It was with some delight that the STARBURST team approached 2016's Sci-Fi Scarborough (SFS) at The Spa this April. Last year's event was one of the highlights of our science-fiction social calendar, and this year’s event merely confirmed what we knew; Sci-Fi Scarborough is a top notch event, accessible to everyone and anyone.
Now in its third year, SFS is a science fiction event designed for all. Rather than having one big draw, SFS fills the seaside venue with lots of things. In addition to a quiet room to watch fan movies and a specialised space for kids to play Minecraft, the venue is littered with everything from prop makers, costume displays, R2D2's and Daleks, a tabletop gaming space, a retro gaming space and live music.
SFS's approach to guests is to have them front and centre in the main hall. Red Dwarf's Norman Lovett was on top form, chatting away to guests. Fans of space opera were also well catered for; Battlestar Galactica's Richard Hatch, Babylon 5's Claudia Christian and Star Trek Voyager's Garret Wang were in attendance the whole weekend, chatting to guests and taking panels. Talent from Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Star Trek and more were also around, as were plenty of comic book artists and fan film producers such as Red Shirt Films.
The Spa itself is a great venue, and a handy map (and panel schedule) was provided for all attendees. Everything is nicely laid out, meaning that there is rarely a crush of people. It's also got plenty of bars, which is more than a bit useful. The main bar (called Farrers) was packed on the Saturday evening for the event’s own quiz. The Starburst team joined in of course and were firmly beaten, but had a good laugh anyway.
Quickly handled organisational issues and a spot of bad weather meant that some events where rescheduled; panels were moved into the Fan Film Theatre, as was the Cosplay competition. This worked quite well; it’s a good space to host panels as well as show all sorts of short movies on constant rotation.
As more and more geek-orientated events hit the calendar, the competition has gotten more and more fierce. It's safe to say that the UK hitting peak convention saturation, and even the most remote British citizen is spoilt for choice when it comes to a spot of comics, film and TV inspired fun.
Already, a number of events are starting to stand out from the crowd, and Sci-Fi Scarborough does this very well, thanks to a combination of a great venue and very strong, community minded ethos. On the face of it, SFS is your classic sci-fi event with a handful of celebs, some exhibitors and the odd panel or two. But its approach is deeper and cleverer than that.
SFS integrates good old-fashioned Scarborough tourism with community engagement. The result of this is that visitors are treated well by people used to dealing with tourists. It also means that the event volunteers are drawn from the local arts college, as well as Scarborough based fan groups and fund raising teams. The result is that we have a central plaza filled with local bands giving their acts a sci-fi twist, as well as plenty of smiling faces happy to help.
The overall impression you get from Sci-Fi Scarborough is that they're happy to see you and want you to dive in and have fun. This friendly, family-positive atmosphere means that even the grumpiest of people (even non-fans) are hard pressed not to find something to enjoy. We can't wait to see how this event grows, and are looking forward to seeing what it does in 2017.
Photos: Mike Smith