Aug 14-16, 2020
Hyatt Regency Bellevue
900 Bellevue Way NE
The popularity of British media in America is at an all time high. It’s not just because of Doctor Who, but also with news of Red Dwarf getting the big screen treatment. And it’s not just about talents from across the pond making that successful transition to Hollywood–namely Karen Gillan. From a companion to leading lady in the upcoming Jumanji: The Next Level, who else can we expect?
To keep up with news leaves fans wondering where can they get the latest updates? The Internet can only offer so much. Not many followers of this world are aware of the importance of PineWood Studios and many British actors played when Star Wars original trilogy was being filmed. Michael Sheard (Admiral Ozzel of Empire Strikes Back) made an appearance in the Pacific Northwest a long time ago, but since then, appearances of these fantastic talents depends–is it even possible to convince John Cleese to appear at a convention? He certainly loves putting on shows in Victoria, BC but that’s besides the point.
Fortunately, in the Pacific Northwest–specifically in Seattle, Washington–we have BritCon to fill the void left behind by the other. Anglicon folded due to many reasons.
After a successful week since BritCon launched on KickStarter to raise funds, I had the opportunity to correspond with Dawn Shaw, one of the co-founders of BritCon. She is part of a very special team whose knowledge goes beyond running a typical sci-fi convention. On this list is Abie Ekenezar (guest relations), Shannon Reagan (Vice-chair . programming). Together, they want attendees to know that their voices are being heard to make this convention the best and most inclusive in the Northwest.
Is BritCon a “regeneration” or “reboot” of Anglicon?
The short answer is “no.” We seek to fill a void left by Anglicon’s demise. We saw how disappointed so many people were and we decided to do something about it. Thankfully, we were able to get some key players in the [Seattle] convention community involved, either on our board or as part of our advisory team, who bring a lot of experience to the creation of our event. Included are two veterans, one of whom is a British expat, and we have people with disabilities. One of our advisors, Mark Dando, who also helps with booking our guests, is an event organizer by trade and lives in London.
We seek to be at least on par with the previous event, with the long term plan of growing even bigger.
Another distinction is that we are not a Doctor Who event, even though our first guest, Paul McGann, is from that series–he played the 8th Doctor. We dab in everything British, including art, literature, culture, media and technology. A fabulous Star Wars comic artist, JAKe, will be joining us, and we plan to add more guests as the year goes on.
From what I understand, after Anglicon was cancelled, an impromptu style event (BritBash) took place to give out-of-towners who could not cancel their travel plans to at least enjoy something for the days they’re in town. Did the idea to organize BritCon come out of discussion during this time?
One of our advisors helped organize BritBash, and he confirms two primary reasons: 1) as a fan event for people who came from out of town, and 2) a party (or wake, as the case may be) for Anglicon volunteers and staff (minus the executive committee) so they could still have a fun social event to attend on the weekend that had been set aside for Anglicon.
Plans and conversations regarding a new event were already underway prior to BritBash. For example, our London liaison, Mark Dando, had run a highly successful event in the UK called Britscifi for a number of years, and had been interested in bringing it “across the pond.” Certainly, conversations that took place during BritBash did help solidify that there was both the interest and support for a different British media convention–one that embraced a wider range of Britannia.
Why choose Kickstarter instead of GoFundMe to get the initial funds to run BritCon?
We felt that the Kickstarter platform was better for building our BritCon community. Kickstarter was determined to be superior in terms of offering rewards to our supporters, as well as allowing for two way communication so we could not only provide updates, post videos, and offer add-ons and stretch goals, but also allow our backers to communicate with us and provide us with feedback.
We want the people attending our convention to feel like they are part of a community and that their voice matters.
Will more fundraising efforts be made to raise the money to give BritCon the financial support it needs to continue running?
The good news is that the Kickstarter has met its goal, so we are now reaching toward stretch goals, but it was always the plan that BritCon would take place. Our Kickstarter goal was deliberately modest, and in order to run the type of event our attendees deserve, we would like to earn well beyond this goal. Additional funds help ensure these plans will come to fruition.
We will be seeking sponsorships from individuals and businesses–as well as planning events throughout the year–to both bring our community together and raise money to make BritCon an even better event. For example, movie and trivia nights with Doctor Who Seattle. Once our 501(c)(3) is approved, we plan to pursue grant money as well.
Because the venue is out of the downtown Seattle, what can you suggest to out-of-towners for travel options?
We are excited that our event takes place in Bellevue and not in downtown Seattle. The Hyatt Regency is a lovely venue, adjacent to lots of food and shopping options. This location also serves to put it near major transit lines.
For those who are driving, our hotel negotiator, Eddie Chang of Andromeda Consultants, was able to include free parking for the weekend exclusively for those who book their rooms via the link on our BritCon web site: britcon.org
For those taking transit, buses 246, 249, 271, 532, 535 have stops nearby. The 560 bus goes from SeaTac to the Bellevue Transit Center, which is about 3 blocks from the hotel.
There are of course other transportation options such as Shuttle Express, Uber and Lyft We will also explore the option of offering a shuttle service to and from SeaTac.
What are some current challenges?
There are several: One is that we face is that people tend to want to associate us with the failed Anglicon event. It’s difficult enough to be a new event with no history, but when you are unfairly associated with another event that caused a lot of hard feelings and distrust, it becomes yet one more hurdle that needs to be overcome. However, we have a completely different set of people running BritCon–as well as determination and integrity.
Another challenge will definitely be attendance, which ties directly into the financial success of the event. There are a lot of other conventions in the area, and we’ve done our best not to compete with those who have a similar fan base. In fact, we partner when we can and share staff, equipment and volunteers. But being a new event, we have to build trust within our community.
For those people wanting to help help spread the word, who should they contact?
What are your contingency plans should a guest cancel due to professional commitments?
If the worst does happen and a guest has to cancel, we are fortunate to have Mark Dando (in the UK) who can and will find us equivalent replacements so that the quality of the event will not suffer.
What are your long term goals to make Brit Con a success?
Our goal is for our attendees to have fun in a safe and inclusive environment, and to be able to interact with people who share similar interests. We’d like to bring high-profile guests to the region, yet maintain a level of intimacy that allows fans to interact with people they admire without the hideously long lines. We intend to be a long-running event, growing until we reach a comfortable, self-sustaining level that maintains the fun and intimacy, yet still allows us to bring new and exciting content to fans of British media and culture in the Pacific Northwest.