Worldcon 75 Closes Membership Sales

The Worldcon 75 committee was unprepared for the turnout on the convention’s first day and has responded to numerous complaints about overcrowding and inability to attend program items by announcing the “Closure of membership sales”:

The first day of Worldcon 75 has seen repeated problems with the capacity of our programme rooms, which have led to people being unable to get into items that they have wanted to see. We apologise to our members for this, and deeply regret the disappointment that this has caused.

The overcrowding has resulted from unexpectedly high membership and day pass sales in the last few weeks – a remarkable success for the first Worldcon to be held in Finland, but one that has caused serious and unforeseen logistical issues today.

We are therefore taking steps to reduce the problems. With immediate effect, we are closing the advance sales of day-passes and all attending memberships. We are sorry that this will disappoint potential attendees over the rest of the convention, but believe that our obligation to those who have already paid to attend the convention must come first.

Recognising that not everyone will have the opportunity to see this announcement before arriving at Messukeskus to pay for admission on the door, we will still offer a very limited number of day passes (100) on each of the remaining four days of the convention. However, this limit will be closely managed to avoid further exacerbating the problems.

The Trade Hall will continue to be accessible to the public without charge as has always been Worldcon 75’s intention. However, if the numbers in that area approach the safety limits, we will again take action to prioritise the existing membership and close public access to the Trade Hall.

In addition, we are in urgent discussions with the management of Messukeskus to obtain further programme space within the venue, which will become available over Thursday and Friday.

By limiting any potential further increase in numbers, and by creating additional space for programme items, we believe that we can alleviate the issues experienced today, and allow our members to enjoy all that Worldcon 75 has to offer.

29 thoughts on “Worldcon 75 Closes Membership Sales

  1. Yikes! Good luck to the organisers & attendees.

    When more people than expected turn up, it causes problems. Stopping day sales is a sensible measure given the circumstance.

  2. Among the list of problems that a convention might have, more people showing up than expected is definitely one of the better ones.

    Although I must say I’m a bit confused. The puppies had assured me that the evil forces running Worldcon had been utterly defeated, and nobody would be attending their worthless convention any more. 😀

  3. I’m merely saddened by this being the first Worldcon I’ve ever been prevented from attending Opening Ceremonies, but more than a little put out by having the doors to Opening Ceremonies closed in my face by a yellow-vested staffer who claimed fire safety required that us people standing politely outside in the corridor be unable to see or hear what was going on inside.

    (More like, said staff wanted to cease standing at the doors.)

    At least the Filer gathering was worth traveling 10 time zones for. ;->

  4. For now queues and full rooms continue. This may be a good problem to have for a con, but not so much for the attendees. Also, annoyed people with access to social media is not necessarily a good problem to have.

  5. @Rick Moen: do you know anything about local ordinances? Perhaps you might check before slamming a volunteer. Reasons I can think of include a requirement to close doors at capacity (so more people don’t slide in) and a requirement to make sure the doorway is clear (which it wouldn’t be if you could see) in case a sudden exit is necessary. It’s also possible this is another Dave Kyle situation; the bits I’ve followed suggest that the committee is a bit overwhelmed and may not have time to brief carefully.

    I’m remembering Aussiecon 2, where there were a number of comments about the red “wind-cheaters” (~sweatshirts) that Security was wearing (the rest of the committee were in mustard-colored); they had some jerks, but they also got blamed for the effect of at least one majorly stupid decision (rehanging all the lights before the Masquerade, delaying door-opening by what felt like an hour).

  6. @Chip Hitchcock: I’ve seen doors left open here and doors shut. So if there’s a local ordinance …well, I’m skeptical, but it’s very inconsistently applied if so. (And it seems a little bit less safe to close a packed room IMHO.)

  7. I don’t understand how getting more rooms is going to help unless they plan a whole lot more panel items. They could make some rooms larger by combining a couple, but then some sessions will be moved to the new rooms. And everyone will need to be advised of the changes.
    I’ve been on my feet most of the day, standing in line. I’m missing every second panel because of having to line up an hour before. Since we are not allowed to stay in a room, we cannot attend 2 sessions in a row in the same room. If the door closes in your face, you have no other options because the other rooms are also full. Even when I got into a room, I couldn’t see the panellists. I left the convention centre early today; being a senior citizen does not qualify me for an access ribbon, but if this goes on, my back will give out, and I will qualify for one!!!!!
    Will I be able to see the Hugos and the masquerade? Will I have to skip meals to stand in line early enough to get in?
    And after I voted for Dublin, I learned at the bid table that the convention facilities there can only handle 5000.

  8. Cathy, I am not in charge of Access this year, but I am willing to bet that you can get an access ribbon. Why not come ask?

  9. More rooms mean they can move program items that they think may be more popular to larger rooms. Of course that also means they need to inform members of the changes but at least online KonOpas and Grenadine App seem to keep up with the program and room changes. The Con newsletter is also a good resource.

    They are strict with capacity. If all seats are taken they will not let more people in. It’s a safety issue. However, I was today (Thursday) in three panels with available seats after panel start and was able to attend two consecutive panels in separate rooms. I know there have been panels where not every one could get in but overall it’s been better than yesterday. Some hallways have been a bit crowded but they’ve tried to have more organizers and volunteers to guide people etc. Volunteers and organizers I’ve interacted with have been very friendly and effective.

