Also see Mini Con.
|Star Trek Convention|
|Dates:||October 28-29, 1978|
|Focus:||Star Trek: TOS|
|Founder:||chair: Dot Owens|
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Cons with similar names:
- Empathy Mini-Con (14 February 1976, Dragonara Hotel, Leeds, England)
- Empathy Midi-Con (28-29 October 1978, Manchester, England)
- STAG and Empathy Star Trek Midi-Con (March 31-April 1, 1979, Dragonara Hotel, Leeds, England)
Reactions and Reviews
Those of you who attended the Empathy Midicon at the end of October will not need me to tell you what an enjoyable event it was. I would say that it was easily the best con I have attended and this was largely due to the tremendously friendly atmosphere...
This con was somewhat unusual in that there was an additional attraction on Friday evening. Most people's aim was to get to the Portland Hotel as soon as possible because, as readers in Britain will know, part two of the STAR TREK episode 'The Menagerie' was being shown on BBC 1 at 7-10 pm. Thus throughout the afternoon and early evening the hotel foyer and reception desk were busy with fans arriving, booking in and meeting old friends before locating a room in which to settle in time for the show. By 7:00pm, a hush had descended over the hotel and any late arrivals had to quickly find their own rooms or creep in with friends.
On Saturday morning those with tables to set up in the dealers room busied themselves with that whilst others enjoyed a late breakfast or sat and chatted until the opening ceremony. After a brief speech everything was under way and proceeded as smoothly as cons do.' First up was a film and during the two days a total of six was shown; some old favorites and a couple which hadn't been seen for some time. During breaks and at various other times the display and dealers rooms were open for business and the latter appeared to be quite good. The guest speaker on Saturday was Philip Strick who brought along a collection of old (some very old) science fiction films and talked about the experiences he'd had in obtaining them. It was interesting to see that film makers had been aware of science fiction for so long. Many of the examples we saw were rather amusing and though they lacked the special effects of modern films, they wore obviously very imaginative and advanced for their time. Later on Saturday was the disco with fancy dress parade. These are standard feature of British cons and most fans seem to enjoy them. An additional feature of this disco was a rendition of the bawdy ballad 'Sing of the Star Strip Expertise' and a number of space folk songs.Most of Sunday morning was taken up by the auction. As usual this was a fairly humourous event and one doesn't have to be bidding to take part in the fun. Amongst the items coming under the hammer were U.S. and British zines; records; posters; and books, mostly to do with STAR TREK or ST characters in other roles. Later there was a colourful, glittering hour of entertainment in the form of an intergalactic fashion show which allowed these creative and imaginative ones amongst us to show their talents. Sunday's guest speaker was Dave McGee who came to talk about his travel company which specialised in unusual tours... Something not advertised in the programme was a surprise tape recorded message from Gene Roddenberry sending his best wishes and telling us all the latest on the film. Short of actually having Gene there in person to speak to us this was the best way of obtaining first hand information - and who better to hear it from? Gene spoke for about fifteen minutes and without giving anything away he spoke about production, the sets, the uniforms, and of course the actors. One thing he did stress was that despite any changes tho film definitely is STAR TREK and that was what we wanted to hear. The came round and people had to leave and thus we came to the end of another enjoyable weekend. Cons really are fun and part of that fun is in meeting old friends and making now ones. 
This event was intended as a mini-convention, but one way and another it snowballed and in fact was the first indication that this country had enough Trek fans and enough enthusiasm for two large annual conventions to be successful. Held in Manchester on the 26th and 29th October, the convention had a very basic single programme including the episodes 'City on the Edge of Forever', 'Shore Leave' and the blooper reel, and two British guests, film critic Philip Strick and Dave McGee, who talked about the shuttle launch.
I have many memories of this convention, not the least is the fact that I had no transport and was forced to transport the entire stock of my club's merchandise from London to Manchester in a shopping trolley. Astonishingly, both I and the trolley survived the experience, and eventually arrived at the convention hotel, the Portland, to discover another problem - the hotel had double-booked most of the rooms, with a bunch of rowdy Rugby supporters! This led to an interesting mix within the hotel, numerous people finding themselves sent by reception to rooms that were already occupied (the 'excess' Trek fans were ultimately shipped off to another hotel - notice they didn't move the Rugby fans!) and some decidedly odd 'close encounters' in the lifts.
