There are no official rules and regulations for the Eastercon. However there are standard programme items and events, and standard ways of organising an Eastercon (traditions) that will be assumed to continue on from year to year unless someone says otherwise.
To call your convention an "Eastercon" there has to be a general consensus that a [[Bid Session|bid] has been put forward and approved by the membership at a previous Eastercon. And the only way of enforcing that (aside from peer pressure) is that the name "Eastercon" has been trademarked and, if an egregious violation occurs, then legal measures can be brought to bear against the person or group using the term "Eastercon" without approval.
Attempts have been made at various points in history to create an "Eastercon" Charter but they have always failed, partly due to apathy, and partly due to British fandom's antipathy towards codification and restriction. British fandom runs about as close to anarchy as can be imagined (there is no central organisation, there are few (if any) local groups that are structured more than "we meet in the pub every Tuesday" and none (to my knowledge) that currently produce any sort of publications. (I'm not including things like Plokta where it is a close-knit group of friends that produce a fanzine and occasional convention, or the BSFA (see below)) These loosely knit groups can also organise local conventions (e.g. Novacon) and the convention committee has an organisational structure, and larger conventions are organised not from any particular group of fandom but just by a bunch of people getting together and saying "let's run a convention".
Which means that there is nothing to stop any group of people getting together and running a convention at Easter and they do not need the permission or authorisation of any body. However the name "Eastercon" is trademarked and so any group that wants to call their event "Eastercon" would need approval to use the name. However it is traditional that the various groups who want to run the "British National Science Fiction Convention" present their bids at the Eastercon two years before the year they wish to run (for example the bids for the 2004 Eastercon would be presented at the 2002 Eastercon). There is a bid/voting session (traditionally chaired by the chair of the following year's convention, in this case the 2003 Eastercon) where real (and spoof) bids are presented, and then by a show of hands, those people attending the bidding session select one of the bids to run the 2004 convention. If the vote is close, then some more stringent form of voting is used (for example a "lobby vote" where the people voting for one bid move to one side of the room or even out through the door, and then the people for the opposing bid do likewise, and a precise headcount is taken of each group, which also prevents voting for both bids).
It has become common to exclude spoof bids from any recount, and is considered good form for the spoof bid to withdraw prior to that vote.
In 2005 no bid was received for 2007, and so the selection was left to the 2006 convention. In 2006 they held the voting for both 2007 (Convoy, Liverpool) and 2008 (Orbital, London).
The 2007 convention committee had to cancel their convention due to low membership takeup, which would have meant a large financial loss to the committee if they had gone ahead. This lead to a new Eastercon committee being selected at Novacon 2006. As both a member of the originally selected committee, and the Eastercon trademark holder were present and gave their agreement to the popular vote taken at Novacon, it was agreed that the new 2007 convention (Contemplation) would be an official Eastercon and would provide the site selection for 2009 (which was won by LX).
BSFA: There is a group called the "British Science Fiction Association" but they don't organise conventions and most of their members don't come to conventions either. It is mostly people receiving the publications that they put out and a much smaller number showing up to a pub in London once a month to hear an author natter on <grin!>.
There are certain items on the programme that are expected of an Eastercon, though the only one that is considered to be essential is the Bidding Session for the Eastercon two years hence.
The other standard items include:
An event on the first programmed day of the convention which introduces the committee and the guests ... see Opening ceremony
Last main item of the convention (though there may be smaller items, video programme and the "Dead Dog" party after the closing ceremony). A chance to thank the guests and people who contributed to the con ... see Closing ceremony
Also known as the fancy dress competition. More details here.
Guest of Honour events
Usually a speech or interview with the main Guests of Honour (one main event per guest). Guests also appear on other items, usually as part of a panel, but this event is the one which is primarily focused on them.
It is traditional, if finances and location permit, to have a firework display. Quite often this is not practical (e.g. a city centre location) or financially feasible, but again it is appreciated by the attendees. And in fact it is far more common to not have fireworks ... in fact I can't remember the last time we had fireworks at an Eastercon ... so as traditions go, it's gone.
See Video Programme
Everything from role-playing sessions through to Monopoly and Scrabble (depending on what people bring with them), and sometimes there's a younger person's equivalent room with Lego and stuff like that. See Gaming for more details.
Science Fiction "folk" music. People bring along voices, guitars, other instruments and play songs that are (to some extent) based in Science Fiction, Fantasy or Fandom ... the main filking tends to be organised in a circle where each person gets a chance to pick a song, play a song, do something else (e.g. poem or joke) or just pass along ... but pure audience is also welcome and you can just sit outside the circle and listen and join in on the choruses. See Filk
Dead Dog "Party"
A social event at the end of the convention, sometime after the closing ceremony, for people who are still around to wind down and socialise.
It is usually not a formal party, but just a social area, near the hotel bar.
For more details see the Dead Dog Party page.
Other Programme Items
Workshops for costuming, some sort of "robot wars" type event (and perhaps a workshop to build entries before the competition), silly quizzes, a Play (usually Sunday evening if it happens), sometimes a formal banquet (a chance to dress up and be served over-priced food while seated around big round tables and waiting for the speeches) plus all sorts of other things that vary from year to year.
The George Hay Memorial Lecture, is a serious scientific talk about some area of science that may be of interest to the Eastercon membership. There's a separate article on this site which gives more details (and the previous topics) on this lecture.
Other Convention Items
See Art Show
A big room full of tables of books, t-shirts, toys, swords, badges/buttons and whatever else people think people will buy! May also include tables for upcoming conventions and bids (or they may be located elsewhere). See Dealers Room.
A place that sells drinks. Seriously, at a British convention, the social hub. Pubs have always played an important social role in British society and the bar continues that tradition at the convention. It is traditional for the committee to get in "real ale" and to ensure reasonable prices for cider and soft drinks (though they don't always succeed!) and it is traditional for the hotel to not believe how much real ale a convention will get through and to run out before the end of the convention.
No "Con Suite"
At many US conventions, included in your membership price, is access to a room with free soft drinks and crisps/pretzels/munchies (and depending on the convention it may include beer and "proper food" (such as cold cuts of meat, cheese, soup, pizza etc.). This does not happen at UK conventions for several reasons, among which are price, hotel "corkage" rates (the amount that a hotel will charge us for bringing in our own food and drink), the existence of the bar and the fear of stampede . Price is the main reason (and since it has never been a UK tradition people don't miss it), in the US food can be bought in catering sizes for very low prices, similarly soft drinks etc. in the UK prices are at least double if not more, and then once a hotel has loaded on their corkage surcharge it becomes economically unfeasible.
The areas that help run the convention
The central "operations and control room" for the convention. Any problems, emergencies or just things that need to get done go through "Ops". See Ops.
Programme control. A place that tries to keep track of who is on what item and makes sure the items start and end on time, with the correct people present and with the requisite equipment. See Green Room.
A place where volunteers can hang out, and can sign up to help with various things through a convention. A gopher hole can vary from just a set of sign-up sheets, to a room with jigsaws, games, Lego(tm) and (sometimes) snacks and soft drinks. See Gopher Hole
This is a new area, and posts up photos of the various programme items and amusing events that have been submitted by attendees and by selected convention photographers. This has only become possible due to cheap digital cameras and cheap colour inkjet printers.
The Bid Session is where members of this year's Eastercon get to pick the committee (and usually the site) of the Eastercon two years in the future. There are some exceptions and alternatives, and all the details on this, voting etc. are here