Space City (convention)
|Founder:||Ann O'Neill and Ann Bown|
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Space City was a series of Blake's 7 conventions held in the UK. The convention was named after "Space City", the “Satellite of Sin” planet that appeared in show's second season, episode: Shadow.
Space City 1985
Date: Saturday 4th May 1985.
Place: Caversham Bridge Hotel, Reading.
There were 130 registered attendees.
Fans talk about it here.
Linda Short performed Songs of the Seven.
Space City 1986
Space City was held in 1986 in the UK. It was a one day event. Approximately 150 fans attended with actors Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, Sally Knyvette, Jan Chappell and Peter Tuddenham as guests.
The video can be seen here.
Con Report: 1986
Despite frantic burrowings in my various bank and savings accounts, in the end I was unable to get to Scorpio IV this year. The nearest I got to it mas seeing our raffle winner, Mary Moulden, off at Heathrow with a giant bag full of Horizon merchandise to be sold at our table (which Pat hadn't had room to pack) [...] I still had Space City to go to, but although I'd enjoyed the 1985 one very much, it still wasn't going to be the same, I thought.
In the event, it wasn't the same, but for the 120 or so attendees, it was a jolly close runner up. Not since my very earliest days of convention going when it was all so new and exciting one couldn't help but enjoy oneself, have I enjoyed a convention more. I cannot tell a lie - the atmosphere created among the attendees by suddenly realising that SIX guests had turned up did have rather a lot do do with it! Many thanks to Paul and Janet Darrow, Michael Keating, Peter Tuddenham, Jan Chappel and Sally Knyvette for finding the time to come along - it was wonderful. But it wasn't wonderful just because they were there, but because they were wandering around (when not on stage) in such an informal way, stopping to talk to people, inspecting the various other activities (videos, dealers tables, etc.) and of course all credit must go, not only to the guests, but to Ann and Joe Bown and the rest of the Space City Committee who had the good sense to encourage this, and not to lock them away in a private room for most of the time as has tended to happen all too often at past conventions.
The high spot of the day must be the Group Panel - all 6 of them answered questions from the audience, with Paul Darrow acting as M.C. and generally appointing himself in charge of the proceedings. He did a marvellous job of entertaining us all, particularly with his exchanges with Janet. She was teased mercilessly about her experiences in "that wonderful, powerful and dramatic role of Klyn, to the great amusement of the attendees, other guests, and hopefully Janet herself, who tried valiantly to keep him under control but (thankfully) with little success! Those of you with tape or video recorders will be able to hear/see the proceedings for themselves, as the committee are selling both audio and video tapes of the con, with all proceeds going to the con charity, the PDSA. I'm not sure how much the audio tape is, but the video is £9 (VH5 or Beta) so I suggest you all get writing to Ann Bown to order your copies.
As only Val and Ann from the committee were there, I was far too busy trying to make a few bob on the table to see too much of what else was going on, but some vague recollections follow: dealers room -not that many dealers, but all quality stuff (especially ours!); filk singing - some marvellous entertainment by Linda Short and Helen Pitt; an amusing slide show; auction - run by Paul and Michael and assisted at times by Jan and Peter. I imagine Paul and Michael must have been disappointed not to have had the same financial response to items as they were used to in the States, but one must remember certain things: a) we don't have as much money as them b) 85% of the items were things that mast of the attendees already had, were able to actually buy in the dealers room cheaper, or able to get very easily, and c) none of the auctioneers took off any items of their clothing to auction on the spot!!
I have to say that the fancy dress competition and the prize giving were something of a washout... not because the costumes weren't any good - they may well have been, but the way the hotel had organised the seating for this event, the only people who could see properly what was going on were the judges (the guests) and the front row of the attendees. I can't describe the way we were seated terribly well, but try to imagine an L shaped room, with the guests in the middle, the fancy dress people parading in one end of the L and the rest of the audience in the other end of the L. I did see some lovely costumes, but I was elsewhere when the results were announced so I have no idea at all who won. If I find out before finishing typing this N/L, I'll let you know.
