There are still bits of Au Contraire going on this morning. The con committee has kindly laid on various tourism opportunities for the foreign visitors, including a trip to the Shrine of the Squid God. For me, however, the con is over. I’m leaving for Melbourne this afternoon. It is time, therefore, for some brief reflection.
When I was in Auckland last year a certain amount of concern was expressed by some older Kiwi fans. Who were these young women from Wellington with their grandiose plans? What experience did they have? Would it all turn out to be a dreadful disaster?
I’m pleased to say that nothing of the sort transpired. Au Contraire ran pretty much flawlessly. There were a few minor hiccups, as there always are, but the program ran to time without any seeming effort. They even managed to get the little signs outside the program rooms saying what the next panel would be updated on time. I never saw anyone doing it. I think it may have been fairies.
The programming was interesting and varied. There was everything from writing workshops to an introduction to cosplay. I’m now rather sorry I missed the masquerade as it appears to have been very good.
There was no art show, and the dealers’ room, such as it was, was a program item scheduled for a couple of hours. This did not seem to be a problem. Given the price of books in New Zealand, I guess people are very careful about what they buy.
Cuba Street was, as I had expected, one of the stars of the event. It is packed with interesting restaurants, and the Seamarket over the road provided some of the tastiest fast food you could wish for. Who needs burgers when you can have good old fish & chips?
The hotel staff were extremely friendly and efficient. The wi-fi was a bit of a disaster, but if you had a wired connection in your room (or in function space as I did last night for the Vogels) the network was fine.
Obviously no con is perfect. I would have liked a document listing who was going to be on which program items. But I probably would not have attended any more because I’ve been so busy and in need of naps.
One thing I did notice is that the local fans are very used to small, intimate panels where anyone can chime in at any point. With small panels that’s fine, but if you have 50-100 people in the audience, most of whom are there to listen to the panel, attempting to dominate proceedings from the audience looks rather rude. Most people were very well behaved, and I can understand why some people have got used to this, but it did irritate people at times.
I should note, however, that the Kiwis were unfailingly polite and welcoming (except to Australians, of course, who were subject to the usual friendly banter). I’m pretty sure that if there had been a con in the UK where a third of the members were from overseas there would have been a lot of muttering about how the local con flavor was being swamped by the influx of people who “do things differently”. Au Contraire always felt like a great, big fannish party.
It was announced last night that the con had 253 paid members. Around 60+ of those were foreign visitors. Lynelle Howell tells me that the usual attendance for an NZ Natcon is in the 120-150 range, so Au Contraire attracted an unusually large number of locals despite the fact that a number of prominent Kiwi fans did not attend because they needed all of their savings to get to Worldcon.
Overall, Au Contraire can be counted a huge success. Kelly, Daphne, Jess and the rest of the (all female) crew can be very proud of themselves. And on behalf of us visitors who have had a wonderful time, Thank You!