Rolling Pone: New Pony Convention Coming to GB with Mistmane's Voice Actor by

"Oi, you got a convention attending licences?" 

Rolling Pone: New Pony Convention Coming to GB with Mistmane's Voice Actor
I sit down with HypnoHooves... Elley-Ray Hennessey... Details of the Con... Insight and Advice... 

By Foal Duke, International Affairs Correspondent, 23rd February 2018

Hello, hello hello, what's all this then? Planning a Convention with Intent to Fun? That'll get you two years minimum, chummy. And it's been two years since BUCK closed its doors to the world, but in the style of so many European Conventions, it would appear that another convention is starting up in England with a modest venue in a reasonable location.




First -  Elley-Ray Hennessey confirmed, to me, at HW Con, that she'll be attending, but she'll also be a VIP at Gala Con 2018 too, so that's something new I don't think has been announced anywhere else yet (apart from the GC bit). But I digress - at Hearth's Warming Con a week ago, I was lucky enough to sit down with the chair of Griffish Isles, HypnoHooves, for a detailed 15 minute interview about the upcoming con. There's a video and a transcript if Youtube is deciding not to co-operate.



Website – griffishisles.uk
Duration - 1 day
Location – Manchester
Date - 19th May 2018, 10 am til late
Other plans - possible event next year too.
Charity - Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation, gmcvo.org.uk

Foal Duke:
Do you want to tell us a bit more about yourself and how you got started?

HypnoHooves:
My name is HypnoHooves, and I'm the Chairman of Griffish Isles, the new convention that's going to be running in Manchester starting in May 2018. It's a small-ish covention to set up and, shall we say, provide something in the dead time, or the gap, between Bronyscot and UK Ponycon which run in November and October, and indeed everything else. In particular the Summer season. The earlier plan was to host a convention in the Spring slot, in a location which hopefully many of the Brony community could reach.

FD:
Okay, and how long ago did you get the idea for the convention, and how long ago did you start to set it up?

HH:
I'd had the idea for the convention for a little while, initially. Of course, I attended BUCK,* enjoyed it etcetera. But I really got the idea essentially right at the end of 2016, when BUCK was no more, at Bronyscot - which gave an example of how you could deliver something which was Brony focussed, small,  and felt to me that it was a very, very enjoyable convention. I thought, 'Could we do something like that based inside the UK?'** It was very clear that BUCK was very ambitious,*** very large, very spectacular and faced very high cost. Very high cost venues, high cost setup delivery, and [risked] overdoing things. And what I started to do was organise meets, specifically the Lancashire Brony meets, which are kinda like mini-cons, about every couple of months. So we have an event, we have themes, we have games, etc. running across particular venues. So I decided, let's form a grander sort of event - something in Manchester seemed to be the logical location for holding it. It is still technically Lancashire for all of our group, and is essentially driving distance for anybody who's potentially part of a core group. So, the Lancashire meets started attracting bronies from all over the place. It's not unusual - in fact we've never not had a meet - without someone visiting from London and from Scotland. So people travel hundreds of miles to those particular meets, and so I thought, why not scale it up and hold something in Manchester and give an opportunity to raise some money for good causes as a result?

*Mayitrestinpeace.
**Scotland is part of the UK****.
***Like Scottish Independence.
****Unless Nicola Sturgeon***** gets another referendum and the above happens.
*****The IRN-BRU Lady.

FD:
Of course - can you tell us a bit more about what plans you've got confirmed?

HH:
Certainly. The first one to announce - exclusive to you - is that we are doing buckball. We've got two venues. We've got a venue which is hosting the pony, and aiming to give a kind of UK Ponycon-like feel: a small one in a convention centre where we're going to be hosting the usual events. You've got a seating area where you can do karaoke as well, so you've got karaoke and games. You've got the auction, too, which we're going to be operating. But what we've also done is we've acquired a five-a-side football ground, which we've got the evening for. We've got marble stairs, with a balcony out over the pitches. So we're hoping to hold buckball competitions based at that event. So we thought we'd give people some physical activity - subject, of course, to the weather. If it's bad, you can always come in and have a cider at the bar.

FD:
So what other plans have you got - I noticed on the cards you were handing out they said 'Merch', and 'Partying!'. What sort of things have you got lined up for those?

HH:
We're going to have a small vendor area, but we are not going to be the same scale as UK Ponycon. We're going to limit the vendors - it'll be via application - to make sure the vendors are there, but also to make sure they can get enough revenue. That's obviously important - you can't have too many vendors. We're also going to concentrate on people doing the tuition and teaching side, so the vendors will be contacted and asked if they're willing to do a presentation, or if they're willing to donate stuff to the charity event. That's the way we're going to do it at this particular one so that hopefully there'll be some workshops for people to learn about sculpting and drawing and, hopefully, plushie making, to hold at the event.

FD:
Are there going to be any musical events (on the subject of partying)?

