The Badfinger Convention 2006
by Keith James
It is half past three on Friday, May 12th, and Ruth and I are checking into the Dragon Hotel in Swansea for three nights. Of course, there is every good reason why we need to stay within the plush confines of the Dragon - we've just organized the very first British Badfinger Convention and today to all intents and purposes is day one. There is, however, another reason for a long weekend's holiday - we both need a relaxing break. As it is, Ruth and I would see very little of our room during our stay and hardly anything of Swansea's picturesque metropolis.
|The Dragon Conference staff designated to help us over the weekend. Pam and Leighton couldn't be any more helpful to us. They've kindly provided us with a free 'safe' room to store all the rarer exhibits - Mike's shoes, T-shirts and drumsticks donated by Ellie Gibbins, Pete's Apple watch and shirts kindly loaned to us by Bev and perhaps the most interesting and vaunted exhibit of all - the original 1/4 inch Revox tape machine which The Iveys - and Pete in particular - used to record their demos on. This has been brought all the way from his home in Hemel Hempstead by Ron Griffiths, who is also staying at the Dragon with his lovely Irish companion, Peg. The tape machine isn't especially big, but it's unbelievably heavy and both Ron and myself have to carry it to the safe room.|
|As I glance around the agreeable surroundings of the hotel, the gravity of the situation hits me between the eyes with the similar potency as a freefalling parachutist who's just remembered he forgot to pack a parachute; the nine months I've spent putting together every miniscule detail are all coming to fruition.|
|"What have I done?" I ask myself, as I remember that we have over one hundred and fifty Badfinger folk arriving from all over the world. I distinctly recall telling myself halfway through those nine months that I wouldn't berate or chastise myself if everything falls apart. If things go wrong, or don't meet with people's expectations, I just simply accept the blame and fall on my own sword.|
I stroll around the Dragon's reception area to catch my breath and
as I look across to the main desk, I see an oriental couple booking
in for the weekend. I introduce myself, "Hi, I'm Keith James, have
you come for the convention?"
|Excited at meeting my first convention attendee, I reach over to kiss Fumiko on the cheek - a traditional British tradition. Simultaneously, Fumiko clamps both the palms of her hands together and bows to give me her Japanese welcome. Sensing that I am now kissing thin air, I move my head back and try to reciprocate Fumiko's stance - and clatter my head into her chin instead.|
|Fantastic, I think, convention weekend is only a few hours old and I've already head-butted one of the guests!|
|Fumiko and her husband Masahiro, unfazed by the unscheduled violence, cheerfully make their way to their room and soon I spot Jan Sears from Bicester in England who is also staying in the Dragon. I've known Jan for quite a few years. Jan's claim-to-Badfinger-fame is that she was one of the first people to hear 'Without You' - Tommy played her the song when she visited Park Avenue with some friends back in 1970.|
|Jan hitched a ride to the convention with Finger fans (and more or less neighbours of Ron's) Anne and Alan Wallis from Luton in Bedfordshire, England.|
|It's always good to have a few first-generation fans around and Jan will be one of many original Iveys and Badfinger fans I'll meet at the convention. Some I'll be seeing for the first time ever, after nine months correspondence by telephone, letter or email.|
|Chris Stoner from Wiltshire, England duly arrives with her mates, Mal Washington and Irene Roberts. All are original Apple Scruffs and Irene actually went to the same school as Tommy, so she will be especially interested in the school photographs of her former classmate, donated to the convention by Tommy's ex-teacher, Harry Wright.|
|At seven o'clock, I'm waiting at reception again. Here is the meeting place for all those convention attendees - and it's about a third of the overall amount - who wanted to meet up for a Chinese buffet on the night before the big day tomorrow.|
Sean Perkins, Mark Perkins, Tyler Perkins
|I can't tell you what a fantastic experience it was to finally touch bases with Badfinger fans I had been corresponding with for so many of the previous years. Waiting at the reception for the roll-call, prior to the meal on convention day one, was Mark 'Perks' Perkins from Rocklin in California, together with his sons Tyler and Sean. People will know Mark as the man who drew the famous lithographs of Pete and Tommy. Mark introduces his sons as 'massive Iveys fans'. Doubtless all three will be looking forward to the tour around Swansea, scheduled for Sunday, destined to finish at Ivey Place.|
