8,000 people attended LonCon3 hailing from 64 countries, some as far away as Australia. Roughly 2,000 from the U.K. and 2,000 from the U.S. What the LonCon3 site doesn’t show is something I noticed as soon as I walked through the doors of the ExCeL building: the age, gender, disability and racial demographics.
70% or more of the attendees were over 40 – though over 60 is probably more accurate – and during the four days I was there I only saw two black faces. There were a few Middle Eastern and south and east Asians, but no black people.
There must be some black sci-fi and fantasy fans out there. I’ve only recently discovered something called Afrofuturism, a sort of black sci-fi sub-genre. Its main literary figure is Octavia Butler whose works were referenced more than once during the convention. If my mother weren’t so ill she would’ve definitely have gone with me, but she would’ve been, to borrow from Little Britain, ‘the only black in the village’.
I suppose young people would be priced out as day tickets were £50. Students don’t really have that kind of cash to spare and under 18s may require some level of adult supervision in order to attend, requiring at least two tickets instead of one. This is a shame because there were many, many panels on young adult literature, graphic novels, anime and manga.
It did appear there were slightly more men than women in attendance but the panels seemed fairly well balanced in terms of gender. Strict rules against sexism and harassment were in place and there were a high number of panels on feminism. Nationality-wise, the majority of panelists were American or British though I did attend one panel where none of the speakers were from anglophone countries.
A fair few of the over 40s were veterans of WorldCon, attending every year no matter where it’s held. That kind of dedication requires piles of cash. London ain’t a cheap place to holiday, that’s why I crashed at my sister’s house instead of paying for an expensive hotel room. There were plenty of disabled attendees and they were very well catered for with front row seats and special spaces for wheelchairs and scooters.
The upside of the high number of older people was the eccentricity they displayed. Singing in the toilets. Knitting while listening to panel discussions. Socks and sandals. Bright wigs. Dyed hair (pink and blue were very popular). Drawn on beards. Real and quirky beards. A man in a pink Marie Antoinette era dress. An elderly gent with a small keyboard resting on his knees and the badge name ‘Filthy Pierre’. Some sleeping in chairs, on sofas, and even on the floor. One panel on the first day took a poll and 75% of audience members had arrived on a flight that same day, so jet lag.
I found the demographics surprising. I’m glad that older people, disabled people and women (and feminism) were represented and welcomed, and that tackling sexism was a priority, but I can’t pretend not to be disappointed at the lack of young and/or black faces.