Badge ribbons -- small pieces of imprinted cloth that attach with an adhesive strip to the bottom of one's convention membership badge, or attach to the bottom of the next ribbon in the chain -- are a tradition at many science fiction conventions the world over. Over the past few years at Gallifrey One, badge ribbons have taken on a life of their own, growing exponentially to epic proportions, promoted by fans and convention guests alike (witness Tommy Knight's legendary ribbon kilt from Gallifrey 2010, or the lengthy "ribbon scarves" seen in 2011) and heavily advertised on the #gally Twitter feed. In short, they've become a major source of fun at the Gallifrey One events.
We (the convention team) are constantly bombarded with questions about ribbons... what are they, where do you get them, are they necessary for the convention? We've prepared a quick guide, below, to the whole Gallifrey One ribbon culture.
As stated above, ribbons are simply a fun thing many attendees have decided to partake in to add their own unique signature to their convention experience. They are absolutely not necessary... in fact, apart from a small handful of ribbons actually printed by the convention (see below), they have nothing whatsoever to do with the convention itself. But they certainly add to the ambience of the event, and all of us on the convention team love them, so enjoy yourself!
The most important thing to remember is that ribbons are something done by attendees outside of the convention, for cost, but distributed for free. They come in a wide range of styles and colors, though traditionally are horizontal-oriented with an adhesive strip at the top. You can buy them anywhere you'd like, but we have a few suggestions in the next section. It's entirely upon the attendee(s) to create and distribute them - again, the convention itself has nothing to do with this. Ribbon distribution tends to be completely open, available to anyone (though, sometimes with caveats, i.e. one must be wearing a certain costume or must speak a certain phrase), but never for any compensation. (The convention committee will frown heavily upon locating anyone selling badge ribbons for any reason, and that potentially includes removal from the event.)
Since ribbon collecting at Gallifrey One is intended to be fun (even if it's not something really sanctioned by the convention), we ask that people follow the rules of polite etiquette. Some tips:
If you see someone freely handing out ribbons, it's okay to go up and ask, "May I please have a ribbon?" If you see someone quietly palming a ribbon to someone, turning their back, or otherwise engaging in a behavior suggesting they are being secretive, don't run up to them and ask for a ribbon; they could be low on ribbons, or they may have made a ribbon that is specifically given to only their friends or only to people in a certain costume.
Also, don't randomly walk up to people and ask, "Do you have a ribbon?"; remember, ribbons cost money to have printed and not everyone who has a ribbon run made is going to want to give them to people they haven't met.
In fact, the best way to get ribbons is to make a ribbon order yourself and offer up ribbons for trade. For example, if you see someone giving out ribbons but they aren't giving them out to everybody- and you have a ribbon of your own- it's okay to ask, "I also have ribbons to give out. Are your ribbons available for trading?"
Also, for those who have printed their ribbons, polite ways to decline ribbon requests include "I'm sorry, I only give this to people in ___ costumes" or "I'm sorry, but this ribbon was specifically made for my friends." Again, remember that this isn't an official convention function (even though we've given it a page on the website, if only to answer some of your questions!) There is no requirement for anyone to give out a ribbon or to be allowed to collect one; the only stipulation we ever make (as noted above) is that we'll take serious umbrage toward anyone trying to sell them for any compensation.
There are plenty of places online to order them. In fact, our postcard maven Chaz Boston Baden has an entire dedicated section on his website called "Ribbon Resources" which includes links to a variety of distributors, pricing information, typefaces and other items. There is also a link there to a stock ribbon gallery.
Ribbon resource website: www.boston-baden.com/hazel/Ribbons/faq.htm
The convention does occasionally print its own ribbons, but these are collectible only in certain circumstances. For example, for Gallifrey 2011 there was a special chartreuse ribbon available to fans who had collected all 22 island seals (for the Islands of Mystery game) and for 2012, we awarded a blue ribbon for those who found all 30 "Hidden WHOs"; we expect something similar to be available in future. We also usually have a ribbon available for volunteers/staff and our guests, and occasionally for other select groups such as participants in our masquerade.
There have been tons and tons of ribbons printed the past few years for badges. Here is just a small selection of the silliness:
Special thanks to Jennifer Wylie for her assistance with the ribbon etiquette section.