Grand Hotel, Scarborough, 23rd – 25th September , 2016
Fantasycon was… interesting. It remains the most writerly of cons with most panels aimed at writers and peopled by writers and industry professionals. Its progamme is hard to fault and there are lots of book launches and plenty of freebie books. (I’m looking forward to reading my freebies: Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Guns of the Dawn, Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, and Helen Keen’s The Science of Game of Thrones.)
I signed up for a couple of excellent small events, including the Scott Lynch and Elizabeth Bear one on being a writer.Meg Davis was particularly interesting on the process of being a literary agent.
The panel rooms were a good size (some of them in the Grand’s sister hotel just round the corner) and there was always social seating available in at least one of the bars.
The Grand Hotel was actually a perfect setting for a horror con (or an Agatha Christie novel), but it worked for fantasy, too. 365 rooms, 12 floors, four turrets for days of the year/months/seasons. It’s Victorian Gothick or possibly Victorian Grotesque. (Just check out the brickwork in the photo.)
It must have been very grand in its heyday, but now it’s being milked by Pontins. The maximum profit for the minimum amount of renovation/upkeep seems to be the way of things, so there are patches of damp plaster, broken toilets, lifts that don’t work (and when they do you kind of wish you weren’t trusting your life to them).
The lounge bar which still has glorious ornamental pillars with plasterwork similar to the ones in the Brighton Pavilion now has a row of fruit machines, and the corridor leading to the dealer rooms was jam-packed with re-charging mobility scooters.
But for all that was wrong with the Grand, the staff were unfailingly pleasant and you can’t beat it for value for money. The basic room-share cost £40 per person per night for bed, breakfast and evening meal. (Compare that to the £130 a night that I paid for a single room for the York Fantasycon, and that was only for bed and breakfast.) I’m surprised the Grand can function at all at that price. We paid an extra tenner per person per night for a sea-view room and a place in the ‘posh’ dining room. (Same food but no queues.) That was a good move. Our twin bedroom was tired, but functional and clean, and the view over South Bay was magnificent. Sadly the windows were so salt-caked that getting a photo of the view was pretty difficult.
Of course you could step out on to the terrace for a good photo opportunity. Below is South Bay at dusk with the harbour down below and the Norman castle on the headland.
An unexpected bonus was an enormous ‘afternoon tea’ in the Grand. Terry and I ordered tea for two. We should have shared tea for one. When it arrived, it was so big we didn’t know whether to eat it or ride it. I don’t normally take photos of food but this had to be an exception. In addition to the pot of tea for two, I counted: eight sandwiches, a pile of crisps and salad, four mini cream eclairs, six profiteroles, two huge pieces of cake (carrot cake and chocolate fudge), two mini cupcakes and two scones with clotted cream and jam. Price? £8 each. After an hour of munching we admitted defeat and took a plate of leftover cakes to our room where we had them for supper. The following morning there were still cakes staring back at us. With a cry of ‘Not for breakfast,’ the last few pieces went in the bin. Defeated by a plate of cakes!
I’m told that next year’s Fantasycon is in Daventry. It may be a sensible central location, but I doubt it can live up to the sheer quirkiness of Scarborough.