Really, the only bad points of the day (apart from my headache) was the hotel itself. They had promised Ann faithfully to have 'The Barn' ready for the con, but alas didn't deliver in the end for various reasons - very bad luck for the committee as there was absolutely nothing they could do except seethe quietly and stick pins into little dolls! The food was pretty awful - from previous experience I always bring food along for myself (a couple of smoked salmon sandwiches and vast supplies of chocolate & canned drinks!) but as the lunch was included I ate this. Lasagne - lovely, I thought... alas someone should have explained to the cooks that lasagne is meat and sauce with layers of pasta, not just meat!!! Yuk! I'm glad I didn't have supper in the Barn later - you could tell it was a barn because of the beams all over the place, but also because if you closed your eyes and breathed in you could imagine the animals were still there, doing whatever it is that animals do in barns. Phew!!
Summary: great convention, great guests, nice atmosphere (except as described in previous line!!), rotten hotel, and great efforts by the committee. I'm sorry they aren't planning another - I do hope SOMEONE sensible will have a B7 con next year, although I'm saving up my pennies for America, just in case...P.S. Apart from the official Space City video people, there was a BBC film crew there filming away all over the place. Ann tells me that 4 minutes coverage was actually shown the following Monday on Today South (or was it South Today?) and they actually treated the event seriously (ie. not saying "And here are a Load of loonies at a B7 convention!) Well done, BBC, They interviewed Paul and Jan, and also interviewed 2 attendees, Horizon members Henry Eggleton,and Sue Christian ... Apparently Sue had the interviewer lost for words... "And what do you do?" he asked Sue, elegantly decked out in full Space Rat costume. "I'm a Police-Woman for Merseyside Constabulary," she replied. Q.E.D. 
Space City 1988
Space City 1988 was held Oct 17-18, 1988 in Egham, Surrey, UK. Guests included Paul Darrow, Gareth Thomas , Michael Keating, Janet Lees Price, David Jackson, Sally Knyvette, and Jan Chappel. It was the first convention since the show had ended that had both Paul Darrow and Gareth Thomas at the same time.
- Saturday (Jan Chappell, Peter Tuddenham, David Jackson and Matt Irvine with the original B7 models including Orac)
- Sunday (Paul Darrow, Gareth Thomas, Jan Chappell, Janet Lees Price)
- All the Auctions (Paul Darrow, Janet Lees Price, Gareth Thomas, Peter Tuddenham and Matt Irvine).
1988: Con Reports
The Anugraha is some way out from the centre of Egham, which would've been a pain if we'd had to walk from the station. And the hotel grounds were lovely, the rural setting certainly enhancing the atmosphere well, the whole thing got underway more or less on time in the Upper Hall, which was a cut above most of the venues reserved for convention events - a splendid arrangement of rising rings of seats centering on a decent-sized dais. After a brief burst of strangely familiar-sounding music, the ever-charming Peter Tuddenham appeared, told a couple of jokes, spoonerised a few of his sentences, and welcomed everybody to the convention. He only spoke briefly, but still managed to slip into two or three well-remembered voices before leaving the stage clear for the interrogation of Sid Sleer. I won't attempt to describe Sid Sleer - it's been done before, by someone with a stronger stomach than me. The interrogation was over quickly, but still managed to provide some useful information on the organisation of the con, and one or two good laughs. After braving the mad onslaught at the Dealers Room, Nikki and I escaped to the Upper Hall for the Specialist Panel, which turned out to be Mat Irvine talking about (surprise surprise) special effects. Frankly, I wasn't too keen to begin with, but the estimable Mr Irvine was his usual offhandedly-charming self, and turned in what was probably the most consistently entertaining panel of the entire weekend. And this despite the fact that I'd seen him before at two previous cons! He brought along an impressive array of original models from the series, the star exhibit being a rather dusty Orac. One thing that very many of the spaceship models in particular had in common was that they were painted on only one side, which goes some way towards illustrating the kind of pressure the BBC effects teams must work under, flat offered lack of time as the probable reason for the poor quality of the fourth series effects (not an excuse to save his own face, since he didn't work on B7 after the third series).
