The reason it’s taken a week for us to get round to talking about our experiences at UK Meet 2014 is, quite frankly, that it completely exhausted us! There were a lot of preparations to be made in advance, there was a lot of tidying-up to do afterwards, and the weekend itself involved rather more dashing-about and being intelligent than some of us had actually fully bargained for!
As veterans of various media cons in the dim-and-distant, we had a general idea what to expect – although this was considerably up-market from those, and the hotel staff in general seemed far more amenable than we were used to. (For example, we’ve been to cons where all the bedspreads were removed from the rooms – in winter – because they were considered too good for the Star Trek weirdies … ) Plus the food was plentiful, excellent and served with a smile – all reflected in a delegate rate which in the old days would have paid for the entire weekend including transport and costumes. Not that we’re complaining, you understand – merely remarking on how much times have changed!
Our table was set up in the main hall, very close to the front, and we were therefore in an ideal position to listen to whatever was going on. We won’t attempt to summarise any of the discussions – other people have done this, better and more accurately than we could, but we will say that the level of debate was very impressive and all conducted efficiently and in an atmosphere of calm co-operation. The main focus of our day, however, was the group of pitch meetings we took in the early afternoon, settling ourselves in the deserted ‘Palm Court Bar’ for the purpose. It would be unfair to discuss the authors or their pitches in any detail, so we’ll only say that we loved meeting every single one of them – four thoroughly charming people – and we’re actively pursuing several of their book ideas for future publication – watch this space!
Saturday evening was the formal dinner with entertainment; a wonderful drag artiste by the name of Eddie (?) was followed by The Songbirds, an all-female choir, and afterwards some young men in bow-ties and aprons and very little else. The room was packed to the gunwhales, you couldn’t have got another person in there, and it must be admitted that some of us found it all a little bit too loud – with the result that we were pretty well exhausted by the time our lift came to take us back to Megaheadquarters for the night. (Since the event was in our home city of Bristol, three of us had decided to save on the price of the hotel; Julie, however, forked out for a room – and a lovely one it was, too, far above the standard of those cheapo venues alluded to earlier!)
Sunday was another lovely day, bright and fresh, and we returned for a further series of fascinating discussions and some serious networking. The event dispersed in mid-afternoon and we withdrew to Megaheadquarters for what in military parlance would be a PXD – a post-exercise discussion; basically a chance to digest and begin to respond to everything we’d learned over the weekend. (Occasions when we’re all together are few and far between, unfortunately, so we have to grab every opportunity we can get for a bit of forward planning!) We emerged well-pleased with the whole experience and fully determined to attend again next year, and we’ve already started working towards it. You see, you can’t ever stand still in this business – you’re always working towards the next objective, and the objective after that! But we had a lovely time, very productive, and would like to thank all the people who put so much hard work and inspiration into making sure the event ran entirely seamlessly. For those of us who are far more used to the chaotic catastrophes which characterised fan-run conventions in the past, this was a very clear and graphic demonstration of exactly how it should be done!
Oh, and here’s the photographic evidence – pictures kindly supplied by Julie!
Here are Julie and Morgan ‘personing’ our sales table in the main hall; you can see we had a wonderful range of stock, and we sold quite a lot of it too!
And here are Chris, Julie, Morgan and Fiona all gussied-up for the formal dinner; there may or may not be a couple of glasses of champagne behind some of those smiles! (Come to think of it, that’s another thing we didn’t get at any of those old-style media cons!!!)