15 years and counting…

by Dave Baseley

So it's been 15 years and I've been told that I have to write a speech full of funny antidotes, exciting adventures of times gone by as well as a strong message about what the group can do in the future!

Yet they came to me…

Oh well here goes.

When I was a mere 21 year old I found there was a place where Star Trek fans could go every Saturday night. It was in a pub, it was geeky and it was good. I made a good many friends. Over the years we found that the place had changed from an inclusive place to a lot of cliquey groups who wouldn't interact. Steve's then guide dog was criticised for leaving hair on the carpet and Corinne and I thought it was time to try something else.

For those who weren't active in fandom then let me explain what was around. There was a lot of Star Trek. Star Trek groups were everywhere and these groups were only about Star Trek. Groups would pay to be part of Starfleet Command and would be given a USS Enterprise type of ship name. To be part of the group you would need to do exams and take orders from superiors in your ship. To me this system with its rank structure just wasn't fun, in fact I used to think of people worried about how many pips they had on their collar as Rankers.

This wasn't the sort of club I wanted to go to. I wanted to hang out with fun and friendly people who had a love for Sci-Fi but there wasn't anything like that in London. So since it didn't exist we decided to get our mates together and make it ourselves. We found a pub that was quiet on a Saturday night and 15 years ago nineteen of us didn't go to the Star Trek pub but instead got together at our very first meeting.

We chose our pub well. The Horseshoe Inn was later to double as The Railway Arms in the last episode of Ashes to Ashes where Gene Hunt shows the world that the door to heaven is in fact the door we went through for the first 8 years of our Sci-Fi club. So this to me is logical, conclusive, indisputable proof that LOTNA is heaven.

So, what did we do? LOTS!

I remember days out in full Star Trek costumes, ordering a McDonalds dressed as a Klingon. I remember trips to theme parks. We hired a mini bus to go to Longleat's Doctor Who day; we dressed up in dressing gowns to see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy exhibition; we made two fan films, performed a pantomime and a couple of audio plays. We went to conventions as a group sponsoring guests we wanted to see like Elisabeth Sladen, Colin Baker and Richard Hatch. We've attended film premieres, made our own calendars, run Sci-Fi based treasure hunts, attended and run role playing games - live action, computer based and table top. We've had parties - Christmas, Halloween - in fact we're more than happy to have a knees up for any reason. We've walked in the Save Farscape Rally, got signatures on the street to save Enterprise, listened live to Marian Call in this room, played Playdough games with Julie Stevens, lined up for parade inspection for Nicholas Courtney and John Levine, watched Doctor Who being filmed, taken part in the Zombie walk, danced to Schools Out For Summer with Michael Sheard and had two of our members voted The Master of the Universe.

We've grown in numbers too since those early days. We used to put ads in SFX and Starburst and had leaflets out at the Hollywood Superstore when I was working there. Corinne made a web site for the group which was later taken over by our present and very capable web mistress Caz. We made ourselves known at conventions and events and any new friends we'd make we brought down to join the group. In 2005 we started booking tables at London Film and Comic Con and Salute to get interest and to show other groups that we were here. We're still booking tables for London Film and Comic Con even now.

These days with the internet playing such a big part in everyone's lives, I feel it is important that there is a place where Sci-Fi fans can talk face to face. We can have *shock horror* real life conversations. I am asked every now and again why the group doesn't have a chat room or a myface site but that's not what it's about. With all this online interaction people are chatting but are they really communicating? In my opinion the group works because it isn't online.

I am very proud of LOTNA. We've had lifelong friendships forged here and people who've met their future partners here. Some people tell me that they come here because they can't talk Sci-Fi to their regular friends; others tell me that LOTNA is the highlight of their month. The positive effect of LOTNA is there for all to see, I for one am very proud to have been a part of it for the last 15 years.

What does the future hold? That's up to us. This group lives and dies on the efforts and goodwill of its members. As long as people continue to be willing to give up their time to arrange activities like those we have enjoyed and as long as everyone else supports them and joins in then the only limit is our imaginations.

Here's to another 15 years.

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