One of the nicest things to come out of Mancunicon was the news that Follycon has been revived, thirty years after the original and will be the 2018 Eastercon in Harrogate.
The first Follycon was held in 1988 at the Britannia Adelphi hotel in Liverpool, a relic of empire, much given to trumpeting that its fine ballroom was modelled on the one on the Titanic.
It was a particularly memorable event for me as I was fortunate enough to be one of the team of four (along with Suzanna Raymond, Bill Longley and Darren Newbury) tasked with shooting the con video. I don’t recall how I got onto this cushy number; maybe it was something to do with the fact that I had, for a few years by then, been a tech assistant to Andy Morris, doing the 16mm projection, which was still a large and important part of con programming at the time.
Anyhow, with Suzanna on camera (brilliant!), me directing and the other two forming a game for anything props/special effects department, we came up with the theme of the con being visited by a small, impressionable alien named H.G. Tripod, played with upright poise by, well by our camera tripod actually. We filmed establishing shots such as H.G. arriving at the train station, and in various fan situations, such as returning to his (her?) room drunk, canoodling with a fellow fan (played with great aplomb by Linda-Clare Toal) and parading in the masquerade (as a Martian war machine, thanks to a wee mag-lite torch and some gaffer tape). The last caused quite a stir, as a humourless git involved in running the masquerade felt that H.G.’s entry lacked the required gravitas and initially refused it. I believe the con committee had to intervene to get this reversed.
Still this paled into insignificance besides the spectacle of an eminent conflict-zone reporter of the time, going nuclear in reception because the hotel had no room available. I put on my best war reporters’ safari jacket and raced with the team to reception in order to buttonhole her for an exclusive interview but alas we were just too late.
I did do some other things at the first Follycon. Participation in an excellent writers’ workshop, hosted by Ian Watson, persuaded me to put away my pens for a very long time. I think I also gave a talk on something, though I’m no longer 100% sure – I still have the Follycon Souvenir book but not the programme book. It seems as though cons back then used to programme a lot more one person items than they do now. I’ve always loved holding an audience in the palm of my hand for an hour all by myself but now if you get to do anything at all at a con, it’s almost invariably as part of a panel. And these days you have to volunteer. Back then, you never had to volunteer for anything – you’d just get asked.
On the Sunday evening of that Follycon the team did an all-nighter, crash editing the final cut of the video and adding titles, using two tape machines and it received a triumphant reception when shown on the Monday. The precious tapes were later given over to Darren for safe keeping and I still have the title cards. I don’t believe the tape ever surfaced for repeat viewing at any future Eastercon but I’ve missed a fair few between then and now so I could be wrong. Wouldn’t it be great though, if someone reading this (Darren where are you?) joined up the dots and rediscovered those tapes in time for Follycon 2018!