The team that were thinking of doing BiCon 97 in Plymouth pulled out sometime after the 1996 event. Because they'd gotten a lot out of that BiCon, a couple of months later Marc, Jean and John announced they'd run BiCon 97.
Because of the unexpected addition of VAT to its bill from the venue, BiCon 96 had ended with no money to pass on to subsequent years. A combination of this, the relatively short time for publicity, and at least one of the BiCon 97 organisers' natural caution meant that they choose to play it very safe with the pricing, making this a relatively expensive BiCon to attend, to the point that there were complaints about the prices in Bi Community News.
In the end, although fewer people – 180 – came than for any BiCon since 1988, it was more than enough for the event to make a surplus. Some money was refunded to people who'd booked on the 'unwaged and up to £10,000' band, and the rest was the start of the current surplus. A couple of BiCons since then have lost money, but the accumulated surplus has not been wiped out.
Highlights included a performance from the legendary Tom Robinson – he had been booed at London 'Lesbian and Gay Pride' in the 1980s after he had married a woman, but had had a great reception at the packed bi tent at the last London 'Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride' earlier in 1997.
A session on BiCon's money decided that it would be a good idea if the community formed a company to protect it. BiCon Continuity Ltd would be registered over a decade later…
Lowlights included the way that the session rooms were split over two different sites, involving much walking up and down Wellington Street (and then going up and down stairs or a lift when you got to the one with the session you wanted to go to).
An official BDSM play party on one of the evenings was a very mixed experience and there has not been one at a UK BiCon since.
Many attendees first heard the news that Diana Princess of Wales had died in the early hours of Sunday morning when they saw the posters announcing this that the BiCon organisers put up at the event.
BiCon '97 Final Report
Despite having a late start, BiCon '97 which was held at the University of Greenwich at the end of August was a success. The entertainments, disco and other things (except the bar) were well received and also BiCon '97 has made a surplus of 2,761 pounds sterling which will be passed on to the organisers of BiCon '98 to ensure that they have the financial security that due to circumstances has been denied to other previous BiCon organisers.
The surplus is mostly due to the fact that over 60% of visitors who came booked in the last two weeks or even at the door. The university suddenly extended their deadline (7th August) for the booking of accomodation. Bookings at London Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride were very low. Up to the second week in August we thought that we would just break even and have to turn down late requests for accomodation.
This coupled with the publicity gained – eg the Guardian, Spectrum Radio etc etc – which meant that there was an avalanche of day visitors meant that BiCon '97 has made an exceptional surplus.
As organisers we had to price the event cautiously bearing in mind the timescale involved as we accepted the task of BiCon organisers late in the year.
The costs were as follows: (all figures in UK pounds sterling)
Greenwich University 5,176 Entertainments 380 Signing for the deaf 264 Printing and Postage etc 416 Hardship fund refunds 397 Radio Communication Hire 66 Public Liability Insurance 104 Total 6,813
The income received was 9,574 ukp (including sponsorship from the Metro Centre Greenwich of 500 ukp), leaving a surplus of 2,761 pounds
Yes, there were problems, namely with the cost of attending, the bar hours, the smoking limitations and other little niggles, but a BiCon would not be a BiCon without a few winges would it?
We did not know there were three sites not two or that the bar was not open until we got there. We should have had plans of the site for you to help you get around, sorry about this. There was so much to do that some things had to go.
The people in the office especially Ruth were very helpful and once the security officers had got used to us they, and the bar staff were out on the patio having a drink and chatting to us.
The security was not as stiff was we were at first told and we are glad that lots of you found ways to crash overnight, but the problems with breakfast running out was caused by some of these people who took the food that had been put out for those who had paid for it.
Running BiCon exhausted us, frustrated us but IT WAS WORTH IT! We are especially grateful that the next three years BiCon's have volunteers to arrange them, taking away the uncertainty of the future of BiCon that was there when we offered to run the event.
Thanks very much to all who came especially those who helped out and ran workshops. Also thanks must go to all those from bi.org and Dave who helped us navigate the complexities of internet publicity.
Hope to see you all at BiCon '98 in Cambridge next year.
BiCon '97 Organisers
BiCon 97's website – all two pages of it! – was hosted on bi.org, which Nick Smith had registered two weeks before BiCon 96. You can now see it at 1997.bicon.org.uk.