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It’s the Monday after BristolCon, and my brain has just about recovered enough to string a few lines together about it, so I thought I’d blog about the weekend from the point of view of an organiser-monkey, which may be slightly different to that of a regular con-goer. So allow me to lift the velvet rope and allow you a sneak peek behind the scenes…

Luckily this year there was no repeat of what was dubbed Vangate, a period last year that still has members of the committee waking up in a cold sweat. Instead of relying on outside sources, one of the committee happens to have access to a good-sized covered trailer, so getting stuff in was much less of a logistical nightmare this year. Or would have been, if the entire centre of Bristol hadn’t ground to a halt on Friday afternoon due to a combination of accidents on the M4 and Bristol’s notorious roadworks which stranded some early guests (and some members of the committee) for up to three hours… Luckily the hotel let us start setting up early, so by the time some of the committee emerged gibbering and dehydrated from the traffic, we were pretty much up and running.

Changes this year included moving the art room into the larger space of the Small Bar and adding seats and a projector for niche programming, which included a display of short films from Cineme, workshops on drawing dragons and writing in Gallifreyan, and a talk from Sarah Ash on Living Dolls in anime. It was a great success and we’re looking to continue niche programming in the art room next year.

Also new this year was Lego and crochet in our newly-established Brick-Out room, which went down very well. Emma Newman ended up with a metric fucktonne of blanket squares which will be sewn together for charity – in this case for the refugees in Calais, but she has said she will continue the activity at future cons because charities always need blankets. So watch out for her friendly yarn circle at your next con!

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Emma Newman and blanket photographed by Misa Buckley

We had the Open Mic again on the Friday Night this year, now moved to Panel 2 – Cheryl Morgan read something that was too filthy even for the BristolCon Fringe, but that proved to be very popular, and we also ran a short workshop on reading in public. I was on just the one panel this year, “Censorship in the Global Village”, with Dev Agarwal, Tony Cooper, Juliet McKenna and excellently moderated by Ian Millsted. We talked about Clean Reader, self-censorship on social media, and touched lightly on what Juliet’s local MP might or might not have got up to with That Pig…

I suspect Meg put me on that panel at that time so I’d have something to distracted me from the immanent launch of Spark and Carousel, which was happening at lunchtime in Panel One. Luckily my friends came and got me and held me and stopped me having a minor panic attack outside the room before they finally let me in to a reception that was somewhere between being a WWE wrestler and a member of Bon Jovi. There were LIGHTS and MUSIC and SCENERY and fucking CHEERING and it was AMAZEBALLS – thank you John for putting in so much effort; as I said when I finally found my voice, I have never felt so much like a rock star, and I probably never will again! And whenever I’m sitting in a chilly bookshop not selling many books, I will absolutely treasure that memory….

And there was a QUEUE. Luckily I couldn’t see how far the queue went back because of the stage lights, because if I had I might have freaked out all over again, but it was a long enough queue that I was still signing as they were taking the scenery down around me and trying to set up the next panel. We ended up selling fifty-eight copies of Spark and Carousel throughout the day, which is awesome. Makes for a happy Sammy!

Signing at BristolCon with Grimmies Kate Coe and Sammy HK Smith - pic by Sophie E Tallis

Signing at BristolCon with Grimmies Kate Coe and Sammy HK Smith

Other highlights – hanging out by the Grimbold stand in the dealer room and chatting with fellow Grimmies Steven Poore, Steve Guscott, Kate Coe, Katie Alford, Ellen Croshain, Sammy HK Smith, Katie Alford and Sophie Tallis – team Grimbold were in full effect! Also snuggles off Mhairi Simpson and Lor Graham, S J Higbee inadvertantly bigging me up to my own mum, the cake that stood five layers deep in the committee room, the look on Ian Whates’ face when we ambushed him with cake and happy birthdays at the start of his guest of honour interview with Jaine Fenn, Chris shamelessly fangirling Chris Moore, who was lovely… It just goes on and on. BristolCon is just like a party with 300 of your closest mates and a lot of cake, with a convention going on on the side.

It was a brilliant day, culminating in a closing ceremony where our three lovely guests of Honour, Chris Moore, Jaine Fenn and Jasper Fforde all signed our lovely new banner and instigated a new BristolCon tradition. Thanks to them, and to everyone who came along whether as a minion, a participant or a member – I hope you all had a wonderful day, and that you’ll come back next year. And speaking of next year….

Memberships for next year’s BristolCon, which will take place on October 29th 2016 are open now, and they cost £20 until the end of May. Our Guests of Honour will be Fangorn, Sarah Pinborough and Ken MacLeod. I hope you’ll be there too!

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