The 14th National Bisexual Conference
Kingston Upon Thames
30th August to 1st September 1996
The 14th National Bisexual Conference, BiCon '96, took place over the last weekend of August, and was hailed by many as a great success. Here is a copy of the final report.
BiCon 96 Report
Issues And Recommendations
Guards at BiCon '96 caused several problems: male guards entering the
women's toilets and peering into cubicles; and guards making
sarcastic/unpleasant comments about BiCon attendees within earshot of
We believe that both of these issues could have been avoided with a
proper briefing of the Students Union representatives we were dealing
with. If they had been aware fully of the likely behaviour and attitudes
of the attendees they could have done two things:
- Briefed security that people going into toilets together was not a
sign of drug taking (which is why they were in there - as standard
Student security procedure).
- Selected, and briefed, security to be broad-minded about the range
of people who attend BiCon.
There were two issues raised during the conference regarding transexuals
at a bisexual conference:
We recommend in future that single-sex space is clearly defined and
marked as such.
- Criteria for identifying as a transexual
Several people made comments on the lack of a criteria for transexuality
in the BiCon '96 handbook. We stand by the decision not to include a
criteria. It is as rude, and bigoted, to ask a transexual to 'prove'
they are one as it is to ask a bisexual to prove they are. We just asked
people to respect transexuals as the gender they now identify as.
- Single-sex space
We felt that transexuals should have equal acces to single-sex spaces
for the gender they identify as. This included, we felt, not only
workshops but also lavatories etc. Conversely, when people were excluded
from spaces because of their gender, then transexuals were not exempt
from this exclusion. This was not completely respected.
Creche facilities were not confirmed in writing, allowing the University
to renege on a verbal agreement to allow us to provide on-campus creche
facilities ourselves. This was done shortly before theconference. We
then approached the Unversity nursery. We were not allowed to use the
nursery as the University would not allow us to place conference-goers
children in the nursery with the usual attending children.
We realise that the creche facilities we did provide were far from
satisfactory. We did contact all pre-registered people who'd asked for
creche space to explain the last-minute arrangements.
We recommend that, considering the number of children (under ten in
total) affected, future BiCons make sure that they sort out written
guarantees of creche space early on. And then advertise exactly what
facilities there will be.
The only person who asked for signing did not use BSL. And we were
unable to find a Sign Assisted English signer. We approached the person
needing signing to see if they could find anyone. And they did, but only
for the Saturday afternoon and Sunday.
The cost of paying for signers, considering the number of people who
require the facility, and the problems with matching signers' sign
language to needs, is prohibitive for BiCons.
We recommend that the BiCon Advisory Group compile a register of bi-
positive/bi/bi-friendly signers who'll work for costs/free/small
We did organise the crash we expected. And that was OK until Saturday
morning. When the University worked out what we were up to.
Our feeling after trying to organise crash space is that it is no longer
a viable option for BiCons. If the BiCon happens to be located close to
camp sites, or if the University is happy for people to crash in their
buildings that is another matter. But both of these possibilities are
We suggest the following: encouraging local people to allow crash at
their places; structuring the sliding registration/accomodation costs to
ensure that people are able to come, and that the higher-earners
subsidise the accomodation costs of the lower-earners.
BiCon is big. Organising a National Bisexual Conference is a big job.
Too big for one person these days, the right combination of people is
essential to providing a seemingly smooth running event. We were, for
example, all heartened by the comments on how happy we all looked, and
how this reassured people. We feel the time is drawing near when BiCons
will need to be planned further in advance than the current system
allows for. BiCon slowly grows in your free-time, eating everything else
that you want to do. And when everyone goes home on a Sunday, it then
stays round, and won't leave when you look pointedly at the door.
However, this does mean that the people with the most intense experience
also can have the most rewarding experience, and take a bit of the BiCon
magic away to fuel their dreams for a long long time.
We did some things differenlty, and some things the same. Consequently
we made some old mistakes and invented some new ones (Plates!). But we
feel many of the things we kept, and many of the ones we designed will
go on to become part of the great BiCon template. We certainly hope that
future organisers will take on the responsibility of the daily feedback
box gauntlet that allows anonymous attendees to rightly put specific
issues on the spot. It's good to talk.
As each year builds on the success of the last, the expectations also
grow. We hope this will not eventually result in people expecting nanny
BiCon to fix every problem for them, when instead we must remember that
BiCon is not just the organisers, it's all of us, and we should all take
some responsibilty for what happens over the weekend.
The most important issues to arise out of planning, and then running,
the workshop timetable were:
- Women's Space - There was a large demand for women-only
workshops during the conference. But there were empty slots in the
women-only space when the timetable was finalised, pre-conference. So
many of the women-only workshops were booked into the bookable space.
- Men-only space which was requested during the conference. And
one men-only workshop was proposed for the bookable space during the
BiCon. It didn't get enough signatures to be allocated a slot. The only
pre-conference men-only workshop requested (Bi Men For Men) was
timetabled and ran.
- The bookable space was in demand once the conference got
rolling. We suggest planning more bookable/overflow space from now on,
11 am - noon
Seen It All Before?
12.15 - 1.30 pm
Bisexuals In Unions
UK-bi: Bisexuals On The Internet
Negotiating (Safer) Sex
Pride And Prejudice
Welcoming Women (Women-only)
3 - 4.15 pm
Transexuality And You
Bi Men For Men
Pissed Off Bisexual Activists
Five Rhythms Dancing
SM For Non-SMers
BDSM And The Rest Of The World (Women-only)
Film: Savage Nights
4.30 - 5.30 pm
Making A Short Bisexual Film
Hello Bi Helpline Can I Help You?
