25 September 2016

Good Times! #5 DWASocial 5 and Fan Aid 1985



DWASocial 5 (originally published in The MLG Megazine 1985. Extra material 2016)
One month after joining the DWAS exec commitee along came DWASocial 5, an event on a much larger scale than usual, due to the titanic efforts of Gordon Roxburgh, who was looking after most things while Paul Zeus gets to grips with the forthcoming three day summer PanoptiCon. Apart from discovering that a lot of dashing about is required, I also found out something which I may not have otherwise, while stuck in my usual clique, which was the warmth and friendliness of the majority of members within the society who are really a very interesting bunch often contemptuously dismissed as plebs(unfairly). Hopefully I can help change that attitude amongst some of the bigger names in the society. 



I arrived at the Novotel mid-Friday afternoon and immediately was taken back by the lavish decor, carpets, plants etc. We sat around the lobby for ages not realising that Gordon was upstairs putting the rather nifty convention booklets in their envelopes. Eventually we began the major operation of the day setting up the Fanzine area. Although this was really my responsibility, having the two previous organisers - David Howe and Robbie Moubert - on hand meant that they tended to know more about this sort of thing than I did. Anyway we came to common agreement (with more than a little help from John McElroy) after many different designs, settling for putting tables TARDIS console like, around pillars in the middle of the room. Thanks to local hero Roy Evans we had some proper signs on hand, though in retrospect it may have been a mistake to allocate 'zines to tables on the evening before, as we didn’t know how much space they would require on the day.
That done we retired to the oddly named `Le Pub` where a few guests were already lingering including Carole Anne Ford looking stunning as she walked in; clearly she will never age. Adrienne Hill, now a drama teacher, was somewhat surprised by the whole event while Michael Craze and his wife were also present. These guests were escorted back to the hotel for a very expensive meal which I opted out of for financial reasons staying in `Le Pub` to hear Bill Baggs and Nick Layton tell me about their forthcoming film which sounds really good. And Bill took a few directorial tips from Graeme Harper later.

Saturday morning dawned at 7.50 am when I was phoned in my room by Dominic May who hinted that it may be a good idea to come down since there were one or two fanzine editors waiting. Sure enough, the lobby was obscured by a long queue and the outside world gradually became forgotten. One by one the editors turned up and I tried to find their allotted tables with only one bit of hassle when someone moved their sign which was sorted out after much moaning from certain editors.
The stuff on sale was varied. We had professional dealers for the first time though they seemed to duplicate each other in what they were selling and also posed a problem in taking some business away from the smaller fanzines. `Fan Aid` seemed to sell the most; Paul West told me they had shifted over 200 copies. One of the most pleasurable tasks was meeting many of the editors and hence I tried to work out where I’d seen Mark Wyman and Mark Teague’s `Opera of Doom` before, just who did all the effects on Bill Baggs and Nick Layton’s Audio Visuals tapes and why Neil Hutchings was wearing a silly shirt! 
It’s amazing though the things the one gets called upon to do. I met a number of local group organisers at the event and was told off by one of them for my policies. Thanks Dave Dean. “I’m Dave” he told me in a Middlesbrough accent. He also took me to task for mis-spelling the name of his home city. The DWAS stall was strictly organised and here is a good place to thank those capable assistants for doing their jobs especially Allan Stewart who also helped out with some information on the Glasgow local group. I found myself doing a stint on the Registration Desk at one point but perhaps my most unusual job was holding two huge doors shut to stop a draught blowing on Colin Baker and John Nathan –Turner as they signed autographs. “Just stay here for a second,” said Dominic and vanished for half an hour!  And where did he vanish? The hospitality room natch. No wonder his exec nickname is `Slimy`.

The Hospitality Room is the bit that the attendee never sees and its basically for the relaxation (and sometimes hiding) of the guests before they go on stage. Free chicken in a basket abounds and that was something I’d never seen before.  I was expecting something more exotic but it turns out it is literally a peice chicken in a wicker basket. Not sure of the point of the basket though? It is here that all the stewards flake out exhausted by their efforts (“oh yeah” says the disbelieving reader). We were asked to entertain Donald Cotton amongst other things.  How do you do that with only chicken in a basket to hand!?
There was big flap on in the afternoon because of one guest, producer's secretary Sarah Lee. It’s really naughty of me to tell you this but when a secretary comes over in a more self- important way than all the stars then it does reflect badly on her. When she was excluded from being part of a panel, JNT refused to go on stage unless she was allowed on as well! By contrast Graeme Harper is the most modest guest I’ve met; he’ll brush off praise but linger longer on aspects of his work he considers mistakes, considering what he could have done better.
On stage the event was replete with the sort of guests you might expect over a two rather than one day event. Some of them were rare appearances- Adrienne Hill for example. John Wiles proved a particularly interesting guest talking of the problems he’d had with William Hartnell confessing this was the reason he quit as producer. However the event will always be best remembered for Ian Levine’s on stage speech about the ongoing cancellation crisis and the rumoured reduced episode count when the show did return. Not sure how he even got on stage –and this was to become an even bigger issue months later at PanoptiCon – but his speech certainly altered the atmosphere of the day to unprecedented levels of tension. It was more like a party political conference than a convention.

