10 October 2016

Good Times! #6 PanoptiCon 6 1985

(Adapted from a review first published in the MLG Megazine 1985)

Standing on a pebble strewn Brighton beach on an unseasonal July morning strafed by winds with waves washing the stones I try to imagine France on the horizon beyond the swirling grey sea though you can’t see it. Indeed you can’t see much but the heavy sky. It’s film weather this and you can imagine taking the cameras over the beach in the build up to some dark drama. This weekend though our particular drama is behind me inside the seafront Brighton Metropole hotel where the latest PanoptiCon is taking place. 
Not that I actually saw much of the on stage events; being on the Executive is not all perks and champagne and you actually have to do some work. It was definitely a weekend of surprises. Sarah Lee for example, who you remember I lambasted a couple of issues back, was this time a great addition to the proceedings, and a charming guest. Nicola Bryant meanwhile even allowed all the winners of the raffle to kiss her on the cheek, though she did not extend the same privelige to the Exec. The Doctors present were in great form. The only time all weekend I used my front row privilege was to see Patrick Troughton in his first DWAS event appearance. He was in full costume and giving a performance in character as the second Doctor allowing him to avoid too much detail. Time and again he would swerve a question with a vague “Oh, I don’t really remember that one…” and you almost expected him to add "Zoe" to the end of the sentance! His whimsical lightness, a lot of humour and emotion made for a wonderful convention experience. You could see the delight in the eyes of the audience and I know that afterwards a certain disbelief floated about the hall. The one living cast member we thought we'd never see had been and gone. 

Jon Pertwee is a mite more familiar, but a sheer professional and, although I had to miss him, am assured he lived up to the legend. One thing he did confirm is the welcome return of Worzel Gummidge, which I personally see as his finest hour. Peter Davison appeared in a trendy white suit and more at ease than previously, even mimicking a Cybervoice and encouraging raffle winners to ham it up in best 'come on down' tradition. And he swore several times too!
Talking of swearing, my own area of responsibility the Fanzine room wasn't without its problems, being like a fridge and partially flooded on the Friday and lacking enough helpers on Saturday and Sunday, but hopefully everyone realised where it was. By now professional dealers are becoming a regular sight at events and some of them have rather grand ideas of their own importance.
Elsewhere in the labyrinthine hotel one character was lurking around telling all and sundry he had copies of episodes of `Evil of the Daleks` and `The Faceless Ones` which had been found in a local theatre and you wouldn't believe the surfeit of enquires and quiet little conversations which went on about this. Did he have the episodes? Course not!  Another occurance was the theft of some props from a display an example of how some fans know no limits when it comes to collecting things or in fact just taking them.

The event itself though successful from the point of view of attendees was something of a battelground behind the scenes. Decisions taken by the Exec last year meant the budget was based on 1,000 people attending, something no DWAS event had ever had. Though we had over 1,000 members many could not afford the expense of the weekend. Conventions generally operate on the principal of breaking even which means you have to predict how many attendees you might get so it didn't take an accountant to realise the folly of such an enterprise although our own accountant had advised us to cancel.  Other problems were caused by organiser Paul Zeus not even arriving at the hotel until late on Friday evening having stopped off along the way to get the event badges made, he said. He’d also appointed a number of stewards who were too young and yet had all been given free accommodation further upping the cost of an event whose budget was already spiralling.

After he'd almost sabotaged the earlier DWASocial 5 the prospect of self appointed superfan Ian Levine again gracing the stage at this event with more hiatus related bluster was not one that many welcomed. We had to have an emergency Exec meeting at midnight to decide whether Levine should be allowed to appear. We voted he could not whereupon David Saunders went on stage himself and delivered the same message anyway (albeit less hysterically than the Big L would have)  prompting much annoyance and at least one assistant’s resignation. The atmosphere behind the scenes really was sometimes the opposite of the lovely time the attendees were having and I felt the need to escape on Saturday night staying downstairs in the event rather than attending the exclusive exec Twiglet party. What is a Twiglet party anyhow?
In the end, the event’s losses were never assimilated because the accounts were never properly presented. One loss was a whole set of costumes made with DWAS money but never returned to·the society and actually being used by another group. A year later, they offered to hire them to us!  There was some judicious budget trimming at the last minute (Uncle David’s silver limo had to go!), but overall about £2,000 was lost. At the end of the day, armed with what was there, attendees had a great time.  Three Doctors, Dalek and Cyber panels, a hilarious game, a special award for Dick Mills, some stunning action videos and rare stuff like `The War Machines` and `The Time Meddler` ensured this event is fondly recalled by everyone who was there. 
"Oh my giddy gimbly gobstoppers, I don't remember that one."

On Stage at PanoptiCon 6 1985 
Friday evening

Episode screenings- `Spearhead from Space` Part 1, `The Mutants` Part 6 and all of `The Time Meddler`
Dennis Spooner interview- he revealed he was a friend of Michael Grade’s which didn’t go down too well with the audience!
Graham Williams interview – talked about his tenure as producer including the several occasions Tom Baker nearly left and why Mary Tamm did leave after only one season.
More episode screenings up to and beyond midnight. 
Interviews included Philip Martin, a K9 panel, Roy Skelton, Michael Wisher.
The highlight though was what turned out to be a rare UK convention appearance of Patrick Troughton (the first had been at Longleat in 1983). Michael Craze also appeared alongside him but got a bit lost as this was a rare chance for fans to quiz the second Doctor. Troughton appeared in costume and seemingly in character.
In the evening there was a cabaret which included `Give Us A Who` in which Fiona Cumming, David Banks, Nigel Robinson and Sarah Lee took part. There was also a `Runaround` quiz, Fancy Dress parade (cosplay as it’s now called) plus an Auction. Various episodes were also shown.

More episodes shown before a behind the scenes panel featuring Matthew Robinson, Fiona Cumming and Sarah Lee. A Cyberpanel featured David Banks, Mark Hardy and Brian Orrell whose discussion included, amongst many things, the differences between moonboots and laceups.
Two Doctors today. Jon Pertwee made a memorable appearance and couldn’t resist a few jibes at yesterday’s star guest amidst tales of being chased by a cheetah. Peter Davison appeared with Nicola Bryant.
There was an awards session including raffle winners and the Fanzine Poll winner (somewhat embarrassingly in view of its then hostility to the DWAS it was DWB that won) 

If ever a photo showed what it was like being on the DWAS Exec this is the one! Here we are at the end of the event. Left to right- Dominic May, Paul Zeus (well half his head anyway), Ian McLachlan, part of David Saunders, Ann O'Neill, Ian Bresman, Mark Stammers, Moi. Notice how we're all looking in different directions no doubt thinking of home!

The fanzines and editors who came to the event.

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