After lunch (a spartan affair for most, I should think, with small rolls going at £1 a time!) came the auction - or at least the Saturday half of it. These can be rather tedious, but not so in this case, at least not for me. I don't know how many people lasted the entire length, but although Nikki and I left for a spell in the middle, it was more for fresh air than because of boredom. Peter Tuddenham took charge of the first session, ably assisted by Sally Harrison (Lauren from 'Aftermath') and Primi Townsend (Zee from 'Powerplay'). There's a tendency to think of 'our' actors (the regular cast) as particularly special and, of course, they are, but as the aforementioned two ladies demonstrated, everyone is special in their own may. Their responses to questions were always thoughtful, often surprising and sometimes very witty. And if they were, perhaps, slightly less spontaneously entertaining than some of the regulars, who could blame them for being a little nervous? Mat Irvine took over from Peter later on and proved to be an extremely ruthless auctioneer, pushing the prices relentlessly up. The only problem was that he was so completely on the ball that Sally and Primi were left very little to do. A minor stir was created during the afternoon by the surreptitious appearance of David Jackson (at his first ever convention), who stood at the back without being noticed by any but the most restless among the audience. He was much more easily spotted outside the hall when Nikki and I took our breather - and while we were out there Jan Chappell also arrived, retiring quietly into a corner, but still not entirely escaping the more alert autograph hunters.
The auction ended, with the highest price being paid for the script of 'Orbit', signed by both Paul and Michael. After tea David Jackson was the first to be seen, giving away bags of sweets to the children present - and warning them not to eat the little rubber balls they were also given! Then followed the Guest Panel - Peter, David, Jan, Sally and Primi, with Peter taking centre stage. David impressed me particularly with his broad range of interests and his serious consideration of the questions he was asked. Jan was very entertaining, but tended to take the whole thing less seriously - she's had the same questions thrown at her more times than the others who were present, I'd guess.
Sheelagh Wells was also present the first day. Her make-up demonstration was rescheduled because it clashed with Mat's talk, in fact due to various scheduling problems it never did take place. Luckily, however, of possibly greater importance to most people was the fact that she brought with her... the blooper tape. Seven million people (well, almost) squeezed themselves into a room only slightly larger than a shoebox to watch this priceless document, and I have to confess to coming away slightly disappointed It uias very entertaining, but somehow I'd expected more. Worth seeing, but far from the highlight of the convention. And Mat Irvine's talk had proven so popular that an extra half hour slot was fitted in, just so he could answer a few of the left-over questions, and so that people could get another chance to look at and photograph the models. Mat himself then went on to open the cabaret, (which followed the fancy dress) wearing his third pair of trousers. He had gone from ordinary jeans, through pink somethings, to a pair that were made of a substance resembling red leather.
The cabaret itself was quite short, with only Mat, Peter and David participating. Peter apologetically said that the brevity of the show was due to circumstances beyond their control. Whatever the reason, all three performers were entertaining, with David's reading of a poem called "Burglar Bill" being the probable highlight. No other guests had appeared, and it had become clear that Paul Darrow would turn up on the morrow, although nothing much had been said about any of the others. After the cabaret Nikki and I spent some time at the 'private disco' of the Hitchhiker Society, ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha, who were rejoicing at the fact that their normally free sticks of 'Don't Panic' rock had gone for quite good prices in the auction, and not rejoicing at the fact that, in their opinion, very little had happened at the con, although they agreed that the guests had been good. I jokingly said to Nikkii "Well, suppose Gareth Thomas turns up tomorrow; then they can hardly say that nothing's happened."
Suddenly Joe Bown appeared from nowhere and said: "If you're waiting to get in, go up - you're missing the main event of the day.
Gareth Thomas is up there talking.", which, as you can imagine, wiped those 'we've just talked to David Jackson' grins right off of our smug faces. We dashed upstairs, passing Jan Chappell, Peter Tuddenham and a familiar-looking gentleman with an Elvis Presley hairstyle, and went into the Upper Hall. And there he was. A bit greyer and more grizzled than I expected, but definitely Gareth Thomas.
