Convention Review


the 17th Annual British Filk Convention, Southsea, 4th - 6th February, 2005.
Filk is in effect SF music, as often as not SF folk music. Pete Tyers
reports on the event.


Dixseption was the usual small, cosy affair that one expects of the annual British Filk Con, and the venue this year was the pleasant "Queens Hotel", close to the sea-front at Southsea.

As usual, music was the centre of the weekend; the main programme was well attended, and the standard was often high. The guests were Andy and Martin Gordon-Kerr (UK) and Terence Chua (USA), and as well as the "locals" the membership included the usual bunches of filkers from Germany and the US - the con has become more and more international as the years have gone on!

Terence performed a couple of excellent sets, one of his own compositions, the other being of his favourites (starting with a gentle, acoustic version Dire Strait's "Romeo and Juliet"!). His Saturday night set was a little delayed as it followed on from the dinner break, which proved to have been not quite long enough, and his sound set-up extended into a mini pre-concert to the amusement of the growing audience.

I missed Andy and Martin's spot due to being "stuck" in the bar, though I enjoyed their workshop on making your own music videos. The "N'early Music Consort" entertained us with a musical about making a musical - an idea which worked very well! Sadly, the set by "Divine Strumpet" was cancelled because of illness, though the two remaining members Mich Sampson and Marilisa Valtazanou proved that they could do a pretty damn good job on their own.

As usual, thanks have to be given to our international members, many of whom have become honorary Brits so that we can still say it is OUR convention, who not only brought themselves but also lugged instruments across the continent or the Atlantic. In particular, I noticed that Bill and Brenda Sutton, our US guests back in '91, still keep coming back; in fact, they're even going to run it for us next year!

The Dealers Room was small, with Roger Robinson (aka BECCON publications) selling filk and other books, and Kathy and Leo Sands selling filk CDs and interesting clothing.

The hotel itself had its highs and lows. It had a comfy feel and was quite compact, but was going through a drawn-out process of renovation so the bedrooms varied from "really quite good" to "please, please can I have another one". The staff were generally very pleasant and helpful, though often not very knowledgeable (hardly their fault as many of them were youngsters from other countries and struggling to master our language).

Breakfast was until 9:30 and they meant it - at 9:31 they started to clear the decks, and minutes later they were trying to empty us from the room! This, and the general failure of the maître d' to comprehend (as is so often the case) that we are quite capable of seating ourselves with our friends, was one of the hotel's greatest weakness. They also did not seem to understand about keeping the bar open into the small hours, as is customary for hotel guests - especially at block-booked weekend events! The barman who (very politely) turfed us out on the Friday night was clearly amazed when Bill lead the assembled throng singing to the lounge - to the well-known chorus variant of "take your arses from the bar"!

Eating out proved very easy as there were a number of good and well-priced (and quick!) restaurants only a few minutes walk down the street outside. It was also only a few minutes walk to the sea-front and, although a dull and windy weekend, a breath of fresh, sea air was most reviving. Watching the Isle of Wight hovercraft "docking" provided an interesting diversion, and we could have followed the walk to HMS Victory but instead decided that a pint of Gale's HSB and a baked spud in a nearby pub seemed a warmer alternative.

All-in-all, a most pleasant weekend - and a shame that I have to wait a year until the next one!

Pete Tyers

Next year's (2005) filk convention will be: "1812Tone: the Revenge" and the guests are Mich Sampson (UK) and Sam Baardman (overseas). (The name of the con is a reference to the last open conflict between the US and the UK.)

It will run from the 3-5th February 2006 at the Grantham Marriott Hotel (Grantham, Lincolnshire). Details and memberships can be obtained from: 1812 Tone, c/o 34 Star Road, Isleworth, Middlesex, TW7 4HB. Cheques made out to "1812Tone". You can probably get more info by Googling "1812Tone".

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