Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Con Report: Sci-Fi Weekender 5

This weekend was our first Con of the year, a weekend away in North Wales at the Sci-Fi Weekender 5. Its our third time at the event formally known as the SFX Weekender, the second since SFX pulled out, which meant that year the con was both in a new location, and in a state of behind-the-scenes flux. Whilst I enjoyed SFW4, there as the sense that this was despite its problems, rather than because of it's strengths, and with several regular con-freinds not attending this year I think there was a slight air of anxiety before we went. It did mean that I was determined to do more "con stuff" to fill the gap; more panels, that sort of thing, and Z had decided that now was the time to try her hand at cosplay. So it was all to play for.

I think its worth starting with the obvious comment - everything was much better organised. At times it really felt like the organisers, a company called Chic, had simply read one of the many posts from last year pointing out all the errors and just done that, and called it good. The sound in both stages was better (although the smaller stage still had the odd problem), the seating was better, the staff were more visible, the events ran on time, and there was just an indefinable air of purpose around the place. It sounds like a basic requirement, but cons are complex things, and many struggle with this sort of thing and its always nice to walk away without a feeling that it was all a bit of a mess.

The line up was more of a mixed bag. Like the year before, the loss of SFX magazine's contact book is keenly felt, but there were some fun additions around the place - the outdoor street Steampunk entertainment was great, and always crowded, and the Friday Night sets that we went to were really good fun. We missed much of the Saturday evening in favour of an evenings gaming with friends, but I've good things about most of it. The Big Guests were fine - a bit of Star Trek, a bit of the Hobbit, and whilst there could definitely have been more, they can only book who they can book and all the panels I went to were properly interesting and entertaining. I was certainly never left cooling my heels.

Any criticisms? Well, like I say, the guest line up could have been a little broader, and the Traders area seemed to be missing things like a decent bookstall in favour of what I'd describe as "tat shops". Great, fun tat that I bought some of, but a bit too much toy memorabilia for my tastes. I thought the drop-in gaming zone was a great addition and deserves to be expanded, and I heard the quiz, again was too hard to be fun. But niggles, this year, rather than big problems. All in all, a great weekend. We're still mulling next year as we may be on our own, which adds to the cost a fair bit.

I shall sign off with a picture of Z's costume. She spent ages on this, and I'm really proud of her.