Meet Your Chair: Esther MacCallum-Stewart

Photograph of Esther MacCallum-Stewart and her black cat called Badger

Dear all,

I hope you are all well and keeping safe in these times. It’s a strange time as a Bid Chair. Usually, I’d be helping my team arrange fan tables and parties, looking forwards to seeing my friends and worrying that I’d be spending too much money in the Art Show at Worldcon.

…none of which has really stopped.

Image of the colouring competition winner in the upper age category. This evening, my Promotions team unveiled their plans for the next year. I see beautiful art, surprising ideas and inventive ways of bringing people together. I particularly enjoyed the colouring competition we ran in April and seeing everything go up on fridges and in windows around the world to cheer people up. On our bid team Whatsapp, we share encouraging stories and ideas, wishing each other Happy Birthday, and laugh over pictures of highland cows (coos) on a beach. Elsewhere, our volunteers, infrastructure, and plans are coming together.

Much of this has made me realise that as fans, we are flexible, kind, and strong. We’re very used to hanging about together online, because we all live so far apart. We understand that nerdiness helps us get through difficult times and we support each other when we are sad, lonely, or unhappy. We goof around and share silly pictures, we reach out when others need help.

Photograph of Esther smiling in a Glasgow in 2024 bid t-shirt.

They have also asked me to write a bit about myself, and what I’ve been doing in Lockdown, since you may not know me!

Photograph of badger the cat

When we were first told to go home, ten days before our Lockdown began officially, my boss cheerfully said ‘Get out of here, see you in September!’, which seemed like a wonderful idea at the time as I had visions of reading, tending my garden, cooking and knitting through long summer days with my cat beside me.

I’d rather forgotten that my job (I teach videogames and boardgame design at a local university), not only lends itself to working from home, but that most of this time of year is spent marking, researching, and…working from home! Most of my day is therefore spent ‘at work’, and in the evenings I get down to the serious business of fandom.

Photograph of a fan table in Esther's backgarden. The image contains ribbons, badges and yarn.

Like many, if not all of you, fandom is about community and friendship for me. Over the Easter weekend, when our national convention (Eastercon) would usually run, I had a virtual ‘fan table’ in my back garden, and spent an enjoyable day sending cards, ribbons, and badges around the world.

I’m learning to host meetings where we can put people onto virtual tables, so they can chat with smaller groups and then move along.

Photograph of alba aether yarn on knitting needles

In spare moments (or, shhh! Work meetings where we don’t use cameras!) I knit great big shawls; including one with the Glasgow Bid Yarn, Alba Aether.

Photograph of Esther and Badger the catBadger the cat thinks this is a wonderful time; he gets a huge amount of fusses and is solace on darker days.

And everywhere I turn there are still fans. We are all getting through this differently, and our lives are harder, sadder, and more frightening at the moment. But there are fans everywhere; our wonderful community still lifting us up.

Photograph of bookcase full of art and tokens of fandom.My bookcase is a riot of colourful cards, gifts, and tokens from other friends and fans, keeping us together and reaching out.

Photograph of the SECC Armadillo in Glasgow, Scotland.

We can only guess what might happen in the future. Our wonderful convention centre, The Armadillo, has been made into a temporary hospital. Thankfully it has not been needed as much as was feared. The staff there are well and we are keeping in touch. I dream that when this is over, I can hike in the Highlands again, or share a pastry with friends at The Yarn Cake in Glasgow, or hug my team at a staff meeting. I also know we will find a way to be safe together again.

I will see you at CoNZealand, and in our futures.

Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Bid Chair.

Photograph of Alba Aether Shawl being blocked.