Saturday, 23 February 2008 08:37

The final year of the Cult TV Festival Weekender, and we took over a stately home and conference centre in Oxfordshire...


Back at the familiarisation weekend in May 2006, the Cult TV Production Team had immediately booked the dates of 31 August to 3 September for 2007 with Seacroft - such was the confidence in the venue. After receiving an overwhelming amount of negative feedback towards the venue (rather than the event itself), action had to be taken to satisfy the majority of our regular audience.

The first change may have seemed a little cosmetic, but as marketers will tell you, words are everything. Having been called a "Festival" for the last few years, the Production Team made the decision to revert back to the name that had been used right back in the early years of the event - "An Appreciation Weekend", also adopting the moniker "Weekender" as a short-hand for this (the term is very popular for music events around the world, who follow a similar all-inclusive format as to that which Cult TV has always offered). It seemed to be the case that the word "Festival" was simply not describing what it was our attendees were part of.

The second change was a little more major – as a majority of attendees were not happy with Seacroft as a venue, to go back there would be counter-productive to our aim of growing Cult TV back to the size of event it was in its heyday. Many of our attendees had been with us for years, and times move on for all of us. As we get older, ‘home comforts’ become more and more important, so it becoming necessary to have a room to sleep in at night that was as comfortable as possible.

We also appreciated that whilst we ask people to treat Cult TV as a holiday break, none of us seem to want to be too far away from home, so journeys have to be made as short as possible for as many potential attendees as possible. We needed a location in the centre of the country, well served by the road and rail networks.

Finally, it was clear that the proposed new date at the end of August was proving to be problematic for more of our regular supporters than those who liked it. People wanted us back to an October date, so we had to factor this in to our choice of venue.

After a nationwide search, inspecting over half a dozen prospective venues and approaching over a dozen others, Cult TV made plans to move to the Dunchurch Park Hotel, Warwickshire, over the weekend of 19-22 October 2007.

All went well until early February 2007, when bad news came from Dunchurch. They had never previously been considered to host a Cult TV Festival Weekender before, as they had a shortage of bedrooms compared to what was needed as a minimum – this was going to be solved with them bringing builders in to increase their bedroom capacity by over 50%. Unfortunately, the builders went bankcrupt, and this meant there was no way that the expansion would be ready in time.

So, calling upon our friends at Hotelsmart, and also thanks to a recommendation by Dunchurch themselves, Cult TV ‘upgraded’ even further than before, but at what has turned out to be more competitive bedroom rates overall. The Festival Weekender was scheduled for the same dates in October as those secured at Dunchurch, but now we would be at the Heythrop Park Hotel, Enstone, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, UK.

The decision was also made to make this the final live Cult TV Weekender - our audience demographic has shifted over the years, and we were no longer appealing to the essential 18-25 year old market that we had done in our early years. Our audience has basically shifted to 30-somethings, Baby Boomers and older. Whilst it would be terrific to see there being a continuing enthusiasm amongst those under 30 for the TV fiction of years gone by, the throwaway disposable culture means that if it's not new and shiny, it's consigned to history.

Unfortunately, the 30-somethings and older are now not in a position, in the main, to spare us a whole weekend away from home. Family and work commitments mean that days off are precious, so Cult TV has to find a way to come to them, rather than them come to us. This will be the way we will be moving things in the months to come!

However, with the 2007 Weekender, we definitely left people wanting more. Our guest list included Philip Glenister, Antonio Fargas, Ron Harper, Jared Martin, Ike Eisenmann, Ben Miller, Kent McCord, Heather Menzies, Allan Hunt, Matthew Graham, Georgina Hale, Liz Morgan, Deborah Watling, Nigel Rhodes, John Hasler, Alistair Lock, Ben Aaronovitch, James Swallow, Alan Shubrook, Kevin Davies, Grant Cathro, Lee Pressman, Marc Blake, and Andrew Mark Sewell. Suffice to say that the Cult TV Weekender concluded as it had begun - bringing stars and production staff never before seen on the convention circuit to the UK. In 2007, four of our guests had never attended a convention anywhere in the world before, whilst for another six this was their first ever UK convention (or signing event, for those who like to distinguish one from another!).

Cult TV has existed because of the support of not only our celebrity guests but also our attendees. We hope that you will join us for the debut of the Cult TV Weekender in the vitual world. As Bachman Turner Overdrive once said: "You ain't seen nothing yet!" ...

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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