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UK Were and Fur Meets

Easter Y2K Therians' Meet, 14-21 May 2000

EASTER Y2K THERIANS' MEET

THE REPORT

BACKGROUND

Probably the biggest single problem with this meet was that I originally expected around 20-25 people to turn up. As it happened there were actually 52 Weres, furs and other such people on-site on Saturday, probably a first for the UK. Combined with a lack of time in the days immediately prior to the meet and a lot of last minute accommodation changes it wasn't surprising that there were a few organisation problems. In general though considering the problems I think things went rather well. As I mentioned on Sunday night this meet was something of an experiment both in numbers and combining the Weres, lifestylers and London Furs at one meet. A lot of people met for the first time and it's not surprising conversation took a while to get started in some cases. Hopefully now that the concept has been shown to be feasible someone else will do another one ;>

THINGS THAT WORKED WELL

  • Site - Holding the event at California was something of a gamble, as almost all previous events had either been in houses or university accommodation. I think it turned out very well despite the weather and was extremely good value (hotel rooms around here run to 50 a night or more and B&Bs aren't much better). Certainly separate chalets allowed people to form comfortable-sized groups and allowed for much more privacy than booking out a youth hostel, and at least the people staying in tents could get out of the rain :> The owners were happy to have us there, didn't mind that much about people changing their sleeping arrangements (as long as they all paid) and didn't receive any complaints from other guests.

  • Laserquest - Just about everyone who went said they really enjoyed this. The trick is simply to book early so you get the group discount and the team play; difficult at London Furs I know because of the uncertain numbers. As it is we were slightly below the minimum, but they let us have the deal anyway.

  • Swimming - I'm told this went very well too, but unfortunately I couldn't go on the first occasion because I was helping to turf people out on Monday and on the second occasion. Unfortunately this activity was pretty much crowded out by lack of time; it would've been nice to go bowling too, but we did that at UKT 1 so perhaps it deserved a rest this year ;>

  • Transport - Amazingly we didn't loose anyone and the convoying worked fine. The area is quite good for this as most things aren't too far away. I'm afraid I did have to drive quite slowly at times to make sure everyone was still with us, but we weren't in any great rush. Marcony's and to a lesser extent Raukan's vans were very helpful in moving piles of furs (thanks :) and a couple of people were very generous in making multiple trips back from the hall after three cars left without taking any passengers. As ever fitting everyone into the available space is a challenge and asking quite a lot from the drivers, but hopefully one that will ease as more and more people acquire cars. At least this year those who did drive were compensated for petrol.

  • Timing - This went well in that I left plenty of time to organise everyone and generally get people moving, as opposed to last year where I assumed people could be going in 10 minutes. It was still a little frustrating at times because one person could hold the entire group up; if the maps and plans had been available we could've just gone and let them catch up later. Still 'sweeping the site' worked

  • Email and Web Site - I think this worked very well in providing information and helping planning. Unfortunately a great many people didn't bother subscribing to the nominated mailing list (Eurohowl) which was inconvenient; in future I'd just create one and make sure everyone coming was subscribed. The was also a problem with the site in that I lost FTP access to it in the last few days when it needed updating. Still everyone got there and most people seemed fairly clear on who they were staying with. The contact list in particular was a lifesaver for last-minute emails and finding people in a hurry via mobile phone. I probably should've been more insistent with the last minute reminders; I didn't want to annoy people, but given the number of things people forgot I should've just done it.

  • Socialising - Well I think this worked quite well. With one unfortunate exception the fur/were/tsa/etc distinctions didn't get in the way and I for one certainly met a lot of interesting new people. From what I hear most of the rest of you did too...

  • Video (well DVD ;>) Night - This went quite well despite starting late, I'm just surprised more people didn't turn up to it (did you not know it was on?). Quite a few people brought games consoles but I'm surprised more people didn't bring videos and video players...

