We run steampunk events.  We also run events for steampunks.  I will admit I like to live vicariously and can often be seen at our events standing back a little and just watching people having a good time with broad smiles on their faces.  We do not run the events for profit or kudos.  We run them because we enjoy the challenges of setting them up, the enjoyment at the time and the satisfaction of a job well done.

We are successful at running events.  The Asylum is one of the leading festivals in the World.  It has grown and developed over its four years into something we could never have envisaged at the beginning when the online UK steampunks had debated and argued for a year about what they wanted and where it should be run.  We put our heads above the parapet, risked a chunk of our own money and then put in a heck of a lot of work promoting the event.  It was a success. (Luckily).

We keep looking for new ideas.  Not because we are trying to control what is going on but because we are a creative bunch who like being able to offer new experiences to our friends in the steampunk community.  We have our ethical base – events should be as inclusive as we can make them, affordable and accessible.  All of this has to be balanced with the demands of the event and the chosen location however.  We are aware that you cannot please all of the people all of the time but we do our best and hope that people understand that sometimes difficult decisions have to be made.

We also encourage other people to run events.  The community is always looking for things to get involved in.  It is also nice to have events to go to where we do not have to work.

However it is sometimes difficult to sit back and watch other events which are out there and not be critical of them.  Normally I bite my lip and keep silent.  I have no problem of expressing my opinions to close friends but am very aware that my position as organiser of the Asylum, Steampunk Central, New Year etc means it is difficult to express an opinion as an individual without people reading more into it.

Over the last few years there have been a number of events launched.  Sometimes these are small meets and gatherings. Sometimes they are larger events.  Sometimes they work, and other times they are nowhere near as popular as people expected them to be.  The main problem seems to be promotion.  Too many people rely upon social media to promote.  This cannot work in isolation. It has to be coupled with face to face promotion and contact.  People need to know who you are and to build faith in your event before they commit their time, effort and money to it.  You have to get out into the real community and impress people with your passion for the event to make it happen.  As you build a reputation then future events become more successful because people who went to the earlier ones will act as ambassadors for you.      If you want to run an event you have to visit other events to socialise and promote.  To do this you have to be on good terms with the promoters of the events you are visiting.   The key is COMMUNITY.  You have to be part of the community, working within it to make the best possible success of it.   Failing to do this does not mean you cannot run an event but it does mean you are disadvantaging yourself from the outset and handicapping your event.  Spamming on social networks also alienates your potential visitors. You can overdo it.

Timing is very important.   You have to look at what is planned around the same time as your event. You have to consider your market demographic and the size you want (or need) the event to be.  If your event is a punknic or similar and you are looking for a smaller gathering of localish people then a similar event the same day 150 miles away is not a problem.  As the size and duration of an event, its catchment area and potential market increases then you need to avoid similar sized (or larger) events by as much time as possible.  Trying to compete with established events can be seen as aggressive, arrogant or downright foolish. 

The biggest events in the UK for steampunks are The Asylum, White Mischief, Waltz on the Wye and Steampunk Central at WGW.   These are the slots to avoid and also the people to talk to in order to help you promote your event. 

It is possible to overstretch your customer base.  Too many events too close together can create a kind of steampunk fatigue.  Your core of supporters can be overwhelmed and find they can’t scrape together the wherewithal  to attend.  Remember it is not just about admission fees.  Travel costs etc can be crippling.  Time is another commodity that people do not have an infinite supply of.  If your regular supporters become fatigued then they cease to be ambassadors for you.

You have to be seen to be trying to be fair.  Discounting ticket prices out of desperation to meet your overheads simply alienates the people who have paid full price. 

You can’t exploit traders.  They are part of the draw.  Your fees have to be reasonable.  They have other costs too (e.g. travel etc).  If your costs are high then they have to increase their prices – you are in effect taxing the people who come to the event. At WGW the cost to trade in the Leisure centre is 4 times what it is in Steampunk Central.  Consequently you might find the same items on sale at £5 more.  You also have to ensure there are customers. At one recent event where traders had paid £50 to trade only 42 customers went into the trading room.  Traders were not happy.

Guests/customers/visitors/friends.  Call them what you will.  It is essential that you remember they are the most important part of an event.  Without them the event does not exist.  There will always be the awkward ones who want what you cannot provide but you do well to do your best by them if you can.  Overselling an event to make more profit is risky.  Having more people at a feature than can get in (through selling a festival wide wristband for example) can lead to acrimony and damage your reputation for future events.  We have had people decide not to attend The Asylum because they cannot get ball tickets even though there are lots of other things available.  To my way of thinking this is preferable to the situation where people expect to be able to attend a feature they feel they have paid for but cannot get in because the room/venue is full as we saw at the Steampunk World’s Faire.

Chasing the brass pound/dollar…    Well we have all seen it.  People realise steampunk is growing and popular and think “I could do that” or even “I want a piece of that”!  There is no problem whatsoever with aiming to make a profit.  Sustainability is however based upon your visitors having a good time and feeling they have had value for money.  Including steampunk in the title of an event is hardly different from the folks who stick steampunk in the title of an ebay listing just to generate viewers.  If you really want to run events that attract steampunks then try engaging and joining in with the steampunk community.  I am not just talking about posting on the group of that name on facebook (which I founded by the way) but really engaging, talking and perhaps more importantly listening to people.

Steampunk is a fabulous community and creative world and I thoroughly enjoy being part of it.  I hope that people will continue running imaginative and entertaining evenets.  It’s not rocket science. It is about engaging with a community.

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