For a while, I didn’t want to mention some of the bad parts of my recent trip to World Fantasy Con in Brighton. It was my very first writing convention. I met a lot of amazing writers, both strangers and old friends, went to some really fascinating panels and had some great days. I had fun.
I didn’t want my con experience to be overshadowed by one bad night, y’know? But then the last World Fantasy Con progress report dropped into my inbox.
“Regrettably, we learned of one small harassment incident that occurred on the Saturday night when an extremely drunken fan made a nuisance of himself in the hotel Lobby. Unfortunately, he was not reported to either of the professional Security guards who were on duty at the time or any member of the con committee. As a result, by the time we had found out about the incident and ascertained the details, the individual concerned (who was not attending the Awards Banquet) had apparently already left the convention.”
Now, let’s not mince words: that’s taking the piss.
Myself and a friend were harassed on the Saturday night. We immediately put in a formal report with one of the red coats (the volunteer con staff), in line with their FAQ steps below, and were told the issue would be raised with the Board at 8am Sunday.
“World Fantasy Convention 2013 will not tolerate any form of verbal or racial abuse, sexual harassment, aggression, violence or lewd behaviour towards any attendees or members of staff. If reported to our professional Security and Stewards or to a staff member—and substantiated by the event organisers—then any person deemed to have committed such an act will be immediately ejected from the convention without refund and may even be reported to the police under the UK’s Protection from Harassment Act (1997).”
Though I’ll note that the FAQ answer is a fairly recent update to their original “policy”. I’m not sure how recently they changed the FAQ answer, but the original one was saved thanks to Laura Lam’s blog and Chocolate and Vodka:
“World Fantasy Convention 2013, as with any other predominantly adult gathering, will have a number of rules and regulations for the safety of attendees. These will be clearly stated in our Programme Guide, which will be given to each attendee when they register. In the meantime, we refer you to the UK’s Protection from Harassment Act 1997”
Since the report, I’ve had no form of formal communication from WFC. This report, insulting anyone who reported harassment, is the closest I’ve received to a formal acknowledgement of my report outside of a tweet on Sunday morning saying WFC were “investigating”. That tweet was slightly soured by the electronic noticeboards at the convention hotel, which on the same day boasted: “It’s Sunday. No one has lost their badge and no one has been harassed.” (source)
I have, however, had a lot of support from fellow writers and staff from unconnected conventions. Thank you all. ♥
We were not the only people harassed that night, as mentioned in Cheryl Morgan’s and Laura Lam’s excellent con report. There are people reading this update (that got sent to at least 1,400 WFC members) and wondering if this “small harassment incident” is referring to them. What did they do to deserve being publicly bitched at for not following an unwritten process? That’s an unforgivable thing to do to victims of harassment.
I loved meeting other writers at World Fantasy Con 2013. I loved the panels, the parties, and the hard-working red coat volunteers.
But their behaviour from the Board is inexcusable. I will not be attending any other cons run by Steve Jones and the rest of the committee.