Telly Con

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Name: Telly Con
Dates: Saturday, July 3, 1988
Frequency: once?
Location: Grand Hotel, Birmingham, England
Type: media con, celebrity guests
Founding Date:
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Telly Con was a 1988 one-day media con held in England.

Some of the guests were Victor Pemberton, Ruth Boswell, Spencer Banks, Cheryl Burfield (all connected with the show Timeslip), Steven Moore (Marvin the Paranoid Android from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), Dean Lawrence, Philip Gilbert (both from The Tomorrow People), Derek Maddings and Sylvia Anderson, Judy Loe (Loe was from Ace of Wands), and Brian Croucher (Blake's 7).

Con Report

This was a one-day con that was strictly for the early birds and fans with stamina! Registration opened at 8.30 am. It promised to be an interesting con with many guests expected. The opening ceremony started amid clicks and groans from the PA system and was late starting (unusual for a con!). There were several rooms in which the con took place; the main hall housed the guest speakers and would later on host the auction. There was also a video room and a dealer's room.

In the main hall we saw an episode of "Timeslip" (episode 4: 'The Burn-up') which, despite its age, stood up well, and was well received; this was a prelude to the first guest panel which started with Victor Pemberton (writer), Ruth Boswell (producer) and Spencer Banks and Cheryl Burfield (the stars of "Timeslip"). All the panel had fond memories of working on "Timeslip". Spencer Banks was especially irrepressible and kept the audience amused with various anecdotes which happened on set. Alas, the PA system gremlins were at work on this panel and much of what Ruth Boswell had to say on the art of producing was lost on many of us. What I did hear, however, was interesting, as she spoke of how she had to cope being a woman producer; she and Victor Pemberton told of various censorship problems that they came up against when trying to get episodes like 'The Burn-up' shown (same scenes were thought to be too frightening for younger children). When the panel finished they gave an extensive signing and photograph session and were very friendly.

The next guest was the actor Steven Moore, best known to fiction fans as Marvin the paranoid android from "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy". Steven explained that this was his first con, and he certainly looked a bit nervous, faced with so many "Hitchhiker" fans. I don't think he really knew what to expect; the audience gave him a warm welcome and he soon had them laughing and clapping with his on-the-spot impression of Marvin (complete with dustbin over head to get the acoustics right!). He then told us what work he was doing at present (he is with the National Theatre). He said he still got mail from fans about the series. I spoke to him after the interview and said I hoped he would come to another con. He said he was pleased to be at the con but remarked, "I'm still shaking from this one!"; although I think he mas pleased by the audience's reaction.

Another guest panel (which I did not attend) featured Dean Laurence (Tyso) and Philip Gilbert (the voice of the computer TIM) from "The Tomorrow People". During the lunch break an episode of "The Avengers" was shown in the main hall. Elsewhere, the dealer's room was doing brisk business, no doubt helped by the fact that there were two screens set up there, showing what was going on in the main hall and what was playing in the video room, so fans and dealers could know when panels were starting, etc. (Ed. - what a brilliant idea, wish they'd done that at Space City... )

After the lunch break, special effects man Derek Claddings, and Sylvia Anderson were the next guests and they got a great round of applause. Then then followed a witty session which had the pair swapping on-the-set tales of disasters and jokes; plus several mentions of actors' and actresses' unsuitability far parts (which I won't repeat here for fear of libel!) - an extremely popular panel. The con was running late and the next guest due was Judy Loe, from "Ace of Wands".

Just to keep us on our toes, Brian Croucher arrived right on time, in a shirt that had to be seen to be believed! He charged up the aisle of the main hall, with an air of 'getting down to business', and roaring out "'ELLO!" in stentorian tones all around the hall. This had the effect of convulsing most of the audience into laughter and pandemonium reigned for several minutes. Brian was by turns outrageous, funny and serious. He took in such wide-ranging issues as violence on TV, politics and unemployment, and "Blake's 7"! One tale he recounted about B7 was when he was bandaged for 'Voice from the Past'. He fell asleep during takes and when he awoke he found the crew had put a "Jim'll Fix It" badge on him! Brian's session over-ran, but nobody seemed to mind. The hard-worked steward ran up and down the aisle, passing the mike to all parts of the audience so they could ask their questions. Afterwards a huge line snaked out of the doorway for him to sign various bits of B7 memorabilia. He duly did this, showing great patience and keeping up a constant stream of conversation with all the fans. Certainly one of the most popular guests that day.

After that there was an interview with Linda Thorson (on video) that was recorded at Chichester. Then Judy Loe was interviewed. (By this tune I'm afraid this reviewer had had to get a breath of fresh air; something the Grand was rather short of, but that was the only real grouse about this splendid hotel.) Afterwards the auction followed; with the money going to Children in Need, many people were extremely generous, with some photographs going for twenty to thirty pounds each, one even reaching fifty pounds (an "Ace of Wands" signed photograph). There were on offer many items including books and artwork. When the auction finished, many people who had not booked to stay overnight (convention rate £18 per night) started to leave. The rest of us, buoyed up with coffee (well now, maybe something stronger as well!) stayed in the main hall to watch several episodes of "Doctor Who" and "Doomwatch."

The day was rounded off by the showing of a play in the "Mystery and Imagination" series; this was a wonderful version of "Dracula" (Denholm Elliot as the Count) and ended the con with a real gothic flavour. At the end, the few hardy souls who had stayed on agreed with the now somewhat wilting committee that next year's con should be a two—day event. So at about two o'clock in the morning we made our farewells.

Over-all the con was very good; lots of guests and many video presentations to please most interests. The minus points were the PA system which at times was more off than on; and the lack of air-conditioning which sometimes made the hotel like the set of 'The Burn-up'. But these things aside, I and everybody I spoke to really enjoyed the con. So thanks are extended to the over-worked committee, and everybody who worked on, and set up, the con. This, of course, is a personal review, but I hope the fact that I enjoyed the event comes through, because I did, and look forward to the next one. [1]


  1. from Horizon Newsletter #21 (December 1988)