HH:
We've got plans for the evening. However, we've got the football club venue, and for people who know about Rock Nessie*, Rock Nessie's capacity is about 200. We're listed at about 175, so we do have a reasonable venue in the evening. We're proposing to put some music on in the evening for people as well, but we're running it all as a one-day event. So it'll all be one ticket that gets you in essentially from the morning all the way through to the evening for people who are prepared to do it. So we're trying to get a few musical talents along, and if not we'll make sure a DJ essentially is in place.  I think it would be best to say we're trying to introduce the music as a value add-in sort of thing, rather than the core event, so don't expect Summer Sun.**

*Bronyscot's Sunday night concert.
**BUCK's main Saturday night concert.

FD:
What sort of music do you think you're going to get?

FD:
That's open to question... we're looking to do mix music, but the initial proposal we've got onboard is a local DJ, who is willing to do general music earlier on but he's been taught to do some hardcore brony music as well, that we.re going to introduce later on in the evening. But that's going to be at the end of the event. Earlier on we'll have stuff that's a bit more about the show, and some stuff that will actually interest more people rather than going into heavy metal only, which I think Bronyscot and Rocknessie are famous for?* So we're trying to make it easier for people to stay to the end of the evening. Because, we're fully aware that this is a brand new convention and people aren't always going to commit to stay the night in Manchester. And the advantage of Manchester is that it's easy to get into from parts of the UK and get out from in the evening. You can get there in the morning, stay there until 8 or 9 pm, and if you prefer to leave you can pretty much reach virtually anywhere in the UK on the trains. We expect that a lot of people are going to that, so we're concentrating on that sort of assumption. But we're planning to run stuff to midnight.

[NOTE: if you are staying later, check your travel timetables. For example, last train to London is at 21:43 and after that it's a bus at 03:55 to York and then a change to train. Check out the hotels. If you're international you'll be staying overnight anyway. Many people from the Dutch, French and German communities come to Bronyscot so the staff are expecting this.]

*Actually, it's Morris Dancing. I checked.

FD:
OK. So it won't necessarily be heavy metal and sich, and more likely something a bit more easygoing?

HH:
That's the plan, but it's hard to tell, but like I said, we're open to suggestions and changes at this point. I know it's embryonic and people often say "We'll work it out!" etcetera, but we've been working it out as a series of separate events - that's how we're trying to do this - but I'm not the person who's organising the music side of things here, so I've not got all the details. We're using a couple of contacts in the brony scene - the advantage of being based in Manchester.

FD:
Have you learnt anything from BUCK before doing this? And how to do it and how not to do it?

HH:
[He thinks for a moment.]

I would say... BUCK isn't a model. BUCK is in the same league as Bronycon: a massive multi-day central event that can't be compared.

FD:
... I was thinking more in terms of things to look out for that BUCK didn't look out for, or things that were particularly good that you might want to follow as an example. But in terms of organisation, planning, setup, things like that.

HH:
I think ... I've organised events for twenty years and I've done conventions that have grown over a ten year period at this point for diverse fandoms, and computing stuff, and science fictione events. Now this is a purely charity event, it's not for profit, and - not to blow my own trumpet - but I've done quite a few of those over the years, so the general organisation to sort out everything else, we've got handled. So we'll be able to handle that one pretty well. But what I'm doing is to try and break things down to small, separate, containable events. So, the venue we've got isn't one large room, or one large engagement. We're going to be doing a presentation event (most of which is sorted, some talks are still pending...). We've got a games room with the games sorted out, which we've run through, and used what we've learned from the Lancashire meets. So people can come along and try weird pony based games that people may have never tried. I mean, pony-based Monotony - has anyone played it? the Top Trumps game? the matching gems activity game or [pony] Game of Life? The collectible card game, of course. That's all going to be self enclosed. Now the artist's activity room we've got, where people are going to be able to teaching, drawing, etcetera... karaoke room, and so on... And I suppose that's where we've learned from all the other ones in how we're going to be operating. So that's what we've learned from rather than trying to replicat anyone else.

FD:
Is there anything you'd say BUCK could've improved on?

HH:
BUCK was awesome. It was big, it was massive...

FD:
Yes, but purely for context, was there anything they could've improved on in terms of organising it? Did they do anything wrong?

HH:
I think it's hard to say what BUCK did wrong, because it's very easy to list what BUCK did right. It got a lot of bronies together in a central location. It managed to get people in. The early BUCKs, you know, the centre of Manchester, was probably more of an advantage than being out in Event City.That was one thing we picked up on and we had to concentrate on getting a venue within easy walking distance of Piccadilly Station. We wanted people to have public transport access, as we knew that was very important for people But it's hard to say what they didn't get right. I think, perhaps, one lesson is that BUCK's schedule was very spread out with large gaps between things. Whereas we're having things very close together. We're trying to make it more condensed, if you like.

[NOTE: this was one observation I noticed; the main train stations - Central and Piccadilly - are quite far from Event City and you had to either get another bus or walk to the nearby hotels e.g. the Travelodge and then another to the con the next day. However, the centre of Manchester is pretty rowdy on a Saturday night, so it wasn't a bad trade-off.]

