The GeekOut UK Story
I think it’s worth reflecting, especially when you’ve had a history like we have. Today I’d like to just tell you a tale on this cold winter’s day, to let you know that just because we’re not going to be around in the new year, nothing can stop you. Want to run your own events, similar to the GeekOut way? Want to make an impact on your local community? Perhaps you just want to make some great friends? Well then, read on for what we did and how we did it all. I’ll be discussing the setup prior to GeekOut UK, a quick summary of our history and how we got going.
The Start: Ayacon Apocalypse 2013
In 2013, I went to my first anime convention. During this event, I had my first dabbling in cosplay, although it was a terrible costume, as it fell apart at the first opportunity. It didn’t matter though, as folk recognised who I was cosplaying as and they got it immediately. So within minutes of arriving, I was asked for a photo and boom, that was the start of why I liked cosplay so much. That and the challenge was fun. Nevertheless, that’s a sort of separate story.
It was here that I met Joel, who was a… Loud fellow. Loud, showing off his work for his former project, Quotes From The Tabletop. Now, if you’re a fan of metal music, you’ll probably know how easy it is to spot another metalhead. If not, trust me, there’s a sacred bond between metal fans. So, we stopped him advertising his event long enough to chat music with us, where we had a moment singing along to some of our favourite bands. Basically, we nerded out over music and the fact we were in the company of great geeks. We exchanged details and before you knew it, we were returning home.
This is when I decided I wanted the convention spirit back home. I wanted a community, an atmosphere, that would be for geeks, by geeks. I wanted to make GeekOut UK, which then would be known as GeekOut South-West. I didn’t think our little group would grow to another part of the country, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves a bit. But I needed some way to get talking to folk across the country, to spread our message. This is when this website was made.
GeekOut South-West, GeekOut West-Midlands, GeekOut UK
So in 2014, I got Joel on board who was honestly so helpful to bring in. He wanted to write, he wanted an outlet and Quotes from the Tabletop wasn’t going much further at that point. I asked him if he’d like to write for us, when we met at our next convention, which would be a Kitacon. This is also the same event where I met some of our long-time blogging friends, Kim and Phil from then 1001-Up, now LaterLevels. If you ever want to start blogging for yourself, I’d highly recommend making some blogging friends, as they can end up being some of your best friends.
In any event, after this, Joel started writing on a limited basis and I kept as much work up as I could on the website. I was still finding my feet running the website and the events, but I was enthusiastic and had to do it. At this point, I had already run a number of events, but let’s step aside and talk quickly about the first events.
My very first event was held at the King WIlliam Ale House, to which we saw a grand total of… 2 people. Me and one other. We laughed about it and made the most of the night out and it was a great time.
The following month, we tried again, this time enticing 6 people. At this point, it felt more like an exclusive friend circle, rather than a group. This was when I decided to ramp up activities. I bought games along from then on, which was enough to get people to stop and go “Hey, that looks fun” and join in with us.
It wasn’t until February 2014 did I start on Meetup, which changed the face of GeekOut South-West forever. I’m critical of Meetup these days, but at that time it was an incredible platform.
And as the events progressed, our size grew and we needed a better space than the King William Ale House. I approached the Old Market Tavern and we initially arranged to be at theirs from 4pm until midnight every event. We would start our days at The Phoenix by Cabot Circus. Down the line, I eventually asked The Phoenix if we could use their space for GeekOut, but let’s just say they wanted money for us being there. I’ll not dredge up those details, but the point here is some venues will not let your group wander in for free. “Oh but I’ll bring you customers”, doesn’t matter, some venues do not want your group clogging up their space, no matter how good you are.
So, we then arranged with the Old Market Tavern that we would start attending their venue from 2pm until midnight and this has been an arrangement for us since 2015. You know what? It was the best decision we made. A large, spacious pub, I think it’s fair to say we’ve left our fingerprints over the venue. From the Diagon Alley sign, to the Tetris blocks on the window in the conservatory, we’ve given them a geeky spin they didn’t know they wanted or needed. And I’m so happy for it. To see the pub thriving, as it was the first pub I went to when I came out.
I learned that you can rely on past experiences. You can lean on who you are in order to make something exciting and inclusive for all. That was key to this whole group, to be as inclusive as possible. Some of our events had upwards of 70 people and over the years, we’ve seen hundreds, no, thousands of different people. I’m always so humbled by the knowledge that so many people put their time and faith in me and my event.
I just wanted to say, all you need to get going is a level head. You need to think of venues that’ll actually accommodate your group nicely. You also need to think whether your event is yet an event or if it’s just a concept. If it’s a concept, grab a few folks and get it started, then go to websites like Meetup.
Most importantly, in summary…