BUCK Convention Interview

Today, Jim and I sat down with Mav, GilDash and Nethesem from the BUCK Convention for an interview. BUCK Convention is being held in Manchester, north of England, in August 2014 and will be an epic 3-day event held over 22nd to the 24th of August, kicking off the with Summer Sun Celebration, the biggest brony music festival around!

BUCK Convention will host a variety of different fun activities, ranging from art and music workshops, cupcake decoration, and multiple music stages. These stages will feature many different artists, well known ones to brand new acts never before heard; they will even feature a special performance by the venerable AcousticBrony along with a full backing band.

Pitched as a celebration of everything the fandom has to offer, this convention will focus less on people related to the show, but more on "what the fandom has to offer, and everything that the show means, and has done for us as a community," stated Mav.

Paraphrasing the BuckCon team:
"We have had many people tell us that Q&As get boring and old; they are always the same questions everytime. Instead, we like to focus more on the fandom itself. We have the largest, and best funded brony concert in the world, which has the same professional sound equipment seem at Leeds. We even feature some new and up and coming acts as a way of introducing the fandom to new musical artists."

Overall, BUCK Convention is shaping up to be one of the biggest and best conventions of the year for the brony fandom. Check out the interview below to gain the inside scoop on what is coming this august.

Q: BUCK is going for its 3rd event now, what are you proud of achieving over the past 2 cons?

A: We're mostly proud of peoples reactions to BUCK. We've had attendees, staff and guests telling us they've preferred BUCK to BronyCon or other big-name cons.

Q: BUCK has the Summer Sun Celebration - how does this compare to other conventions' music events like "Bronypalooza" and "Ponystock"?

A: The Summer Sun Celebration isn't a music event; it's a festival in itself. Bronypalooza and Ponystock are essentially school discos compared to the Summer Sun Celebration. It's the highest-budget brony music event ever, and costs about the running budget of some US 10K-attendee brony conventions. It's celebrating brony culture and creativity; what the community has made. We encourage our artists to do an exclusive for the SSC. A lot of the work that makes it such a good event you will never see because it's the setup of the stage; we hire our gear from companies who provide equipment such as staging, rigging, lighting and PA to festivals like Leeds, Reading and Glastonbury.

Q: This year, we've seen some people complaining about the steep price of BUCK tickets. How are the costs justified?

A: Our con is probably the most expensive con for entry in the world, and that's because the UK is not cheap for conventions at all. People's perceived costs are mere misconceptions. You can say that MCM does tickets for £15, but they have:
- 10,000 attendees paying
- vendors paying £750+ per stall
- sponsors giving them money 
and it turns up into essentially a huge gathering of people and a comic/anime themed shopping market. BUCK isn't like that. BUCK wants to keep attendance to a bearable level so everyone can join in. We've got feedback on Q&A/Panel events and people say they're dull, boring and answer questions people ask at other cons; we agree. So we're working on have a load of workshops and things to do during the day so that you get the best con experience this year.

Q: After sticking with Bridgewater Hall for the convention 2 years straight, and dipping your toes in Manchester Central with the first Summer Sun Celebration, why the complete move to Manchester Central?

A: Moving to Central gives us big rooms with nothing in them. It's like an empty canvas to get the con how we like it. Bridgewater is excellent for a concert but for a convention it doesn't work. People were crammed into small rooms and people on the top floor (which we didn't even mean to be use but we needed the space) were sweating hot from all the heat rising as people were out constantly on foyers. However, the move to Central isn't cheap. A big empty canvas also means we have to pay for everything on our own. This year we have an electricity budget, a stage budget and a rigging budget; Central provide just the room; nothing else. They tried to even charge us for water.

Q: As the organisers, what are your personal 5 favourite things at BUCK 2014 you've got planned?


