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Hijinks Ensue

Year of the Teledu

This weekend I went to the Year of the Teledu convention in Leicester.

Friday
In the morning I did some final preparation for the items I was going to run over the weekend, packed everything into Fenchurch, then popped home to get the bit of paper with the details of my breakdown cover on it. I think I eventually set off down to Leicester at about 14:30. I was a little nervous because this was the first long trip I'd made in Fenchurch, and she quite probably hadn't done a journey of that length since before seph_hazard and johncoxon were born. To make matters worse it poured down most of the way, there were several sections of stop-start traffic, and Google Maps's route planner twice led me the wrong way (this isn't the first time it's done this to me either - it really is quite unreliable). I discovered a couple of small leaks which caused all the windows to mist up, but opening the back windows to get some airflow through cleared that up, unfortunately making the cabin so cold in the process that I could see my breath when I yawned. Apart from that she didn't miss a beat and I arrived at the hotel at about 18:20; too late for Badgered to Death but well before the Opening Ceremony. My bedroom was a pretty decent size, so I carted all the crap from the back of the car into it. That must have surprised the cleaner when they went in to clean my room the next morning!

The opening ceremony was slightly bizarre. The Officers were on the stage dressed in gorilla suits, throwing bananas at each other behind a cardboard box labelled something like "ACME run your own con kit." After about 15 minutes somebody figured out that we were supposed to open the box and start doing things with the contents, at which point tregenza took his gorilla-head off and said, "argh, I thought you were never going to get it!"

Later on we had the disco, where I danced with tlanti for a while, and Grumpy old Fan which featured, among many other rants, darth_tigger attempting to personally insult everybody in the room (I got, "get a shave - that's a really shit beard"). Back to the disco for a while, then I eventually made it to bed somewhere around 1AM.

Saturday
I spent most of the morning and some of the afternoon preparing for The Race to Orbit - writing the script and making the props. I took an hour out at 12:00 to go to ConFounding Tales! In Sixty Minutes, which was excellent fun, particularly the improvised Ceilidh to Banghra music. I was hoping to make it to the Torchwood edition of Vote with your Arse but it clashed with setting up The Race to Orbit.

The Race to Orbit itself went pretty well, particularly considering I'd only finished writing the script a few hours before. One slight hiccup was that the big rope I'd prepared to tie around the waists of the Orbiters for the tug of war part of the game went missing, and I had to improvise with a couple of short hand-held bits, which led to complaints from the contestants about the rope cutting into their hands. Apart from that they seemed to enjoy it and I wouldn't mind organising similar things in the future. I was particularly impressed with the Orbiter costume munchkinstein's team made. There are some photos from the item here. BTW: Join Orbital!

After grabbing something to eat, I went to the Cliffhanger Game about the cliffhangers they used to have at the end of 1930s American TV serials and how they resolved them - frequently by refilming the cliffhanger so something completely different happened, it seems. I liked the one where John Wayne's character fell off a building. How did he survive that? Someone in the audience suggested, "he's John Wayne - he just does." Sure enough, John Wayne falls off the building, gets up, dusts himself off, and carries on as if nothing happened!

Next was the play, cabaret, and LFF auction. I particularly enjoyed the act where the young chap in goth dress sang Joseph's Coat from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. littlemissjane's tribute to Bob Blackman's Mule Train was pretty funny too.

A bit later on came another item I was running: Torchwood Wobblevision. At the beginning it looked like we were only going to have two cast members, but we went around and managed to persuade a few more to join in, then it suddenly hit critical mass and so many people came along that we had more cast members than parts for them to play. We randomly chose the episode Cyberwoman from the five scripts I'd prepared, then chose the cast by picking names written on bits of paper (apart from tlanti who cheated to ensure she got to play Captain Jack). Trying to direct it was one of the more difficult things I've done at a con but I got quite a buzz when it came together. Cyberwoman was by far the most complicated of the five scripts, so I had to be constantly thinking about what I could cut out and still have it make sense, otherwise we would have ended up with over fifty scenes instead of the thirty we actually did. I couldn't afford to stop for a couple of minutes before the more complicated scenes to work out the best way to show what happened in it, or the actors would have got bored, so there was a lot of thinking on my feet involved. We shot most of the scenes on a stage in a room that wasn't being used for anything else at the time. I certainly enjoyed directing it, and I got the impression that the actors were having a lot of fun too. Here is the finished result. I'm tempted to do another episode at a future con, either Novacon (which I have yet to get around to joining) or Orbital.