FD:
So how many people do you expect in attendance?

HH:
We don't know. It's a bit of a gamble.

FD:
How many are you planning for?

HH:
We're hoping for round about the two hundred mark, which puts us as small scale. We're certainly not going to go bust there! So we're planning around the Bronyscot size at this time. If we sell out tickets really quick, we won't expand. I need to make this very clear.  What we will do is consider it for the event in 2019.

FD:
Do you want to tell me more about the venue? Do you have a charity yet?

HH:
Our charity's going to be GMCVO, which is our venue at the St. Thomas centre, which is up on our website at this moment in time, which is the one I'm supporting, and centres around voluntary activity in Greater Manchester.

[This means things like their program to help disabled people into work, their local anti-litter efforts, etc.]

FD:
And what other venues will you be using?

HH:
We're going to be using the football pitch, the bar room and the function room at the football club that we'll be utilising. It's best described as catering for weddings and eighteen year-old birthday parties, so it's the right sort of size function for a brony convention.

[A bit like the Forum am Schlosspark venue for Gala Con, only a bit smaller. A look at the venue online seems like it'll be quite useful, and like the venue here at HW Con, pre-built for small conventions. The website said it's actually more useful for meetings and corporate functions and actually doesn't do weddings or birthday parties, but these are similar things - we know what he means.]

FD:
Do you want to tell me a little more about other things you've organised and where you are in the committee for this particular event?

HH:
I'm currently the Chair of the committee, and I'm running it, and I'm best described as roped in from the Lancashire ponies meet, and I've roped in one of our regulars from Cumbria, one of our guys from Yorkshire, who comes over regularly to the meets.

FD:
Is there not a meetup in Yorkshire?

HH:
Not to my knowledge! There's the odd one of course, who comes from Leeds, so we've got them on board.

FD:
So what does being a chair involve?

HH:
The chair involves generally sorting the entire convention out.

FD:
What sort of duties do you have on a day-to-day basis?

HH:
Everything, from the website to making sure the registration and the setting up the venue is being negotiated.

FD:
Because it's a small convention I'm guessing it's quite hands on at points?

HH:
It is. I'm doing it very hands on and getting engaged. But, I'm gonna do - I'm going to put each committee member in an established area. Nick, for example, is in charge of the karaoke. So by breaking it down into sections and avoiding each committee member having to go through committee meetings etcetera, we're able to break that down into a series of mini-meets.

FD:
That's a bit different to Bronyscot where people just pick a thing and work on it. Obviously it's not completely informal, but there's only a little bit of structured committee.

HH:
This is more like, we're giving people a piece to be in charge of, like, someone is going to be in charge of the registration desk and the function hall on the day. By doing that, it means that we have ready-made teams who can do it. It also means that as for volunteers, we're going to pair off each volunteer in a room, which means they can swap around and enjoy the convention as well, which is a big lesson some conventions might want to learn!

FD:
And they do a lot of good work as well. So why do it with that sort of setup, instead of the Bronyscot way?

HH:
I think it's because, in my experience of working on conventions elsewhere, if you try and do it with everyone involved across the whole piece you end up with people trying to take charge of large areas and large functions.

FD:
So how come that's been avoided at Bronyscot, then (as far as I know)?

HH:
Generally because of good organisation! That tends to stop people trying to take it over and take it running. I know there's been change last year, with the chair of Bronyscot, for example. But last year's and the year before's were both run very smoothly, in terms of engagement. But, I think it's more efficient if you break it down into smaller, separate areas (in terms of staff engagement with the work) and just have someone central to try and sort out the whle event. Like a series of mini events running across the whole piece.

[This is not to suggest that Bronyscot's chair changed due to this or anything else improper.]

FD:
OK. So do you want to tell us a little bit more about your social media and other things you've organised in the past?

HH:
You'll find us on www.griffishisles.uk and you'll find us on twitter and facebook with the same handles.  As for previous experience, I have organised, in particular, security conventions in the past, and a variety of them were on information security.

FD:
So you said many of these ran for a good decade and were passed on to others. Which ones in particular?

HH:
Yeah, one was DNS Con back in the nineties, and that's applicable because that did run in Manchester.

FD:
And you also organised sci-fi conventions in the past?


HH:
Yes I have!  I started several but I passed them over. I'm not allowed to talk about them actually, but if someone googles, they'll find what I'm talking about quite easily.

[We discuss this a bit further, and he says that he had contractual obligations to  not talk about it,  but that it was likely because the person he handed them over to had downloaded a standard template terms and conditions form from the web for him to sign. That's something to be wary of when working on any project - draw up an appropriate legal document!]


Author's Notes

So, yes, that's pretty much everything to be said on the con as it currently stands. I'll be releasing more on this as I get the info, and you can catch it all here at Horse News. This was originally recorded on 17th February 2018.

Laters, taters.
--Foal Duke, farting an earthquake from a half dozen space cakes.

Comments (6)

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    ReplyDelete
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    - roll the ball -

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