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Eastercon 2023: What Really Matters to Us?
Alison Scott

Thanks so much for chairing this, Vincent. I’m bidding for 2023. And I’m doing it because I wanted to speak at this meeting. I wanted to say something to you guys. And I’m just an ordinary member of this convention, I have a small role on this one, but I’m not really any part of organising it. A lot of people have been working very hard this weekend, and I’m going to talk a bit about that in my presentation.

I was told that the only way I could speak here at this meeting was to bid. And so I’m bidding. Okay. I’ve had to tell the convention team very late that I was bidding; great apologies for that. But we have a 70 year tradition of this meeting, being an open meeting where any member of the convention can come and speak.

I felt that it was really important. We lost that last year because they had to do things very quickly. And I understand that. But I think that the fact that they haven’t given you a chance to speak in an open meeting this year, is actually disgraceful. It’s really undermining our community.

So I want to talk about the community and what it means to me. I’m hoping it’s what it means to you too. I chaired the Eastercon in 2018. I think I did a fairly good job. I don’t think we were perfect. I was helped enormously by a fantastic committee and loads of staff and a lot of goodwill.

I don’t think it’s possible to do a perfect job. I think it’s possible to do a good job in a lot of good ways and I see five things, which an Eastercon chair needs to do. And these are the five things that I think are really important.

The first of them is planning. And we understand that 2020 got given a really rum deal, a really rum deal. They had a month, where it was obvious their con wasn’t going to run. But that was enough time to put some programme items together, virtually, to have got some parties together. And they didn’t. Not only did they not do any of those things, they didn’t tell us they hadn’t done it. So we had to run parties at the last minute, because we didn’t know until a few days before the Eastercon that they were not going to run any items other than the business meeting.

So on planning, that’s an example for 2020. I want to talk about planning for 2021 as well. At that business meeting, we asked Vanessa [May, Chair of ConFusion, the 2021 Eastercon] about her plans for a virtual convention. She didn’t have any. I suggest you ask her again this time, see if they’ve got some now. I think there’s quite a good chance the 2023 convention will have to be either entirely virtual or partially virtual. I think there will be people in our community who cannot join us physically. And they should not be disenfranchised. I’ll talk about that in a bit as well. We need an Eastercon chair who will plan to run a convention under whatever scenario that happens.

Okay, consulting, I think the Eastercon chair really needs to consult. You need to consult with two sorts of people. You need to consult with people who are really experienced, who’ve done similar things. You need to talk about what they’ve done, why they made the choices they made, why they decided to use certain things to run their convention, why they decided not to use other things. You know, there’s been a lot of virtual conventions that have mostly ran well, the programs have mostly run to time. Yeah, I think we’d like to see that; this convention should have run smoothly, should have run to time. And if they had consulted with other virtual conventions, and found out what went well, what went badly, and why the things that went badly didn’t go so well, they might have made some different technical choices that would made this one run better. They might not have done, but at least they would have known they had consulted.

But consultation is not just about other people who’ve run conventions. The other people you need to consult with as an Eastercon chair are your ordinary members, and your potential members, the people who might like to come to your convention. You need to ask them, what they’re thinking, what they want, what they think’s important. There are lots of people who are not at this business meeting this morning who would have liked to be. Now again, we have a long tradition that the business meeting is for the people who are at the convention.

But there are lots of these people who are not at the convention today. And they gave me four, four reasons why that was. One was an early reason that they didn’t actually like some of the decisions the convention made, right at the beginning, about how it was run. They thought that choices the convention made made it impossible for them to attend because they had a really firm, personal commitment that meant that they really didn’t like something that convention did.

The second reason people aren’t here is that they thought that 50 quid was an incredible amount of money for a virtual convention. I have to say I agree with them. Gather’s quite expensive, Gather’s quite nice, probably worth spending on that, but other things are quite expensive. And it probably was not worth spending on those things. So they thought it was very expensive.

They thought that the accessibility things were not clear, the accessibility statement for this convention was, we’re gonna have an accessibility statement, it’s never changed. We still don’t know what the convention statement is on helping people with sensory difficulties, helping people with physical difficulties attend this virtual convention, okay. And people who’ve asked, have not got replies.

And the fourth reason is responsiveness; that people asked about the other three things. And the response they got left them with no commitment. The Eastercon chair needs to consult all of their members, and they need to talk to the people who might be at the convention.

The third thing is delegating. Oh, God, there’s a lot of work in an Eastercon, the chair can’t do it all. The convention, the chair can’t do it all themselves, right, they have to have to work with other people. Yeah. And then working with people in a way that accepts that those people have skills, and that really helps to make sure that people have space to do their own jobs well. Most people doing things at Eastercon have done those jobs before, they know how to do them and they need to be left space to do it in the way they think is best. It’s not your job to do anything as the chair, the chair has to delegate.

The fourth is to build. I know that Vanessa wants to put on a show. But the Eastercon’s not a show we put on; it’s a barn that we build together. We’re a community; we come together as a members’ community to build a collective experience. It’s for everybody. As chair, you might get to say, ‘Oh, I think it should have, the barn should have a red roof.’ Or ‘I think it would be quite good if when we’d finished it looked like a barn.’ But the actual jobs are all done by people. It’s not it’s not putting on a show. It’s building the community.

And the fifth thing is sharing. You need to tell people what you’re doing. You need to tell them regularly. And often. You need to make sure that you’re keeping people informed formally through emails, but informally through social media, just chatting to people, just letting people know your plans. I had no idea that Vanessa was bidding, people said, Does anyone know anything about a bid for 2023. And Vanessa said, ‘Yes.’ So we kind of got to guess that she might be. But even a couple of days ago, people were saying ‘Nah, Vanessa’s not bidding.’ So as a Eastercon committee, you have to share, you have to let people know what it is you’re doing. All of your people.

So I feel that the people who aren’t here this year, because they didn’t want to come to this convention, should get a chance to bid. And I think therefore, my recommendation would be...

Yeah, I don’t have a committee. I don’t have a venue. I don’t have a date. I don’t have a website. I don’t have a budget. I do not have answers for your questions. I really don’t have answers for your questions. I am not able to say, to coin a phrase, ‘We got this.’

So I’m going to say that what you should do is to say to both bids this year, come back next year, come back with a plan. Come back with a structure that makes us confident that you can run a convention that represents the whole membership. If you will vote for me, that’s fine. You can vote for me, I will run the Eastercon in 2023. I give you this commitment now, I’ll run it, I’ll run it as well as I possibly can. And I guarantee you, I will plan, I will consult, I will delegate, I will build and I will share. Thank you very much.