A Newbie's Experience
New to the Discworld Convention? Read one (old) newbie’s experiences to find out what’s in store. Mandy Tanda, Programme Lead, writes:
So today I’m on the organising Committee, but back in 2008 I was a Discworld Convention newbie, and the thought of going somewhere on my own that was so out of my normal day to day was a bit daunting - I didn’t have a particularly outgoing personality!
I was just googling new Pratchett books when I came across the Discworld Emporium website - well for me, it was a life changing moment. I found its Forum discussing something called The Discworld Convention, my interest was piqued, and I found the convention website and booked my membership. The rest is history.
My first convention
I was a complete newbie to conventions having never attended anything similar in the past. I didn’t really know anyone, so I signed up to that year’s Google Group to make sure I had all the latest information about what was going to be happening at the convention (you can sign up to get information by email for the 2016 Convention or join the Facebook group). So by the time the convention came round I knew enough that I wasn’t worried about not having a costume, or not really knowing any of the other members.
I checked in late on the Thursday - so I didn’t get to go to the Quiz, which is a sort of pub quiz. (I would highly recommend attending if you are arrive on the Thursday).
For me my first experience of the convention was breakfast on the Friday, where I basically walked up to strangers to have breakfast with them, and walked away with a new set of friends. Registration helped me make more friends. How? Well that’s easy. Once I had my pack I volunteered to hand out packs to everyone else. Sitting next to someone for an hour or two - with some quirky icebreaker quizzes thrown in where you have to ask random members if they are allergic to chocolate etc - loved it.
Registration was where you could sign up for various things too - like the Maskerade costume competition and Klatches - small events where you get to talk to authors and Discworld luminaries in person.
With a multitude of fellow members in full costume, some with amazing attention to detail, and others like me in jeans and t-shirts, I didn’t feel like the odd one out at all. Some people are in jeans and t-shirts on purpose - that’s the convention committee (ConCom) - they have a uniquely coloured t-shirt to identify them. They along with the Ops team - that’s the place you go to whenever you need help - are an integral part of the convention and are more than happy to assist in any way they can.
I first got to meet members of the ConCom at the Trolls Guide, Gopher and Watch Briefings, where I was given my very own Gopher Badge (that’s what you get if you want to be a volunteer at the Convention), Watch badge (this shows you can be trusted to Guard Things) and because I had my first aid certificate with me a First Aid Badge as well. I recommend signing up for some watch duties on Sator Square, where the Discworld Merchants are - you get to shop at the same time as doing a really useful job!
The productions team had also put out a call for extras for the Opening Ceremony and I was one of the people selected, so once I got my bearings I was introduced to the Productions team and given my cues of what to do and where to stand, I have to say it was fun and although it was way out of my comfort zone, I loved it.
The volunteering allowed me to interact with my fellow members, ConCom and on occasion guests at a pace and level I was comfortable with - and let me see so much more than I would ever have thought from Klatches, to Book Signings to the main events from a great vantage point by the exits.
Back in 2008, everyone who attended the convention was assigned a Guild. I was there for the Guild Introductions and First Guild Meetings, but I didn’t really participate in Guild activities that year. My new friends did, though, and by all accounts they had a lot of fun! So why didn’t I participate? Well, that’s because I already had a full schedule - I’d pre-planned what items I wanted to see as soon as the programme was published (that usually happens a few weeks before the Convention), and with the volunteering I got to do as well I just didn’t have time. But how much - or little - you participate is entirely up to you.
That evening was the Opening Ceremony and Bedtime Stories which were the main events on the Friday with a great introduction to the convention from Terry and the Convention Chair, and a special reading from Nation.
A drink in the bar with my new friends brought an end to my day.
I ate breakfast with a completely different set of people, then I did a stint of watch duties at Sator Square and then moved on to the book signings, which were great. I was just standing in the queue when I got asked to switch to helping manage the queue, where I got to chat to all the guests, have a picture or two taken, and got my books signed at the end of the signing!
Saturday usually has a big guest event - and on this occasion it was a Guest of Honour Interview with Sir Terry. I also got to go to a Klatch with Jacqueline Simpson, If you get the chance of a chat with Jaqueline is a must - she is an amazing woman. Coincidently, it was her first convention as well having just completed the Folklore of Discworld (Convention goers got to buy an early release of the book, I was one happy camper when I found that out!)
And where did I buy that? Well, that’s something you need to budget for (if you’re on a budget). Dealers aka Sator Square is where you can buy not only official Convention merchandise but also loads of amazing things from The Discworld Emporium, PJSM Prints, Waterstones and many other stalls - some of them run by Convention members. If you’re a Discworld shopaholic (like me) then start saving now!
For a lot of people the day ends with a visit to the Maskerade, where you get to see members in full costume - including weaponry and other sharp objects - and then the raucous Hedgehog party - not that I attended either. I was partial to simply sitting in the bar with my new friends and absorbing the atmosphere. I highly recommend taking time to simply sit and chat.
Another early breakfast with another set of new people, and some now old friends. Church of Om was my first event on Sunday, then a few stints at Sator Square on watch duties, and of course having stood on duty outside the door on several occasions, and having the chance to meet several of the dealers it was hard to not part with my hard earned cash on a few necessities of course - and maybe a few impulse buys as well.
Having no money left to spend at the Charity Auction I only popped in on my way to the book signing watch duties but it’s still a good event to go see - if for no other reason than to see the movie, book and other weird and wonderful paraphernalia associated with Discworld sold for a good cause.
Book Signings can run into additional days if not everyone manages to get their books signed, as was the case here. Again being on Watch meant I got to chat to the guests before and after the book signing. What was really nice about book signings is the time and attention the guests pay to members as they are signing books or taking photos.
The highlight of my day was the Gala Dinner as it was when many of the members get to dress up not only in costume (minus the weaponry) but also their glad rags. The Gala Dinner was the only item I had to pay to attend in addition to my original membership. It was an opportunity to have a three course dinner with the guests and fellow members. The table favours were beautifully crafted Dragons from the Discworld Emporium, an item not sold anywhere else and only available to attendees at the Gala Dinner!
So what was everyone else doing if they weren’t at the Gala Dinner? Well, that’s easy they were Dragon Racing, yes you read that right I said dragon racing. Which was still going when I finished my meal. So I got my fake money out (supplied in my membership pack) and started betting on who would win the race(s). It was great fun.
So Monday morning was a bit of a later start, having to pack up before breakfast, so who wants to guess if I could close my suitcase? Yeah, that was never going to happen, so luckily for me I know I’m a bit of a pack rat / shopaholic - so I’d packed a smaller overnight bag at the bottom of my case. With that out of the way it kinda... almost closed.
So this was a slow day in terms of items for me as I was only planning on attending the play and the closing ceremony plus a few stints of Watch and Gopher duties.
The Play was really good show put on by the productions team and members - all rehearsed within the short duration of the Convention.
The Closing Ceremony was a nice end to the convention, with Sir Terry giving a lovely closing speech and prizes to all those who had won competitions throughout the event.
That wasn’t the end though there was still a stage to take down and pack away, which was a great workout if nothing else.
And that was my first convention experience. I hope you enjoy yours as much as I enjoyed mine.