Well! The event that we have spent over a year and a half working towards is ffinally ffinished...
And what a weekend it was - around about 100 people congregating on the De Vere Hotel in Swindon to celebrate the works of Jasper Fforde with a Ffiesta of fun and games.
This had been a stressful convention to plan - not least because of contractual issues which left us (as organisers) nearly £2,000 in debt. Most of that was on my credit card.
I was also worried, as there had been a fairly nasty review of the last Ffestival on Ansible (someone who believed that it should have been a convention with signing queues and panels and the like), and I was having nightmares about everyone wanting their money back... So, you can imagine that my frame of mind wasn't fantastic going into the Friday night!
However, I really need not have worried.
It was a FFANTASTIC weekend! From the start of the Saturday morning, when Katie's "Getting to Know You" game worked its magic and got everyone talking, right through to Monday afternoon, everyone seemed to have a brilliant time. The bus tour of Swindon was a big success, as was the table top croquet tournament (and, as usual, in the quintessentially English game, the final was between the Americans and the Germans...) The Maskerade was such fun - the level of ingenuity of people getting dressed up was brilliant (as well as specific human characters, we also had a Dodo (Pickwick) with her chick, a Will-Speak Machine, as well as the representation of footnotes...) We even did an audience participation Richard III, which, despite possibly being a little overlong (editorial blushes...), turned out really well - much better than having to sit quietly and see the play done by ac-tors... (Hey - anywhere you can "Boo" Richard and yell "He's behind you" at Clarence and the murderers.... Probably somewhere closer to what would have happened in Shakespeare's day with the groundlings at the Globe anyway!)
What totally overwhelmed me, though, was the incredible generosity of everyone who attended. At the start of the auction, Phil stood up and explained that we were having financial problems, and that the convention was running at a loss. And then the bidding started. Jasper as auctioneer, and a variety of items, some donated by Jasper (many different editions of his books, in a number of different languages), some donated by the Ffiesta (mainly croquet sets of one form or another...), some donated by other people (Terry Pratchett donated, through his PA, three signed copies of his books; those magnificent folk at ArmadaCon donated two free tickets to their convention, something John and I took advantage of!) I was keeping a running tally as the auction progressed, and kept on thinking I had to have got my maths wrong - the total just kept on rising and rising. By the end, when we had auctioned off everything which wasn't nailed down (including an early draft of the first chapter Jasper's not-yet-published book "Shades of Grey", which he had read out to us earlier in the evening), we had raised £2,700! This more than covered our debts, and, with additional monies raised through the selling of merchandise and various silly games (throw the marshmallow into the dodo's mouth, guess the weight of the entroposcope, whack a dodo...), we have enough to put some aside for the next Ffiesta, and also to donate to charity - final totals not sorted out yet, but it should be over £1,000!
And on the Monday, a group of about 12 of us went out to the Uffington White Horse to show some of our American guests some very British pastimes - driving through twisty, high hedged country roads, some of them mildly flooded, discovering that the one signpost to where you are going to is half way up the road you were meant to have taken, about thirty seconds after you have just overshot it, and, of course, having a picnic in the rain, saying "Isn't this fun...?" Fortunately, the sun came out fairly shortly after we finished eating, and we ended up flying kites and having a brilliant time - a very relaxing end to the weekend.
And now I collapse...!