At this point I must confess, with all due respect to Paul Darrow and what he did for B7, that I've always considered Gareth's abilities as an actor superior to most of the rest of the cast, and upon viewing tapes of the early episodes I now find Blake every bit as complex and compelling 3 character as I once considered Avon. So Gareth's appearance really made the convention for me, particularly as he was by turns the most amusing, mast serious and most committed guest of the entire weekend. He talked for about half an hour after Nikki and I arrived, from which we were able to gather that Paul and Janet had been on stage earlier, only to be interrupted by a shout and the appearance of Gareth. After a vary interesting question-and-answer session, Gareth was, in his turn, interrupted by an extremely apologetic Joe Sown and then by the reappearance of Paul and Janet, both brandishing guns. Sheelagh Wells had been on stage with Gareth throughout his session, and she had been talking about the thing that she had missed most in the later seasons of B7. ("Me!" said Gareth immediately.) She described the special feeling that existed between Paul and Gareth - something that everyone who got to that hall on time had seen at the beginning of the day, and something that we were all able to see as the stage was prepared for Sunday's half of the auction. Certainly Sheelagh hadn't been exaggerating about "what happens when these 2 idiots get together" - when they tired of taking verbal potshots at each other the terrible twosome turned on the absent (due to illness) Michael Keating, trying to make everyone present believe that he was of such an age as to make him even older than the "Star Trek" crew!
The auction began with Paul and Gareth taking a more or less equal part, assisted by Janet. Items were sold fairly slowly, due to the constant joking and many little anecdotes. The Dealer's Room mas less crowded than the day before, possibly due to the fact that David and Jan, and later Gareth, were all wandering around the hotel. Gareth was the centre of attention, not unexpectedly) Jan, in fact, managed to walk out into the hotel grounds quite alone, and wandered for some time before coming back, still unaccompanied. It seemed a strange thing to see, but I expect she quite enjoyed the sense of freedom and privacy. David had sat in on Gareth's session almost unnoticed until Gareth had caught sight of him, but he remained in the audience even then. He spent the rest of the day talking to people, often for a great length of time. His wife and son were also present, and I was reminded that his wife had been a fan before she met him, as I caught sight of her reading Horizon 12. Sadly, David didn't participate in any of the remaining panels; indeed, my main regret of the weekend was that Gareth, Paul, Jan, David and Peter were never all on stage together.
[snipped]] The interest that Paul and Janet take in the fans was vividly illustrated later on, as several portraits mere auctioned. Both of the Darrows were able to recognise the artists immediately (as was Gareth on some occasions) and they were unstinting in their praise and appreciation of the work. And Paul had the last laugh, price-wise. He put up a pair of his dark glasses, as worn in "Are You Lonesome Tonight", and due to a battle royal between two dedicated Elvis fans, these eventually went for the staggering sum of £225! As Paul moved on to the next item he said: "Take care of these glasses - they're worth more than I thought!" "And my mug only went for £21... ?"
Finally the auction was over, and the next major event was the question-and-answer session with Paul and Janet. Paul was, of course, immensely entertaining, and not having seen or heard Janet in action (50 to speak) before, I was enormously impressed by her. And never more so than when she said: "People as me how I cope with the fans. My answer is that I don't think of them as fans, but as friends."
Gareth's more serious side was in evidence now. I joined the autograph queue to get his signature for Zoe's friend Helen and came close to him as he was expressing his feelings about the fan reaction. It scared him very much, he said, but he accepted it and he mas also very grateful because he needed the fans. Coming to the convention was his way of saying thank you.