Bisexuality: Fad Or Fashion
Women Talking Dirty (Women-only)
Getting Laid (Bookable space)
5.30 - 6 pm
'Off The Fence' Art Exhibition Launch
11 am - noon
Let Go Of The Past, Look Forward To The Future
Non-monogamy And Polyamory
A Permanent BiCon Organisation?
Building Links With The Lesbian Community (Women-only)
Film: Two Shorts And Love And Human Remains
12.15 - 1.30 pm
... And Transgendered Pride: Where Do We Go From Here
Bisexuals And Non-bisexual Partners
Doing More Interesting Things In The Dark
DIY Porn Film
Likes And Dislikes
How To Chat Up Women (Women-only)
SM Bi Picnic
3 - 4.15 pm
Fun And Games
Movement To Music
How To Find, Attract And Keep Your Ideal Partner(s)
SM For SMers
Mental Health And Mental Illness (Women-only)
What's Happening In The Bi Women's
Community? (Women-only) (Bookable space)
Bisexuals, Gay Men And Lesbians Working Together In Unions (Key)
4.30 - 5.45 pm
Drug Crazed Deviants
Preparing The Closing Ceremony
Relaxation Session (Women-only)
Being Married And Bisexual (Bookable space)
Queer Media (Key)
11 am - noon
Five-a-side Jackanory Rides Again
Bi Community News - One Year On
SM And Spirituality
BDSM, Feminism And Gender Roles (Women-only) (Bookable space)
Relationships With Others And Ourselves (Women-only) (Bookable space)
True Confessions, True Desires (cancelled)
12.15 - 1.30 pm
Quaker Meeting For Worship
Polycon - A Non-monogamy Convention
Tantra 103: Touching People
BASH: The Future
Meanings Of Menstruation (Women-only)
BiCon Advisory Group (Bookable space)
Bisexuality And Celibacy (Bookable space)
Film: Two Short Films (repeated)
More Five Rhythms Dancing (cancelled)
Race And Racism (Key) (cancelled)
'Off The Fence' Art Auction
Horton Women's Weekend Meeting
Total of number of forms returned = 66
Number of BiCon attendees = 233
How did you find the range of workshops? Did we get the mix right? Did
they appeal to you?
64 answered %
Most common comments: Workshops on a similar topic shouldn't run at
the same time; There should be fewer 'new age' workshops, i.e. Tantra,
Massage, Spirituality; There needs to be a larger range of workshops;
There needs to be more on safer sex and activism. One person commented
that in order to maximise range, no facilitator should run more than
three separate workshops.
For the workshops you went to, what did you think of the content? Did
you get what you wanted out of them?
59 answered %
Most common comments: Big groups of people sitting and talking in a
circle was not necessarily a good thing.
How many workshops did you go to?
Workshops attended %
There was a 'natural' distribution of people attending between one
and nine workshops over the two and a half days. The average number
attended was around five. A small group of people attended as many as
there were slots - i.e. ten.
Which workshops would you like to see again? And which ones, that
didn't run, would you like to see in the future?
Most popular topics: Anything on meeting partners, getting laid etc.;
Polyamoury and Non-monogamy; SM/Fetish; Fat issues; Massage; And
Transexuality (although several people just wanted the issue covered
What did you think of the evening events - the cabaret, the discos,
56 Answered %
17% didn't like them (but only 4% said they were very poor).
Most common comments: The beer was cheap; There was poor choice in
terms of alternatives to the disco/bar; The disco should have run later;
There should have been more cabaret acts.
If you used the accommodation, or the crash space, how was it for
55 Answered %
Most common comments: An equal split between those who thought that
the distance between the venue and accommodation was short/good and
those who thought it bad; The minibus was a good idea.
How useful were the plenaries?
52 Answered %
Most common comments: Serious discussions about money/next year's
BiCon etc. should have been held earlier in the weekend; The feedback
box/system was a good idea.
Did you enjoy the closing ceremony?
Only 20 people answered this section of the questionnaire. Opinion was
Most common comments: That the photo was a good idea; but many people
seemed to either have left early or felt that this did not constitute a
proper close to the conference.
How would you rate this BiCon's safer sex provision?
60 answered %
Most common comments: There was poor choice - all the condoms were
'Ultra Strong', so aimed at anal sex; There wasn't enough information,
or provision (such as dental dams), for women.
What did you think of the conference being self-catering? Did you buy
food at the union? How was it?
51 Answered %
Most common comments on the accommodation: Unsurprisingly, the lack
of pots, pans, crockery and cutlery; People wanted breakfasts
Most common comments on the Union: It was praised for being cheap; It
was criticised for lack of choice - particularly for vegetarians, vegans
and 'wholemeal' options.
What was the most important thing, for you, about the
Most common comments: The social, friendly and bisexual space at
BiCon; The art exhibition and the organisation also were highly
How could it be made better next year?
Most common comments:
Overall opinion since has been that it was one of the better
conferences, and the hope that following years can look at it as an
exmple of how to do things, and how not to do others.
- Earlier information. Particularly the timetable, train times and the
- More politics. There was felt to be a lack of activism/political
debates and workshops.
- More publicity. Many people felt they hadn't heard about it enough
in advance etc.
- Creche & Signing. More provision should be made for these services.
- One site. People felt that BiCon (workshops, entertainments and
accommodation) should be on one site.
- Women-only. The women-only space was felt to be strongly needed at
any future conference. Several people also felt separate women-only
workshop and social spaces were needed. Also, BiCon needs to be more
welcoming/less negative towards lesbians, both inside and outside women-
- More Facilitator Training And Support. One person went so far as to
say that facilitators who were consistently complained about should be
banned from running workshops.
Report compiled by Simon Munk and Marcus Morgan
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