Review of 'Dublin 2019: An Irish Worldcon'

https://dublin2019.com/

I have been attending World Science Fiction conventions for years but the last I had attended was back in 2014, “LonCon 3” in London. I decided that I really should visit any “local” WorldCon and as it was in Dublin, a short flight from London, I had no excuses. I am glad I went. More than 5,100 people who also attended will likely agree with me.

Preparation

With a big event like a WorldCon there is a lot of preparation one needs to do. The general schedule I followed for Dublin was:

  • Purchase membership - As much as possible purchased ahead of time to avoid various price increases as time gets closer (walk-in day tickets were available at the door). Even still it was €230 in March for a full adult attending membership.
  • Arrange accommodation - I did this quite late and ended up in a hotel in Temple Bar, a good 20 minute walk from the convention. All accommodation choices for Dublin 2019 were quite expensive with space at a premium in the small city of Dublin.
  • Arrange transportation - Luckily not too much of an issue for me living in London but this can be tricky.
  • Wednesday (August 15) - Travel to Dublin, check into hotel, pick up registration pack at the convention centre in the limited time window offered…
  • Monday (August 19) - Return home after spending at least a few hours seeing the city that I had not had a chance to visit during the convention…

To keep up to date the “twice” daily newsletter “The Salmon of Knowledge” distributed throughout the convention venues was important to read as it contained critical information including where and when the evening's parties would be held…

Venues

The convention was spread between the Convention Centre, where they had taken over the entire building, and ODEON Point Square, a 10-15 minute walk or a single stop from the “Spencer Dock” light rail station (behind the convention centre) to “The Point” station (where the line terminated). There were also several rooms at The Gibson Hotel, beside “Point Square” which had program items. Program items alternated between the two main areas of the convention with items offset between the two by 30 minutes meaning that if you wanted to go from one to the other you had 30 minutes to get there.

Light Rail

Queuing was a huge issue throughout the convention as was the impression the organisers were caught completely unprepared.

Convention Centre

Main events such as Masquerade and the Hugos were held in the main auditorium of the convention centre at the top of the building. Daily programme items were held on the 1st and 2nd floors (as well as evening parties) while the ground floor was the (disappointing) Dealer's Room.

Convention Centre

After the first day of programme events queuing “lanes” were set up that helped reasonably well though there was often confusion about where they started/ended, whether the room was full and what exactly some of the abbreviations taped on the floor meant (this was largely addressed by signs on the final days with room name and capacity clearly indicated).

Crowds in the CCD

Point Square

Point Square

Point Square is a shopping complex that has not yet attracted full occupancy. In the multi-storied there were programme items primarily in cinema screening rooms in the Odeon on the 2nd floor but also in several large, empty spaces on the first floor where the Art Show was located.

Queuing in Point Square

After the first day of programme items they instituted a queuing system on the first floor all around the outer walls. You queued here before being let up to the Odeon though often they only started letting people up when the items were beginning meaning that most walked in embarrassingly late.

The Gibson Hotel

Gibson Hotel Foyer

Though a bit difficult to find due to lack of sufficient signage in Point Square, the rooms used here were on the top floor up a never-ending series of escalators (those experienced with hotel items generally used the lift). Programme items were in 4-5 rooms at the far side of the hotel, with visitors having to pass through a restaurant to get there.

Programme Items

The programme items were mainly between 10 am and 8 pm (the first day started later and the last day ended a bit earlier). There was only a single item on the Wednesday but this day was mostly for people avoid the rush on Thursday to register early.

Panel in the CCD

There were, literally, thousands of programme items which meant that you had to very carefully plan your day which was made even trickier by the fact the convention venues were separated by a 10-15 minute walk. The programme book provided on the first day was quite thick and I ended up using an electronic version which had a few advantages including being 100% up to date (with daily updates downloaded) and allowing me to select items for a personal agenda.

Panelists in the Odeon

The programmers made very good use of the talent present at the convention with a huge variety of subjects being discussed. For example, NASA astronaut trainee Dr Jeanette Epps appeared on many items to provide her professional input.

I managed to make it to something between 8-10 items every day as well as attending many parties in the evenings which left very little time for anything else…Sleep, get up, eat, go to convention, go back to hotel, sleep…“

Main Events

Every day there were major events held in the evening in the convention centre:

  • Thursday - “Opening Ceremony and 1944 Retro Hugo Awards”
  • Friday - “Worldcon Philharmonic Concert” - Very good, professional orchestra, performing favourites from film and games.

Worldcon Philharmonic Concert

  • Saturday - “Masquerade” - A chance for convention members to dress up and compete.

Masquerade

  • Sunday - “Hugo Awards”
  • Monday - “Closing Ceremony”

Due to the limited space in the convention centre auditorium if you wanted to be sure to see one of these you had to join the queue at a designated time earlier in the day for (free) tickets. These were made available from the desks outside the Dealer's Room in the convention centre but with the queue generally stretching along the fence outside the west side of the building (this, of course, meant you missed any events you wanted to see that were scheduled at the same time…not being sure of how long you might be in the queue also did not help). Generally, the queues were not bad though quite busy at the beginning of the time when tickets are available, half an hour later there were (most of the time) tickets still available but no queues! When you got to the front desk you were asked to show your membership card (hanging around most people's neck in a lanyard), what area you wanted to be seated in (balcony or stalls) and whether you wanted to enter at an hour before the event or a half hour before the event (to avoid congestion issues). You were given a wrist band with a colour/pattern corresponding to your choice.

We went to all but the last two events and found the balcony, about half way back (in the front of the section) offered the best view…so we stuck to it even meeting a fellow conventioneer who we would frequently save seats for (and vice-versa).

Dealer's Room

Dealer's Room

The “Dealer's Room” was generally a disappointment for me with very few book sellers/publishers except for niche, small press. Unlike most conventions they did not even fill the hall and left a good amount of space for additional displays and delegations from other conventions. It was good to see a recreation of the Delorean from “Back to the Future” though…

Dealer's Room and Delorean

Art Show

Art Show Scribble Wall

In keeping with past Art Shows, no photography was allowed, no bags were allowed to be taken into the show, and most of the pieces on display were available to purchase by auction. There was a really good display of Lego at the entrance (where photography WAS allowed).

Lego

Parties

The parties at Dublin were quite a formal affair held on the 1st and 2nd floors of the convention centre on all but the Wednesday of the convention. The rooms were pretty basic and uninspiring but it was a great chance to learn a bit about other conventions sponsoring the parties and, of course, get some free food and drink. Most of the expected groups were present including next year's Worldcon hosts (New Zealand) and those bidding for future conventions.

Conclusions

The convention definitely had problems dealing with the large numbers of people but otherwise the programme items were amazing and the people were very friendly.

Mother and I

My mother and I certainly enjoyed it!

Rating:

Review Date: 2019-11-24



The Convention Centre Dublin

Location: Dublin (Ireland)

Address: Spencer Dock, N Wall Quay, North Wall, Dublin 1, D01 T1W6, Ireland

Public Transport: Spencer Dock (Light Rail)

Telephone: +353 1 856 0000

URL: https://www.theccd.ie/

Though not overly huge the “CCD”'s magnificent glass design is striking on the banks of the River Liffey, a 10-15 minute walk from the centre of the city. In addition to the main auditorium (entrances on the top floors) there are two floors of meeting rooms and a large convention room on the ground floor. A series of escalators provide primary access to the floors but there are staircases on both sides of the large central glass atrium.