Eastercon 2022: Reclamation at the Radisson RED, London, Heathrow
I attended my first Eastercon in 2012, at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow Hotel along the same road as the Radisson RED. Paul Cornell contacted me (among others) because he thought it would appeal. He was a Guest of Honour. I did enjoy it, and have been back to each Eastercon since, bar two. In 2015 I was out of the country for work, and in 2021 I just didn’t have the spoons for a virtual convention that experimented with what felt like yet another bit of software to learn.
One thing I remember from 2012 was discussions about how to achieve ‘panel parity’. Specifically, how not to have panels full of only white men, most of whom were cis het. The initial push was to encourage women on panels that went beyond basic ‘women in SF’ panels. Ten years on, and while there still needs to be conscious planning to ensure diversity on each panel, it’s a lot better. Still got a fair way to go with changing the default colour from white, though, and that’s a problem across the board with attendance. I know that con-coms (convention committees) are attempting to make Eastercons as welcoming as possible to everyone (except haters and bigots).
Anyway, I have volunteered to be on programme items at each Eastercon I’ve attended since. I started as a fan who’s had some stuff published, but, really, anyone who knows even a little about a topic is welcome to put their name forward. New voices are especially encouraged. One shift over the last 10 years that I’ve noticed is more pre-con planning, which enables people who feel out of their depth on a panel to be assured their contribution is welcome, or withdraw beforehand.
Eastercons run on similar lines to World SF Conventions. Bid committees put in for specific years, and the membership of current/past conventions vote on them. That means each year is different, even as it stays within the broad parameters of the convention. They are held in different locations. SF is broadly defined and Eastercon covers it in all its forms. Fan culture is a big thing, but fortunately a few of its less than optimal traits have either vanished or are being actively challenged. Eastercon tends to host the British SF Association (BSFA) Awards and the Doc Weir Awards.
Disclosure about Reclamation: I am friends with members of the con-com, and I was on the Programme Committee. I moderated three panels, and was on a fourth. I volunteered to gopher, but didn’t end up doing any shifts, although I did keep an eye on demand and would’ve jumped in when necessary. Reclamation was the first in-person Eastercon in three years, and it was held in the same hotel where the last was held back in 2019. Many of the con-com members were the same. They didn’t pretend to want to run a true hybrid convention, but did enable live-streaming and Discord chat, and welcomed recording of a few lectures via YouTube. The two podcasts recorded at the convention are other way to their regular outlets (I listened to the Fantasy Book Swap this morning, and greatly enjoyed it). Inevitably, glitches occurred, but on the whole the team who made it all happen deserve every plaudit they get. I am heartened by the staff and con-coms for the next two Eastercons actively taking notes about what worked, and what didn’t. Of course, other events have run them successfully on this model, so there is a fair range of experience now. I am not a member of the Tolkien Society, but am told that their hybrid events run really well.
I was there in person, and it was fantastic to be able to catch up with people and hang out. While many of us had kept up in online environments, in-person is different. Social overwhelm meant that I didn’t spend as much time as I might normally in the bar, especially at night. This was the first convention I attended with the knowledge that I’m autistic, and it was a real buzz to talk to neurokin with that knowledge. Also, to understand my needs and how to better meet them.
I attended quite a few programme items, and can honestly say there wasn’t one that I thought was a dud. Because of fewer attendees and volunteers, the numbers of panels were also fewer. I always knew that matching topics with rooms never works 100 per cent, and there were some that could have suited larger rooms with ease. The breadth of topics covered were fab: now I’m writing full time, it was great to attend a variety of excellent panels about the business of publishing, agenting, and writing. Favourites of mine are always those that could fall under world-building, and none that I saw disappointed. I also greatly enjoyed the Blake’s 7 squee-panel, and Rapid-fire Info-shots. The disco was fun. Watching live Dr Who is always great, even if the episode itself failed to live up to its promise. As ever, I missed way too much.
And now, to the elephant in the room. I am writing this with Covid-19. I am fully vaccinated, and wore a mask for much of the time in public spaces at the convention (exceptions were mostly for eating and drinking). This is my first confirmed case of it (based on symptoms, it’s likely I had it at the end of 2019/beginning of 2020 but it’s impossible to know for sure). As for this bout, I likely got infected at the convention, and hope that I didn’t pass it on. I’ve passed on the info to the official NHS channels, and through unofficial convention mechanisms. A fair few attendees have caught it, but nowhere near a majority. I hope that no one gets seriously ill with it, and everyone recovers fully and quickly. I think that the convention did their best to minimise risk, but in a large convention hotel near one of the world’s busiest airports that reached full capacity at least one night of the convention in a country that’s got rid of almost all mitigations… well. I’ve booked to attend FantasyCon at the same hotel in September this year, and I’ll be revising my personal risk mitigation approach to see if there’s anything I can do to further minimise risk of another infection. That’s the reality of ‘living with Covid’.
In summary, and despite catching the con-crud no one wanted to catch, I am so glad to have been involved with Reclamation. I greatly enjoyed it as an event I attended from start to finish. I am already signed up for the next two Eastercons: Conversation 2023 and Levitation 2024.