The mood was more jovial as things moved onto the Closing Ceremony and the prize-giving. By now, Gars was clearly (if he'll forgive me) less than 100? sober, and although this in no way impaired his fact it did seem to bring his emotions closer to the surface. Paul did the honours at the Closing Ceremony, introducing the guests one by one, although Primi and Sally had gone by this time, too. Gareth came onto the stage and went off again, none too steadily. Everyone who deserved a hand - the guests, t Committee, the stewards, etc. - was given one, and it seemed the whole thing was almost over. But Gareth had one more card to play."What I'm going to do now," he said very deliberately, "what I'm going to do now... " and he proceeded to remove his tobacco, his wallet and his pipe from his blazer. He then set about auctioning the garment for The Great Ormond Street Hospital (his chosen charity for the 10th Anniversary Appeal). He went on ] pushing, persuading & urging until he reached his target of £100, paid by the same lady who had purchased the Elvis glasses. She was very rightly given a very big hand, as was Gareth. He stressed again how much he needed the fans, and how he had come to say thank you, and how sometimes he had to be a human being "not just Blake". Of course, he was under the influence, but the sentiments came from his heart, and he would do himself a disservice if he felt the least bit ashamed of anything he did that day. Even if sitting down to have his hair cut for charity in the blooper room afterwards was pushing his luck a bit! There was a final showing of the blooper tape, and Gareth allowed Sheelagh to snip a few locks from the back of his head, with the comment that Paul should be next. [snipped] 
SPACE CITY 98 - Space City 88 was of course the 'swan song1 from this committee, who have decided to retire from con running after this, their 3rd successful convention. In their post-con booklet, they expressed a hope that some other group will take up the mantle of running a B? UK Con. Also in the booklet are also details of merchandise available, proceeds from which will go to the POSA, which -include 3 video tapes of the event, and also audio tapes, T-shirts and Federation Credit Cards. Ad appears in Orac's Oddments. Having been in contact quite regularly with Ann Bown (who runs the AVON Club and was also on the Space City Committee) I know how hard they all worked to organise their first 2 day B7 Convention - intended to celebrate B7's 10th Anniversary. All things considered, I think they did a bloody good job - and my personal thanks for all their hard work, and an enjoyable con. They did have some problems, though, particularly with the hotel, when they originally booked the Anugraha, it was a very nice - and reasonably priced - 3 star hotel. Unfortunately, as the con date loomed nearer, the hotel upgraded itself into a rather expensive 4 star hotel and the committee had great problems keeping the room prices down to the £35 per room originally agreed, but were unable to do much about the cost of the food - VERY unfortunate, as prices were exorbitant. The main restaurant didn't do a la carte, you had to pay a massive £19 for a full 4 course meal, which no-one attending a con really wants. The expected cheapo rolls/snacks/drinks which one expects to be available from mid-morning until early evening didn't materialise, and only a few very small and VERY expensive rolls and drinks were available, and because of its location, one couldn't pop across the road for a snack. Experienced con goers bring in 'survival food hampers'! (I had raucho chocolate, S 12 mini cartons of apple juice!!)
As far as I was concerned, I enjoyed the convention very much. However, some helpful hints for anyone planning the NEXT B7 convention would include: a) Detailed Progress Reports - eg. comprehensive guide to travel routes (trains, etc.) and detailing exactly what food will be available, b) flaking sure of a plentiful supply of cheap food. c) Opening registrations for a while the night before - many people arrived on Friday afternoon/evening and would have liked to know then what the schedule of events was for the weekend. Also, having your badge on helps you find other B7 friends to talk to, rather than just wondering whether that lady over there really IS one of the con attendees, or whether they are there for one of the 5 other events going on at the same hotel, d) A large noticeboard in the foyer, detailing what is going on, any time changes, and leaving a space for announcements from other attendees. HORIZON organised a fairly last-minute room party on the Friday night, and put up a notice on the hotel noticeboard, but later on someone removed it so many people didn't know anything about it at all, which was a shame, e) Better facilities for dealers - being able to set up the night before is VERY helpful, or if not possible, at least having some time to sort things out before hoards of people converge on a partially opened table - complete chaos! Also, having the Dealers 'Room' in an open both ends corridor is a BAD idea, particularly if you don't have Stewards on guard duty. It means dealers can never leave their posts, day or night, without carting everything away with them. This was the first con I've been to where you couldn't lock the Dealers Room - even at night!! f) Organise timings and information during the con - Stewards wearing a Town Crier's hat would be helpful, they could go marching round to anywhere con attendees might reasonably be expected to be (Dealers Room, Video Room, Bar, Snack place) saying, for example, "So-and-so are just starting their panel nour in the xxxx Room" or whatever. Not knowing what is going on and where is VERY irritating. And people 'performing' did not know what the hell was going on, or where, or when either (eg. Fancy Dress contestants - no proper rehearsal, etc.)People may say it's easy enough to criticise, why doesn't SHE run a con... well, having been cm the committees of 2 cons in the past (early 1980's) and attended many more, I figured I knew a fair bit about the subject. Having attended 2 of the big American cons, and seen a little of the background work going into the forthcoming Gambit Convention... I now know how LITTLE I actually know. In my opinion, anyone planning to run the NEXT series of B7 conventions in the UK could do worse than save their pennies and take a trip to a big US convention, You'll be surprised! And that doesn't mean I think the Americans can 'do it better than us' but there are useful tips to be gleaned from them (and indeed, pitfalls to avoid*.. but I won't go into THAT here!) I reckon we can do it just as well, although possibly not quite so luxuriously - their cheap hotels are much nicer than our cheap hotels... we just need to plan VERY carefully, and have plenty of people to help. A committee of only a handful of people doing EVERYTHING is bound to miss things, particularly if they haven't been to OTHER conventions to see what goes on. 