1. The Cadence Stage
BUCK 2013 had the Lunar Eclipse Concert and the Summer Sun Celebration. One was a laid back concert, one was a festival rave. With BUCK 2014, we're introducing The Cadence Stage. It'll be open for an hour each day of the con and will be with musicians we listened to and just couldn't refuse despite lacking the "horse-fame". It's introducing the upcoming musicians of the community.

2. The Summer Sun Celebration
This is going to be an immense event, a massive rave. We're going  with the SSC this year and we're trying out new things for it. AcousticBrony are going to be performing with a full rock band this year. We're also proud of the organisation of the SSC. We've heard in some cons, if people are behind schedule they will ask the least well-known artist to not perform entirely. We did run behind schedule in 2013, but we sorted it by logically asking each artist to drop a song from their set. Common sense makes it better for all.

3. Community
The community is essentially what makes BUCK; it's a community con rather than a consumer one. Our events focus on the community. We spend our money on making great events rather than lots of show guests that are at every other con. We even let our community choose the charity of the year for our annual charity auction. This year, we're introducing the "generosity" ticket. It's for people that want to donate more to BUCK but can't afford the 20% Cooler ticket. You get a donor badge, and an entire £5 (no fees - £5 exactly!) goes to charity. 

4. VIP's
We've got a few VIP guests this year - including Heather Breckel, a colorist from IDW for the MLP:FiM comics. Rather than just sticking her on a dull panel, she's going to be doing a demo on stage with a tablet and her monitor mirrored onto the screen so people can actually see her methods and learn from her, rather than just ask questions people must have already asked countless times before.

5. Comedy Routine
We're proud to be the only con with a planned comedy routine. Last year, Pipsqueak (a musician) asked me to do a stand-up comedy act. I asked for a video sample and he was pretty funny. So on stage, he did a comedy routine. The room was so packed even I couldn't get in, and the crowd loved him. So this is definitely something to look forward to for BUCK 2014.

Q. You've said a few times now "brony culture and creativity", expand on this?

A. We're not a con about My Little Pony : Friendship is Magic. We're a convention about the creativity and power from the community that follows it. We celebrate what ponies have done for us, not ponies themselves. The Living Tombstone said that BUCK was going to be his last con, but after the SSC, he was convinced to keep going to cons. Most cons are outright fandom cons and are very consumerist and commercial. We're a community con. It's not an exclusive-to-participate con; it's a have-a-go con. We're having musicians on stage producing tracks with help from the audience. We're planning a musician and artist corner where musicians can bring their instruments and laptops and just have a jam, or artists can bring their tablets/paper and have a sketch-off! It's really a hands-on con.

Q. What's the attendance of BUCK like, and what percentage are actually from the UK?

A. We're the largest in Europe and we're planning to take up to 1500 this year. Last year, 20% of people came from outside of the UK. We've sort of noticed in the UK, because of the size, people are less willing to travel further. Some people will be 2 hours away from Manchester and say that's too far, but in America people will travel up to 24 hours by car and not moan. There's also a big culture difference; Americans tend to be more open about being a brony, a bit more flashy. That's not so much the case in the UK, a lot of people don't like putting it all on display. There aren't any specific convention centres in the UK; it's just not the culture here.

Q. Will BUCK end? And will it always be not-for-profit?

A. Not-for-profit doesn't mean charity. It means it doesn't turn a profit. If BUCK has £10,000 after BUCK 2014, that'd be a nice deposit for BUCK 2015. But if we're not-for-profit, we'd be breaking the law if we kept it; we have to spend all of our profits or we'll be done in by the tax man. It's silly, but that's the law here. If BUCK 2014 doesn't profit, there won't be a BUCK 2015. Running fees rise each year. As we establish a history, venues assume we can afford more as we're growing. So do our hire companies. If you think there is any money to be made from BUCK, you are wrong. Most staff don't even get their expenses paid. BUCK is in six-figure numbers now, and we just can't afford that. BUCK will never take out finance. We only spend what we have in cash. If you wait to buy tickets, it's harder to pay upfront venue costs. We see some people complain about prices for BUCK tickets, but believe it or not, BUCK costs more  per person to run than a standard price ticket. The Celestia and 20% Cooler tickets subsidise the costs. The only way to lower ticket costs is to sell out to sponsors or charge the Celestia and 20% Cooler ticket holders more. It's not fair on them as they keep the tickets fair for standard prices down enough as it is. Celestia and 20% Cooler tickets do get advantages however, such as invitation to a Guest Buffet and VIP Meal.

