UK Meet 2016 Delegate Feedback

Hi, Liam Livings here, welcoming you to your first UK Meet blog since the event in Southampton.

Remember those feedback forms you completed? Well, thanks to Cathy’s whiz-bang Excel skills, I’m pleased to bring you the highlights and lowlights of your feedback.

We received 56 responses which is a great rate for a self-completion survey like this. To show how we take on board delegate feedback to improve the event we wanted to summarise the main themes to share with everyone.

Panels workshops and key notes
All panels and workshops received an average score between 7.4 and 9.2 except one panel which received 5.9. When we looked into this via the comments received, it was specifically related to delegates being disappointed that the content did not match what had been advertised.

Delegates liked the long breaks between panels as it allowed networking and decompressing from what had been learned at the sessions.

Apart from a few minor audio issues with one, the two keynote speakers evaluated well and almost without exception delegates found their personal stories inspiration and moving.

The main learning from this is:

  • having panel organisers submit an outline to their sessions prevents panelists winging it on the day and led to better quality professional sessions
  • having a moderator on every panel helps keep things on track on the day itself
    any last minute changes must be agreed by the committee, otherwise it’s better to cancel the panel
  • keep breaks between panels
  • keynote speakers go down well with personal stories inspirational and moving
  • we will have panelists’ names posted at the event so delegates know who is leading each session. It wasn’t possible to include this information in the programme because there were so many changes right up until the event itself.

Entertainment
The ukuleles went down brilliantly. I described them to the band on the night as ‘the most fun I’ve had with all my clothes on’ which they promptly posted on their Facebook group! The rainbow dinner was great fun with delegates enjoying a dance but some wishing there was more space to mingle. Good mixer on the Friday night for those who attended.

Delegates who didn’t attend the entertainment explained they didn’t like crowds or liked to organise their own entertainment with others at the event. There is always going to be a balance to strike with the entertainment because some will never attend it because it’s not their thing, and we’re trying to cater for a broad variety of tastes with those who do attend.

Hotel
Generally there was negative feedback about the hotel’s food – we hear you – food matters! Or as my friend always says, ‘Good food is an everyday luxury.’ If we decide to return to the Grand Harbour we’ll make sure we have more control over the food offered. The rooms and quality of the hotel evaluated well at 7.7 as well as transport to the hotel which came out at 8.6.

Other
The split book fair was generally well received but we hear that some authors weren’t able to buy from their favourite authors as they were in the same half as themselves. We’ll look into other ways of managing this and it may include suggesting that tables set up an informal buddying system so authors can circulate around the book fair while someone else minds their books for sale. Suggestions welcome!
The printed programme, goody bags (content and the bags themselves) and sponsors’ feedback was generally very positive.

And finally, most importantly, delegates felt the atmosphere was inclusive and respectful and allowed them to be themselves, while retaining their privacy if that was their wish. Both rating 9.3 or above.

Is it 2018 yet?

Thanks, from the UK Meet committee – Cathy, Charlie, Clare, Elin, Jamie and Liam 🙂

Bag some autographs and some great stories!

What do 9 (count ’em!) Lashings of Sauce authors and 9 (count ’em again!) Tea and Crumpet authors have in common? They’ll all be at UK Meet. Attending delegates, why not bring along your copies to have them signed? Not got a copy? Get one at the event, or in advance at JMS.

Tea and Crumpet250          Lashings400

Friday Night Meet and Mingle at Hampshire’s first true German bierkeller and restaurant

We are still selling tickets for the Friday night meet and mingle at UK Meet. If you’re new to the event and want a chance to chat to people you’ve met online, or meet up with people you already know, or if you don’t know anyone and would like to meet some new friends, then the meet and mingle at the Stein Garden is the place for you.

It’s a short walk from the venue of UK Meet and includes authenticate German beer and wine in a friendly happy atmosphere. For an attendee special-rate payment of £22, a finger buffet will be provided to suit all menus, plus a free welcome drink (soft or alcoholic). We will also provide a handy wristband for every attendee which qualifies you for a discount on all your subsequent drinks. EVERYONE’S welcome, including people travelling with you who may not be attending the UK Meet! You can book your place here before tickets sell out!

The restaurant’s vision was to create the ultimate atmosphere of fantastic traditional Bavarian food and high quality German beers, and thus Stein Garten was born. Read more about the news story when it opened.

With an average rating of 4/5 from 72 reviews on Tripadvisor, read what some of its happy customers have to say about Stein Garten: (All reviews from Tripadvisor copied as they appear)

Platter for 4 was awesome and beer is best in Southampton . I recommend it to anyone. I’ll be back all the time

What can I say, it’s nice to have at least one place in Southampton with authentic Bavarian Beer and Food. Very happy!

