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The Hub3 Report - Part 1

This is my report on The Hub3, strong language and stronger sentiments - you have been warned.

Well now, let me see… There is no disguising Showmasters/Massive Events are a pretty crap set-up, led by two self-confessed nerds, Mark & Jason. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind nerds but they make lousy business men. Good business men do not insult paying customers, especially when they are anonymously online – and you already have their money – that’s gross. If you attack someone online, you really do need to know who you are talking to. I’m not anyone ‘important’ or well known, a little infamous on speaking my mind occasionally yes, but just one of the paying public – are you starting to get the message, little man?

There are only two reasons they are still in business – one, we still want to see some of the guests they invite. Two, they have enough really good stewards to make it work on the ground, [inspite of some who could stand to take the sticks out of their collective ass and buy bigger hats for their swollen heads], who manage to scramble and keep it together when Plan A goes wrong, as it is bound to do at public events. There rarely seems to be a Plan B and we usually find ourselves having to slog from one place to another to fit in what we need to do. Exhausting at London Film & Comic Con or any of the Collectormania shows, of which I have been to many. You need to have stamina and a LOT of patience to get what you want – in my case, a mobility scooter or a wheelchair because there are never enough seats and it’s brutal on the disabled.

Those good stewards – you know who you are! – look out for us and help when they can. Some of the new ones either haven’t been told to help or simply don’t care and try to ignore us but there are one or two new exceptional ones. We go back inspite of the cock-ups, not because they are good. I really had to want to see someone before I go. But I will not be going again. I don’t care if James is going or not.

Many people will probably disagree with me about Showmasters, but that has never stopped me from saying what I think, nor should it, ever. Most of those will be new conventioneers with nothing to compare it to, Con-junkies who go mostly for the parties, the plainly sycophantic who always think they’ll get something more and those who don’t know enough about the business to judge a good Con from a bad one. Don’t get me wrong, they can be lovely people and are entitled to their opinion. I simply do not share it.

Before I begin, I’m going to start with the bit of nastiness from Showmasters that coloured my weekends at The Hub3 & Hallowhedon and showed the ‘Management’ in their true colours - there’s no way round it and may explain to some why I judge them as hard as I do. They had put me off-side before I even got there.

I had posted online with dozens of others in multiple threads for The Hub3 and Hallowhedon on the Showmasters Forum, requesting names of people going to the events and if we could buy photo-ops etc online. I could not believe the sheer arrogance of expecting people to buy tickets to a weekend with barely any information or facilities. If James Marsters had not been going, I would not have been either. No schedules, precious little information, other than the ‘it’ll-be-like-last-year’ kind, totally useless to anyone who hadn’t been to one before.

Hub3 did have guests announced some weeks before – Hallowhedon had 2 - TWO!! – until a couple of days before the damn weekend! And actually only had another three guests. Astonishing. Hallowhedon Ops with James went on sale fairly quickly however, and I bought the photos and autos I wanted. He was a Supplementary Guest at Hub3, which meant you had to pay for anything with him – that must have pleased the Golds! Not. But as it turned out, they didn’t have to pay a cent.

Hub3, however, did not sell any major photo-ops before the event, except three of the female co-stars, who hardly anyone had heard of outside of one episode or the last 5-day series of ‘Torchwood’ - no offence to them, but hardly great pulling material! Give the amount of people manning this post, it’s not really surprising and from what I hear, having to buy said ops at the actual cons is getting more and more frequent. S/ME have so many events on the go at one time now, they are spread far too thinly and cannot give anything like a decent online service any more. No offence to Jola, she does her frantic best but the system is antediluvian and hardly state-of-the-art.

At the end of September, I posted the following - which you won’t find online now, nor will you find his snotty, unpleasant response either. The cowardly little twat has had them removed – I mean, you can’t leave a post that shows you at your petty worst, can you??