|I've probably known Steve Sage from California longer than any other American fan present at the convention. Steve was a subscriber to my 'Badfinger File' fanzines in the mid-80's and we've written and emailed each other a lot over the years, but this is the first time we have ever met in the flesh. Steve is escorted by his lovely wife, Jane, who has a smile that could ripen an apple! Laurence Haynes also arrives at the Dragon in advance of the meal. It is absolutely no exaggeration to say there would be no convention without Laurence and Ruth's loyal and patient assistance over the months.|
|Paul Almond and his son, Jake, are soon on the scene, having travelled earlier that day from Haydock in Lancashire. Anyone who knows Paul knows he is a complete Pete Ham freak. Tagging along with the Almonds is Mark 'Budgie' Budgen from Warrington, in England. Budgie's pedigree as a music fan is sound - he is a XTC nut, credit enough for me - but as far the music of our favourite band, he's best described as Badfinger-curious. Paul is longing to convert his pal into a Badfinger fan on par with him and Budgie likes what he's heard so far - but he's keeping his options open. (As it transpires, Budgie would emerge the other side of the convention weekend an unashamed Badfinger freak!)|
Sandie Carter, Peggy Burneka
|And that's all the Dragon guests - with the exception of Peggy Burneka and Sandie Carter who have arrived from the States and, like all true ladies, will be fashionably late for the meal. Soon, it's time to trek across a few blocks to High Street in Swansea and meet the other huddled masses staying in different hotels and guest houses around Swansea, for our Chinese banquet.|
|No sooner had I arrived at the Slow Boat, than I am brandishing my guest list for the meal (on a clipboard) and walking around ticking people off. I have catered for fifty-six people at the meal and as I officiously stroll around checking people off, I realize that everyone has arrived - no one has cried off! Seeing me duteously brandishing my clipboard, Jeff and Peter Vaughan cannot resist calling me 'Blakey' from the 'On The Buses' TV series!|
|Again, I can't begin to tell you how fantastic it was to finally put faces to the names I'd known for so many years. The guest list was a mixture of fans, Badfinger friends and family.|
John Horrel, Enid Horrel, Claire Horrel
|As stated, Ron and Peg were there, Bev Tucker was there, and so was John Horrel, original bassist with Pete's first band, The Panthers. Pete's cousins, Jeff, Peter, Pat and Trudy, along with their spouses, were also at the meal, as was Marilyn Jones of Swansea Libraries, whose team will be putting together their own exhibition boards dedicated to Pete and the boys on convention day. Marilyn is accompanied by her husband, Gareth.|
|It was through Laurence's diligent and sterling preparatory work that we managed to have a Chinese banquet at all. Throughout the late days of April, he had been scurrying around the larger restaurants in Swansea trying to find somewhere big enough to cater for fifty-two hungry Badfinger fans on what is traditionally the busiest day of the week.|
|As for Gaynor Gibbins, Marianne Evans and Nicky Bell - they were all invited to the meal but decided instead to have their own get-together - huh! Beforehand, I told Bev and Ron that I'd quite understand if they wanted to eat with the 'renegades', but they both just laughed and said they'd be happy to mix with the riffraff!|
|Ron Griffiths was sitting by Fumiko from Japan, and it's fair to say with absolutely no exaggeration, that she nearly passed out when she realized who she was dining with. I have to giggle, as I view Fumiko's adulation slowly depreciating, when she sees her Badfinger hero complaining that not everyone had contributed to the communal 'drinks' kitty!|
|It was fantastic to see so many people enjoying Badfinger fellowship on the six large tables provided for us. Some had only met each other on that night. All in all, a fantastic night. For those of you who like to keep records, this is the full list of Badfinger folk who went to the meal:|
John Horrel, Enid Horrel, Claire Horrel.
Marlies Baars, Herman Baars.
Cassandra Pearce, Adam Standring.
Ron Griffiths, Peggy Hyde.
Irene Roberts, Chris Stoner, Mal Washington.
Alan Wallis, Anne Wallis.
Fumiko Okumura, Masahiro Okumura.
Keith James, Ruth James.
Mark Perkins, Tyler Perkins, Sean Perkins.
Marilyn Jones, Gareth Jones.
Peggy Burneka, Sandie Carter.
Steve Sage, Jane Sage
Paul Almond, Jake Almond, Mark Budgen.
Pat Casey, Kelley Casey.
George Wood, Steve Jewell.
David 'Tag' Hall, Bev Tucker, Joan Macro
Diane Vaughan, Jeff Vaughan, Peter Vaughan.
Shirley Halstead, Hilary Hudson.
Cynthia Harding, Alan Harding
Bob Allen, Pat Allen.
Trudy Walker, Gary Walker.
As we stroll back to the hotel for some late night drinks, Steve Sage comes over for a chat with me:
"Even if the rest of the weekend is a disaster," he laughs, "it's been worth it just for tonight."
Photos contributed by Peggy Burneka, Paul Almond, Terry Cunnett, Mark Perkins, Janet Sears, Steve Sage and Anne Wallis