Love this place – beer is authentic, food is authentic, staff are really good. Love the Weiss-beir and their selection of Wurst

Completely enjoyed my trip here. A Stein of the house ale from Munich teamed with a Bavarian combo platter is a superb dining experience. Friendly and knowledgeable staff make this a wonderful place to visit. Highly recommended.

Been to the Stein Garten three times since January 2016 and always had good food and beer with friendly service.
The place has recreated some of the atmosphere of a Bavarian bar with the wooden bench table and seats and not over done the central heating like some – not cold but not stuffily hot like some places in town and this is the UK so it wasn’t the minus seventeen I had last time I was in Munich!
The like the Erdinger on tap, other beers are available, and the food is pretty simple stuff well done – plenty of sausage options and the roast beef is really well done. The portions are good and at reasonable prices. The waiting staff have all been friendly, attentive and efficient without overdoing it – so well done.
The roast pork shank is huge and so well cooked and one of our party had a spicy sausage option – beware it’s seriously spicy!
Great place and we’ll be back

I always look forward to returning to the Stein Garten. The house pils has become one of my favourite lagers and can’t be beaten when you have it served in an ice cold two pint stein. The atmosphere is great and the seating layout means you can be be super social with a big bunch of mates or get some privacy on one of the smaller tables in the corners.
The food/snacks are unfussy yet delicious and are served quickly. Finally, the staff are always really friendly and attentive. Great place!

Have had the best night ever! Two waitresses Esther and Nicola were the best hostesses, they catered for every need! ❤️ they were very efficient and extremely friendly!
Stein is the best place to be!

Popped in for a quick drink and ended up buying food after reading the menu! Great prices and a good choice of German foods on offer, definitely recommend the sausage platter to sample various sausages and bratwurst. Drinks are also a resonable price with plenty of German beers to choose from. Staff were happy and friendly. We will be visiting again!

Hope to see you there,

Book your place here before we sell out. We have a set number of tickets and once they’re gone, they’re gone. That is all!

Liam Livings xx

Interviews with Liam Klenk Sunday Keynote Speaker

We wanted to let you know that our Sunday keynote speaker, Liam Klenk has some fabulous informative and interesting interviews published which you may like to read before seeing him at UK Meet on Sunday 4 September.

At 1.50pm on Sunday 4 September, Liam will be talking to us about how, ‘So many stories are being told, and like mine aspects of those stories are often traumatising and far from easy. Still, we have this one life we’ve been given, and no matter who we are, for me it is all about being human, kind and compassionate.’

There is an interview with the Mirror, in which Liam talks about how although he was born a girl, he always knew he was meant to be a man.

In another great interview, this time with The Woolf, Liam talks about the process of penning his autobiography, the use of crowdfunding site Indiegogo, and a search for home.

Liam is looking forward to meeting and talking to UK Meet’s delegates where you’ll be able to ask him questions and have the opportunity to buy a copy of his autobiography, Paralian.

What a treat we have in store for you all!

Liam xx

 

Shaun Dellenty – Saturday Keynote speaker marries partner Mike Donovan today!

Our fabulous Saturday Keynote speaker, Shaun Dellenty, married his partner Mike Donovan today!

Shaun is an award winning LGBT inclusion advocate. Shaun is the founder of “Inclusion for All” and will be talking at UK Meet on Saturday 3 September encouraging us to, Be kind, be safe, be authentic, be proud, be you. Keep hopeful.

A card from some of their Key Stage 2 pupils wishing them well for their wedding. Image from Shaun’s twitter profile.

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Shaun tweeted this on 11 July: I never dreamed I would live in a time when I could marry the man I love, yet alone have our primary aged pupils wish us best for it.

Here’s a picture of the two grooms – again courtesy of Shaun’s Tweets.

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And finally, another card Shaun recieved from his Key Stage 2 pupils *melts*

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We all wish Shaun and Mike a wonderful gay happy wedding day and a long loving marriage together.

Liam Livings on behalf of UK Meet 🙂 xx

 

 

 

Survey – does the UK need LGBT publishing houses?

We’ve been approached by an MA student studying professional writing currently focusing attention on the need for LGBT publishing houses within the UK. If you’d like to help him as he gathers opinions within the industry, please send your answers to the these questions to mrtomyoung@hotmail.com
1) Does the UK need LGBT specific publishing houses?
2) Can larger non-LGBT publishing houses reflect the interests of the LGBT community with their publications?
3) How do you feel the amount of the LGBT publications within book stores would change if there were LGBT specific publishing houses?
4) How has social assimilation affected the need for LGBT specific publishers. I.e. Are the removal of LGBT publishers just another result of social equality?

Deadline is Tuesday 24th May.