I described the foyer of the hotel in the report I wrote at the time as 'well, not Impressive - more upper-class homely', and the dealers' room turned out to be very small and its single door (fire wardens would have had a field day with this hotel!) kept getting jammed shut, usually with the dealers on the inside and the prospective buyers on the outside, not an ideal situation by any manner of means! On one occasion, the offending door was only reopened after a young man with a penknife undertook extensive surgery on the carpet underlay, with the hotel staff In the foyer outside just standing watching. Extra tables were somehow jammed In, leading to an access situation for dealers that involved either climbing over them or crawling underneath - again, not ideal if the dealer in question was wearing a Star Fleet uniform.
A highlight of Saturday's programme was a tape recording especially sent by Gene Roddenberry to STAG explaining the latest situation with regard to the first movie, by then confirmed filming - "Everyone seems to agree that Captain Kirk's entry onto the bridge of the Enterprise after being absent for all of those years, when those elevator doors open and he stands there and the camera goes In on his face... it is a real gripping moment. Anyone who's been in love with the vessel and a certain way of life will understand totally what it means to him." It was a pleasure and a privilege for us that Mr. Roddenberry took the time to send this tape, which was received with a standing ovation.
The fancy dress had a very good turn-out; prizes were awarded to Ian Watson as a 'close encounters' alien; Linda Bennett as the Nightingale Woman from "Where No Man,"- best TV SF costume: Christine Hambley as Natira; and Donna Nixon as Sherlock Holmes' cleverer brother. Another memorable costume which didn't receive a Judge's prize was a young man as The Incredible Hulk'; his antics kept the rest of the contestants from feeling those 'last minute jitters' that seems to strike even the most seasoned fancy dress entrant.
The discotheque was also a great success, although I spent most of it helping to sort out auction items. A number of very good room parties, most of which seemed to be serving photon torpedoes (does anyone want to know? Okay, 1/3 rum; 1/3 advocat; 1/3 lime. VERY POWERFUL - not recommended for non-drinkers) followed and Saturday wound down very successfully, that is until we realized that the clocks had Just gone back and it was officially an hour later than we all thought it was. I think this was the first convention that experienced this particular type of 'time warp'.
Sunday started slowly, but livened up rapidly when I was co-opted to 'assist' with the fashion show. There were insufficient entries for a good show, and Dot Owens had rounded up a number of people, a quantity of material and other objects, and Instructed that at least two entries must be completed before the show - which was at 2.15pm. Whilst innumerable people rushed around in a semi-clad state frantically sewing each other into anything that came to hand, I sat in a corner and wrote two fashion-show scripts. These were handed in to Anne Page, the MC for the convention, literally as the fashion show started, and it is to her credit that she managed to cope with the scribbled handwriting in an extremely professional and competent manner. Around this time the hotel ran out of cigarettes.
Awards for the fashion show were won by Pat Thomas for best collection and costume. Sue Trent as best model and Marlon Beet as best alien. Miri Rana was also awarded a 'runners up' prize.
By this time the flood in the dealers' room had died down; so much so in fact that someone observed that she felt like the entertainments officer on the Enterprise when it put in at Wrigley's Pleasure Planet! The closing ceremony came around altogether too soon for most of us; fiction prizes were awarded to Linda and Glyn Probert and David Coote, and poetry awards to S. Meek and Carol Keogh. 'Shore Leave', followed by a session of charades, rounded out the evening, and everyone who attended agreed that, despite the problems with the hotel, the event had been entirely successful.It's interesting to note that this small convention with no 'big-name' guest stars, no complicated video programme (the video hadn't come along yet), in surroundings which were far from ideal, has gone down in 'fan history' as one of the most memorable of all the Trek conventions: everyone seems to have a story about Manchester, some which are too salacious to repeat here. The feeling of togetherness and perhaps 'partners in adversity' with regard to the hotel, is difficult to convoy. I can't help feeling that the success was due in a large part to the enthusiasm of the attendees, all of who were prepared to put up with a few inconveniences in order to join together in appreciation of the show. Whilst the same attitude can still be found at some conventions, the technological advances that have been made, together with the wider acceptance of Star Trek as an acceptable 'aberration', seems to have led to a decrease in the sense of wonder and fulfilment that these early conventions were able to encompass.