Monday, 10 November 2014

Begin Docking Procedures - at Starbase 24


At the edge of Federation space, one of the key installations stands, acting as a place from which both Starfleet and the Klingon Empire operate a joint fleet...

It's also the name of a UK-based Star Trek club who have a lot to offer.

Originally, Starbase 24 was a Starfleet/Klingon Banquet started as a group of friends, led by husband and wife team James and Charlotte, aka Admiral Mackenzie and Rear Admiral Kehlan. They arranged a sit-down meal after a well-known signing show in Milton Keynes and it was a different way to have some fun, eat good food and raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. Thanks to both Charlotte and Daniel Adams, one of Starbase 24's highly valued Command Staff, we're going to find out even more right now...


"I was at the SF Ball in Bournemouth and a bunch of Klingons were sitting round a table complaining that a Klingon banquet could not be done in this country." recalled Charlotte, "I made the mistake of butting in and saying I thought it could be done and that I would do it. The result was, I went home after the event and started looking into the idea. We quickly came to the conclusion that the whole “medieval banquet in a castle” thing was way overpriced and that there were not enough Klingons in the UK to make it a specialist Klingon event. 

"So we picked a date, found a hotel and planned it out. Then we went and sold tickets. I think there were about 48 people at the first banquet and we raised around £1200 for Macmillan Cancer."

One year, the signing show didn't take place in Milton Keynes but the event continued and since then, the banquet has moved from Milton Keynes to Northampton and to its current home in Peterborough. This eighth event took place on the 24th and 25th October and is a full weekend event, with parties on both the Friday and Saturday night. Notably for the first time they are offering a programme of daytime activities on the Saturday. All profits raised will be divided between Macmillan Cancer Support, and Eastern German Shepherd Dog Rescue. 


Since the First Banquet, the group has raised over £13,300 which includes the aforementioned Banquets, fundraising stands at events, and individual charity projects requiring sponsorship. Away from the fundraising side, the group runs a series of message boards and social network pages that encourage role-play, and offer a helping point for other clubs and groups seeking members or vice versa.

As you may have clocked, the last one of this series took place only a week or so ago "...and with 85 people in attendance we raised £3356 for our charities (3/4 goes to Macmillan and the remaining 1/4 to a local dog charity and a hedgehog hospital)" said Charlotte.

After a day spent transforming the venue into a haunted Federation starbase and a buffet the event was kicked off by Lieutenant Ramsbottom leading a group of “volunteer” Minions in doing the Minion YMCA. Yes - that's not a figment of your imagination, that did say Minions. According to Charlotte it was ..."a theme that led to much hilarity, lots of grown men wandering around in dungarees and yellow t-shirts and random cries of “Bottom”".

Saturday morning saw Fleet Captain Daniel Adams hosting a special training session, designed to teach advanced fleet tactics to the Academy cadets or in more common English they played Attack Wing. This was followed by a dance class for those of us with two left feet, to help us learn the convention dances. Anyone who has ever been to a con has probably noticed that there are set dances to many popular songs like Time Warp, Doctor Who and Joe 90 to name just a few, some of them more complicated than others.

Later in the day, Starfleet Intelligence held a seminar on historic medical techniques involved in interstellar espionage, with a particular focus on the Klingon Empire - or more literally a professional makeup expert held a masterclass on Klingon makeup.

The highlight of the event was the Saturday evening comprising of a formal three course banquet with guests sitting down to themed dishes such as Talaxian Hlaka soup, roasted targ in warnog sauce and the Tears of the Prophets. Special Guest for the evening was occasional Star Wars actor and costumer Alan Flyng who took a turn as both a Stormtrooper and an Imperial Officer for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi

He gave a short after dinner talk then followed by a charity auction, raffle and finally a disco. "We were caught completely by surprise, when Alan Flyng called us over and presented us with all his takings from signing autographs during the night which, combined with the money from ticket sales, the auction and raffle, meant we reached an unbelievably great sum of £2800." said Charlotte. "This wasn't good enough for our guests however, and a spontaneous collection was held, raising another £300 plus in just under 15 minutes. We later learned the true amount was £3356!"

As a result the group has been able to announce that they will be holding a Ninth Banquet, also to be held at the Park Inn, Peterborough, on 23rd and 24th Oct 2015. Their special guest for that event will be Virginia Hey known for her appearance in Farscape. Alan Flyng will also be returning but this time as a paying guest after enjoying the event that much. Funnily a few weeks ago Charlotte was "vehemently" against the possibility of a ninth go at the event - but with success like this, how can you refuse!

