Author Topic: UNCON 2006 report  (Read 2038 times)

Devious Viper
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UNCON 2006 report
« on: August 01, 2006, 04:13:21 AM »
from Diane Maclain

This tear's shindig for lovers of all things weird, the annual general meeting of the Fortean Times took place in London recently. The Unconvention (Uncon) meets once a year so that the motley gang of people interested in unusual and anomalous phenomena can gather together and share theories and ideas. Fortean Times, which has been recording all things weird and mysterious since 1973, was set up to continue the work of Charles Fort. At the turn of the century the researcher and writer spent his time collating and debating curious things. The magazine still does, and its yearly Uncon allows like-minded people to come together and wallow in all things weird.

The gathered crowd - or Forteans as they are known - are a mixed bag of people. They are predominantly male and there are a lot of men in hats  %*) – enough to keep an army of milliners busy for weeks. There are trilbies, cowboy hats, baseball hats, berets and even one top hat. There are also a lot of walking sticks.

Fortean interests are as diverse as their headgear, with Ufologists - whose interest is, of course, UFOs and cryptozoologists - those interested in as yet undiscovered animals. (The Loch Ness monster is perhaps the most famous example "living" in our midst.) There are also a smattering of conspiracy theorists, alternative historians and people interested in the occult and the paranormal. Colin Munro and his girlfriend Gayle Probert make up part of the Edinburgh contingent who travelled down for the meeting. Munro lists Fortean interests with relish:

"Forteans are interested in UFO's, ghosts, history, forbidden science. Stuff scientists are scared to touch in case they look like loonies." And Colin himself? "I'm interested in all these subjects and keen to keep an open mind." His girlfriend Gayle is here because of Colin. She doesn't go to the monthly Edinburgh meetings, but she has enjoyed the weekend as it gives her a chance to meet up with other people who have had paranormal experiences. "I've seen a ghost, my gran, and it helps coming here," says Probert. "People are interested and it's nice to talk to someone who doesn't think you're mental."

Stewart Smith, another Edinburgh Fortean is here because he questions everything: "There was an old t-shirt that Forteans used to wear that said: 'As a Fortean I have no opinion'. It's a certain kind of not being sure about anything. Some people here have their own pet theories – I don't – I don't accept anything unless there's evidence."

The weekend is jam-packed with fellow questors and seekers. At the moment no conference could possible go off without discussion of The Da Vinci Code and Uncon is no exception. Saturday kicks off with a talk from Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, who spent an hour telling the audience that their book inspired "Dan" and because, unlike other authors, they haven't sued, they'd landed a walk-on part in their friend "Dan's" film along with their new best friend "Tom". Well, hurrah for them…

But beyond the Code subjects ranged from magic lanterns, a Canadian sociologist who thought cryptozoology was a load of nonsense, angels, fairies and a cryptozoologist who thought sociology was a load of nonsense.

The hot topic for the weekend was creationism and intelligent design – a theory coming out of America's fundamentalist bible-belt that rejects the theory of evolution and suggests an alternative God-inspired version of how we all got to be where we are today. These talks proved the most hotly debated and had Stewart Smith puzzling over what stand to take:

"I sometimes don't want to champion evolution because that's a dogmatic theory and I am against dogma," he says.

As the weekend draws to a close it is deemed a success. It's all been very good-natured, and judging by the Edinburgh lot, being a Fortean is not only fun, but also a great way to meet members of the opposite sex.

There's Colin and Gayle, Stuart and Christine, who along with Uncon organiser and Edinburgh teacher Gordon Rutter and his girlfriend spent Saturday afternoon at a Fortean pagan wedding in Greenwich where they all jumped over a broomstick during a handfasting ceremony.

And the love theme didn't stop there. After the final speaker Gordon Rutter took to the stage to ask his girlfriend to marry him. (A very Fortean way of proposing). She said yes, which must mean that for one couple at least this year's Uncon was even more memorable than usual.