  • Geese on the Site - They were sooooo cute ;>

THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

  • Weather - The weather was the single biggest problem with the meet. Things would've been quite a bit different if we could've all gathered outdoors and the ground hadn't been so muddy. People in tents particularly probably didn't appreciate the wet and the cold. Sadly this is largely luck, although early April is about the worst time of the year to hold an outdoor event. Various people asked me why UKT is in April and the answer is this; a lot of people are still at school or university and thus the meet has to be in a holiday. Christmas is pretty much out because it's too cold and most of the available sites would be closed. Summer is of course the most obvious, but with so many people going on holidays it's very difficult to find a time that everyone's free. Additionally all the other conventions and meets abroad and at home (like EuroHowl 99) would've left a lot of people facing a choice between attending one and the other, not a pleasant situation. This leaves autumn and Easter as the most opportune times and the Easter weekend itself is pretty much out due to all the people who have to be elsewhere with relatives. However in retrospect I should've proposed the weekend /after/ Easter instead of the weekend before as not only would this have given a much better chance of beating the weather but also more time for setup and preparation too. Well, a lesson for next year ;>

  • Lateness - A lot of people left deciding to come (or not come) very late. This is just about the worst thing you can do from an organisational standpoint. Sometimes it's unavoidable of course, but I think for a lot of people they were just used to being able to turn up on the day and didn't realise the commitment you need to make to be able to go to a large meet. One result was that the accommodation we had was nearly packed to bursting; had everyone decided to come when I announced the meet in February we could've booked out the whole site for the same price and had a lot more room.

  • Maps etc. - I originally wanted to produce a pack for everyone containing local maps, directions, a plan and a copy of the contact list. This was a casualty of lack of time and funds. It would've been seriously useful however, so I strongly recommend producing one at future meets and simply charging everyone an extra 50p or whatever (laminating is the expensive bit).

  • Fire - This was one of the most disappointing things for me; we didn't get the chance to have a decent bonfire. The weather didn't help, but this wasn't a terminal problem on it's own. I think the main problem was a lack of experience on the part of most of the people who came. I'm used to just taking a few people out to the woods, spending an hour gathering logs in the dark and having a nice burn for a few hours while we all drink and chat. Various people were worried about safety and legality; having done it many times myself I knew these weren't a problem but couldn't easily convey this. Ditto for enthusiasm; I know it's a really fun thing to do and I'm prepared to put in the effort at the start, but for people who haven't done it before it might not have seemed worth it. In retrospect what I should've done is sent a few keen people off early to get things going and then just lead everyone else there (as Megadog mentioned collecting wood when it's light is also a good plan if you can get away with it). As for what happened at this meet I shouldn't have relented and tried to go for the site in the trees; if we'd all gone straight to the field we'd picked earlier things might still have gone ok.

  • Plan - The problem here was not a lack of a plan on my part as I had a pretty clear plan for the weekend which we more or less stuck to. The problem was hardly anyone else knew what it was. The reason for this is that last year (at the First Reading Meet) we were joking about the planning on IRC beforehand, and as a result I wrote a plan with times down to the minute. Despite the presence of various silly entries some people didn't see the funny side and complained, which rather put me off doing any sort of written plan this year. In retrospect I should've done one and made sure everyone got a copy with just morning (mostly blank ;>) afternoon and evening slots.

  • Later in week - For those who didn't notice although most people only stayed for 3 nights some intrepid souls stayed for 7. I thought that after 4 intensive days of being bustled about by me they'd probably want to relax and sort themselves out and that I could just drop by in the evenings and chat. As it happened the lack of a plan for the later part of the week was a problem (as was the fact one group were stuck without a driver). I think it would've been a better idea for the people staying longer to arrive a few days /before/ everyone else instead of staying a few days after, giving them time to settle in and get reacquainted before the action starts. I really wish I could've taken the whole week off work, but unfortunately that wasn't possible on this occasion.

  • Lack of Consideration for Drivers - This was a serious problem; jumping/climbing on people's cars is /not/ funny and definitely /not/ polite; there were some serious (and completely justified) complaints and at least one person refused to drive anyone else as a result. In future I would and I suggest any other organiser should make it absolutely clear that this behaviour will get you immediately thrown off the site without a refund. Less serious but still uncalled for is people refusing to take their shoes off and generally making a mess of certain people's cars. Being chauffeured about at meets is a favour and not something you should abuse.

