Another year, another DJ. This year brought us the 13th DJ, but would it be the Fan Club’s unlucky number? Read on…
DJ XIII was held, as was the one before, in Peterborough, using the same hotel, which has now been re-badged from a Moat House to a Holiday Inn. Now, the hotel wasn’t terribly popular last year, and the change of company sadly hadn’t brought any change in the value for money that the hotel provided in terms of food and drink, but John and I were impressed by the room we were allocated this year. The breakfasts were good, but I wouldn’t shed any tears if we didn’t stay there again, partly because the distance from the hotel to any facilities does make life more complicated than strictly necessary, even if you do have a car.
Anyway, on with the main reason why we made the four-hour trip from Exeter to Peterborough…
As is traditional at DJ, the event kicks off with the fan club team in costume (a traditional RD uniform this time), and the quiz, which is always interesting and guaranteed to provoke debate. We had no complaints on the G&T table: the quiz had some really tough questions, as well an interesting observation round, which I found myself being quite good at. The fan club team did a really good job, both at the quiz, and at the weekend in general, which was extremely well-organised. Part of this was down to Liam and Wendoline looking after the audio-visual experience of the convention, which plays an ever bigger contribution to ensuring that the weekend runs smoothly. Even the booklet, with a foreword by G&Ter Ian Symes, was improved from last year, but the typographic errors that currently plague fan club communications are still present, sadly. Also, I do have a bit of a gripe when it comes to the organising of the quiz. Every year, attendees are given a ticket in their registration pack which corresponds to a table at the quiz, and it tends to be the case that people who register together sit together. Now, I’ve no problem with the idea that DJ is all about meeting new people, but I do have a problem with the suggestion that I should spend my first evening with DJ doing a quiz apart from people I get on well with, and whom I’ve travelled an awfully long way to see. Although it’s done with good intentions, it just seems slightly patronising, and I’m sure that attendees arriving on their own wouldn’t end up taking part in a quiz on their own, as DJ has such a friendly atmosphere, and it would only really take a bit of encouragement by the fan club team to sit shy people with a team. There. That’s my opinion on the matter.
Another slightly puzzling part of the convention was the scheduling of the karaoke session, which was due to start at the rather inhibited hour of 8pm, and, due to the usual over-running of events, ended up straddling Chris Barrie’s Q&A session. This didn’t really seem to work, causing poor James Bull, our fan club chairman, to announce the quiz winners to a mainly empty room at around midnight. Hey ho. The G&T table came third, if you really want to know. More revising needed for next year, I think, but third is nothing to be ashamed of, especially given the closeness of the top three teams.
Chris’ appearance on Friday night proved to work rather well, as the alcohol-fueled atmosphere even provoked Chris to do a bit of swearing, but in a polite, middle-class way, naturally. He seemed less than enthusiastic about his new film, Back In Business, telling us that he’d recommended to the producers that a comedy scriptwriter look it over, and then shrugging his shoulders and taking the money when they informed him that “wasn’t going to happen”. His short stay at DJ this year was caused by corporate commitments and, it seems, a grumbling wife, which is fair enough, really.
Saturday morning brought us those two other DJ stalwarts, Robert and Danny. Robert rushed into the hall, profusely apologising for being half an hour late, and proceeded to set up a camera in order to film us all for YouTube. This brought out the best in the audience, who gave YouTube viewers a far larger cheer than poor old Robert. As was expected, Robert was great fun, telling us about his upcoming projects, including another series of Scrapheap Challenge, and obliging a member of the audience by giving a perfect rendition of “Spin my nipple nuts and send me to Alaska!”, so there was truly something for everyone.
Danny was beside himself with glee at the opportunity to make numerous jokes about Craig, rebuffing a protesting fan by informing her, rightly, that Craig would do exactly the same to him, but his affection and concern for Craig was obvious. The only problem with Danny’s appearance was Danny being joined by his nephew, Alexander John-Jules, who, as everyone knows, played Baby Lister in Ouroboros. It wasn’t quite clear what happened, but Alexander, now a young teenager, was struck dumb with terror and answered the few questions put to him with a mumbled “I don’t know”. Poor lad. Still, I heard that he had recovered during the autograph session, so hopefully he’s not too scarred by the experience.
Norman Lovett popped up on Saturday afternoon for a Q&A session before his excellent preview of his new slide show in the evening. Norman was, well, Norman, and took the opportunity to show us why he feels that he should be on Grumpy Old Men to show what one should really be like. He seems to see audience sitcoms as being a thing of the past, and poured scorn on the idea of there ever being a RD movie, provoking much grumbling from G&T Towers. However, we enjoyed his appearance, even if we think he’s WRONGE.