Sunday
I spent a few hours on Sunday morning building the walls for the final item I was running: The Hole in the Wall Game. I took an hour out to go to Inconsequential: When we were Young, a video presentation of highlights from one of the early funcons. There was some funny stuff, including Steve Lawson running around a flat roof in a toga, and reverendjim accidentally poking his finger through the false ceiling by making a particularly exuberant hand gesture while on a raised stage.

After I'd finished building the walls I got dressed in shorts and trainers for the Sports Day. I won the first egg and spoon race and came second in the egg and spoon while shuffling along in a sack race. Then - disaster - I volunteered for a space hopper race and after about three hops something went wrong and both my knees went *crack*. I didn't realise at the time how badly I'd injured them and went on to complete the race, then later took part in a wheelbarrow race. Afterwards it became clear that I'd sprained both knees and I spent the rest of the day trying to walk as little as possible. Even so by the end of the dead dog party I could barely manage to hobble back to my room. I think this picture was taken around about the point where I trashed my knees.

The Hole in the Wall Game was interesting in that I'd no idea how well it was going to work. I'd deliberately not made the walls very strong because I'd rather the wall broke than the person it hit. As a result the walls started falling apart pretty early on. My favourite bit was where reverendjim tried to leap through the triangular wall and smashed straight through the bottom pole. What I hadn't expected was for the people who were carrying the walls (adelheid and Pete Harrow) to start improvising and reassembling the walls in new and hilarious ways. Everyone was a great sport and the audience certainly seemed to enjoy it. I have videos of parts of it and I might edit them together into a highlights reel at some point.

I skipped Poi because that would have meant a lot of standing up and my knees weren't feeling too good, and went instead to Vote with your Arse - which involved quite a bit of standing up and walking around to different seats. In hindsight I should probably have sat in the "indifferent" part of the room and stayed there for the whole item ;) Next came Something Wiki this way comes about Teledu's experimental idea of organising a con in public via a Wiki instead of the traditional committee-led system of conrunning. I'll come to my thoughts on that later. After that I grabbed something to eat, then tried to sort out what was happening about prizes for TRTO and THITWG before the closing ceremony. The ceremony itself seemed fairly long with loads of prizes and thank-yous. Finally came the Dead Dog Teledu Party, which involved a lot of sitting down resting my knees and listening to other people talk (I'm still not good at taking part in group conversations when I don't know the other participants very well).

Strangely when I hobbled off to bed a few hours later, my right knee went "pop" and after that it still hurt a little but I could move it OK again. My left knee remained stiff and sore however.

Monday
Overnight my right knee almost completely recovered but my left knee swelled up and stiffened quite badly. I loaded the remaining crap into Fenchurch, grabbed a very light breakfast, then headed off home. I found that driving wasn't too bad on my knee (particularly cruising along on the motorway in top gear), but getting in and out was quite awkward because I have to bend my legs to get them past the A post. The traffic wasn't too heavy and although it drizzled most of the way there was no heavy rain like on the way down. I ignored the suspect Google directions and just followed the atlas and the road signs instead, and didn't have any trouble finding my way at all. After a bit of starting trouble in the car park which turned out to be my fault for using too much choke, Fenchurch ran flawlessly the whole way home. I've found that she'll do 70MPH easily but is more comfortable cruising at 60MPH. This means that on the motorway it's easiest to just cruise along in the flow of lorries in the left hand lane, only overtaking when you reach a particularly slow-moving one. At one point a lorry behind me decided that the limiter in his tractor unit would let him go fractionally faster than the lorry I was following, so he spent about ten minutes overtaking me at a snail's pace faster than the speed I was doing, then decided he wasn't going to make it past the lorry in front after all and cut right in front of me. At that point I got a bit irritated and accelerated past both of them.

Summary
If there's one thing we've learned from this weekend, boys and girls, it's that exercise is bad for your health, and space-hopper races doubly so! My left knee is gradually healing but walking is still quite uncomfortable.

I've proven that Fenchurch is capable of driving long distances (Leicester is 150 miles away) and keeping up with the flow of traffic. She certainly copes much better with hills than my old Minor, which used to slow down to a crawl at the first hint of a gradient and boil over on particularly long ones. At the time I'd never driven a Minor with a good engine so I didn't know it wasn't supposed to be like that. I'm pretty sure now that I'm going to be taking her on the Land's End to Orkney rally in a few weeks.

