Thursday, 14 May 2015

BUCK gets into gear: some early thoughts

The BUCK website is now up and running properly, with a little under a year until the UK's largest brony convention returns from its 2015 hiatus. It's still early days, and several key pieces of information are not yet available, but we do now know a few things. My thoughts at this stage, therefore:

The dates: 9-10 April 2016
The BUCK people said a long time ago that they were working on a spring date for 2016, and here it is. Unlike in previous years, this con will not be held over a Bank Holiday weekend. On the whole, I think this weekend is a good choice. It may be trickier for some to get time off, but the dates should mean lower accommodation prices (well, perhaps: see later) and less chance of Network Rail deciding to dig up every railway line within 50 miles.

It's being advertised as a two-day event, which was the case last year as well – as far as the con itself was concerned. What we don't yet know is whether there's any sort of separate-but-associated event planned for the Friday night, along the lines of the very successful Summer Sun Celebration (SSC) concert/rave/noisefest last year. As with a lot of things, the BUCK team are keeping their cards close to their chest on that one.

The venue: EventCity, Manchester
The city isn't a big surprise, as it's where BUCK's been held every year since its inception in 2012. From a selfish point of view, Birmingham would have been much easier, but I was never really expecting that to happen. The venue itself is new to BUCK: for the first time, the convention is moving away from the city centre and out to a purpose-built exhibition hall near the vast Trafford Centre complex.

To me, the venue is... okay, I guess. I'd personally much rather BUCK had remained in the city centre, but costs seem to have spiralled too much for that to remain practical. As with many retail parks, the Trafford Centre has excellent access by car but less good access by public transport. Buses aren't too bad, but there's no Metrolink service and the nearest station is over a mile away and has a dreadful service.

I touched on accommodation earlier, and this could be a source of awkwardness. As usual, BUCK doesn't have a "con hotel". There are four hotels around the Trafford Centre – three(!) Premier Inns and one Travelodge – but that's about it. The hostels and cheap family hotels many relied on last year aren't available. I suspect it's going to be even harder to do BUCK on a really tight budget than it was last year.

The VIP guest: Daniel Ingram
This announcement has been met with pretty much universal acclaim. It doesn't really need saying (but I'll do so anyway) that Ingram is hugely popular in the fandom, and it's a real coup for BUCK to have enticed him along. I have no idea whether there are likely to be any other guests from the official side of the fandom (it's much more expensive for UK organisers), but even if not, Ingram will be a big draw on his own.

Last year, weekend tickets were tiered £80/£195/£335. The Standard ticket was comparable to the similarly-sized ConFuzzled's, but the middle-tier 20% Cooler ticket was widely held to be overpriced for what it offered, being much dearer than a ConFuzzled Sponsor-tier ticket. BUCK isn't cheap; there's no getting round that. If it offers good value, though, most people will accept the hit to their wallets.

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