We expect to soon publish an anonymized version of the responses to the questionnaire. Unfortunately this has meant a few responses have had to be removed where we felt that they identified individuals and could not be edited in such a way as to prevent this.
We must apologise for going silent since Mancunicon. This was due to a mixture of real life getting in the way and confusion over who was updating the website.
By now we hope you all know what we’re pleased to report: that Eastercons do have a very healthy future. Eastercon 2017 (Innominate), (replacing Pasgon, which had to fold),
will be held in the Hilton Metropole at the NEC Birmingham. Follycon in 2018 will be held in Harrogate. They both have Facebook and web pages up – given below.
The bidding sessions for both years, and the Future of Eastercon discussion, were held on Sunday morning. The room was full throughout with an audience of about 200.
During the ‘Future of Eastercon’ session we ran through a presentation of the last year’s work and conclusions, and asked what we should do next. Majorities of the audience agreed (with no opposition and we think one abstention on each point) that:
(1) We (that is the existing, informally organised, Future of Eastercon group) can take control of the existing Eastercon.org website/wiki. We’ll be doing that, with the help of its founders, Alex McClintock, John Bray and Chris O’Shea, who were also thanked for all their work to date. We want to organise this informally, but ensure some commitment and consistency. We hope to develop and maintain it as a permanent resource for fandom.
(2) We will set up a new discussion group to discuss how a central organisation might work to support Eastercons, and which of the available options for the organisation might work best. This group will report back at Eastercon 2017.
The session participants also talked about how we welcome new people to Eastercons, and the audience were very concerned to address the ageing of fandom in general and conrunners in particular. I’ll try and write up these aspects in more detail for the website shortly.
We’ll put up the presentation and statistics and other material on the website, until we can move all the material to the new Eastercon.org.
We will be finally closing the questionnaire at the end of February, so we can collate the results in time for Mancunicon. If you want to respond, please do so before then.
Here is a cleaned-up version of the presentation we gave at Novacon. Please note that the statistics are based on the original 207 responses to the questionnaire and do not include the ones we’ve received since, however the recent responses are mostly in line with the earlier ones.
At the Novacon presentation, someone in the audience asked for a general restatement of what problems we’re trying to solve here. We have a number of problems, some more significant than others, some are not problems at the moment but may well become so. It’s fairly obvious from the results of the questionnaire, that we also have a whole bunch of problems that we didn’t really consider to be problems at all, until we started asking questions. I’ll try and deal with these separately.
We have some conrunner problems, and they are mostly to do with financial and legal implications of how we run bids. An Eastercon committee is not really a legal entity, we don’t have to file accounts and we’re not responsible to anyone, though if the convention loses money we risk losing our houses. However, we want to take payments from people, sell them things (not just memberships) and sometimes we buy things that end up being held by individuals (like artboards, flip charts and domain names). We’d like to carry on doing this, but the banks and the legal framework in general are becoming more strict, and people are getting more scared about the risk of losing everything they own just because some idiot took it into their head to sue the convention. The imminent disappearance of cheques and chequebooks means that it’s harder to transfer money too and from a convention. The increasing strictness of money-laundering regulations means that financial institutions are much less happy about setting up a short-term bank account for a group with no paper trail and no clear track record. Banks have always been hard to deal with, but now they are next to impossible for an organisation that may only be in existence for 18 months.
On the subject of things that are held by individuals, the problems are more notional than actual at the moment, but they are still real. Imagine I currently have a flipchart or a video projector that was bought for a convention ages ago. When I remember, I bring it to Eastercon and it gets used in Ops or in Programme as a convention resource. What happens if I die and my possessions get sold for the benefit of my relatives? They don’t know that these things “belong” to Eastercon, and we have no way of showing that any random Eastercon committee has an interest in those things. Theoretically, they could be mentioned in my will, but in practice most fans aren’t that organised. Similarly, if the projector gets dropped or the flipchart disappears into the hotel’s storage area, our only option at the moment is to claim on my personal house insurance. Eastercon’s event insurance probably isn’t going to cover it (and my insurers are probably going to say that I shouldn’t have loaned it out to a convention). Things would be simpler if Eastercon could own things itself and could insure them.
Then there’s issues around passing information around. Since every Eastercon committee is a separate entity, we can’t (at least in theory) pass information like names and addresses from one year to the next. We’ve got some ways around this, but we’d have some trouble explaining them if anyone ever complained. If we had a continuing organisation, all of these problems would go away. We also have practical problems in that there is no record about people who cause problems, violate the code of conduct or whatever. We actually don’t have any consistent way of letting one year’s committee tell the next year whether or not the code of conduct worked or if it was just a disaster waiting to happen. A continuing organisation would be able to collate information and allow us to learn from one year to the next. Quite a lot of people who responded to the questionnaire complained about Eastercon failing to pass this sort of knowledge on.
We’ve also learned from the questionnaire that a number of people think that the Eastercon, in general, has some failings to do with not getting new people involved, not being welcoming, not telling people about what we do and committees just failing to share essential information. We’ve known for years that Eastercon fandom was getting older and that there were fewer young people around to take up responsibility for running the convention. What we’re hearing is that we might be about to lose some of the people we’ve got, because they find us irritating and hard to get on with. We probably need to do something about that, though I’m not sure this is a thing that can be fixed by changing the way Eastercon is organised.
If you look back on the website, you’ll see some ideas for ways in which we could change the organisational structure of Eastercon. You’ll also see some problems with doing exactly that. At the moment, one of the best ideas seems to be developing a support organisation that can take some of the load off of Eastercon committees, without actually owning the Eastercon or changing the way on which they are governed. This isn’t going to help much with the people who want better disabled access and more young people on the programme, but it might at least give convention committees more time to think about them.
We’re going to be taking down the questionnaire soon. Thank you for participating
Welcome to the Friends of Eastercon Options website. This website exists to provide an on-line forum for discussion of the future of Eastercons. We hope that you will find the information and links you need to join us in the conversation. We would welcome your input, and this website provides a permanent site with options for posting your views and emailing us.