By now you're thinking that that must be the big - and maybe only thing - that this group do. You'd be wrong on that count and while I can imagine that organising the banquet takes a ton of time, they still manage to be active in a whole host of other ways. In fact, a lot of it can be traced back to that original fateful chat at that one convention...


"As all this (the original banquet) was being prepared, we went to a signing event and got chatting to a guy called Lee, exchanged email addresses, phone numbers etc." said Charlotte.  "One of the things I’d said in casual conversation was that I’d love to build a website to feature my Star Trek writing. Two days later, he rang me and said “go to this web address....” It turned out he’d gone home and built me a website. We added a forum to the site and a couple of friends signed up to it. That was the beginnings of Starbase 24."

Currently there are about 40 people registered on the forum and 300 on the Facebook group page. Over the years Starbase 24 has slowly built up relations with other groups, notably the USS Obready in Canada, who they are proud to call their sister club. The group also have a particularly good relationship with the UK branches of Starfleet International.

On the internet you can find them pretty easily with a very packed website containing just about every snippet of info, pictures and more that could want to know about this group. Over the years they're built up quite an archive from the banquets and events as well as a selection of famous people who've taken the seat in their very own Captain's Chair. Well worth a look that one just to see if you can name - or remember - all the faces that they've welcomed.

If you've looking for a chat there's some active rooms as part of the site and further in
there's a fantastically detailed history that chronicles the starbase's past as well as the Federation/Klingon fleet and their ranking system. There are also very detailed deck by deck plans of the base which will enthral series fans for hours and some new classes of ships specific to this group and their station within the franchise universe. The exposition here and the expansion beyond what was seen on the screen is very impressive. Clearly this group focus just as much time on the events of the real world as they do in strange new worlds and new civilisations.

"In all this, huge amounts of credit go to my Command Team, who over the years, made the mistake of getting involved and volunteering and ended up helping to run things. They are a fantastic, dedicated and caring bunch of people and I couldn’t do this without them." enthused founder Charlotte.

Interestingly it was the Some Kind of Star Trek article on the seemingly desolate fan scene in the UK which put Starbase 24 in contact with us. There we discussed just how vibrant the UK scene was for clubs, was there a future in Star Trek organisations on these shores and what could be done to help them survive and thrive. We can see from the banquets, events and fundraising exactly why this group has survived and is thriving but what does Charlotte, aka Rear Admiral Kehlan, get out of all this? What's the buzz in a time when Star Trek is just coming back from the brink thanks (or no thanks) to JJ Abrams.

"...Many things, not least the friendship of some amazing people, an outlet for my creativity (among other things I love making costumes and writing fan fiction), I get the satisfaction of handing over respectable amounts of money to various charities and knowing I’ve done something good. I love seeing people coming together and having fun, coming out of their shell and growing and developing. I have learned that I can do many things I never thought possible.

"The group has grown, developed and changed over the years but the core principles of friendship, fun and no politics, remain intact. The JJ movies, while controversial, did bring new members to the fold, members who have gone on to discover the older, original trek and fall in love with it. One thing that has helped hold us together is that we all share a common attitude - that this hobby we all love is supposed to be fun. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and can laugh at ourselves. Starbase 24 even has a Wraith Ambassador (please note that Stargate technology is banned in the Federation as it interferes with warp drive)."

"This is more of a group and perhaps less of a club. We are a group of friends and new friends are always welcome, regardless of race/sexuality/disability."

In the last two years alone Starbase 24 have gone skydiving for charity, attempted the ice bucket challenge (ever seen a Klingon do the challenge?) and their “choir” sang Star Trekkin' at the front of the Royal Albert Hall after the concerts in May. In April they took part in First Contact Day and also provided crew for a Star Trek movie marathon in Lincoln. Add in to that mix Christmas parties, BBQs, mini get togethers just for fun and you can see that this is a group that has a strong future."

I love that they have this dual position within the fictional Star Trek universe and also in the real world where they are regularly out and about and staying active. Surely Starbase 24 is a perfect example of how a Star Trek club can be run and sustained during these more lean times - and more notably in the UK.

Thanks to Charlotte Kebbell for her update on the recent banquet and its evolution and to Daniel Adams for filling in the history of the group.

All photographs and images by kind permission of Starbase 24


To find out more about Starbase 24, please check out www.starbase24.co.uk!



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