His assertions were later criticised on stage by John Nathan Turner  when he and Colin Baker fielded a series of awkward questions. He received a standing ovation for declaring: “I detect a distinct opposition, an unfriendliness in the air and it is not right. Colin and myself have given up our Easter Saturday to be with you all and we are treated like this. It is my guess that someone very stupid has been amongst you and given you these ideas. They have no foundation- Doctor Who is safe and will return in 1986 and for many years after.” Which was a suitably dramatic moment but you have to remember that Levine’s speech also got an ovation. Both were later annoyed with DWAS newsletter CT’s questioning which of them was telling the truth. JNT objected to the very idea he might not be while Levine took umbrage over editor Dominic May’s likening the speech to a `Hitler rally`. We learned years later that in fact the only thing JNT was really upset over was that he wanted to be the person revealing information not Levine! Reports that they met up for a fight behind the kitchens afterwards remain unconfirmed!

You can see below that Gordon Roxburgh timetabled the day like a concert with obvious climaxes and moments to recall and it was this which would eventually lead to him becoming the DWAS Convention organiser on a permanent basis. DWASocial 5 was in the end less a Social and more a successful day long convention complete with great guests, controversy, old episodes and chicken in a basket! 
DWASocial 5 on stage  (NB all in one day!) 
`Reign of Terror` episodes 1 and 2
Panel: Jacqueline Hill, Carole Anne Ford, Michael Craze, Adrienne Hill
`Reign of Terror` episode 3
Panel: John Wiles, Donald Cotton, William Emms.
`Cyberbusters` video by `Tardis` editorial team
Compilation of news coverage of the Doctor Who cancellation / video for `Doctor in Distress`
Ian Levine speech
`The War Machines` episode 4
John Nathan –Turner, Colin Baker
`Auf Wiedersien Doc` video by Kevin Davies
Dinner
Panel: Terrance Dicks, Dick Mills, Graeme Harper
Awards, Raffle
`Shada` all existing  footage shown


Fan Aid Convention (Originally published in MLG Megazine 1985)

The Band Aid record engineered by the redoubtable Bob Geldof has inspired many imitations.  Doctor Who fandom, despite facing its own (by contrast insignificant) crisis, has also pitched in, the largest project being Fan Aid, a fanzine packed with articles by the cream of the countrys 'zine writers. A second zine is on its way, and now there are the Fan Aid conventions the first of which was held in the very picturesque town of Bath, a place that could scarecely be more different from the scenes we've seen in Ethiopia this past year. The venue for the event was the Ladbroke Beaufort Hotel, an anomaly amongst the spa town's grandiose buildings; modern and trendy it wouldn't have been out of place in London. The event was organised by a very efficient team, headed by Paul West, Paul Cornell and Steven Brittain, who had the whole thing worked out to a tee, none of the usual DWAS last minute panicking here! 
A whole roster of guests were lined up and each gave interesting and informative talks.
David Banks, apart from being very tall, is interesting and full of little backstage tales. He seems almost certain that the 14 week season is to happen whereas later Colin Baker seemed to contradict this. Anyway, David was interviewed for an hour or so and amongst his many interesting statements was his loyalty to the Cyber Leader, which led him to turn down the Cybercontroller's role in 'Attack', or there was the story of an extra in 'Earthshock', who succumbed to claustrophobia, when sealed into his Cyber-helmet. He also talked of the freezing location work on 'The Five Doctors' and also said that he would like to play a completely different role within the programme. He added that he’d been asked to play the Auton leader in Season 23.
Apart from Colin Baker, all the other guests were writers or, in the case of Graham Williams, a producer. Now everyone knows the brickbats hurled at the Williams era in the years gone by but as always seems to happen the fickle feelings of fandom have turned aqain and the three years seem to be in for reassessment, hence Graham will be a regular feature of the '85 season of conventions. Coming from Liverpool (did ya know that then?), he's naturally friendly, witty and seemed quite happy to discuss both the success and shortcomings of his time on the programme. He explained how he'd like to have run the 'Key To Time' theme over three seasons, how Tom Baker might have left in 1979 and the thoughts running through his head that Geoffrey Bayldon might be his replacement. He mentioned his difficulties with Mary Tamm suddenly leaving and also some of his problems on the show, especially K9 and the CSO work in 'Underworld'. Also discussed were his now abandoned Celestial Toymaker script for Season 23 though was unwilling to reveal much about the plot. Anyway, Graham Williams will lighten your convention so don't be in the bar when he's on. 
The writers present were, Philip Martin, Terrance Dicks, Bob Baker, Chris Boucher and Dennis Spooner, who appeared together in a massive writer's panel - a very impressive display of literary prowess. They each discussed their work with still fresh interest, gradually coaxing anecdotes as they went along not to mention many jokes. There were no episodes shown at the event however, there were a few other items thrown in, a highly amusing game of charades, a useful DWAS Executive panel, a small but refreshing fanzine sale and, of course, a chance towards the end for autographs. 
Guest of the day undoubtedly was Colin Baker, in animated form, quipping all over the place as he related tales from the show, not to mention his recent parachute jump (which he's even brave enough to repeat). He talked of how he gains affection for the production team more after each story and places each story as his favourite, until he sees the next one. His all-time favourite is 'The Two Doctors' and he was particularly delighted to work with old friend Patrick Troughton. Colin is slightly more modest now as regards his future in the role nevertheless he emphasised his happiness in the part (despite the often gruelling schedule of public appearances) and wish to remain with it for a very long time. 
The first Fan-Aid convention was a very well organised and executed convention and worth it both for the cause and a really great day's entertainment. 
 




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