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BiCon '96 logo, 1.4K

BiCon '96

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

Security Guards
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 BiCon attendees.
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:
  1. 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).
  2. Selected, and briefed, security to be broad-minded about the range of people who attend BiCon.
Transexuals
There were two issues raised during the conference regarding transexuals at a bisexual conference:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
We recommend in future that single-sex space is clearly defined and marked as such.

Creche Facilities
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.

Signers
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 fees/registration.

Crash Space
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 becoming rare.
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.

Organisers' Comments

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.

Workshops

Summary
The most important issues to arise out of planning, and then running, the workshop timetable were:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. The bookable space was in demand once the conference got rolling. We suggest planning more bookable/overflow space from now on, if possible.
Friday
11 am - noon
        Welcoming First-timers
        Welcoming Facilitators
        Seen It All Before?
12.15 - 1.30 pm
        Bisexuals In Unions
        UK-bi: Bisexuals On The Internet
        Co-listening
        Negotiating (Safer) Sex
        Pride And Prejudice
        Welcoming Women (Women-only)
Lunchtime
        Welcoming First-aiders
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
        Relaxation Session
        Hello Bi Helpline Can I Help You?
        Self-hypnosis
        Bisexuality: Fad Or Fashion
        Women Talking Dirty (Women-only)
        Getting Laid (Bookable space)
5.30 - 6 pm
        'Off The Fence' Art Exhibition Launch

Saturday
11 am - noon
        Fat Stuff
        Let Go Of The Past, Look Forward To The Future
        Bi-buddies Network
        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)
Lunchtime
        SM Bi Picnic
        Vanilla Picnic
3 - 4.15 pm
        Fun And Games
        Movement To Music
        How To Find, Attract And Keep Your Ideal Partner(s)
        Outreach
        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
        Bi Academics
        Love
        Transexuality
        Relaxation Session (Women-only)
        Being Married And Bisexual (Bookable space)
        Queer Media (Key)

Sunday
11 am - noon
        Five-a-side Jackanory Rides Again
        Positive Materials
        Bi Community News - One Year On
        Massage
        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)
Lunchtime
        Vegan Picnic
        'Off The Fence' Art Auction
        Horton Women's Weekend Meeting

Feedback Sheets

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 %
Poor        5
Average     30
Good        65
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     %
Poor            5
Average         29
Good            66
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?
62 answered
Workshops attended      %
                1       2
                2-3     18
                4-5     34
                6-7     26
                8-9     11
                10      10
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 better).

What did you think of the evening events - the cabaret, the discos, the bar?
56 Answered     %
Poor            17
Average         21
Good            62
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 you?
55 Answered     %
Poor            6
Average         10
Good            84
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     %
Poor            25
Average         41
Good            34
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 evenly spread.
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     %
Poor            15
Average         21
Good            64
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     %
Poor            24
Average         23
Good            53
Most common comments on the accommodation: Unsurprisingly, the lack of pots, pans, crockery and cutlery; People wanted breakfasts included.
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 conference?
Most common comments: The social, friendly and bisexual space at BiCon; The art exhibition and the organisation also were highly praised.

How could it be made better next year?
Most common comments:
  1. Earlier information. Particularly the timetable, train times and the conference hours.
  2. More politics. There was felt to be a lack of activism/political debates and workshops.
  3. More publicity. Many people felt they hadn't heard about it enough in advance etc.
  4. Creche & Signing. More provision should be made for these services.
  5. One site. People felt that BiCon (workshops, entertainments and accommodation) should be on one site.
  6. 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- only space.
  7. 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.
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.
Report compiled by Simon Munk and Marcus Morgan

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