THINGS THAT WERE OK
(BUT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME)

  • Charging - Well, there weren't any problems with money at this meet which is good news since this is the easiest thing to fall out about. Getting everyone to make out cheques to the site rather than me (where possible) was definitely a good move. However there were still a great many to keep track of and a lot of hassle getting people to send them to me by the deadline. There were also a couple of complaints about the fact that sleeping on the sofa only cost 15 while the beds cost 30 or 45 when there wasn't much practical difference between the two. I'm afraid this is simply the way the prices were; I considered trying to equalise them somehow but that would've made an already complex situation virtually impossible to keep straight. What I'd do if we had another meet at that location is to simply block-book all 10 chalets at a fixed price (about 120 each I'd guess). People could then form themselves into groups and divide the cost between them as they liked. I'd also charge everyone the damage deposit earlier rather than when they arrive simply to avoid the hassle of trying to collect it off everyone before we could go in the chalets.

  • Hall - This was a simple case of bad luck. The first hall I booked out was on the site but was badly fire damaged by vandals a few months before the meet. The owners of the second hall messed me about for three weeks before finally deciding they could only hire out to charities. The hall we used turned out be be ideal and good value, but it was so late by the time I booked it that I had to go for the Sunday rather than the Friday (sorry to everyone who missed the party). Another thing to remember should we hold another meet in that area.

  • Meal - The first meal worked very well I think and was a pretty good icebreaker. What surprised me was that everyone left so early. We actually had the function room booked out until midnight and I was planning to take everyone who wanted to come round various pubs in Wokingham for the last hour anyway. I probably should've made those facts clearer... The second planned meal on Sunday didn't happen partly due to lack of funds in some cases and partly due to the fact everyone got up so late, which threw the schedule for the day.

  • Organising - 52 isn't a con, but it's a very big meet (shall we call it a mega-meet or a mini-con ? ;>). I think having an organising committee for an event of that size would be overkill and probably more trouble than it's worth. However it definitely /would/ have been a good idea to recruit some helpers. This would have simplified getting everyone moving and diverted some of the torrent of questions from me. It would also mean we could've had more of a 'multithreaded' event with different things happening simultaneously instead of there only being one option (well two if you count staying in your chalet). As things turned out I did informally convince several people to pitch in (thanks Hrrunka and Luna ;>) but really I should've done this much earlier. Again this is a result of not planning for such a large event.

  • Name Tags - I think these worked really well in concept (despite legibility problems) and it's a shame people didn't keep them on a bit longer. Unfortunately they were in no way weather resistant and many succumbed to the waters by Saturday lunchtime. As with the maps etc, at a future meet I'd just go ahead and laminate them and charge slightly more.

  • Walks - As you may have guessed, I'm rather keen on walking. Unfortunately not everyone else is (though cynically I could say that it's for your own good ;). I didn't think anyone would mind that much given the amount of wandering around that usually happens at London meets, but I think in fact I did rather overdo it at UKT. Obviously those of us who like a decent walk should get one, I just wish I'd made sure there were shorter ones for those who wanted to get out without getting knackered and that I warned everyone exactly how far we were going before they agreed to come along.

  • To/from site - I kept strictly out of organising how people were getting to and from the site as far as possible. To be frank, several people left it far to late to sort out and several were still wondering how they were going to get back the night before they left. Plan these things early; you'll save a lot of time, money and arguments. Again I probably should've sent out more reminders about this, annoying or not.

  • Paintball - Paintball was primarily a victim of people deciding to come late. To book paintball for a group that size requires a lot of notice, pre-payment and probably a coach to take people back and forth from the campsite considering the problems we had with finding enough drivers.

I've been asked (and heard various rumors) about what other large multi-day meets might be taking part in the future. Personally it'll take me a year to recover (:) but I see no reason why there shouldn't be a UKT3 in 2001. This summer a lot of people seem to be going abroad, but Zakarius's idea of renting out a hall just for a party sounds good. Early autumn would be a good time to try for a meet similar to UKT, so if anyone's feeling keen... ;>


Stormrider, 2000
Spelling Lone Wolf, 2000 :)


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