ConFederation (Blake's 7 con)
|Science Fiction Convention|
|Location:||Christchurch, New Zealand|
|Focus:||Blake's 7 and other science fiction media|
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The con had the subtitle: "The Con at the Edge of the World."
It took place October 1988.
Paul and Janet Darrow, Michael Keating, and Janet Lees-Price were GOHs.
It was at the 1988 con that fans were are told primarily by Kathy Hanson that Ann Wortham, Leah Rosenthal, and Linda Terrell had written slash fiction under pseudonyms. This was a major element that began The Blake's 7 Wars.
1988: Con Reports
Paul and Janet visited Dogwatch, whose volunteers rescue condemned dogs from the pound and foster them till they find good homes. There were four dogs there that day, and Paul and Janet were photographed with Mitch and Abby, who found good homes after the picture appeared in the paper. The other two, Irish Setter cross puppies, were named Jenna and Cally, and I'm sure they too found a home.
Paul, Janet, and Michael visited Australia  on their way here. 'Avon and Vila' were recognised at the Melbourne Zoo by two very excited Aboriginal girls on holiday from Alice Springs, with much giggling and photo-taking.
Janet, who had fallen for wombats, was given plush one which she immediately named Michael because, to quote her, "Well, they are rather small, plump, and cuddly".Michael displayed his 'koala bear scar' to impressed con-goers. How very... Vilaesque to be scratched by a cuddly bear, though to be fair, koalas are nervous little guys and get very stressed too much interaction. 
On the weekend of 29-30 October I attended my first convention. ConFederation, as it was known, was at the Vacation Inn in Christchurch. The Convention was based on Blake's 7 and the guests were Paul Darrow (Avon), Michael Keating (Vila) and Paul's wife Janet Lees Price (Klyn from the final Blake's 7 episode Blake).
I arrived on Friday night, registered and met the other convention-goers. Both Andrew Pouslen and Scott Walker attended, but were both busy at the time so I didn't get the chance until later to say 'hi'.
The Convention started on Saturday at 9-30 am when the guests arrived. They held a panel where the audience asked them questions about the series and their careers in general. Interesting stories and anecdotes were told - too many to repeat here. It was very funny.
There was a raffle available with lunch with the guests going as the prize (Scott won a lunch with Michael). During the lunch-break I went back to my hotel room to rest - I didn't get to sleep until 2 am the previous night, as I was playing Trivial Pursuit!
After the break, Paul and Michael (yes, we're on a first-name basis here) had a joint panel, where they both confessed a desire to do Westerns. Again, there were too many moments to recall. It was very humorous, with both guests relaxed.
There was an autograph session with all three guests following this. Michael then had his own panel. He talked about his role in Blake's 7, as well as the theatre. I asked whether it was true or not that he was a top candidate for the part of the seventh Doctor. He said it wasn't true but he would love the part if he was offered it. His Doctor would wear a monocle and speak with a posh James Mason accent - an interesting idea.
After Michael's session, there was a game of PowerPlay. This is based on Theatresports (and run by Andrew). Teams had to act out scenes from Blake's 7 in various forms (mime, soundtrack, death in a minute, alien interpreter) within a set time period (one minute, two minutes). The idea was there, but unfortunately the contestants didn't quite understand the rules and many performances fell flat.
We broke for dinner from 5-30 to 7-00. The restaurant was full and I missed the Maori cultural presentation due to ordering late. After the display was the filk-singing. This involves songs with lyrics changed to SF themes. There was a fun version of Alien sung to the tune of John Denver's 'Calypso'.
This was followed by the Disco/Masquerade which went on to the small hours of the morning e.g. 3 am after an adjustment for Daylight Saving.
Sunday morning eventually came and I staggered out of bed. A late breakfast and the first item of the day was another autograph session.
Paul then held his own panel. We had to bring along a piece of paper provided with the registration package - or face death! During his panel Paul asked three questions. The first three names with the correct answers were treated to lunch by the guests. His panel was mainly Blake's 7 and Elvis orientated (He had recently been on tour with 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?'). He was asked whether he had any funny moments from his two Doctor Who appearances (Captain Hawkins in The Silurians and Tekker in Timelash). He was once told off for overacting on Timelash - but when you are having a conversation with a talking cobra, he said, it is difficult to act straight.
And then during The Silurians, while awaiting their cues, he and Jon Pertwee were talking when Pertwee asked him whether he knew how to kiss a duck's behind without getting a mouthful of feathers. The answer is to blow and kiss - but very quickly. The next thing Paul knew, the director yelled 'Action'!
After the lunch-break (in which Scott showed me around the town center - and trying to spot TARDISes - the blue telephone boxes painted by Telecom that had not been attacked by the Wizard) Janet had her panel in which she discussed her theatre career and what it was like living with a galactic fugitive for 20-odd years.
The next item was an auction with the guests as auctioneers. 194 items were sold over 3 hours. One painting of Avon went for $390!! I picked up a Pertwee annual that Andrew wanted; the script for Blake, the last episode of the series; and Terry Nation's autograph.
The convention was running over schedule at this stage. The last scheduled item at this stage was the liars panel. Here the audience asked the guests serious questions that the guests had to then answer with a silly response. It needs to be experienced to be believed! Somewhere along the way, the subject of toenails was brought into the conversation and soon every question and answer was toenail related - much to Janet's horror.A very enjoyable weekend and well worth it. 
Jacqueline Pearce was at the second con; Sheila Willis was the fan guest of honor.
- Source: Multiple letters in Pressure Point #8 and Federation Archives Second Addendum, March 1989. One of the New Zealand fans also circulates her own open letter in 1989 confirming that she had discussed the identities of some of the slash fans with the Darrows.
- as GOH at ZenCon
- ConFederation 88, Archived version -- this link includes photos, including Paul Darrow holding up a piece of fanart
- NZDWFC: TSV 10: Event Report: Confederation 1988, Archived version by John Preddle, originally published in TSV #10 (December 1988)