Saturday, 29 October 2016

UK PonyCon 2016, Saturday: Rhubarb and custard

The hotel TV playing pony songs from USB
Now that Travelodge TVs have USB sockets, I could prepare properly!
Saturday was the really big day at UK PonyCon, and I was at the convention for something like 13 hours all told. I had a superb time, and if you come with me past the break you'll get a lot of rambly waffle (much longer than the Friday report!) explaining why it was so much fun.

I didn't sleep too well for some reason, but nervoucitement took over pretty quickly. I got the train into Leeds, then the day proper started with a great Full English Breakfast with a friend at Riveresque, a handily-placed no-frills sort of café. We then strolled to the Royal Armouries, arriving at around 9.45am. There was an annoying drizzle in the air, but nothing too bad. Once ten o'clock rolled around, in everyone went. Registration was fast and smooth, and yes, The Villain Contest was in the con book! Yay and squee and all that sort of thing.

This year's theme was "Heroes and Villains", so naturally the opening ceremony was in the redubbed Nightmare Moon Theatre. Wow, we thought – there's actually an effective PA system this year! ;) After this, it was off to my first event: Teamidris presenting a panel on being a writer with dyslexia in the Queen Chrysalis Room. In the event, he ranged a bit more widely than that, talking also about working with readers like Scribbler and Neighrator Pony. Idris is an engaging, laid-back speaker and a nice guy to boot, so this proved a very pleasant way to ease ourselves into the con.

I decided not to go to Dr Ewan Kirkland's panel about his fandom research as I'd attended last year, so now was my first chance to do some shopping. As I was on a tight budget this year, I couldn't afford a lot, but I made sure I picked up a T-shirt, tote bag, poster and badge from the UK PonyCon stall, as well as a few badges from Jowybean. There was also some chat and catching up with friends new and old – always the best part of any convention. Even if they were a little obsessed with my custard-themed fanfic. :P

Idris in full cosplay
Idris in full award-winning cosplay. Umbrella and all
At one o'clock, I headed to the "Fan Fiction with Winona" panel, about which I knew nothing. It turned out that she's a teenage writer who operates over on Wattpad. Her stories are much shorter and simpler than the stuff we see on Fimfiction – she read us some of her Fluttercord fic – but I think what she said probably appealed to the kids in the audience. She was also pretty good at answering questions without getting too flustered, which helped a lot.

Now it was lunchtime, and some of us decamped to the museum café just outside our own rooms. This was one of the nice features of the convention: since the Royal Armouries Museum is a national institution, entry is free, meaning we could wander in and out at will. Having a nose around the galleries for a few minutes was a good way to recharge without going out in the cold. I didn't eat anything special, just some sandwiches and a mini-muffin.

I'd decided to go to the Sunday cosplay parade instead, so there was still some time to kill. A few of us decided to head for the little bar and get some cider. (Alcoholic, remember, this being the UK.) You had to be careful, since as well as the usual apply stuff they also had some rather weird strawberry and rhubarb cider! A little booze also loosened our tongues sufficiently for the first bit of communal singing, though it was nothing compared with what came later.

The queue on Saturday morning
Derpy and Spitfire keeping folks in the queue entertained
At half past four, I went back to the NM Theatre for Mad Munchkin's panel on reviewing MLP episodes. Unfortunately, there was a problem with her laptop which meant reproduction on the big screen was terrible, but she pushed through that and a couple of people irritatingly talking in the audience (until shushed by another attendee!) and still gave a very entertaining and informative presentation. Mind you, what most of us will remember isn't so much that as her descriptions of Silver Quill as "obnoxious" and "a glorified pigeon". :P

There was another gap at this point, which meant heading for the bar again for some more cider. (Look, I only drank these two pints the entire weekend, all right?) Then back to the NM Theatre for the finale showing! If it hadn't been for Tiny Pop, we'd all have been blind on it, but it was still a wonderful experience to watch FiM on a big screen in the company of a couple of hundred other fans – haven't done that since BUCK 2013. The episode got a very good reception, including a loud ovation at the end.

It was time to find some food again now, and this presented a problem. The museum café had closed and Pizza Express was being used for the official meal, which I hadn't signed up for. Going to Tesco for a sarnie was a bit much, so a group of us trekked off to find somewhere else. One likely-looking restaurant was booked up for a private party, so we eventually ended up back in the city centre. Those who wanted proper food went to Bella Pasta; those of us happy to slum it visited McDonald's!

Plaster horse sculpture in Royal Armouries Museum
There were horses everywhere you looked in the Royal Armouries!
Then, back to the RA. This was the first year I'd been able to stay into late evening, and first stop was the Daring Do Room for karaoke. The UKPC staff had got My Little Karaoke running this year, and it made a huge difference. After a slightly slow start to proceedings, people really got into the spirit of things, even keeping up the singing when the laptop crashed! And in my fifth MLP con, I finally had the nerve to take the mic for the first time. Twice, actually: "So Many Wonders" and "Anthropology". :)

After this came the pub quiz. I love these things, so was delighted to participate. Our team, "Custard's Last Stand", put up a decent showing on G4 and EqG, but generally disgraced ourselves in the G1 and G3 rounds. Let's just say things started out bad and degenerated from there. Given Archer was officiating, we should have just written "Derpy is best pony" for every question we didn't know. Sadly (or not) I couldn't stay for the Cartoon Riff, which among other things featured Newborn Cuties – though only one. Lightweights – as it was now 11pm and my last bus left the bus station at 11.24!

And yes, I made it – and in the event, I did so with a good 10 minutes to spare. I was a bit wary of travelling on the last bus on a Saturday night, and sat downstairs which I rarely do on a double-decker, but actually it was fine. I got back to the hotel at about midnight and more or less fell into bed. This had been a mightily good day, and although Sunday would be rather shorter I was hoping for more of the same. I'll tell you now that it went well again. More in the next blog!


  1. This sounds awesome! Especially the singing - next to meeting other bronies, that's my favourite part of the cons I've been to xD Gutted I couldn't go, but it's cool to be able to read from your POV and get an idea of how it went. I'm looking forward to reading Sunday as well!

    1. It was definitely awesome! I've always loved singing pony songs, but as I'm not a good singer I don't have much confidence in doing so. Cons are the only places I can really relax about it. Sorry you couldn't make it -- maybe in the future? Of course, we won't know where the 2017 con will be for many months yet.

  2. Dear sir, I find the use of the word "mini-muffin" to be disturbing in the extreme. Please in future consider using "muffin the size of an elephant" for all our sakes.

    That crime aside, thanks for that great write-up! It sounds like it was an extremely packed day from start to finish, and even reading it made me feel exhausted. (I spy Uncle Idris too!) And well done for finding the courage to sing - something I'd never be able to do. (And all things considered, be glad. Trust me. ;) )

    I'm wondering if next year's POnycon theme will be "Custard."

    1. Don't worry, normal muffin service was resumed as soon as possible, as you will discover when I get to Sunday's report. (That'll probably go up on Monday.)

      And you're welcome! It wasn't actually as exhausting as it may sound -- maybe adrenaline had something to do with it, but actually it was pretty easy to get a few minutes somewhere a bit quieter, such as in the museum itself, to recharge.

      As for singing... you know, I would have said exactly the same thing before I'd been to any pony conventions. Okay, it still took me several years to sing with the mic, but it happened! So you never know. :)

      Oh Celestia, don't you start! ;D