You should have been there!
The UK Meet: a word from the organisers
The fourth annual UK Meet for readers, reviewers, publishers and writers of LGBTQ fiction took place this month (July 12-14th), and today the organising team has popped by to tell us a little bit about what went down in Manchester that weekend. Our version of the Spice Girls stars Clare London (Ginger Organiser), Charlie Cochrane (Sporty Organiser), Liam Livings (Baby Organiser), JL “Jamie” Merrow (Posh Organiser) and Josephine “Jo” Myles (Scary Organiser). Take it away, girls and boy!
Why should readers be sorry they missed the UK Meet?
Liam: Because they missed a chance to see loads of their favourite authors in the flesh, buy their books, get
them signed and talk all day and night about reading and writing, in lovely sunny Manchester. They also missed an amazing entertainment schedule throughout the weekend, which would have shown them Manchester’s gay village (where Queer as Folk was filmed) and to visit a great British city.
Charlie: Because it’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on. Being among people who ‘get it’, who don’t ask why you read what you read or write what you write is just wonderful.
Clare: Because the UK Meet means never having to explain what you’re writing and reading, or why! Because it’s great fun and an opportunity to make friends. Because it’s a chance to mix in a tolerant and understanding atmosphere, enjoy life in a great British city, and learn more about the industry you love.
Jamie: Well, for a start, there’s Elin Gregory’s sheep! 😉 Then there’s the lovely Jo Myles’ succession of fabulous outfits – which she made herself; goodness knows when she gets time to write! And Marie Sexton’s Queen of Hearts shoes deserve a mention all to themselves. Plus, of course, there were all the panels, the hugely successful Book Fair, and above all, the socialising!
Jo: Because they’d have made loads of new friends and had a chance to see the very best of a beautiful city, which has played a proud part in advancing the cause of LGBTQ rights in the UK. Also, the food was amazing! Anyone who says British food is rubbish has clearly not been to the right places.
Our personal highlights of the weekend.
Liam: Someone telling me on Friday night they thought I was 22.
Doing the 50 Shades of Grey panel and it being well received
Having great author one to ones with Anne Brooke, Becky Black and RJ Scott
The Richmond Tea Room, sitting in Alice in Wonderland surroundings and chatting to a group of lovely readers and gradually slipping away into a beautiful warm wine place
Charlie: Hugging and chatting and then hugging some more.
Clare: I feel fairly isolated when I write, and the Meet was a chance to meet people of a like mind, who read and write the same things I do. All weekend, I felt supported and encouraged. I especially enjoyed the keynote speakers – Elisa Rolle and Marie Sexton – and hearing their views on the GLBTQ romance community.
Jamie: For me, it was definitely talking to readers. With the event spreading over two days this year, we had increased time for socialising, and the Book Fair on the Saturday afternoon was a great opportunity to talk to fans (and do a bit of fangirling of my own!)
Jo: Getting a chance to fangirl Marie Sexton and tell her how much I love Angelo! Also, having another chance to explore the Gay Village in the very best weather, and to finally meet so many people I’ve only ever chatted to online. Real hugs definitely beat virtual ones!
Why do we need a Meet in the UK?
Charlie: We can’t all get to GRL! And, maybe more importantly, we need something to celebrate our Britishness/Europeaness in a way that’s inclusive to anyone from anywhere. That may make no sense – you have to experience UK Meet to understand it.
Jamie: Particularly in a genre like ours, it can often feel as if nobody you know in real life likes the same things you do. It’s so liberating to get together with a group of people you don’t have to apologise to for your taste in fiction! Plus, UK and European writers have a lot to offer in a genre that at first sight can appear to be US-dominated, and it’s wonderful to be able to showcase their contribution.
Jo: Because transatlantic travel is expensive? And yes, getting together with other Brits to give each other encouragement to retain British settings and language in a US dominated market is definitely important to many of us, although the Meet is about far more than that. It’s truly an international event these days!
Clare: I feel the UK has a huge amount to offer to the GLBTQ fiction community, with inspiration to and from authors and readers. I think in the past our market has been overshadowed by the US, which isn’t a bad thing per se. But now we have more confidence and a higher profile, it’s time to exploit our charm and contribution to the full.
Liam: Because so many of the authors and readers are from the UK, and the rest of Europe and it’s not all about America, I’m sorry!
Why did you get involved in the planning team?
Charlie: Because we’re all people who commit to things and then bloody well get them done.
Clare: I can’t even remember, except that I know I was always keen on get-togethers and would have been interested in organising. After the first meeting in 2010, I felt so encouraged at meeting fellow fans in person that I wanted to make it happen again. The team has been such fun to work with, and committed so professionally and passsionately, that it’s been a joy.
Jamie: I’m sure alcohol must have been involved… Of course, when we first stepped up to run the Meet, it was a lot smaller. It’s been absolutely fantastic to see it grow over the years to the international event it is today.
Jo: I had all these ideas for making the Meet bigger and better, and realised that I needed to be a part of the team to help make them happen. There’s no point just telling people your ideas—you have to put the work in if you want to see results.
Liam: That’s a good question – at the end of UK Meet 2012 I was talking to Clare and Charlie about how much I’d enjoyed it, and I told them I have a marketing background and suddenly I was on the planning team. And then that happened!
Why is your Spice name appropriate for you?
Clare (Ginger): I think I was the one snatched my name first as “Ginger” due to my hair (and not my passion for gingernuts 😀 ). It’s unnerving to see how bright red it is in photos from the Meet!
Liam (Baby): See personal highlight number one.
Charlie (Sporty): Because, as most people know, I’m sport loopy. Hardly any sports I won’t watch, although rugby and cricket are my top choices. (She’s off again…)
Jamie (Posh): Heh, I really don’t think I’m as “posh” as I’m painted, but then again, neither was the original “Posh”, Victoria Beckham! I did, however, study at Cambridge University, where I went to May Balls with royalty and drank champagne while punting along the Cam, so I guess I’ve acquired a bit of faux poshness along the way there! 😉
Jo (Scary): Jamie is lying through her teeth. She wanted to be Posh, and so I got left with Scary by default. That’s okay, though. I’ve got the ringlets to carry it off. I don’t think I’m particularly scary. No one’s ever dared tell me that to my face, anyway 😉
Why should readers book tickets for next year’s Meet?
Jamie: Because it’s going to be even bigger and better than 2013! Our proposed 2014 venue in Bristol (which Jo and I scouted out in June) is flippin’ lovely, and the city itself has loads to offer, including Isambard Kingdom (what were his parents thinking of?) Brunel’s SS Great Britain and the best collection of street art I’ve ever seen.
Liam: If they want a bigger better UK Meet 2014, they should book early. I’d also love to meet more writers from across the world, more readers, and also some male readers, as they’re quite thin on the ground at the moment. Not that I mind the company of women, not in *that* way, obviously, but a few more men would be great.
Charlie: Because, as one reader said after this year: you finally get that chance to meet good friends who you’ve only ever ‘ met ‘ online, and get to physically hug them and chat face to face –it’s absolutely fantastic.
Clare: Experience it first-hand! It’s encouraging, inspirational, and fun. There are so many opportunities and welcomes waiting for you.
Jo: Because we’ll be bringing you more of the things you’ve told us you loved, and trying out some new ideas too! We’ll also be based right in the centre of a gorgeous and vibrant city, about a hundred yards away from the Floating Harbour with its bars, restaurants, arts centres, museums and fascinating maritime history. I’m also determined to book a boylesque act for evening entertainment if the rest of the team will let me 😉
Visit the UK Meet website for more details of both past and future Meets.
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