish line.

There were farewells made to those leaving and then onto dinner at the pub. This time Hugbot, Minor and I were joined by Alistair Lock, Kevin Davies, Supreme Commander and Abs202 at our table.

Most of us were ravenously hungry and once appetites were sated, we talked about sound effects, food, games and so much more. It was a second terrific evening in great company at the Waterman's Arms. Kevin's Making of Blake's 7 DVD’s are amazing and it was a genuine pleasure talking with Alistair away from the hustle and bustle of the convention.

Tiredness eventually lured us back to the hotel - it felt later than nine-thirty. And rising in the morning feeling mildly refreshed, we decided to eat a proper breakfast in the restaurant. I'm glad we did, because it gave us the chance to spend additional time with Ellen and Hugbot.

While they were staying... we were heading home on multiple buses. We stepped through the front door late Sunday afternoon feeling absolutely shattered but thrilled to have played in the Blake's 7 sandbox all weekend. It reinforces how lucky we are to be part of this amazing fandom.



But at what cost did Ian bring the convention back on schedule?

Seating
I accept that Ian decided on the seating plan in order to make signing more efficient, ie allowing him to control the number of people approaching the stage. But it's important to remember that all events in the sci-fi calendar are considered social occasions with attendees wishing to sit and chat with their friends rather than scattered throughout the venue.

Schedule
Conventions schedules are always subject to change, it is nature of the beast and flexibility is to be expected. However, any organised sci-fi event is measured by the sum of its parts, and those individual parts (photo shoots, autographs, panels etc) are of equal importance to the majority of fans.

Queuing
Queuing is to be expected in any circumstance - it's what we do in this country. However, at Cygnus Alpha 2, it soared to a whole new level. It was frenetic, exhausting and if there had been an emergency, I would have expected trampling to occur, since the exits were frequently occupied by queuing attendees.

Autographs & Photo Shoots
It isn’t necessarily about the photo, it isn’t always about the autograph - most event veterans already have numerous items signed and photos in albums. These boil down to the opportunity to talk and spend time with your favourite(s). These are the cherished memories which will last a lifetime.

Time Management
The responsibility for time management is firmly on the shoulders of the organisers and the schedule should be scrutinised with a fine tooth comb during the convention planning process.

I feel sorry for all those attendees who missed out on autographs. But the onus should never be put onto attendees and guests when the schedule starts slipping. Attendees should be able to speak to the guests, and likewise, the guests love to interact with their fans.

This goes especially for Paul Darrow. He likes to talk to everyone, and his fans like to talk with him. Paul’s stories and anecdotes are always interesting, and it simply isn't in his personality to treat the autograph element of a convention as though it were merely a factory production line.

Panels
Merging panels is fine, but they shouldn't be truncated, nor sacrificed. On this occasion, I didn't time the panels, but they were reduced from four to three and some of the guests only had minimal questions. This was a shame, considering they had made time in their schedule to attend the convention. If the venue size is a factor, the convention should reduce the number of guests.

Venue
Selecting the correct venue is a priority. Costs are a key factor but you can't reliably support an entire convention in a limited space with 120 attendees plus guests to accommodate.

Most people prefer to dip into various different convention activities, purchasing further autographs at their leisure. This is where multiple rooms can be an advantage - attendees wouldn't all have to collect their autographs at the same time. This would also help to eliminate chaotic queue jumping, whilst allowing time for panels, photo-shoots, dealers tables and all those anticipated conversations with the invited guests.

It isn't reasonable to expect the sun and moon and the stars; conventions are never without their problems and there is a lot of goodwill towards Ian. However, it is reasonable to expect a higher standard than I personally witnessed at the weekend.

On the whole, the good things outweighed the bad at Cygnus Alpha 2. But I would think seriously about attending a third CA without complete reconsideration about the logistics. There needs to be a change in venue, in order to accommodate a 120+ sized convention. One option would be to have fewer guests, as I previously mentioned, and the selling of additional autograph tokens will always cause delays, if the event is held in a venue with limited space. My advice to Ian, for what it's worth would be to make certain necessary changes, and then it could be third time the charm.



*Guilty as charged! Travisina

Photos by Anniew, Hugbot, Scott, Spaceship Dispatcher
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