Lions and… lions and lions, oh my!
Libby’s – deeply sanitised – account of what BiCon is like from the other side running it.
BiCon 2008 was my first attempt at running a con. When I signed up, it was to deal with marketing BiCon, to let previous Biconners know what was happening this year, and to attract as many newbies as possible. For over a year I gave my evenings up to BiCon, taking on the additional responsibilities of writing the handbook and filling the welcome packs, planning BiCon’s first Family Day and making sure we had all the registration desk supplies we might need as the weekend crept closer. As at my first BiCon in 2006, I kept a diary, which was duly published in these pages. This year I was a different kind of newbie, so I thought I’d do it again.
For most, BiCon officially started on Friday morning. For Ian’s team, it started on…
My train is at 11.55, so I should be packed. I am packed; there are sixteen different boxes and cases and about a zillion different lists relating to them. I am convinced I have forgotten something. One box, marked ‘desk supplies’ and having a list of its contents on top, has had its lid off five or six times already today, while I recite from memory the list of things in it. ‘Stationery, string, accident book, hand sanitizer, spare sun block… WHERE ARE MY MARKER PENS? Oh, they’re here. Laminating pouches, gaffa tape… SOMEONE’S MOVED MY PARCEL TA…oh, never mind. Phone charger, another phone charger, A3 paper’. Most of the contents have been ‘borrowed’ from the places of work of my housemates. I’m glad that I don’t have to cart these parcels to Leicester myself, if only because I doubt I could manage the journey without ripping them open.
Thursday night, wee small hours
Four hours before I usually do, I get out of bed and hop in the shower. There’s no turning back now. We’re here. We don’t have what could be considered an accurate programme yet, but we’re here and we’ll cope. I think. I hope.
There’s not much time to think about that though, as before long there’s a taxi waiting outside the Travelodge, and we must go. It’s Organiser Hats from here on in. We’re not even through the door of the venue before the first Biconners arrive, and before long we’re overrun with academic and activisty types looking serious and important. Luckily, and unexpectedly, the venue staff have set out the conference centre for us. So I get on with the desperately confusing to me at least matter of signposting.
In an attempt to blend in, I have chosen a particularly academic-looking outfit, but with all the running around I wish I was in something more comfortable. As soon as I’m assigned a key I hang professionalism and change into a comfy skirt and tired old t-shirt. A problem unforeseen means that registration opens later than planned, but by now the bar is buzzing and no one seems to mind. Feeling guilty that, registration not being my particular area of expertise, I can’t actually help with the desk hiccup, when Natalya passes me her purple sash I’m happy to be ‘on duty’. After a long, long day, I return to my flat shortly before 1am. There is a shopping trolley in our shared kitchen. When, later, my temporary housemates return from the bar I witness a haircut. Lacking as we are the more traditional tools for the job, an electric bikini line trimmer and flame-proof spatula are substituted. My flatmates have degenerated on their first night in halls, possessed buy the students who so recently filled them.
There are no sandwiches at the bar. My enquiry as to why is met with a strange response.
‘Yes, sorry about that, it’s Terry Wogan’. This is not what I was expecting to hear, but it’s true. Sir Terry himself was on site, and the conference that we’re sharing the facilities with Terry’s Old Geezers, lovingly referred to as the TOGs. Our sandwiches are being eaten by a selection of Radio 2 personalities; this is not a situation we had planned for.
The hastily put up signs did the trick, and the opening plenary was full at 9.45am, and the first round of workshops go without a hitch, so all in all we’re doing well. Ian has produced unexpected muffins, which somewhat elevates the sandwich problem. Or, more accurately, will have to do until our bar is restocked. Sitting outside on the lawn, I watch people bumble about. I am insanely proud.
Friday afternoon, late
BiCon has been visited by a plague of wasps. I hope the Daily Mail doesn’t get hold of it.
I did my first shift on the registration desk this afternoon. Though it was largely uneventful, the stress fuels a quiet domestic row over a sandwich. I’d love to relax in a hot bubbly bath, but I shall make do with a shower and a quick nap before Ian’s Number One Disco, an event that inspires more fear and curiosity than it does joy.
It’s Saturday – That means that, despite the distinct lack of kids at BiCon, I’m about to run a day completely designed for them.
I’m happy to do this. My personal opinion is that BiCon is primarily a space for adults; we’re here because of a shared sexuality. Children are not, or should not, be sexual animals. But I have committed to doing this, and by golly I’m going to do it. Having slept on a single mattress on the floor with m’girl, I am not at my most agile best, so the fact that I won’t spend my day running around after small people is something of a bonus. I decide to take my craft workshop on to the grass; it’s far too nice to be inside.
The gossip of the day is BiCon’s semi-traditional fire alarm. Stories abound of the evacuated halls of BiCons past, and this year we have our own story to retell. The alarm sounds at length, but only because the venue staff don’t know the code required to silence it.
Saturday night, very late
Under the bunting that I was so inordinately proud of, the lawns were buzzing with people picnicking, painting and playing. My hook-a-duck set, the pool of which was filled by way of multiple trips to the bathrooms (with or without urinals), is providing great entertainment. The sun is out, and so are the mosquitoes and wasps. One of our resident geeks, already revered because he gave us wireless, fashions a series of crude but effective wasp catchers from plastic bottles. The carnage is amazing. Soon it is time to dress for the ball.
I’ve decided, since I’m organiser on duty for the duration of the ball, and the phone-holder overnight, that I’m going to make a treat out of getting dressed. I may not be able to enjoy all of my evening, so I’m damn sure going to enjoy this part. My girlfriend and I sneak back to our rooms for a few hours of face masks, hair tongs and foot massages, and arrive at the ball corseted and be-heeled.
I’m just about to start thinking that I’m safe when I’m alerted to our first incident. BiCon has a code of conduct, and if it is not respected there are consequences. So
it is that I have to time-out and get serious. After ensuring concerned parties are happy, I return to my sadly non- alcoholic beverage. Within moments I am pulled away again.
With this second concern out of the way, I relax. Katy has put an awful lot of effort into arranging the Circus of the Bizarre Ball, and it shows. The atmosphere is amazing, and continues so way into the early morning.
Now it is 5am, and I must sleep. I’ve just walked past a group of revellers sitting in a large paddling pool filled with 300 miniature stuffed lions. If I wasn’t at BiCon, I’d think I was hallucinating.
I appear to be running on empty. Immediately following the closing plenary I fall over completely. Glad I’m packed and ready to go, I sit. It seems I am unable to do anything else. There’s a kaleidoscope of activity going on around me as people tidy up, share leftovers and make their occasionally tearful goodbyes. I am glued to my chair. Spent. Thankfully, the ever helpful Mr Matthewman has offered to drive me back to London. I am so grateful that I don’t have to take the train that I chatter incessantly and without much sense all the way back.
Sunday Night/Monday Morning
I am a bad, bad person. At Watford Gap services, we meet other Biconners wending their way home. I should stop. I should chat. Instead I up my speed and, eyes fixed forwards, move swiftly and smoothly away. I don’t want to talk about BiCon. I want to eat deep-fried food and go home and preferably never see another bisexual as long as I live.
Organising a group of bisexuals is rather like trying to dig a hole with a feather: seemingly impossible, but enormously satisfying when you manage it. Which we have. Unlike most of the team, who are old pros, I am somewhat surprised.
‘So,’ my housemate says to me over dinner, ‘Are you still thinking about running 2012?’
There is a seconds’ wait before the reply. ‘Yes,’ I say, ‘Yes I am’.
* This year’s BiCon had a lion pit and
everyone went home with a free cuddly lion.
It made sense if you were there…