Q. Would you say you're the most professionally organised con?

A. Yes. Without a doubt. When I (Mav) first started out with Andrew, we wanted to organise a convention about ponies and we had no idea where to start. We planned it all out and learned as we went a long. We used our common sense. A lot of American cons are poorly organised and more "go-with-the-flow" in terms of their organisation.

Q. Would you call other cons profit-oriented?

A. Yes, a lot of American cons are there to make a profit. They take out loans as a limited company so organisers have limited liability for debt and end up causing a huge mess for the hire-equipment people and venues. Las Pegasus screwed up major. And who lost out? The attendees; they didn't get the experience they paid for. That's why we're in the European Pony Convention Union; to regulate the big cons and make sure they can afford to run. And if a con can't afford to run; they don't run. They don't try and make the weekend with the funds they have and run into bankruptcy. They should be honest with guests and support them. And we believe that's a better way to run the con; with honesty.

A closing note from Mavro:
We created BUCK to promote the brony community in Britain and it's grown to promote a community world wide. We work with as well as participate in the community. We really try to get the community involved and some people don't support us and expect a hidden agenda but there isn't and we just want to show attendees a good time. My payment or salary is people cheering asking for a BUCK next year in the closing ceremony. Some people say to me that BUCK is better than MCM and any other con they've ever visited. BUCK '14 might not be perfect but it will make a weekend to remember.

Excited for BUCK? Check them out here!

Comments (18)

  1. Wow, this was a circlejerk and a half.

    "Q. Would you say you're the most professionally organised con?

    A. Yes. Without a doubt."


    1. Not really. I believe in giving an honest answer, even when it might not be the most comfortable thing to say. We work damned hard at this, and we've had plenty of guests, VIPs and musicians tell us that the way we run things is better than other cons. If they don't want me to say things like that, then they should up their game.

    2. Maybe you should learn about how stuff is really run over here before you throw your eurotrash opinions all over the place, limey.

    3. This. The feeling of this Q/A was very high-horsed (pun intended). It's like you think you might be the best, so you just assume you are. End of story.

    4. Better a circlejerk than a cynical jerk. ^^
      Pun aside, I raised an eyebrow, too. But still, pride doesn't have to imply arrogance. I'd give Mav the benefit of the doubt and see this as a "My mom is the best mom in the world" kind of thing.

      P.S.: I see much potential for saving expenses. The excessive volume of the stage music alone must have made the electricity bill explode, haha. Galacon's rave was smaller, had humane sound power with really good audio quality and was just as fun. Having grandiose aims can drive up costs, too, and bragging about how expensive organisational means are could indicate a problem with the approach. Aiming at something less expensive could still make a BUCK 2015 possible that's just as awesome as 2014 ... just different. A humbler BUCK might attract less people from longer distance, but apparently that's not really a problem, with so many attendees coming from the UK. You also have so many community artists in your country that fill the panels easily.

  2. Is it mandatory for con organisers/reps to be massive douchebags? How is jerking off and shitting on over cons gonna make anyone want to goe to BUCK? Unless I somehow missed the point and it's actually a scat con. Which would explain so much.

    1. Actually they're very lovely guys. I'm another one of the Managers at BUCK and I don't think I've ever worked with nicer people. We're just seriously proud of what we do in the community.

    2. There's being proud, and being tone-deaf. Your guys here come off as major douchebags who don't know shit about how things run on the west side of the Atlantic.

