Ten years of BiCon

BCN 86 cover

This originally appeared in BCN issue 86, Summer 2007

People go to Bicon and feel accepted. Some then vow to make the rest of their lives more like Bicon. So why, given that I made that resolution 8 years ago and by 3 years ago had totally achieved it, do I still come hundreds of miles to a Bicon?

Partly it’s the size – I can’t fit 300 people and a dancefloor in my house. But I’ve got a variety of other things out of Bicon and bi community events in the last 10 years.

A Decade of Bicons

My first Bicon was 1997 at the University of Greenwich. I’d found out about Bicon via Wombat, a bi women’s mailing list, which I’d discovered from searching the internet for the word ‘bisexual’ – having first turned off images on the uni computer – and reading ‘soc.women.lesbian-and-bi’. I emailed an ex of mine who was the one other bisexual I knew, figured we could afford to go if we stayed at the recommended nearby campsite, and I booked. Just before Bicon, the psychologist I’d been referred to for my severe depression had decided I needed 5-day a week, 2 hour sessions of intense therapy. Or sectioning. After Bicon, I certainly didn’t.

Not knowing when on the Thursday to turn up – booklets not existing back then, I arrived around 11 and found a security bloke who said “there’s some friendly wierd-looking people doing some event returning at 5.00pm?” I went to find my friend and tent, and we returned to discover the hive of frantic activity and name-badge creation gthat is a Bicon reception desk. A ‘First Timers meet’ was just starting. An hour later, we were beginning to recover from the shock of meeting other bisexuals and we all happily joined the rest of Bicon in a local pub. We caught the last train to Abbey Wood and started to search for the campsite – the directions assumed you were driving. A nice policeman helped us out, we pitched the tent next to the site office where there was light, and, armed with an excellent Chinese takeaway, I lay down feeling the most relaxed I ever have in my entire life.

The next day we shifted the tent to the main site and paid for the next 2 nights. I then went to a workshop in every slot. A couple lovely people lent me money for food when the bank denied me any. Having brought nothing but a change of T-shirt and underwear, other fab people lent me a feather boa, and bought me lots of drinks. This last might have been a mistake as I had to run out of two workshops on the Sunday to throw up…

Tom Robinson played, having been booed off stage at Pride earlier that year for starting a relationship with a woman. “I’m at home here,” he said, “thank you for having me.” I felt exactly the same.

The final morning was mixed with people discussung the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Having retrieved the tent – and to the bemusement of the camp site staff it transpired neither of us had slept in it for either of the nights we’d paid for – I joined a rabble of bisexuals in the pub for a long afternoon of laying bets on which dignitary would appear on the silenced news coverage next. Many people criticised this Bicon for the bar being non-smoking (ahead of its time!) and not being open much or serving food. However, the pub when asked if bisexuals would be welcome simply pointed at its policy on the wall which said “No violence. No bad language.  Mine’s a pint.” By the Sunday they let it be known they were getting extra staff in to serve food on the Monday.

Even the stereotypical Locals With Dogs were happy to see some well-behaved if odd-haired custom boosting their local. Having gained a £10 refund from the nascent access fund, I could even buy a round.

I then went from this emotional experience of acceptance back to the real world, swamped in decaying flowers and tabloid hysteria. It was a shocking contrast.

I immediately started saving up for Bicon 1998, and started attending the London Bi Women Group – which met only 100 yards from where I’d worked for the last year. I went to Pride for the first time. The police were grumpy and placards were mostly calling for abolition of Section 28.

Cambridge, 1998. I brought my partner to Bicon, and shared a double room. We ran a workshop, except I didn’t as I ended up accompanying someone to A&E. I went to more activist workshops and ended up on the BCN committee. Admitting to basic HTML skills made me the new webmaster. (6 months later I’d mastered what I needed to know, which was a heck of a lot more! Nick Smith, you’re now forgiven.) During that year my partner and I started exploring polyamory again, and I stopped going to the LBWG mainly because of the sneakily-introduced nonsensical policy on transsexual women. I visited the mixed London Bi Group instead and made some good friends. The first Bifest happened, which captured the atmosphere of Bicon in a handy local one-day format. Gave out leaflets at Pride again and got almost no abuse, just rolled eyes.

Edinburgh, 1999. At first I was disappointed to have travelled so far (a 7 1/2 hour train ride) and found I already knew most of the people there, but the fantastic organisation soon disspelled that. I attended a mental health workshop which helped me immensely, silly games workshops, and on the last night climbed Arthur’s Seat, acquiring excellent photos of bis on top of the world.

Manchester, 2000. Another fantastically-organised Bicon, with Mardi Gras in the middle. Bouncy castle. Now considered to be what all Bicons should aim for, which may not be feasible. I think I only went to silly games workshops, spending the rest of my time around the bar. Repeated my resolution from 1999 to make the rest of my life like Bicon. As the LBG dwindled I ended up on a committee making a last attempt to maintain the social side. We failed – bi social space was shifting to internet organisations, but the support group used by a dozen men continued for a few more years.

Coventry 2001. The one that showed that split sites are are particularly bad idea if social space and flats are separated by a red light district. I met and made many friends. Coming at a stressful time of my life, it was good to have the ease and friendliness of a Bicon to visit, and a change to dress up. Pride was more friendly than ridicule this year, too. Joined this newfangled Livejournal thing when previous online social organiser sites used by my friends demanded too much cash.

Leicester 2002. Unlike most years, this one came up on me suddenly. I’d survived a commitment ceremony, escaped a nightmare job into a good but overworked one, and was dealing with only being able to walk 100 yards or so. So I flung a change of clothes into a bag and determined to chill. Mostly peaceful, although I discovered a talent for bisexual-herding, despite never having herded cats.

Docklands, 2003. Run by a group of my friends, I sat on the front desk but was then violently ill for most of the rest of it. Obviously I then had to go to:

Manchester, 2004. It got the bar right. It was great, but hammered home to me that I didn’t really need Bicon any more.

Worcester, 2005. I’d never been to Worcester, and I wasn’t doing anything else that weekend. However, while I’d always been in favour of attracting more and more people to Bicons, this one charmed me by being intimate, on the edge of a pretty town where pizza delivery was a novelty. Like many attendees, I decided it was “a lovely little Bicon” and pre-registered for 2006.

Glasgow 2006. Went to Pride for the first time in a few years, which was happy and fluffy, laughing at a few homophobic Christians doing a demo, and when England was  knocked out of the World Cup and some angry fans decided to try to take it out on all the queers over the road in Trafalgar Square, the police were clearly on our side.

A new team created a sterling Bicon. Again, I had fun, went to and helped run a few workshops, but had the feeling I’d done it all before. Except the random-sexed ceilidh, admittedly. So I was really planning to have a break next year. And then got into a discussion about potential novel workshops.  And decided there was one I want to run. So I’ll be there.  On the train home, more people suggested more potential different sessions that haven’t been done in the last few years, and now I’m enthusiastic about the idea.  So, see you in Cardiff.

I no longer feel I need to come to Bicon. But I want to. And I want to help provide the environment that was so vital for me a decade ago.