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Monday, June 17, 2024

Sci-Fi Weekender XIII

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“We’re back, baby!”

Sci-Fi Weekender (SFW), the UK’s only and Europe’s largest science fiction festival, finally returned after a three-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic. Held in Great Yarmouth, the three-day event held a series of panels and interviews throughout the day, but at night performers emerged for an onslaught of sci-fi-themed entertainments.

The legendary Brian Blessed was the headlining guest. His long and varied career, as well as his gregarious nature, makes Blessed a natural raconteur. Despite the countless times Blessed has been interviewed, he always has new tales to share, in his own inimical style.

Bryony Pearce hosting Writers on Writing, with Kathryn Evans, Paul Finch and Noelle Holten.

Other guests included a variety of authors, actors and artists, with such luminaries as Madeline Smith, Ian McNeice, Jeff Cummins, Bryony Pearce, Kathryn Evans and many others. All of the guests were happy to chat about their work, as well as to sign books and artwork. A highlight was the quick-fire ‘I haven’t a clue’ gameshow panel, which was riotously fun.

One of the things that makes SFW so different, compared to other geek-centric events, is the accessibility.  Special guests mingle with attendees and it is not uncommon to find yourself next to an author at the bar or chatting with an actor. There are no barriers between the guests and attendees, and the guests genuinely enjoy the event and sharing their experiences with fans.

YA DIE! YA DIE! YA DIE! – John Robertson in full flow with The Dark Room.

Many conventions finish when evening comes, but SFW just gets busier, with a plethora of fantastical performers from across the geek spectrum. The live-action video game The Dark Room was both terrifying and hilarious (dependent upon whether you are the one playing), whilst Madam Misfit’s electroswing set was so infectiously fun that the audience were soon dancing along. It was also fantastic to see Levelup Leroy take command of the DJ deck on Saturday night for a suitably climactic crescendo to what was an awesome weekend.

It would not be a sci-fi event without cosplay, but what makes SFW so different to those other conventions is that imagination and ingenuity are appreciated, just as much as accuracy and authenticity.

Jimcredible compèring the cosplay competition.

Although SFW-XIII felt smaller, compared with previous events, it still captured SFW’s carnivalesque spirit. More than anything else, SFW-XIII was a reminder of everything that makes SFW such an awesome experience – a coming together in celebration of our shared love of geekery – and a promise of events to come. In many ways SFW-XIII felt like the beginning of something new; of a leviathan rising from its slumber.

The next SFW, SFW-XIV in March, already boasts a much wider range of guests. Nina Wadia OBE, Dacre Stoker, Chase Masterson, Stephen Cox and Sarah Pinborough have so far been announced. Meanwhile, Pop-up Cinema and Jollyboat are already booked for the evening entertainment, with the promise of more announcements soon.

Last weekend proved that SFW was not another victim of Covid, but that more is to come from this fantastic sci-fi festival like no other…

Photos by Peter Gatehouse and are used with permission
Full disclosure: the author was a guest interviewer at SFW XIII.

Peter Ray Allison
Peter Ray Allisonhttp://www.peterallison.net
Science Fiction: the final frontier. These are the articles of the freelance journalist Peter Ray Allison. His continuing mission: to explore strange new realms of fiction, to seek out new genres and new visions of the future, to boldly geek where no one has geeked before.

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Last weekend proved that SFW is back, better than ever and more is still to come.Sci-Fi Weekender XIII