Space City 1989
1989: Con Reports
Delighted to see David J. on the Hon. Members' List. He was the high spot of my Space City III as I had to miss the Sunday. The Saturday was, in my estimation, a pale shadow of what it should have been. Ann Bown was kind enough to send me a long letter of explanation about their problems and I remarked that they should have engaged a lawyer when things went wrong, and also have explained to us all at the time why we were barred from what had seemed to be Con areas, why we were forced to mingle with hordes of strangers when the hotel triple-booked, why we were driven out of the Con area altogether during lunch and left nowhere to sit and eat our horrible WHITE bread rolls, and why there was nowhere to meet with the Hon. Guests except a scuffy corridor...when you could find them at all...etc. To their credit, the Hon. Guests tried very hard to mix: there was just nowhere much to go. Triple booking caused the main problem, but I am sure some rearrange men is could have been made with respect to that vast amount of wasted space - the Committee room.I could go on, but it's pointless after the event! I admit that I was very disappointed by the Con on Saturday. My disappointment turned to anger when I read the official Con book later and saw that Sunday guests had been given garden walks, autograph sessions, events thick and fast and, the final insult to us beleaguered Saturday attendees, free drinks. Unfortunately, the booklet was so worded that it suggested this had been arranged by the Committee especially for Sunday attendees - Saturday attendees weren't to be so favoured. Ann explained to me that it was the result of savage negotiations with the hotel after the chaos the hotel had caused the Con on the Saturday. I know that explanations don't always help, but I think that on this occasion the Committee should have given a full explanation in the Con booklet. My final assessment is, frankly, that it was a one-day Con. Most of my time on the Saturday was spent waiting about, missing events as I didn't know where or when they were and they were ALWAYS very late, trips to the town for edible food, or anxiously wondering where my youngest son was since there was no arrangement whatsoever to separate the Con from other guests, passers-by... for all I knew, child molesters. The various children simply wandered the impersonal corridors. The garden - the lovely weather - all within sight, but out of reach, as the most likely exit was hogged by some wedding party which was booked long after the Con. The last straw was when the filksinging was announced and then most of the remaining delegates promptly disappeared into the dining room. I felt this was most insulting to the singers, especially as there had been long periods earlier with no events at all. Even we had to miss them - we had to go home. The singers tried to be magnanimous -but I imagine they were very upset. I expect your comments will upset the Committee- Ann remarked that they'd never promised an American-style Con, merely a venue. I suspect that SC2 was a success by accident as much as design - everything simply went well. I certainly hope someone will organise another SC. I shall be sorry to have to remember this one as my last. 
I went from 6:30a.m to 10p.m. with virtually nothing to eat at all, so I naturally felt a bit miffed with the Anugraha for not providing some cheap food. The only other complaint I had was the lack of facilities for fans to sit down and have a chat, which resulted in lots of sitting in corridors waiting for something to happen. Perhaps the organisers of Space City 1990 can organise something better in this respect at their convention. Something else I noticed at Space City, and from reading reports of other cons, is that they seem very "star orientated." The major actors seem to be invited, but the behind the scenes people, such as writers, directors, effects chaps, special sound men, hardly seem to appear. At "Doctor Who" conventions, writers, directors, and producers are always in attendance. I'm sure some fans would be interested in what they have to say. 
Space City 1990
Space City 1990 was held April 28-?, 1990 in Chester, UK. Guests included Paul Darrow, Michael Keating, and Jan Chappell.
Space City 1991
Space City 1992
- The password is publicly available here.
- Avob Fan Club Merchandise Page WayBack link from 2004.
- by Diane Gies in Horizon Newsletter #17
- Avob Fan Club Merchandise Page WayBack link from 2004.
- Horizon Newsletter #21, con report by Tim Pieraccini
- con report in Horizon Newsletter #21
- comments in an LoC in "Horizon Newsletter" #22
- comments in an LoC in "Horizon Newsletter" #22