With my first Phoenix Convention over, I returned to a pile of things to do and a busy week ensued. It wasn’t until the weekend that I was able to think back and realise what a great time we had. PCon certainly isn’t the largest convention I’ve been to, nor is it the grandest venue, but for me it had two things that made it stand out.
The first was the mix of guests and attendees. Approximately a quarter of the people at P-Con were writing, or making films, or editing, or doing something in the way of creative endeavour. The other three quarters were people who enjoyed and commented on those things. While that alone would not make a great convention it was a great start.
I’ve been to conventions where everyone seems to know everyone else, but where they all stay in their groups, talking about things that are only relevant (or even comprehensible) to that group. It makes it very difficult for people new to the convention to join in and make contact, and tends to lead to a stable set of attendees who simply get older each time the convention repeats. I have sat in panel discussions where the question has been asked, “How do we bring in some new blood? How do we grow?”
The answer might be found in the second element to P-Con’s heady brew, the atmosphere. This started with the organisers, who were welcoming and friendly and keen to introduce you to people, immediately eroding any barriers that might have formed. It continued, with guests and fans that mingled throughout the convention, keen to chat, open to questions and conversation. In panels it was less about the panel members discussing the subject and more about the panel and the audience have an open discussion on the topic at hand. It was light-hearted, interesting and engaging and as much fun to be on the panel as it was to be in the audience.
It is possible that this was partly down to Irish culture, which has the reputation of being one of the friendliest on earth, and Dublin in particular, which Lenny Henry once described as a party city – like a cold Jamaica. We had great weather, which Dublin is not so famous for, and you could go out and see some of the city without making specific preparations against the elements. All of that is contributory, but insufficient in itself to make a great convention.
It certainly helped that the organisation was relaxed but efficient, which must be hard to do when you think about it. Peter and the crew did a fantastic job of making sure everything ran smoothly without making it look stressful or difficult, which is the mark of excellence and for which I would like to express my thanks to all involved. I’m sure there were hiccoughs (aren’t there always?) but they were dealt with quietly and with smiles and good humour, so that nothing became a problem.
The Guest of Honour, Nick Harkaway, was everything a GoH ought to be, charming, funny and with a great collection of stories. As a special treat, the GoH interview is now available on YouTube so that you can hear what Nick had to say about elephants, ninjas and birthday cake. Having listened, you will definitely want to check out his book, The Gone Away World.
And while you’re listening to Nick, sample the atmosphere and savour a taste of what PCon has to offer. Maybe you’ll be tempted to travel over to Dublin and sample PCon VIII next year.