But guess what? I copied them. Funny that…

My post,

(Lovejames @ Sep 20 2009, 04:16 PM)

”Wanna know what's pissing me off? No, of course you don't but i'm gonna tell you anyway!
Even if they get the photo prices and online sales going this week, will they have time to post the vouchers out to us?
If we don't get to buy online beforehand, we'll have to queue to buy them at the Con and man, i hate long queues [i can't stand up for long]. If there's not enough time to post out, we're still going to have to queue to pick them up!!
Isn't it about time more than one person was allocated to sort this out?????? ”

*not a happy bunny*

Tubby Twat responded by blocking my previous 33 posts [since 2006], so nobody could check on what I said, including me. Most of them would have been asking for information, including the latest 5/6? On these conventions. He only picked this up because I said ‘pissing’ and he then threw a hissy fit. He is not a person with much education and let me apologise in advance for his bad spelling, bad grammar, total lack of punctuation, excruciating syntax and incredible ego.

“i just reread your posts Lovejames
if you do not stop your attitude which can be seen in nearly all the 30 x Posts you have made sins you Joined December 06 will refund both your tickets and you will not be going to any events OK , stop being so selfish and pushy, we will not tolerate it anymore OK

we do a great job and have proved our selfs every time and if we had not then why the hell do you keep coming back and buying tickets ? , why because you know we do a great job so stop with the attitude.
there is no place for bullying on here or at the event if you are not going to enjoy the show maybe you should not come
i will let this lie now as we do not hold a grudge at all but please stop this and start to just enjoy the events as we run them huh.gifJason”

Doesn’t that sound just like him? He is his own fan club and truly up himself. This incidentally from the man who was all over me like a bad rash at the last Collectormania in the half completed Dons Stadium, saying how much he appreciated the long term fans…

Luckily for both of us and my blood pressure, the subscription wasn’t working and I didn’t see this for a long time. I was alerted by a friend in the week before Hub3 that he had gone off on one and I held back replying on financial grounds alone.

Having already laid out substantial money by this time, not just tickets, travel costs etc but clothes and supplies, I exercised some considerable self-control, ignored the incredible ego and resisted the desire to rip his throat out, equally as publicly and nastily.

How bloody dare he THREATEN me??? Who does he think he is? Via private message would be bad enough but on a public forum? How gross is that… You feel free to speak to paying customers like that? For shame.

If it hadn’t been for James, I would have told him to ban away and shove it up his arse. It would have cost them quite a few quid in refunds. I just kept repeating my mantra – ‘Think of James… It’s only two days on two weekends’…

Ok, Hub3 weekend dawned and I took the cross-country train to Birmingham, lots of stops but I took my lunch and watched the flat, flat landscape out of the Fens. No wonder the Bastard never conquered them, must have been a nightmare just trying to cross them, with Hereward snapping at his heels.

I had to change at New Street for Birm International and the Hilton courtesy bus. BI is an Esher painting of lifts, corridors and platforms and I felt like the White Rabbit by the time I found the right platform – train just about to take off! Got aboard and put my suitcase in the doors space with a load of others, sat down in the nearest seat with a grateful sigh – and was regaled with a loud mobile phone conversation from a squaddy, just returned from overseas, arranging a meet-up with his sergeant and some of his mates. When ‘fuck’ increased to become every second word, I caught his eye and putting my finger to my lips, I went ‘shush!’. He terminated the call immediately and spent the remaining 10 minutes apologising! He was still at it as he lifted my bags off the train for me, bless him. I wished him well.

It was a lot easier getting out of the station and I only asked a couple of times where I should go. I rang the free Hotel phone to say I was there, especially as I was an hour early [my mistake]. I was soon sitting outside waiting for the bus, which came quickly and was driven by a helpful & courteous man! Quick transition and I went inside to check out the Hilton.

I knew I’d have to wait a while before I could register but I hadn’t anticipated having to wait until nearly four o’clock!

I managed to find where the Hub registration was - no signs anywhere, shame on the Hotel, but I heard a couple of girls telling their friends where it was. It was quite a hike down to area and they were operating out of a broom closet, sorry, cloakroom! How appropriate. They were close to the ballroom they used for Q&A’s, the parties and whatever. They were not selling any photo-ops or anything else – later, they said, about 5.30pm.

