SF BALL - February 2008

I warn you now this is huge, massive by my standards, get a cup of tea and maybe a Kendle Mint cake before you start reading...



We had already received our ‘badges’ in the post. A piece of laminated card with our names/ numbers/ and signing days on. No means of attaching it to ourselves. Luckily I have a mild obsession with lanyards, and was able to supply us both. Most other attendees were using lanyards, many with what looks like a SF Ball official one.

All we had to do at registration was collect our packs. No ticking us off a list, no official welcome. Now, I am biased here as John and I have manned the reg desk at CTV for 3 years but there is so much more they could have down. Told us where things were in the hotel, told us when things were going to start. They could have pointed out the bar at least! Don’t get me wrong, the ladies were very pleasant, but beyond a smile and ‘Here are your packs’ that was all we got.

The Pack

A small but perfectly formed brochure, with info about the weekend and a brief welcome from the organiser. Then a biog for each guest with a black and white picture. The colour cover had a head shot of each of the guests on the front and a floor plan of the hotel on the back. Only 1 and a half pages inside were devoted to adverts. A well presented little book over all.

The other item in the pack was the schedule. Laid out in a similar manner to CTV’s, but with less going on only one side of A4 was required.

We wandered up to the bar, (fortunately we had been to the Carrington before so knew the layout). John had a Guinness and I had a Smirnoff Ice, £6.30. We sat in the well lit bar and perused our brochure and schedule. Other attendees were wandering round, drinking, and chatting. Many were in costume, not the elaborate costumes that come out in the evening, but Star Trek Uniforms and the like.

After our drink we walked though to the dealers room. Easy to find thanks to my map reading skills as there were no signs pointing the way. The only mention the dealers room got in our packs was a small opening times section on the schedule.

The room for the dealers had an open bar, which worried me slightly; if I was a dealer I would not want sticky beer near my merchandise!!

The room although large looked like it would be full. About half the tables were either set up or nearly ready, we will have to revisit later in the weekend to check out the rest. Crawling under a table we found a box of Star Trek figures for £2 each. Some giggling later found us buying one each. I am now the proud owner of a shiny Piccard and John has a Sisko. Both I am sure will reappear later…

Opening Ceremony

The Emcee ‘B’ called the proceedings to order. It was now that we realised how many people obviously go back each year to this event, making it a family affair. There were obvious in jokes that we did not understand but that did not matter. Each guest was brought on to say hello, they all seemed at ease. The organiser also popped on for a brief hello and to officially open the convention.

We were now left with an awkward 90 minutes to fill. Nothing was going on other than the dealers room still open until 1800. Rather than just sit in the bar we wandered off to the beach and watched the sun set, then back to our hotel (we were unfortunately not staying on site) to freshen up for the evening entertainment.

Now we knew that the Gold Ticket cocktail party was going on between 1900 and 2000. So were not surprised when the evening entertainment did not start on time. We sat in the main room waiting and waiting and waiting.

It was obvious why things were running late but that does not mean that those of us who chose not to pay the extra money to buy Gold tickets should just be ignored. SF Ball has been around for 14 years, have they not learnt that the cocktail party overruns? Or was this the first time this happened? Are they not capable of apologising to the people waiting patiently? A very simple ‘Sorry we are running late, the bar is open, we will be with you as soon as possible’ would have done. There was nothing, not even an apology when things did start 50 minutes late.

Very bad!

The entertainment when we got it was excellent but alas far too short. One round of comedy bowling and one session of Geek busters (Blockbusters for the uninitiated) was not enough. It was all finished in about 45 minutes. The production value for this was high; why not make more of it?

The theme for the disco was Glam Rock, and many people had put their glad rags on. The music was great, people danced almost immediately.

Overall I was a little disappointed with the Friday; there was not much indication in the paperwork we were sent that things did not kick off until 1800. We could easily have spent the day doing something else.

If it had not been for my £2 Piccard we would have been very bored waiting for the evening entertainment! Poor Piccard was quite mistreated. And John has the pictures to prove it…


The main room had been reset again with rows of chairs. We sat about half way back and slightly to the side and had a good view. Two big screens on either side provided close ups for us and the back drop (three large screens) changed according to which guest was on.

Aaron Douglas (Tyrol from BSG) was first and very entertaining he was too. Little anecdotes from the BSG set and speculation about the 4th series. He is a Sci Fi fan himself so was enthusiastic about his own work as well as other series.

Gil Gerard and Erin Grey (Buck Rogers and Wilma Deering) came on together and although Gerard took the lion share of the talking they were both good. They admitted to still being good friends and through that they sparked off each other.

LeVar Burton was excellent, he spent a good 10 minutes singing the virtues of British cuisine, and highlighting the differences between the US and UK. He was asked some good questions, not just about ST:TNG but also his role in Roots. Hopefully he will get time to talk about his directing tomorrow.

