Friday, 14 November 2008

Retro North

A few of you may have noticed mention of something called Retro North in my profile. I’d like to interrupt the usual NES blogging and take chance to explain what it was in some detail. It might even inspire some of you to try organising something similar.

A long, long time ago around Christmas 2006 when fuel was 89p a litre (happy times) I sat down with a copy of Retro Gamer and Games TM with an inkling to attend some sort of gaming retro event. To my dismay I couldn’t find a single one and a general wander around internet forums showed a sorry picture with no one planning to hold anything of interest. The 2 years prior to this had offered the Retro Ball and a huge event (which I missed) called CGE UK. It was then the thought struck me that I could try and organise something myself. What followed was a month or two stumbling around forums trying to find out if there would be any interest for a day long event on the 25th August 2007.

The venue Glossop Rugby Union Football Club in Derbyshire required a large deposit of several hundred pounds and I needed to see if I could convince enough people to attend to make it worthwhile. The initial interest was huge and well above what I could have hoped even in the early days offers to provide retro gaming gear for all to play on the day were numerous and I could spend several pages just listing names. So another thank you for all those that helped out and apologies for those who I have forgotten to mention, it has been well over a year since it happened!

Leading up to the event I was able to convince Andy from Console Passion to hold a stall, he even provided a large sum in sponsorship money which helped with actually getting the event going and covering some of the cost. One thing you must be prepared for when organising an event like this is the often large amounts needed for hiring equipment, staff (kitchen staff in this case) and other deposits. It was my goal to donate all profits made from the day to the Diabetes UK charity something I have had experience with myself.

Ste Pickford (left) in the Q+A session

Thanks to several people on the Retro Gamer forums I was able to attract a few people from Weekend Gamer TV, RGCD, Cronosoft as well as their lead programmer Jonathan Caudwell. This was all a few months before the actual event so I was pleased as punch to be able to have so many offers of support from them. Of course my main goal was to try and find a guest star that would be willing to just mingle and possibly take part in a Q&A session. Step in Ste Pickford who helped created the likes of Feud on the Speccy and even working on games for the likes of Rare and Nintendo.

Chris Wilkins who organised the Retro Ball events a couple of years back also helped out by bringing along a Space Invaders MAME cabinet which he also went on to sell afterwards, Colin from the Jamma+ forums brought a stand up cab with numerous plug in boards, there were queues all day long to get on both. To make the day pass more smoothly I also setup a projector connected to a Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360, which most of the time had Guitar Hero on. At least that way no one could complain we didn’t have all bases covered.

About half way through the day I held the Q+A session with our special guest star only for the PA system to die a few minutes before we began. The result was a mad scramble to find something we could use as the venue was pretty noisy with all the games being played and people chatting. In the end we had to half connect some cables to a video camera and out to a speaker just to get any sound at all. It sounded as bad as you would think which meant huge chunks of the Q+A became a struggle to hear. Talking to a few folks afterwards though and they all enjoyed what Ste had to say especially being to learn about what it was actually like to work for Nintendo/Rare back in the day.

The venue itself had a huge bar with pretty much everyone getting a bit sozzled, thankfully I had been able to sort out opening the kitchens (it can be seen to the right of the Console Passion stall) for the day and they were on hand to sell chips, burgers etc to keep everyone sober for at least a couple of hours! Besides a few competitions on Guitar Hero and a couple of playoffs on some fighting games we didn’t really have many events throughout the day. One big hit was a quiz organised by Andy from CP who had many prizes from consoles to games which also provided a great boost for the charity fund.

All in all it was a great day even if it was extremely tiring for me and we managed to earn over £500 for the charity which was well above and beyond what I expected. I spent a lot of time on my feet keep things running but I still managed to have a great time and checking various forums after the event it seems that so did everyone else. Due to getting a new job and moving house early this year I simply couldn’t commit the time needed for organising a sequel but that always leaves next year. Who knows maybe there will be a Retro North 2009.

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