As for Year of the Teledu, I enjoyed it and I'm glad I went. I think I probably had more fun at ConFounding Tales! but that may largely have been down to the mindset I was in at the time, plus they had the Ceilidh which I enjoyed far more than I expected to. I think other cons can learn something from the openness of the way Teledu was organised, but I think there is still a role for a central committee to do things like programme co-ordination. The Wiki on the Wall, the Fannish Living Room, and the computer that people could print their photos out on were good ideas that I'd like to see adopted by other cons, and Teledu's marketing was very impressive. The hotel was a good find and I wouldn't be surprised to see it being used by other similarly-sized cons in the future.

Comments

Yes, do another at Orbital... because I'm determined to be in a Wobblevision eventually. :)
I'm pretty sure Steve's already planning to do a Blake's 7 Wobblevision at Orbital, because he was saying we've almost run out of episodes to do and Orbital might be the last (unless we start doing live acting versions of the early ones that were done in Lego). The risk is that if we do two Wobblevisions at one con we might not be able to find enough actors willing to do the second one. If I do decide to run one it I'll ask him to schedule Torchwood on a different night to Blake's 7.
I'd be in yours!
"Teledu's marketing was very impressive."

You know what they say "Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery"

I shall rely on you to shamelessly steal all the best ideas!
The Race to Orbit was partially inspired by the TeleCthulhu Challenge and Satellite 1's Probing Uranus game. I have some ideas but very little time to implement them until after I get back from the LEO rally.
One has to pitch these things to match the style of convention. For instance, at Novacon, one would try to run a literary programme item, possibly focusing on one of our guests.
Charlie's GoH at both cons so there might be the potential to do something involving him at Novacon. We should talk about this in more detail later...
the computer that people could print their photos out on were good ideas

We left out the computer and printer for people to do that at Contemplation and, as far as I am aware, no one did. But it's still a good idea!
The good thing about the computer and printer at Teledu is that it was available during the whole con. I printed a batch of photos out early on Sunday morning when there was nothing else going on and stuck them up on the Wiki on the Wall. The only thing I'd change would be to install some more user friendly photo editing software - with the programme that was on it (some kind of "Photoshop Lite" IIRC), simply cropping and printing a picture required about ten non-intuitive steps.

Definitely an idea we should consider stealing for Orbital.
darth_tigger attempting to personally insult everybody in the room (I got, "get a shave - that's a really shit beard").

That was fun, trying to do individual insults! You can take it as a compliment that I couldn't think of anything bad to say about you so had to pick on the facial hair.

And I got one complaint, from Alex T-J, that I hadn't got round to insulting him. I had to think up a special insult and find him on the Saturday to deliver it personally!

Wobblevision was splendid, and the photos are significantly better than the original episode! If you do it again I'll have to get there on time and get more involved, but the bit I saw looked great fun.
I finally located my special beard-trimming scissors this morning, in a place that should have been obvious but wasn't when I was rushing around getting ready for Teledu.

Directing Wobblevision was a bit scary for me but it was a good feeling when it came together. My biggest worry was that we wouldn't have enough cast and it looked like that might happen at first, but then we persuaded a few people to join us and they persuaded their friends to come along too, and suddenly we had more cast than parts for them to play. Poor Anders, he was the first person we persuaded to join us and he ended up without a part :(
eeek! Poor knees.
I knew there was a reason for me to stay in the Fannish Livingroom and drink the Beer of the Teledu and Talk Old Toot with all and sundry ;)
'tis an excellent T shirt.
Thanks :)

I was wondering whether anyone at an SF con would recognise the slogan (it's been around for decades in engineering circles) but I wasn't expecting to be criticised on the grammar ;).
My favourite bit was where reverendjim tried to leap through the triangular wall and smashed straight through the bottom pole.

Ah, but if I'd managed to pull it off it would have been spectacular. Admittedly for that to happen I'd have to have suddenly become fit, athletic and an acrobatic wonder in the two seconds that the wall was coming towards me. Yet somehow I still thought it was worth a try. I'm not sure diving away from all the inflatable furniture was such a good idea though.
It was an excellent game, worked really well.
It was certainly an impressive dive. In hindsight we should have put an inflatable mattress in front as well as behind the playing position. I think I have some video of that bit...