Wednesday, 20 August 2014

ATP's Jabberwocky festival vs WorldCon : Chris The Fresher's ExCel Adventure

So goodbye ATP.
My ticket to the Jabberwocky music festival looked like £134 lost when ATP, the organisers cancelled the event with 3 days to go, then got into a slanging match over ticket refunds with the ticket providers, and their PR company. Luckily Paypal saved me - I hope others are as lucky, if not I cannot see how ATP expect to run ATP Iceland next year.

So with a hole blown in my 2014 music festival plans I had nothing to do. Then I remembered someone informed me of an alternative event - the World Science Fiction Convention. It was happening at the same time and at the same venue, London's new ExCel centre, as the cancelled Jabberwocky music festival.

So having got my money back - hurrah - I went to Worldcon for a day.  I found when I got there that the typically sharp Worldcon organisers had offered a 20% discount to disappointed Jabberwocky ticket holders. (One final thing ATP failed to publicise)

I had a good time. Included interesting comics panels, live Quidditch, a very Goons-like live radio performance and a cosmonaut showing what happens to lit candles in zero G. "health and safety not much of an issue on Soviet space stations then".

Friends I met there still had their old their youthful enthusiasm for the subject still.. it dawned on me that working within it for two years at Forbidden Planet* knocked all that out of me and made me far more cynical in the process. A lesson in overdosing in your inspirations perhaps.

Anyway, ATP organisers were right in thinking ExCel was a great venue - it is airy, clean modern and pleasant with great transport links. I can't say what the acoustics were like for music but that never seemed to be an issue at Alexandra Palace, another inspired choice of ATP venue. For all the valid justified criticisim of ATP they deserve some credit for taking festivals out to different places.

The word was ATP's Jabberwocky publicity was abysmal and they'd not sold enough tickets to pay ExCel for basic prep. I can't say I'm surprised as I bought my 2014 ATP ticket with haste almost instinctively because otherwise I knew it would be one more ATP event that would drop below the radar into obscurity. According to the gossip at Worldcon, heard from Worldcon organisers, Jabberwocky Festival was actually cancelled by ExCel when, with a week to go ATP had still not paid even the deposit on the venue.

The irony is Worldcon was even less publicised and sold at least 10,000. Both bars sold out of real ale before the event even officially opened on Thursday. This is despite the  Worldcon's website being time machine back to the internet of 15 years ago and lists perhaps 5% of the events. How is this? how do events like Worldcon sell out with virtually no publicity?
"Everyone just... knows - they don't need to publicise" said Dave Weddell, husband of Jaine Fenn.

And there you have the irony. Think of the publicity given in the widestream media to supposed 'cult, niche' events like Glastonbury, Reading, Latitude, Edindiburgh Fringe. Even Jabberwocky got a full two page spread in Time Out 48 hours before it was cancelled (The World Science Fiction Convention at the same venue I couldn't find at all).

By contrast, spread almost entirely by world of mouth, within a close nit but very inclusive community, Worldcon, Eastercon, Fantasycon - are way more of a cult event than 99% of fashionable music festivals.

If someone put a Sci Fi Con in a field and called it a festival they'd probably make a hell lot of money. Shame they'd never be considered as 'cool' as ATP.

*Funny story!
I was once on a date with a fairly typical British lady
and upon finding out I'd worked at Forbidden Planet she remarked


how we laughed!

in mutual horrified comprehension

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