I returned with my envelope, Con badge etc and attempted to peer at the Schedule, surely the tiniest print I’ve ever seen – could they not have printed one day on each side of the paper? As I did on the night before Hallowhedon [yet another well-delayed schedule]. I found my Group number and was horrified to see how truly regimented the schedule was. Their system works for them, breaking us up into groups but it doesn’t work very well for us. Unless you had a Gold or Silver ticket, you had far too much time to spare – and even they sat around in clumps waiting for things to do, like the rest of us plebs.

I don’t like cattle markets or being treated like a herd. It might be efficient but you are whistled through with as much speed as possible and have so little time with the person/s you have come such a long way to see, you have to ask yourself if it is worth it. If you come just for the whole experience, maybe. But I have to say ‘no, not any more’ – even for James!

Very little provision was made for the disabled yet again and if you weren’t brave enough to go to the front and join the walking wounded or ask for help, you were left to queue like everyone else. You really have to shift for yourself if you don’t have a strong carer.

I met a young American, who came on her own and I invited her to join us but I only saw her twice, going the other way! Her room was ready before mine and I simply sat in the bar, then one of the reception chairs until ours was ready. Lots of the girls arrived while I was there and I was able to greet them before our room finally was done.

I went up to the room and left my bags there, used the facilities and went downstairs again. I left a key card for Sue and trekked back to the Ballroom. Next door was a room for the dealers – my dear, there were three dealers. I kid you not. There was nothing else to do but wait. Nothing to watch, nowhere to go – thank heavens for your mates.

Anyway, we were just standing around waiting for 5.30pm and the photo-ops, I managed to sit on a table edge – when this bloke came round with a sign he put on the wall, saying James had cancelled!! He’d had an accident, when one of the arc light reflector panels had fallen down and knocked him out, onto concrete. Ouch! And Arrgh! He had concussion and his doctors had forbidden him to fly.

Well, we thought the steward was joking but no, he was not. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut and my brain simply stopped working. I felt quite stunned. It didn’t surprise me to see girls in tears over the next few hours and the following day. I text’d everyone I could think of and waited for Sue.

She said let’s stay the night, do some of the Con tomorrow and then she would take me home to Cambridge if I wanted. She’d been intending to catch an up-and-coming young band called The Longest Day, who were playing in my home town on Saturday night. She planned to drive over and see them anyway and return to the Con. It is about an hour and a half by car.

That was fine by me and I went to the Desk to see if I could cancel Sat & Sun nights. He was very obliging and agreed immediately but said ‘Do you mind if I ask you why?’ So I told him the two headliners for the Con had now cancelled – John Barrowman to do ‘La Cage aux Folles’ a couple of weeks ago and now James that night due to accident. “Ah”, he said, “I’ve just had 8 people do the same. Thank you.” I told him he could expect more. Lots will go home tomorrow either way, as that really left Gareth on his own to carry the can. Even his fans agree, he’s not up to that yet.

There were those who wanted to go home but having come from Italy, USA, Hungary, France, Germany and points north & south, most decided to stay and make the best of it, I think. My heart went out to them. Most of the rest of James’ fans left at various times during Saturday but as you can see from above, some didn’t even wait for that.

Rosie went online and sent an email to Himber from all of us sitting around her, sending our commiserations and best wishes for James’ speedy recovery. It wasn’t until some time afterwards that we discovered the accident had another nasty surprise and the spinal disc he had damaged on Buffy had been damaged again. He couldn’t sit down, could barely walk and wasn’t going anywhere for a while. Ouch!! Himber had sent a message, saying James would be there for Hallowhedon however, not to worry.

By the way, I have to mention one steward, Michelle, who was truly outstanding and who always found me a seat on both weekends. *blows kiss*

We duly trooped down to the opening ceremony at 7pm and they were letting us in by Group… After waiting around for far too long for this to start, eventually Jason & Mark came on stage and said none of the guests had arrived [Gareth arrived just after this, I was told], so there wouldn’t be an opening ceremony that night and the drinks party for the Golds would be held on Saturday night! Man, I wouldn’t have been happy with that. Having said that, they left the stage – basically, you can all bugger off now… Needless to say, we were not impressed.

