Yes, really! I couldn’t believe it either, but as Charlie and Clare confirmed, we’d given out enough priority codes to sell all our tickets 24 hours after sending out the first emailing to the list of people who signed up for the newsletter. Since then we’ve been offering people places on the waiting list. We really appreciate this is a bit of a leap of faith for everyone, as we’ve yet to announce the programme, keynote speakers, entertainment, anything much except the date and location! So we thank everyone who’s taken this leap and booked a space based on the event’s reputation and ethos from previous years. We must be doing something right for so many of you to have taken the plunge. From all the organisers – THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH.
My how it’s grown
UK Meet has grown from 12 people in a room above Ely Library in 2010 to 40 in Milton Keynes in 2011, to 65 delegates in Brighton in 2012. Then in Manchester in 2013 the event grew to Saturday and Sunday with 120 delegates, and then Bristol in 2014 ended up at 150, and Bristol in 2015 was capped at 150 . We have deliberately decided to cap the number of tickets at 150 to keep the event’s small and intimate feel; something you can’t achieve when you get to 200 plus delegates.
There’s no ‘just’ in any of our delegates
We also pride ourselves in bringing together readers, writers, bloggers, and publishers of GLBTQ fiction in one place, without having any hierarchy between these audiences. We allocate tickets on a first come, first served basis, regardless of whether you’re an author, blogger, reader or Uncle Tom Cobley (or Auntie Mabel Cobley). My attitude is there’s no such thing as ‘just a reader’ because if it weren’t for readers, none of us authors would be here. And also many authors, bloggers and publishers are readers too. So please can we have an end to ‘just a reader’? If you haven’t yet managed to get a ticket and would like one, please join the waiting list and a place will be allocated to you on a first come first served basis by Charlie. For the avoidance of doubt, only delegates who have paid for their places can be part of panels, we do not operate any queue leap-frogging or automatic place allocation process for anyone wishing to lead a panel no matter whether they are a top 10 selling, award winning or highly regarded author. It is first come first serve, and always has been.
The whole rainbow
UK Meet also aims to reflect all the colours of the rainbow, although inevitably there can sometimes feel like an emphasis on the gay or mm side, since it is the most popular part of the broad genre, both in terms of number of readers, number of authors and book sales. That’s not to say it’s any better, and I can say this as I am both a ‘m’ and a ‘gay’, it’s simply about numbers. We are doing our best to include the other aspects of the rainbow too, but we need your help as we can’t staff the panels ourselves, so if you have a particular interest in another aspect of the rainbow related to writing / enjoying the genre, do let me know as I am the panel beater this year. No idea is too whacky or off the wall for consideration, particularly if you’re prepared to be on the panel yourself!
Another part of the event’s ethos is respect, so this year we are asking delegates to sign up to a code of conduct that essentially says they’ll be respectful of others. We don’t want to go into the detail of this because it’s not school, but as we’ve grown in size and added new delegates each year, we want to ensure the event is a safe space for everyone to be who they are comfortably.
A safe inclusive space
Another of the event’s aims is for it to be a safe space in which everyone can be themselves, express themselves how they want, without fear of being found out, outside of the event. We will continue with the white lanyards of previous years for those who do not want their photos on the internet while at the event.
Pick and mix
A bit like the pick and mix at Woolworths shops – for those Brits who remember them – linked to respect is an overall ethos about the event which is everything is there as an opportunity and not an obligation. Delegates can pick and mix what they want to do and not do. If delegates want to sit out from panels or sessions and chat over a cup of whatever tickles their fancy, that’s absolutely fine with us. Similarly, the entertainment over the weekend is all optional and deliberately separately paid for from the conference sessions. This means delegates can sign up to as much or as little of the provided entertainment as their wallet / purse / appetite takes them. We recognise that not everyone likes big crowds, formal dinners, singing men in dresses or posing muscle men clad in aprons and bow ties, so we’ll try to give as much information as possible so delegates can make informed choices what to opt in and out of during the weekend. Before I go, I’d like to hand over to my fellow organising committee and ask them to say one thing they think delegates should know this year about the event:
- Charlie: You’ll be amazed at how quickly you feel like you’re at home!
- Clare: I think we’re unique as a convention in our aim to provide a sympathetic, informal setting for meeting friends and like-minded readers/writers. There’s no pretension or celebrity status or special treatment. We’re just all in together, with the chance to network, make new friendships, share ideas, and have fun!
- Jamie: One of the biggest strengths of UK Meet, in my opinion, is how egalitarian it is. We welcome anyone with an interest in LGBTQ fiction, and all our spotlight delegates are equal, whether they’re big name bloggers, multi-published best selling novelists or absolute beginners in the genre. So if there’s someone whose work you admire and who you’d love to get to know better, don’t be afraid to say hi! You may just make their day, too.
- Elin: I’m one of the people who doesn’t do well in big crowds, or small crowds come to that, and so I’m always so pleased that at the Meet I can just drift off to a quiet corner, or back to my room, without anyone thinking I’m anti-social. Meanwhile the folk who like to be life and soul of the party can keep things hopping until my batteries have re-charged. If you’re a ‘quiet type’, don’t worry. Nobody will make you do anything you don’t want to do and we hope that everyone will be able to have fun in their own way
- Cathy: It’s a new year and UK Meet is in a new city. Southampton is a fantastic place with tonnes to offer. Not that, as a local, I am biased!! If you have the time and/or the inclination it is well worth exploring.
Well, that’s all from me for today. Rest assured, I will be popping into your inbox if you’ve expressed an interest in *doing* a panel. Also, I should be in a position to announce keynote speaker details here soon-ish.
Liam Livings xx
PS: And where would we be without a Liam Livings blog post without a bit of sparkle, so without further ado, here’s a few video links to dance along to. Kylie (obvs) Dominic West dancing in Pride film and finally ABBA The Winner Takes It All – That Blue Eye Shadow *sighs*