    I was realistic from the beginning and did not attempt to fill my schedule with lots of back-to-back items. I’ve had a pretty good time so far.

  10. Terhi, I’ve been watching over on Twitter where you have been doing your usual Gish-Gallop defences of the con to the people who’ve tweeted frustration about being shut out of their chosen panels. This is really not cool.

    You know, telling people that they should just find a non-full panel if the ones they are interested in are full is just bullsh*t. I would be pretty pissed off about being told that I should be satisfied with a Doctor Who panel or an anime panel or a romance panel (none of which hold the slightest interest for me) if the SF Written by Women or the Space Opera or the Astronomy panels I wanted to see were full.

    It’s just offensive to tell people that one panel should be as good as another for them. It’s also offensive to tell people “Well, I haven’t had any problem, therefore you shouldn’t have anything to complain about.” You may not realize that’s what you’ve been doing — but it is. It would be courteous to the frustrated people if you’d stop doing this to them.

    Hopefully moving some of the programming to the additional larger rooms will help tomorrow — as long as they do a good job of communicating the changes to the membership (which remains to be seen).

  11. I’ve been to two panels today, then chose to skip one panel because I just couldn’t see any chance with a line that big.

    I have kind of no problems with missing a panel here and there. But when the amount grows to big? Then it is a problem.

  12. I understand the frustration and anger (and agree that telling people they can just go to a different panel is thoroughly misguided), but this is a common thing at larger conventions. Even our local fan-run con usually has one event (the masquerade) where they have to turn people away. And from what I can gather, at the big commercial media cons, like SDCC, this is standard for most, if not all, panels and events.

    Frustrating as it may be, though, I certainly don’t think it’s fair to blame the convention organizers, who were not expecting these rather-unprecedented numbers (for a non-US/UK Worldcon). Blame, if any, might best be aimed at those who signed up so late that the conrunners didn’t have time to re-organize in advance. But even there, well…who’da thunk?

    (Maybe a little blame for both sides is justified–but mostly, if I was there, I’d be cursing under my breath a bit, but I’d mainly be cursing Ifni and Chance.)

    As for the Hugo ceremony…I’ve been forced to miss that because of limited seating a few times in the past. If you came expecting that you were guaranteed a seat at the ceremonies, you were sadly mistaken.

  13. @Terhi: “I was realistic from the beginning and did not attempt to fill my schedule with lots of back-to-back items. I’ve had a pretty good time so far.”

    I THOUGHT I was realistic from the beginning and expected the con to have suitable space and be able to go to opening ceremonies if I showed up a little early, and not see SO MANY full panels (only a couple of which affected me…but I — and you — are lucky, that’s all, don’t kid yourself!).

  14. @JJ: thanks! I wish I’d been there, but I appreciate the link. So busy, I hadn’t thought yet about looking for a vid. I’ll watch it! 🙂

  15. Getting kicked out of the room, if you want to see two consecutive panels is really annoying. I was at the Fannish inquisition today and wanted to see the following panel on romance and the female gaze, too. I was kicked out and had to get to the back of the queue. Luckily my mom has an access ribbon and could stay in to reserve a seat for me. Still that’s far from ideal.

    Coincidentally, I’ve heard people call the super-crowded hallway between the panel rooms the hallway of death.

    I’m not even going to try for the Hugos and the masquerade, because I have panels until right before the ceremony starts and there is no way I’m getting in.

  16. If the Hugo ceremony and the masquerade is shown on a big screen somewhere, then I’m kind of happy and can accept missing a seat. But I have no idea of where that would be.

  17. The Hugos and I presume the Masquerade will be in the larger hall on the lower level (one that I don’t believe we’ve used yet). I’m not sure how much it holds, but I’m hopeful they actually planned this one for a very large number.

    ETA: Plus not everyone is interested in the Hugos, at least (not sure about the Masquerade)….

    ETA #2: Hall 1 seats 4383 or so. ::hopeful grin::

  18. I have absolutely no idea if this is something that will, or even can, happen in Helsinki, but for the last few Chicago Worldcons, the Masquerade and the Hugo ceremonies were carried on the internal hotel TV channel (usually given over to advertising for the hotel chain). It might be worth checking to see if this will be the case.

  19. Pretty sure the Hugos at least will be livestreamed. See the article on the WSFS website. The article also talks about text-based coverage.

  20. I was joint head of science programme for Helsinki until February this year. Science items are just the ones that are mobbed out of their 100 person rooms, so I was very concerned last December when the conference centre room lists were circulated. The space looked very inadequate then. I pushed and pushed for capacity planning calculations, optimal room usage and the access team to publish their revised capacities. No-one seemed prepared to grasp the nettle, and there were even plans to use programme rooms as safe spaces. I was so frustrated with the lack of planning, I resigned. So I’m telling the committee “I told you so”. I feel frustrated that I can’t get to the items I initiated and angered for Dave Clements who remained as Science programme head and has his hard work compromised.

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