Sue & I looked at each other and went off and had dinner at Millers in the Hotel. Food was pretty good but pricey, of course, this is the Hilton. We just had a main course each and a couple of drinks, £31, but what the hell. After that, we went and got glammed up for the ‘Hen Night’ theme [bit lame; all the party themes were very general, for both weekends] and went back down to the Ballroom.

Man, what a dismal do! The minimal lighting didn’t help - Disco lights and some over the bar in the corner. A bare handful of tables & chairs, with some chairs lining parts of the walls, nowhere enough seating and some came and sat where they could or on the floor. More looked in and left.

There were what I was told was the apparently obligatory ‘Con’ dances, what Rosie called Line-dancing 101! *snorts* The DJ was awful and the music was pretty dire [I heard later the same music was played on Both the next nights, until even the ‘Regulars’ were fed up – I didn’t miss much I was told. They tried to get the DJ to play something different without much luck.

We had brought our own booze, hotel prices being what they are, and just bought soft drinks to go with them. The main amusement of the night was Gareth coming down, in a cloud of minders, hangers-on and Punch & Judy, of course. He attempted to ride the bucking, er, sheep! It was funny watching the room surge towards the bar & Gareth, then slowly move back again. They were mercifully well behaved. I got horribly bored and hit the sack fairly early.

Our room was okay but very light on supplies – one minute bar of soap. I had pre-ordered online, at their prompting, some extra towels and pillows. None of which were there on arrival and I had to phone for more towels. As I was only going to be there overnight, I made do with the pillows [Sue gave me one of hers]. Bit shabby – this is a HILTON for heavens sake! Nicky would be spinning in his grave.

We took our time going into breakfast, greeting friends coming and going, literally, as soon as they’d eaten. You had to get everything yourself, make your own toast and cups of coffee, one at a time. Forget any staff actually smiling at you. Talk about minimal! There could not have been more difference to a Hilton in America. This was pretty bad.

Having peered at my schedule again, I had three possible autos and two possible photo-ops in the morning and two more auto in the afternoon; pretty slim pickings! The little girl didn’t draw me, nor photos with the ‘lesser lights’ – nice people but I’d rather have been photographed with my friends frankly. I only wanted three autos. Such a shame, no Eve [who’s just had a baby girl; congrats, honey!], no Burn [having a well deserved break], no Naoko or the lad who plays Constable Andy – what is his name? Or the gorgeous Matt Rippy… This Con just fell flat on it’s face and should have been re-scheduled to another date when John bowed out.

The timings for my group were pretty crap and widely spaced in time; more time spent milling about with nothing to do. I went for Katy Wix at 10.15am and by delaying my slot for Nicholas Farrell, managed to get him and Nikki Amuka-Bird at one go at 2.30pm – see what I mean about the times? Huge gaps, even with 7 guests. I had a photo-op with Daniela Denby-Ashe the next day but it wasn’t enough to make me want to stay. The only other auto I wanted was Gareth - he’d signed the marker I left in my magazine at the Rift, instead of the page I’d marked, twit! He’d been pissed, mind you, having been asked to leave the pub and come and fill in with Kai for James! One of the stewards had taken it for me to him to do, as I’d missed out earlier before he left, bless her heart.

I left my mag with Sue and she got it done for me the next day. She’d gone back to keep the other party-junkies happy – just kidding, girls!

Pretty much all agreed it was the worst Con and the only fun they had, they made themselves.

We spent our time hanging out with the other James fans and saying goodbye as more and more of them left. We finally pushed off about 4ish and had a good drive back home. I ordered some Chinese and as soon as we’d eaten, we went to listen to The Longest Day. They’d been scheduled to play with two other bands – neither of whom turned up or let anyone know they weren’t coming, what bad manners!!

The guys were good though and well worth effort. We went and congratulated them as they packed up outside and I called a cab. Sue went back to Birmingham and I gratefully called it a day.

I was worried about James and had some of the weirdest dreams. We’d heard by then about the back injury too and I wasn’t at all sure he would be fit for Hallowhedon. I was sure that James would come if he could, as I could not see him cancelling two cons in a row, without being totally incapacitated.

During the week, I read that James had indeed made the trip and arrived before the weekend. I relaxed somewhat and continued to prepare for the next one.