A couple of weeks ago a friend asked me if the missus and I would be interested in attending the SFX Weekender at Camber Sands Pontins. Naturally I said yes! Since then we’ve been in regular contact finalising details. Pick up times and such like. Friday morning started with the arrival of mum and pops who were picking up DTWP, who was going to spend the weekend with them, he’ll be back Sunday. Richard & Carol picked us up at about 10:30ish and we were soon speeding along the A295 to Camber. There a brief stop in order to purchase the nosh for the day and a second one to visit a cash point. We got to Pontins just before noon; Carol had to go to reception to register us. Apparently this was a bit of a shambles as the staff had no clue as to what they were doing. What should have been a five minute book in took almost 20. Whilst waiting for Carol I indulged in a game of spot the geek. My goodness it was harder than I thought! Firstly I think the stereotypical geek is becoming extinct. There were very few attendees dressed up and most of the crowd would not have looked out of place at a rock concert or some chav magnet night club. It seems the days of a dozen people turning up at an event like this as characters are a thing of the past. There were a few Storm Troopers, Clone Troopers and dodgy looking Jedi, and later in the evening I spotted four people in Starfleet uniform. Not a single Klingon to be seen. Perhaps the Empires foothold on this planet has slipped. By far the most popular character to pose as was the tenth doctor. However, this only applies to tall, skinny lads with big hair. Stick on a suit and a pair of converse and you’re sorted. Well, you have the big hair put David Tennant you clearly ain’t! After a brief look around a poor show in the way of merchandise and trader stands headed down to the screening room to watch the very first episode of Red Dwarf. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it. A bit more mooching about before we headed back to the main hall where we sat down to listen to a debate on the effect that the current series of Doctor Who has had on sci-fi, namely good or bad. Whilst this session was enjoyable and, at times, quite humorous the main point of the debate was never clearly defined. So I guess it’s down to the viewers to decide. The current DW series has certainly caused a run of other sci-fi based shows. Some good, some not so good. I’ll let you think about which is which! After the “debate” off for a spot of lunch. Now I mentioned above that we bought nosh off site, thinking the prices would be extortionate, but this wasn’t really the case. Whilst watching Red Dwarf, Tea and I tucked in to some rather tasty hot dogs and a glass of OJ. The OJ was because they didn’t serve hot drinks at the bar. However lunch was the sandwich I bought earlier. Then we returned to the main hall for another browse of the traders stand. This included a stand from forbidden planet. I have to say that I thought the traders turn out for Friday was extremely poor. Even the stall from FP had very little to offer. Hopefully things will be better on Saturday. Before I get to the next thing we sat down for I feel I must mention the venue. Appalling does not describe accurately enough! The place is dire! I used to go to Camber Pontins twice a year when I was but a lad. It hasn’t changed at all. It even smells the same! What on earth possesses people to spend a week or two there I have no idea. I’m not sure I’d want to spend the two nights there. The facilities are in a poor state of repair, in some parts of the main hall the lino flooring had bubbled and raised creating a possible trip hazard. The area being used as the screening room had the same carpet down that was there when I was 12. In all honesty the venue is poor, I have a few more grumbles but I’ll get to that later.
After lunch we decided to sit down to hear what a fella called James Marsters had to say. For those that don’t who he is, he played Spike in Buffy and Angel and Captain John Hart in Torchwood. He was very entertaining and amusing to listen to. He spoke highly of all the people he has worked with, particularly Anthony Head (Giles) and John Barrowman. The latter of which he had a lot of praise for. It was also very clear that he really appreciates the fans and at the end of his 45 minute stint there was the impression that he wanted to stay longer. He apologised to the audience, explaining that he had to head off for another engagement. A bit more walking around, I personally felt that there was too much time between events. There was a lot of time when nothing happened. We were also feeling a bit peckish by now, so we managed to find a burger bar, a cross between MacDonald’s and KFC. Now having worked on a funfair, for a considerable amount of time, I’ve eaten some very dodgy burgers. This, however, was the first time I’d eaten a crispy one. I’d like to say that the crispiness was down to the freshness of the lettuce. Sadly, no! The chips were nice though. After the crunchy burger we were entertained with a showing of “Once More with Feeling” the musical episode from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I really like this episode, and as an added bonus the subtitles were being displayed so that the audience could sing along. Not that I did, but Trudes and Carol gave it their all. After much discussion, Trudes and I decided that we’d go halves on a signing pass for the next day. She desperately wanted to get her John Hart action figure signed by James Marsters but we didn’t have the pass at the time, so sadly she missed out. We went to the reception desk to ask about passes. The chap behind the counter said they were £40! My initial thought was “bloody hell!” when I protested the price, I was told that the quoted price of £30 was only valid if the pass was bought online. I told Trudes this and she was upset as she really wanted to get Elisabeth Sladens autograph for her son. Then I remembered that in the event handbook it states that signing passes are £30. I took the book to the desk and pointed this out to the nice lady, the chap had gone. I explained that nowhere in the book does it say anything about an online purchase price. She folded and let me have a pass for 30. Back upstairs again for something described as “The Imaginarium Funfair and Cabaret. The event organisers really should have some comprehension of the trading standards act. To me a funfair has rides and side stalls, there were none of these. What we were seeing was a stage show featuring a few scantily clad girlies jiggling their bits. Granted they were fire eating and spitting jets of flame everywhere, there was also some madman juggling with burning sticks. This was impressive. Then there was a re-enactment of an alien autopsy, the problem with this was that it was on the stage and you couldn’t really see what was happening. More dancing girls and juggling then an homage to King Kong, more dancing girls and a rather poor Frankenstein effort. Then they bought out a Derren Brown type bloke. He was surprisingly good, we I thought so, I’m not sure my companions would agree. More dancing girls, this time they were scantily clad in fairy lights and accompanied by some sort of robot, also covered with fairy lights. After that came some blokes dressed as Egyptian market traders who performed what must be the most appalling rap ever. Then more dancing girls, with one of them carrying a rather nice, if somewhat bored, looking albino python. Then a few more girls with flaming sticks. At this point it seemed to be that the show was going to follow a pattern so we decided to make an exit. Richard and Carol dropped us at home at about 23:30 and arranged to pick us up just after 9 in the morning.
