Thank You, BiCon
Following on from Mat’s remarks last issue of BCN concerned about the mood of the annual bi gathering BiCon changing I wanted to write to say thank you to the 2013 BiCon team.
Mat talked about this year having a less fun mood. One of the factors in that, for me at least as a veteran of more than a dozen BiCons, was that the ‘big friendly space’ I’m used to down the years didn’t exist in the areas we shared with people from other events onsite. It meant I was less dressed-up, less playful and I’d guess that may well have been the case for others attending too.
I want to be clear: this wasn’t something down to something the BiCon organisers did. Most years BiCon is not big enough to take over the whole of whatever venue is hosting us, so we share the space with other events. A Terry Wogan fan club meeting, a convention of barber shop quartet singers, or whatever else we rock up to find in the next set of rooms along.
This time there were a couple of other groups using the site. One was a summer school of children from abroad soaking up UK culture – we have had that before, in 2000 and 2004 for example, without problems. This time we just got unlucky and got more obnoxious kids.
The second group was more troublesome though, workers for an event nearby sharing the bar and accommodation blocks with us. Most of them were probably lovely, but enough were loudly unpleasant in a variety of ways to make me and others feel anywhere from quite uncomfortable to unsafe. I’d pick some “isms” to name but I think it was more about Anyone Who Seems Different than any specific prejudice.
Once it became clear there were problems, the BiCon 2013 team got on top of it as hard and fast as they could, and what could be done, was done. I think the venue management will have been shocked into improving their practice. It’s just sad that this improves things for events at Pollock Halls to come but can’t change the experiences some people had that weekend. It was all a sharp reminder that while BiCon is made up of people walking in from all sorts of backgrounds, who the Code of Conduct and the behaviour of BiCon regulars can together encourage to be good to people they haven’t yet met, sadly it doesn’t happen in its own magic bubble.
That said where I’ve talked to first-timers about their experience of Edinburgh 2013, they seem to have come away with a very happy experience: the ‘safe bi & bi friendly space’ that the BiCon attendee areas still created is after all such a rarity that even when it doesn’t extend to the whole campus, it can still be a brilliant and transforming new thing to discover.