a Blake's 7 and Babylon 5 convention, Hinckley, UK, 25th - 27th February, 2005.
Pete Tyers provides a personal report.
The increasing storm of snowflakes swirling round my car enlivened my journey along the A14 and M1 towards Hinckley and the (recently renamed) Hinckley Island Hotel (nee Hanover International). Fortunately the roads remained clear and I arrived safely for this year's Redemption.
My first impression was of the number of Centauri ambassadors wandering the corridors, some of them even waving glasses of drink in theatrically expansive gestures. This was going to be an interesting weekend! As I stood beneath the statue Neptune, overlooking the Reception desk, one of them asked had I remembered the Eastercon when someone had fabricated a very large slice of toast and impaled it on his trident?
Although the hotel is well known to many (it seems that nearly every other con is held there), this was my first visit. My bedroom was OK, though overheated to near-Sahara levels - why, oh why, do hotels do that? (Perhaps we should negotiate cheaper rates for cooler rooms; I mean, think how much the hotel would save on its energy bill. And what about the Kyoto Accord?)
All in all, it seemed about the right size for the event, though with twice as many attending an Eastercon I would think it overcrowded. The main hall was a good size but it suffered from its lighting regime; whilst it was good to see the participants up on a well-lit stage, the auditorium was lit not by the overhead chandeliers but by flood lights affixed to the lighting bar over the stage - which forced me to either sit with my eyes firmly closed or to retreat from the hall before a migraine struck. There was a second large (and, thankfully, normally lit) room for alternate items, and a number of smaller rooms for "committee"-sized discussions (though the doors always self-locked themselves - once closed, late-comers could not get in unless someone had the wit to appoint themself as "door monitor" - the hotel scores negative points for not having sorted out that quirk years ago!).
The Guests of Honour were Jason Carter (who played Marcus Cole in Babylon V), Mat Irvine (one-time special effects guru for the BBC), and the writer/musician Jim Mortimore. Jason's GOH speech was more of a question-and-answer session with which he entertained the audience (with the emphasis firmly on the entertained). Mat lead a discussion on CGI v. models and later gave a slide show of his days working on Blake's 7 and the like (though this suffered badly from a dim projector - not even Deep Space is as dark as some of those photos).
The programme was stuffed almost to overflowing with a range of interesting items and Dave Lally ran a comprehensive stream in the Video Room; in fact, looking back through the programme, I've realised just how much I missed because I was enjoying something else at the time. The Dealers Room was well stocked, and Mat had brought along a range of models (including 3 sizes of the Liberator) that we could "ooh" and "ahh" at - and was happy to spend many hours discussing them with anyone and everyone.
The Fancy Dress, though fairly short, was of a good quality, and much inspired by B5 and B7. Amongst the prize winners was a Seven of Nine, and deservedly so (having earlier seen her walking along a corridor, I had almost thought we had the real thing!). The cabaret, performed from within the membership and compared by an ebullient Chris O'Shea, varied from "a brave effort" to really very good; in particular, the solo belly dancer was an absolute joy, and the "Charles and Fiona" sketch brought back fond memories of steam radio (and looking round, many of the audience were silently mouthing the words - "I know you know I know you know ... (pause) ... I know").
My favourite hall costume, seen at various times over the weekend, was Bender. Up close he was a tribute to duct tape, but from even a short distance the costume worked really well. And being a family event, he was accompanied by a costumed daughter and an Incredibles-dressed son (followed everywhere by a "civilian" Mum keeping a firm eye and guiding hand on her troop).
Blake's Junction 7 was a short, affectionate, though unofficial, film based on the characters dropping in to a motorway service station. The cast, who "gave their services", included Mackenzie Crook, Peter Tuddenham, and (as Blake) Johnny Vegas. It was fun (I especially liked Orac sipping beer through a straw) but it needed just a bit more plot.
Eating out (at least by foot) was limited by the hotel's location, however a few minutes stroll took us to Barnacles, the only nearby restaurant, where we enjoyed an excellent (though hardly cheap) meal. Otherwise, I ate at the hotel; the "budget" single-course evening meal being a reasonable help-yourself affair. Breakfast, sadly, was a disappointment; the food was OK but the staff just couldn't cope - I had to chase them for coffee on the Saturday, and on Sunday even chasing them failed to produce either coffee or toast. Goodness knows how they'd manage with the numbers at an Eastercon!
In summary, an interesting and enjoyable weekend, but the hotel has a few problems to sort out.
Redemption 07 will at the same venue, 23rd - 25th February 2007. For further information, send a SAE to Lesley McIntee, 26. Kings Meadow View, Wetherby, LS22 7FX (or redemptioninfo [-AT-] smof [-DOT-] com).
For details of other forthcoming major SF conventions then check out our diary of principal events.
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