Writing on the Wall Festival and competition

The team at UK Meet are always pleased to share news of like-minded events, so today we’re welcoming Tom from Writing on the Wall to tell us all about the event and a very special competition:

There are a swarm of literary events happening over the course of May in the city of Liverpool as part of the Writing on the Wall (Wow) Festival. This festival celebrates not only the written and spoken word, but also diversity within the writing world. We are running an event on the changing definitions of Gender in the 21st Century that is sure to be unmissable. Led by Juno Dawson, formerly James, and The Vivienne, Liverpool’s very own UK Ambassador for RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Abigail Tarttelin author of Golden Boy, we discuss gender identity in the 21st Century and ask the question: Mainstream or Minority?

We understand that not everyone is able to attend the festival so we are also running a fiction writing competition that can be applied for both nationally and internationally! WoW’s acclaimed Pulp Idol novel-writing competition returns for its 10th anniversary. Are you an aspiring novelist wanting the chance to have your work published? Then this competition is for you. Focusing on new and unheard voices, with huge success from previous finalists, this is an opportunity for new writers to have their novels showcased to the public, including the possibility of exposure to new audiences and communication with publishers and agents. Past publishing successes include James Rice (Alice and the Fly), Deborah Morgan (Disappearing Home) and Clare Coombes (Definitions).

To celebrate 10 years, we are again having a national entry, and opening up for the first time to an international online entry! You will have a chance to enter online in our national and international categories via our YouTube channel. The Pulp Idol winner will have their work read by an agent/publisher. All finalists will have their first chapter published in our book of ‘Firsts’, available as an eBook on all major online outlets. A copy will be sent out to agents and publishers across the country. The guest judge for this year’s competition is author Tony Schumacher (The Darkest Hour, The British Lion).  

TO ENTER PULP IDOL 2016: CLICK HERE

For details on competition rules please download them here.

For YouTube entries (National or International) click here –  For more details on competition rules for National and International entries please download them here.

Deadline for Entry: Midnight Sunday 10 April 2016

Heats: Week commencing 23 April 2016

Final: Friday 27 May 2016, 7.00pm. Venue TBC

WoW is very keen to increase the number of entrants from the LGBT community and would appreciate your support in circulating this information as widely as possible in order to help the festival, and you, reach their potential!

 

UK Meet Sells Out In 24 Hours – We R Doin’ Something Right!

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!

Respect
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*

Ticket sales – looking back and going forward

Just to clarify about ticket sales for 2015 (and by implication 2016).

We sell tickets on one basis only – chronological, first come first served. No other conditions are applied.

We received a number of requests this year for people or their friends to be given a ticket, even though the event was sold out and a waiting list in place. In every case the request was refused as it wouldn’t have been fair on people who were trying to get places through the proper channels. We offered those requesters the chance to go on the waiting list, but this was rarely taken up. As it turned out, and much to our surprise, we were able to offer everyone on the waiting list a ticket, albeit at short notice.

Spotlight delegate – Liam Livings

Hello everyone,

last but not least, it’s my turn to answer the 3 questions.

If you wrote an autobiography, what would its title be and why?
Write! Write! Write! But you’d have to sing it to chorus of Shame Shame Shame by Shirley & Co. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEzQV75LDL0 So many people ask me how I fit in writing among my busy life, and my answer is I just write write write because it’s such fabulous fun*, and why wouldn’t you make time in your life for something you enjoyed?

What has your writing/ blogging journey been like from the start until now?
I wrote Best Friends Perfect as a challenge to myself to actually write a novel. Then, through the BF’s auntie being Clare London’s hairdresser (work that one out if you can) after an initial meeting many years ago at BF’s auntie’s wedding, I was re-introduced to Clare London and the world of GLBTQ stories. I attended UK Meet 2012 in Brighton as a delegate, trying out my new Liam Livings persona for the first time, and have made loads of helpful author, reader and blogger friends, and talked about my stories. Every time a reader says she’s read one of my stories I’m always amazed, embarrassed and a little bit scared, all at the same time. I attend RNA London chapter meetings, their annual conference, read for their New Writers Scheme, and help run a local Essex writers group with Jean Fullerton and Victoria Robertson. I’m published with 4 publishers and my laptop and touch typing fingers are trying to keep up with the ideas as they jostle to be written each day. Writing has taught me so much about telling stories, character arcs, 3 act structures, comma splices, general grammar, and has enriched my life in so many ways through the wonderful people I’ve met all over the world.

What do you hope to get from UK Meet that’s different from other conferences?
It’s wonderful to meet other gay romance authors. It’s great to meet readers and bloggers, other conferences I’ve attended were only for authors and it adds a great richness by having readers and bloggers there too. Butlers in the buff – they were, sadly absent at other conferences I’ve attended. It’s an opportunity to catch up face to face, maybe even with a hug, all the friends I’ve made in this genre.

Liam xxx

*there are of course knock backs, upsets, dramas, tears, torn tiaras, and times when some things seem too much to cope with, but having a supportive group of author friends at the end of an email /phone means these moments soon pass and it’s back to being fab-u-lous!