Friday 30 August 2013

BUCK of the net

Cider and conbook
Well, what an opportunity in this brony community
Plenty of people have written about their experiences at this year's BUCK convention in Manchester. Being the unoriginal sort I am, I'll join them. This won't be the massive piece that some others have managed, but more a sort of "general impressions" thing. Suffice it to say up here that my first convention (of any kind!) was — for the most part — a hugely enjoyable experience, and that I am absolutely hoping to return for BUCK 2014. However, click past the jump and you'll be able to read my rambly, disjointed thoughts. Yay.

This was a big convention: it's recently been officially announced that there were 1,193 attendees, which makes it more than a third larger than ConFuzzled, for example. The Bridgewater Hall was a fabulous venue, too. Not without its problems, in particular the heat upstairs and the lack of more than one medium-sized room. But the spectacular, genuinely world-class auditorium was an immense plus for a music-heavy fandom like our own. Its city-centre location was also a very big advantage.

I did feel a bit overwhelmed and lost for the first couple of hours: it didn't help that I didn't really manage to talk to anyone in the queue. Talking of queues... an internal problem meant that they couldn't open the doors until more than an hour past the official 9.00 start, which was a bit of a trial. We were lucky the threatened rain just about held off. Once we were moving, though, the actual registration process was quick and efficient, and I'm thoroughly in favour of having wristbands.

Twilight Sparkle fursuit at the Charity Auction
Twilight knew she would need more dancing lessons
Other than the opening ceremony, the big events I attended on the first day were the Cosplay Catwalk and the Charity Auction. Both of these had slight organisational issues — the auction took too long to get going — but they were both generally well handled. Actually, the staff overall were excellent: not all of them knew everything, but they were unfailingly polite and friendly, even when things were getting slightly frayed as time ticked by in queues. A big pat on the back to them.

The atmosphere inside the con was superb: friendly, inclusive and safe, just as it should be. I'm aware that one idiot was ejected for misbehaving, allegedly for harrassing cosplayers, but I wasn't around when this happened so can't really comment on it. Yes, it was crowded in some places — the vendor area was a particular bottleneck — but it was usually fairly easy to get yourself somewhere less packed and have a breather. The open square in front of the hall helped.

Food and drink were acceptable in both quality and pricing, apart from the £1.90 200ml Diet Cokes which were simply a rip-off. The draught Strongbow ran out very early on, but the bars did seem to have understood the importance of cider to our community and had got plenty of bottles of Bulmers in! There wasn't any sweet food that I noticed, though (well, not unless you count the competition cupcakes!) and I think they missed a trick by not having muffins on sale.

The Crebers and Acoustic Brony at the Lunar Eclipse
Michelle Creber with Acoustic Brony
The Lunar Eclipse concert/mini-festival on the Saturday evening was a great idea, but it was inevitably compromised by a huge delay (over an hour) caused by a lack of technical staff. This meant that several sets had to be cut short: Acoustic Brony, who closed the auditorium concert, only got about four songs in, though since one was "I'll Fly Higher" this Scootaloo fan was fairly happy! And yes, I did go and see The Living Tombstone in the Barberolli Room: not my sort of music, but it was the experience that counted.

I was a lot more prepared on Sunday, and I think that contributed to a more enjoyable day, as did the better timekeeping. I only went to two and a half panels in the end, but they were interesting, though making them all Q&A was perhaps a little excessive. Otherwise I spent a good deal of time talking to friends new and old, buying increasing numbers of art prints (shame there were so few shirts on sale) and nipping out to Sainsbury's for a sandwich and some fresh air.

In terms of active participation, I did have a go at the Flash Fanfic competition, and was pleased to have my verse mentioned later on (albeit anonymously) by Knighty of FimFiction fame. I was also roped into the Pony Pub Quiz late on Sunday afternoon, which was immense fun. The big Q&A panel with the VIP guests had some technical issues (apparently due to a laptop melting!) but it was still quite an event. As, indeed, was the closing ceremony. The mass rendition of "Winter Wrap Up" will stay with me for a long time.

Me with FurryShy
"We're yellow... and shy"
This was my first con, and also therefore my first experience of the unofficial side of things, and that — as I quickly discovered — was something really rather special. The frequent renditions of "Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows" apparently irritated one or two people, but I'm afraid I can't agree: I thought it was hilarious. Slightly less so at times were the even more frequent "Fun! Fun! Fun!" chants: I was actually quite pleased when we were told to stop doing it during the VIP Q&A panel.

Oh, and then there was My Little Karaoke. Whoever decided to approve that, give that person a medal! It was fantastic. As, indeed, was the con as a whole. I'm not going to give it a mark out of 10 as though it were a comic or an episode, but I am certainly very, very much hoping to go back in 2014. Despite a few little hiccups along the way, I feel that BUCK 2013 was a resounding success, and the £8,025 raised for Cardiac Risk in the Young was the icing on the cake. Brohoof, everypony. Brohoof.

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