Soton Furs are the main furry group out of Southampton, England. I took notice when I came across them on Twitter @sotonfurmeets turns out they regularly do twice yearly 1 day only mini cons in an area of England without fur cons.
In my effort to expand the world of furry, that we get a chance to know them.
My name is Steve, and my furry handle is Rhona Whitefeather, though it was formerly Silverwind Blade.
I’m the chairman and founder of SotonFurs, and lead the group that organises the meets.
FT: How it got started?
Steve: I first started SotonFurs – ‘Soton’ being a local abbreviation in slang for ‘Southampton’ here in Hampshire, UK – after the previous HantsFurs group based mostly in Southampton dissolved after the people running it moved away or moved onto other things. Having recently moved to the area, I wanted to make new friends, and after being absent from the fandom for a while due to work taking up my weekends, I was able to start getting back into it again, though I had lost touch with many former friends.
I decided to organise things properly. I looked into a venue for meeting up at, rather than an outdoor meet, wanting to have a roof over our heads and – selfishly! – a bar, so I could drink and relax. And so people could easily do things like draw, play games, and more comfortably socialise. I also had the idea that – since fursuits had become so much more common since I’d been part of the fandom – the opportunity to bring and wear them would appeal to people.
I found a pub with a function room that would serve as a changing and storage area for fursuiters, and that was eager to accept us, and then launched my post out into the Internet via the UK Fur Forums, and the ‘Hampshire’ section that was local to me. The response was surprisingly enthusiastic!
Our first meet was held in August 2015 at a pub called The Strand in Southampton. We had about 15 attendees at that first meet, about five or six of which were fursuiters. The first meets staff consisted of me and one other person, though we recruited others after they proved to be reliable, helpful and keen.
Shortly after this, we started to use Social Media more, as everyone else did the same. Our long-running Facebook Group was established, and has since become one of the hubs for SotonFurs activity.
We held our first party in 2016 to celebrate going for a year. We featured our first charity auction, a furry trivia quiz (with questions written by me!), a small number of dealers, and a dance. The first party was held at a separate venue, to enable us to have more space for the party, and to further set it apart from our regular meets.
It was a big success, and we started to gain larger numbers after it, leading to us also having a winter party, which involved more games and activities. Both quickly became part of our regular yearly schedule, and grew quickly in size and complexity, leading to us finding larger venues for our parties as their numbers grew.
And that in turn lead to us advertising them with fliers at conventions and events, and producing a timetable for events for attendees, so they know what to expect.
FT: I have heard such meets as London Furs operate get 200 or more for say an arcade or bowling meet. Are your numbers just as strong?
Steve: LondonFurs has been going a lot longer, and being in the capital city, do tend to attract more people for their large ‘event’ meets like their parties.
We tend to have around 40-ish people for our regular monthly meets, and then events like the upcoming Summer Party will see that increase to around 100 people (approximately, of course)
FW: If your Summer Party is successful, would you like to do another?
We’ve done Summer Parties since 2016, the first one started off as an anniversary of the meet running for a year, and they’ve been a regular part of our calendar since then; obviously excluding when Covid forced us to abandon everything. This will actually be the first one since lockdown ended in the UK.
We also usually do a winter party, but I think this year we won’t be, as we’re not really prepared for it.
Our parties usually have similar events and structure to the one you’ve come across.
The last few years running for the summer party we also had a bus party the night before – which is where we hire a party bus from a local company, which comes with lounge seating, drinks, and audio and interior disco lights – and sell tickets for that. But we ran out of time to organise it in advance, and there are still some restrictions in place that meant it might not have worked out this time.
Hopefully we can do it again next year though.
FT: Your open to say what you want.
Steve: I think the main thing I’d say about running SotonFurs is that I set out to run the kind of meet I wanted to go to. Keeping it friendly, positive, and with clear rules and guidelines has gone a long way to make the meet a very popular and successful one here in the UK. As the chairman and organiser of the meet, I’m proud of all I’ve managed to achieve, and I haven’t done it alone; I’ve always had a very reliable team to depend on and help me and all of our attendees at every turn. We are all very proud of everything, and enjoy what we do and attending our meets as much as our attendees do. And keeping in mind that we’re supposed to be having fun as much as the people attending has always been one of my firm rules as a meet organiser. After all, we don’t get paid for what we do, and this is still our hobby.
Seeing people grow and develop as they come to our meets, and seeing how people have met one another and formed friendships and relationships as they have attended our meets has been a rewarding experience, and I could never have forseen how much the meet has grown into what it is today. And I can only imagine it will continue to grow as the meets continue to be held.