Now I Know How Many Fans it Takes to Fill the Albert Hall

So there Alison and I were one evening, idly chatting about conrunning stuff. Pat McMurray (but you knew that; everything is her fault) had recently posted to the Intersmof mailing list some details about the Radisson Edwardian's plans to anschluss the whole of West London and build more conference space and bedrooms than one could believe possible. "You know", I said, "if only someone were to build a 3,000-4,000 seat auditorium somewhere nearby, you could run a Worldcon in the hotels along the A4 at Heathrow. Use the Radisson as the main hotel, with the Hugos and Masquerade and other big events in the big auditorium and the other hotels for special interest programming and overflow accommodation."

Now, I accept that this is a pretty dangerous kind of thing to say. But we were talking on my carphone, so there was no immediate danger to my life and limb of the kind that normally occurs when one combines the words "next", "British" and "Worldcon". Anyway, the auditorium doesn't exist and isn't planned, so this was all definitely hypothetical. Alison certainly thought so. "Do you realise how big a 4,000 seat auditorium is?" she demanded. "It'd have to be as big as the Albert Hall."

A light bulb popped into existence above my head, which must have come as something of a shock to the drivers of the other cars on the road. "Where exactly is the Albert Hall, anyway?" "In Kensington somewhere, just off the A ... 4 ... Wait a minute!" At this point I was definitely glad that we were fifteen miles apart and the separation was increasing all the time. Rather than ending rapidly as numerous blunt instruments were hurled at my head, the conversation continued and we discussed some of the practicalities.

Between the new, improved Radisson and the Ramada just across the road (site of Skycon '78 in a former life) one could accommodate a lot of programme streams. You'd only really need the Albert Hall for the Hugos and the Masquerade. But hiring it for two nights would be prohibitively expensive. Fortunately, we had a pre-prepared solution. At Confabulation in 1995 we were as usual faced with the twin problems of giving the presentation of the awards a sense of occasion and finding something to keep the audience happy during the interminable judging for the Masquerade. We solved the problem quite simply by combining the events and having the awards presentation during the judging break. There seems to be no reason why this couldn't be scaled up to a Worldcon. After all, it's got to be better than everyone being bored out their skulls by rubber-clad men and women posing in ways that are doubtless deeply artistic and meaningful -- if you're Dutch. This gets it all out of the way in one evening, at the trivial price of offending large numbers of costume fans and literary fans, both intensely irritated at having their event demeaned by being associated with the other.

We would need to transport a few thousand fans to the Albert Hall. A fleet of red London double-decker buses would be ideal. Fans unfamiliar with London could set off a couple of hours early and do tours of the sights, ending up at the Albert Hall for an evening's entertainment. We felt that this was a concept we could sell to the Yanks. And having got the Albert Hall for the day, we might as well get the most out of it by turning it over to the filkers in the afternoon for them to see how many different filks of A Day in the Life they could come up with. I expect the techies would want to play with it for a while, too.

The Plokta cabal are out of the conrunning business. Well, Sue and I were just on the committee of Convocation, and Steve is chairman of the 1999 Eastercon, ReConvene, and Giulia is working on ReConvene too, but don't distract me with mere facts. We have no intention of doing anything like this, but we offer the idea as a kind of sacrificial lamb to British fandom as a whole to do with as it sees fit. Just so long as nobody either a) blames us for it or (especially) b) asks us to work on it.

-- Mike Scott

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