Interview: Laura Stone, in yr Wales, running yr BiCon

In August 2007, the University of Glamorgan paid host to BiCon 2007, the 25th National Bisexual Conference and Convention. Over 200 people attended the various workshops, meetings, discussions and social events over the four days of the event, which could never have happened without the hard work and commitment of a small team of bisexual activists. The leader of that team was Laura Stone, and she’s kindly agreed to answer a few questions for this month’s BCN.

Why did you choose bi activism?

I didn’t really! It was thrust upon me, especially last year’s BiCon. I was only supposed to be running the entertainment  and I ended up in charge! The people I met at the London Bi Group in 1995 were activists, so I just tagged along with them. They ran the first BiCon I went to, in Kingston in 1996, so it was a very personal event for me. I was hooked from the moment I walked in the door. I was asked to be on the team for 2003 in London, and even though it was very hard work it was worth it.  Last year’s team asked me to join them, and with three months to go to I was suddenly solely in charge. Though I don’t really count myself as an activist – I could never compare the little bit that I do to all the other work that people do for the community.

What, as a community, is bisexuality’s biggest challenge at the moment?

I think one of the biggest problems we face is that we can be seen as a ‘closed’ community. BiCon is one of the very few places where bisexuals can feel comfortable, yet I’ve seen people there turning on each other over semantics. We have different ideas on how we’re going to achieve our goals, but that doesn’t  make any one route less valid than any other. Sometimes people can refuse to accept that the other people’s opinions may differ from their own, and I think that will continue to cause us problems.

The UK Bi Community has some incredibly brave, intelligent, kind, gifted, academic, serious, witty, charming and gorgeous people in it, yet it is always the same people who stand up and speak for ‘us’. They do a great job, but they won’t be doing it forever. Sometimes I wish that other people would get up and do stuff themselves! We need a new generation of activists who should be supported by the ‘old school’, not lambasted for being ‘inexperienced youngsters’.

What’s been its greatest success of the last year?

I was gobsmacked when I heard that BiCon got into the Pink Paper awards! Our constant presence at Pride and Queer events across the country has helped to raise consciousness immensely – we should keep this up! The success of BiFests and regional Bi groups is wonderful too – it’s great that so many people are doing this work. Other than that it’s probably Captain Jack again, isn’t it?

Where do you see the British Bi World being in five years time?

Probably deciding what to wear! I hope that in five years time we’ve become a force to be reckoned with, but these things take time. We need to be constantly reminding people that we are here and we aren’t going anywhere. We have a long way to go, but we are getting there.

What memories come to mind when you think about BiCon 2007?

Not many that I can talk about here! I do remember the last night – watching everyone dancing, getting awards, laughing and hugging. Then most of the team were crying on me and I was crying back – the feeling from that evening got me through the BiCon comedown and panic afterwards. It was truly magical for me, it was a BiCon I will never forget.

What did you value most, while you were running the event?

My friends. Without them, I honestly would not have made it through the weekend. They held me up when I couldn’t reach any further, and they helped me down when I got stuck. Every single person I knew at the event helped out in a million different tiny but important ways  – making sure I ate properly, simply hugging me and telling me it was going well, taking difficult things off my hands – they were simply amazing, it truly was a community run event.

About half of the people who came to BiCon ’07 were first-timers. How much of a difference did that make to you as an organiser?

It made me very happy indeed – BiCon relies on and needs new people! It made me realise that we are making a difference to peoples’ lives, albeit in a small way. The ‘Newcomer Workshops’ are a fabulous idea – I think they should be held at every future BiCon.  Sending out as much information as you can, beforehand,  to prepare people is important too.

What advice would you give to anyone who’s coming to this year’s BiCon as a first-timer?

Don’t be afraid, or be afraid but do it anyway! Chat to people, all sorts of people, go to workshops if you want but don’t feel guilty if you don’t manage all the ones you want. Eat sensibly, drink plenty of water and don’t overdo the booze. Get as much sleep beforehand as you can, and try and book time off work for a couple of days afterwards  – the BiCon Comedown is a medically recognised condition!

This BiCon may very well change your life. Be excited about it, but also be prepared that it might affect you emotionally for a long while afterwards – possibly forever. You never forget your first BiCon, no matter how many more you go to.

You were wearing a lolcat t-shirt at every caucus – what would you have on it today?

Would you believe that I lost the pen for the t-shirt as soon as I got home from BiCon? So I haven’t actually written anything on it since. I think right now it would have “I’M IN UR HOUSE FEELING UR STRESS” as my housemate Libby is on the team this year. My house is still full of flyers, envelopes, safe sex supplies, leaflets, stickers, laminating pouches and everything else! Next year, possibly, I will have a stress free run up to BiCon!

Laura was interviewed by Dan Howells