      You know who they sound like? Obsidian, the nutso of BABScon, and Sandi Adao, the ScooterWoman of LPU. Whether they're batshit insane or just have pikes up their arses, they make me want to avoid your con like the plauge.

    3. Whoa Whoa Whoa, I don't sound anything like this guy. BABSCon is the largest west coast Con and the largest first year pony con EVER. THey went from wanting to do a small meet up of 750 people to growing into a 2300 Con event. I think my work speaks for itself. What exactly have YOU done to help celebrate the community, Anon? I mean other then hide behind an Anon log in and just throw out BS.
      Call me nuts if you want, but what I did for BABSCon was one for the books and thus far, each Con I worked for, Their Events (Which is what I was in charge of) have been second to NONE. Again...what have YOU done?

    4. Me? I'm not making any claims about what I have or have not done; that's not the issue. Sorry, your misdirection fails. I stand by my claim that the interviewees sound like douchebags.

      I didn't say anything about BABScon. I didn't go, I heard good and bad things, but BABS isn't the issue. Mostly, I said YOU sounded CRAZY. I base this on the fanciful posts you put up afterwards, which really do sound crazy. BABScon, though, isn't the issue. BUCK is, or more accurately, the stuck-up prigs who are speaking on it's behalf.

      Frankly, before the con you were a GREAT example of how a con head should be- your interviews were nice and you were always respectful of other cons. I know you worked with people from other cons to help make BABS a good con. I'm not disputing any of that, and I think you did a great job then. During/afterwards... not so much, but again, that's not the issue.

      The issue is how shitty the dingbats from BUCK sounded by shitting on all the other cons.

    5. If you didn't go, then how in the hell do you know how I did at Con? The Con was a huge success and when the Con Chair vanished or was hung over from Friday evening till Saturday evening, I stepped up. Ask 99% of people and they will tell you AT con was my best time. After con, there is nothing, NOTHING I said that was not true. Was it emotionally charged? Of course. Was it the truth? Yeah, it was.

      These folks from BUCK are nothing like me. First they come in with this "Celebration of Brony Culture" thing, when BABSCon announced that as being a new Programming Tract back in October\November. I see a lot of what we (SOnya and I) advertised BABSCon as being, only they've taken it to the next egotistical level. I don't even LIKE BronyCon, but even I wouldn't compare their Concert to a "School Disco".
      I am not disputing your claims against Buck, but I resent and dispute your claims I'm like them. You already said you weren't at Con so you have no idea what your talking about, and after con, well, everything I said about them after con had taken place AT con, so again, other then being a troll, you really have no idea what your talking about.

    6. For someone who's conduct was immanently perfect, you spend a lot of poorly-composed and desperate-sounding sentences defending yourself.

      I wasn't there, but I talked to people who were. People who worked there. People whose words I grant much more credence than yours.

      You took one throwaway comment and blew it up into a mini-dramafest because... why? If you did such a great job, why doesn't your work speak for you?

      Why is it necessary for you to rush about, breathlessly defending yourself from feverishly-imagined accusations. I never compared YOU to THEM, I said they sounded like you-- crazy. You are doing nothing to dispel that resemblance here.

    7. #shotsfired

  3. Way to keep it classy, y'all.

  4. A bit late to the party, here, but...

    "When I (Mav) first started out with Andrew, we wanted to organise a convention about ponies and we had no idea where to start. We planned it all out and learned as we went a long. We used our common sense. A lot of American cons are poorly organised and more "go-with-the-flow" in terms of their organisation."

    That's a bit of a massive contradiction there. You effectively described a go-with-the-flow organization style, and then criticized such styles.

    1. I think what he meant was that because of the previous cons, they learned a lot and that made them better at organizing them.
      That said, there's always stuff about con organization that makes me borderline facepalm, but resistance against constructive advice is a factor, and so the same issues keep repeating themselves.

  5. I'm glad someone else noticed that.