Re-entry to the event was fairly painless, apart from the main gate being closed. Carol drove to the secondary gate. A security guard asked for a name, which was provided, and we were directing into the complex. Trudes and I got out of the car and headed for the main hall. To find Darth Vader, a couple of Storm troopers a rebel soldier greeting the punters. Lord Vader took the pee out of Tea and me for having a heated debate, so I told her to go and stand with him for a photo opp. Bless her. The first call of the day was the signing line with the intent of getting Tom Baker, Lis Sladen and Gareth David Lloyds autograph. Oh dear! Firstly there was no clear indication of where the line started or ended. It was announced that one of the two lines was for VIP guests and the other was for everyone else. I stood in line for around two and a half hours only to be told that the guests had stopped signing for now and if we wanted their scratch on our picture of them, we’d have to come back later. Fortunately they wrote numbers on everyone’s hand so that we could rejoin the queue at the point we were stopped. This plan sort of worked, I got Ianto’s and Sarah Jane’s with no trouble. Getting Tom Bakers was a different story. For him there were three lines. VIPs, people with numbers on their hands and everyone else. I foolishly thought that there would be some sort of structure to the system, but no. Firstly the line for everyone else was moving much quicker than the other two, and the people who’d had numbers written on their hands were milling about in no particular order. I had 65 on my hand, behind and in front of me were people with both higher and lower numbers. We were being over seen by security guys who had two four main problems. 1. They had no idea on fairness or what the word “priority” meant 2. They saw the whole event as a chance to chat up the “pretty” girls and be downright rude to anyone that didn’t have a trim figure. 4. When not ogling the girls they were making negative comments about the people in general. I clearly heard one of them describe the people in the line as “nutters”, “weirdoes” and “idiots”. 4. They had no clear system in place and were letting people through at random intervals. Sometimes 4 or 5 from line, then 8 to 10 from another and three from another. Now and then they let people in from two lines i.e. VIP then everyone else the VIP and everyone else again. Completely ignoring the line of people who had a number on their hand who were supposed to have priority. Eventually I got to Tom Baker and he signed my picture of him surrounded by Daleks. Hoorah! Earlier in the day tom had been on stage being interviewed, the man is completely off his trolley. It’s a shame to describe one of my childhood idols this way but there’s no other way to put it. He is totally bonkers. When asked anything about his tenure as The Doctor, he either avoided answering or answered the question very quickly and the babbled on about copping off with old ladies. I missed the interview with Gerry Anderson due to queuing. But managed listen in on Gareth David Lloyd and Elisabeth Sladen, both of them were very interesting to listen to. Elisabeth was very keen to talk about her work on Doctor Who, both old and new. She also talked about K9 & Company, with mock terror and the Sarah Jane Adventures. She mentioned that when she was approached about SJA she thought that she may get offered a part in Torchwood. I like the sound of that; we’d get to see Sarah Jane in a whole new light. She may even be a little naughty. Snerk! The guy who plays Ianto was hilarious; he did say that it was extremely unlikely that he would be reprising the role if another series comes along. Although Trudes came up with the idea of Ianto contracting immortality as an STD! We left about 19:00 and decided to pick up DTWP and give Ben the things we’d bought him, he was very pleased with it all. So that’s it! All in all the weekend was fairly good, the Trader stalls didn’t get any better on the Saturday and nothing really appealed. I bought a couple of 8” x 10” photos and got my photo of Tom “bonkers” Baker signed. Trudes is knackered and I plan for her to rest as much as possible on Sunday. I shall, at some point have to go home to take care of Obi; he’s been a bit neglected this weekend. Fortunately a friend had offered to pop in on him for me. But he’ll still need to see his main provider. Aw bless!
Apparently the SFX weekender 2 is already in the planning stages, I’d be happy to go, we may even stay in the complex next time. Although I really hope that they will have sorted out some of the hiccups this one had. Overall it wasn’t a bad event, a bit poorly managed but it was the first one. I don’t think they’ll hold it at Pontins for a third year. They may even relocate 2011’s.
Well it’s been a very long two days for me and Trudes so in the words of Zebedee, “time for bed!” well maybe a cuppa first.