Continuum is a fan convention – a convention organised and paid for by fans. Memberships cost $200 for a three day convention held in a functions venue in the centre of town. That’s half the price of Reading Matters, but it’s still steep, especially once fans include food and accommodation.
The always excellent No Award blog has a post up about the con-runners confab that was held at Continuum, in which convention organisers explored different ideas for conventions, and different venues, as a way of getting the price down.
Australian cons, Emilly argues, are based on a Northern Hemisphere model that just doesn’t work for us: hiring conference space in a hotel, in a city, over a long weekend. This is viable in the US and UK, because they have larger small cities, and larger numbers of people can travel shorter geographic distances. Whereas, in Australia, our smaller cities like Newcastle and Geelong are sort of out of the way, people will have to travel further to get there, and it’s a harder sell — so we’re constantly holding events in capital cities at peak tourism times. Accordingly, ticket prices are higher and there’s a much greater barrier to attending.
This is something that Continuum has grappled with for a few years, and we were very excited to be able to offer needs-based memberships in 2017, but Emilly is considering a different model all together: smaller single-day events held in library meeting rooms and similar spaces.
(Some libraries have better facilities than others, of course — Melbourne’s Library at the Dock wouldn’t suit, but Kathleen Syme Library in Carlton is almost designed for this purpose.)
With shorter time commitments and lower costs, mini-cons like this would be more accessible to the people currently excluded from big cons like Continuum — teenagers, students, the unwaged.
I’ve had similar idle thoughts, that you could run a half-day or one day conference in library spaces. The NSW Writers Centre runs a one day Speculative Fiction Festival, for example.
I’d love to run a Readers Festival like this, where of the four panellists in any session, one is a writer and the other three are readers talking about the pleasures of reading.