Nichelle Nichols rounded off the days guest talks. A fascinating lady whoes tale of getting the part in Heroes was entertaining. She did have a tendency to wander off during her stories but she remained interesting. There were so many people waiting to ask her questions there was not enough time. She left with a musical good bye which received cheers and whoops from the audience.

SF Ball - The Ball

Can I take back what I said yesterday, how I was a bit disappointed. Tonight was excellent, I was almost determined not to enjoy it, but boy was I blown away.

When we got the final update it said that you could not wear trainers or sports gear to the ball, this immediately got my back up. But I guess over the years the attendees have come to embrace this evening as THE event for them. When we arrived at the hotel (fairly early due to my panic about not being able to walk fast in my heeled boots - I could walk fine) we bought a drink each and sat to watch the other attendees. They were either dressed up in their finest or dressed up in their finest costumes. The theme for the evening was Safari, there were great white hunters, lion and tigers and bears, Oh My. The thought that must have gone into some of the costumes! If there were any people who had not dressed up, I did not see them.

We were called to go through to the main room. We were announced by an amiable elderly gent in a fab red tail coat to the organisers who shook our hands and welcomed us to the ball. The room had been transformed, each table had balloons in stripes and spots, there were Zulu shields and spears and the back ground music was all appropriate. We were shown to our table by ushers dressed as natives.

We had preordered out first bottle of wine which was sat on our table waiting for us. Two members of the crew were wandering the hall with a cameraman and interviewing the more outlandishly dressed attendees. This was being shown on the big screens. They were very entertaining and the standard was that of most outside broadcasts I have seen on the telly.

The guests were all announced too much cheering and dinner began.

The food was very good; we had picked our food from the menu given to us in our final update. (We had been able to make our choices on line after registering).

Our table mates were chatty and many aspects of Sci Fi were discussed.

The cabaret began as we were enjoying our coffee (or tea in my case); Big Howard and Little Howard consisted of a human - Big Howard and a power point cartoon boy - Little Howard. Very well done and despite a couple of technical difficulties went without a hitch.

The costume competition followed, the 20 ish contestants paraded round in the centre of the room as the guests judged them, it was quite obvious the Nichelle Nicholls had appointed herself chief judge! The costumes were very good and inventive. Many were using the Safari theme but there were the obligatory Klingons and a rather good Boba Fett meets Judge Dredd (who got an honourable mention, thanks to Jeremy Bulloch).

The disco began at 2300 and I was barely off the dance floor. Around 0200 we finally began our walk back to our hotel (or totter as I was starting to struggle with the heels!)


0730 hours is far too early to be crawling out of bed, not hung over but almost certainly still under the influence we arrived back at the Carrington. We were a little late to catch all of Gil Gerard and Erin Grey’s second talk as we had decided to sign up for next year. This was a very simple affair, a quick form to be filled in and a deposit of £40 secured our places for next year at the Ball and in the hotel. My only complaint with this was the lack of a receipt or any kind of proof of purchase.

Gerard and Grey were in full swing when we joined the audience, as SF Ball does day rates some of the same questions were asked, but it was not a carbon copy of the previous day.

Aaron Douglas was in fine form, he gave an ad hoc quiz asking some quite difficult questions about BSG and giving away signed photos to the winners. He also announced that he had been speaking to one of the BSG team in the US and that the writers strike was on the verge of ending. Reading from some notes he had made he announced when BSG would be back on TV in the US and acknowledged that the downloaders in the room would be watching it the next day.

Nichelle Nichols spent some time talking about how she nearly left Star Trek after one series and how she helped to recruit women and people from ethnic minorities to NASA, quite fascinating; she received several rounds of applause for her work.

Didn’t see LeVar Burtons second talk as I had an appointment with my patriotic side and went back to our hotel for the rugby!

The Auctions

The two auctions were held in the main room at noon on Saturday and Sunday. The Saturday auction was run by Richard Arnold, who also spent about 15 minutes talking about the new Trek film. He mainly auctioned autographed photos from Trek and Stargate. These went for between £10 and £30.

The Sunday auction included other shows; several Doctor Who items were sold.

Closing Ceremony

This was similar to the opening ceremony, all the guests were wheeled out to say goodbye and the prizes for the competitions were destributed.

Aaron Douglas had managed to get a call sheet from the last aired episode of BSG before the writers strike signed by all the principle cast. This was auctioned now as it was expected to reach a lot of money. £750 later it did!

Following a somewhat odd experience in the hotel resturant – where the choice was 3 meat dishes and a veggie option with nuts in it (fine if you are vegetarian and don’t have a nut allergy!!) we made our way back to the main room for the last part of the con.

Fantasy Fortunes followed the rules of Family Fortunes with attendees taking part. This lasted about 30 minutes and was done well, even if some of the answers had us perplexed!

The final disco began with the addition of Karaoke.

So overall a thoughrouly enjoyable weekend, very well organised with amiable and interesting guests. There is no perfect convention as everyone has differant needs from such an event but this will make a fine annual event for us to attend, I hope for many years to come. It will never replace Cult TV for me but it will go a long way to filling the void that Cult has left.

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