The FX team were represented by party animal Pete Tyler, Alan Brannan, and Alan ‘Rocky’ Marshall, who showed us their showreels. Then we saw some of their recent effects work. AH HA. There was also some rather lovely behind-the-scenes film footage of the RD effects work, including the water tank work for the Starbug crash in Dimension Jump, and the Esperanto from Back to Reality. All in all, it was a throughly enjoyable geek-fest, with Pete Tyler leading the march for model effects versus CGI, stating that you can get a beautiful model effects sequence for 60 grand, but a far inferior CGI product for the same budget. Of course, these guys really are fighting for their livelihoods now, against directors and producers who won’t, or can’t, appreciate the value of model work against CGI. I hope, for their sakes and the sake of decent effects, that the Model Unit win the argument.
Then, we had the event that I always consider entering, and then never do; the fancy dress competition. This year’s had three obvious winners; the excellent huge skutter, the Inquisitor, and, the G&T favourite, the Ganymede Holiday Inn porter droid, who acted his part perfectly. Ian was on the judging panel this year, and informed us that our favourite didn’t win due to some slightly bizarre voting, but as he finished third, with the skutter second, and Inquisitor first, I felt the result was fair.
After our Norm (moany git), there was the obligatory getting down at the DJ disco, with Mr Ellard and Hattie booging into the night with some of the other attendees, and, near the end of the evening, some of the Peterborough Keep-Fit Club, who were celebrating their 40th anniversary in the next suite. Suddenly, Dwarfers found themselves with a surfeit of middle-aged women, and much fun was had.
And, in the blink of a tired eye, Sunday morning arrived. After the usual DVD session for those of us who either went to bed early, or not at all, we had Hattie’s Q&A session, which was a nice gentle introduction to the day. Hattie, in fact, was a very good value guest, staying all weekend and presenting the quiz and the fancy dress competition, as well as being a general part of the fun. Good old Hat.
After a very exciting preview of Beat the Geek by Andrew Ellard (in essence; it’s bloody good), more fun was had on Sunday with the most entertaining activity I’ve ever seen at DJ: Smeg or No Smeg. If you hadn’t already guessed, this was a parody of the popular quiz show Deal or No Deal, with Dollarpounds and Pennycents at stake. James Bull donned a silly wig as Joel Jedmonds, and badge numbers were chosen at random to select contestants. Some of the numbers read out didn’t seem to have an attendee attached, so other people were chosen to fill the gaps, including Andrew Ellard, who was chosen as the lucky (?) selector by Liam, the human clapometer. Actually, it couldn’t really have been anyone but Andrew, seeing as he’s very amusing in front of an audience, and he didn’t disappoint, snarling at an apparant G&T curse as both Cappsy’s and Ian’s boxes turned out to be of high value. This led the silver-tongued fox to announce that he was intrigued by my box, and it was perhaps the only time that I could be relieved at its low value. Alas, our favourite member of GNP wasn’t in luck, ending up with a hilarously-awful 1 Pennycent (pc), which, although perhaps not the most satisfying outcome for poor Andrew, was by far the most entertaining. Each contestant took away a small prize in their box, such as a fan club mug, and I will, naturally, treasure my box until the day I die. Have I mentioned my box yet?
After much fevered speculation, and a navigation miscalculation by Craig (well, one road looks very much like another), the man himself walked into the main hall at 2pm to a standing ovation. When you’ve just checked out of the Priory after experiencing a rather public humiliation, an appearance at an event that you’ve missed for the past eight years probably seems rather intimidating, and indeed Craig was shaking a little as he started. However, after 5 minutes, Craig had visibly relaxed and was settling nicely into what was probably the most enjoyable cast appearance of the weekend. He was honest, humble and seems to have become a better person as a result of his experiences. He revealed his recent addition to tea, and assured a fan shouting “Innocent!” that it was true; he really was addicted to PG Tips. He readily admitted to having been a bit of a twat in the past (something commented on by G&T), and expressed regret at the suffering that he had caused his wife, along with amazement that she was still with him. Craig was amused at The Priory taking five weeks to tell him that he had an addictive personality; “I could have told them that on the way in!”, and actually told us that he is mentally ill, which takes a fair amount of courage to admit to a bunch of people he hardly knows. What a guy. Along with the sneering at Danny’s new-found stand-up routine “And I bet they weren’t funny, either!” were interesting, informed responses to the questions from the audience, who refrained from stupid comments and radiated respect and admiration for Craig. This obviously impressed him, because; guess what? He’s coming back next year! Although I’m no fan of tabloid reporting, the scandal probably did Craig a lot of good, as it meant him seeking help for the addiction problems that have dogged him for years, and also gained him an awful lot of respect from fans who may have otherwise been a little cynical about his appearance. The prodigal son has returned.
Sadly, due to the understandably huge queue for Craig’s autograph, John and I had to leave after I got my quiz prize signed, so we missed the auction. However, we left feeling very happy, with the satisfaction of having enjoyed a successful DJ. Cappsy, Ian and myself had fun with our boxes in Smeg or No Smeg, we all enjoyed the guests and events, and we got several Dwarfcasts to share with everyone, once Cappsy’s edited out any slanderous references. John also earned himself the nickname “Scatman John”, so we can end with the knowledge that this weekend was a one well spent. Congratulations to the fan club team, who did a marvellous job, and who are welcome to marry my sister any time.