Wednesday 16 September 2015

Scenes From the UK Meet

Taken from the UK Meet FB page

Anybody who follows me on Facebook will know that to say I was nervous about going to the UK Meet in Bristol would be a gross understatement. Social gatherings are not my strong suit and voluntarily putting myself in a situation where I’d have to interact with up to 150 people I didn’t know, without the assistance of my socially far better equipped husband, was rather terrifying. I had visions of me hiding in a dark corner while observing others from a safe, be it rather lonely, distance. I couldn't have been more wrong!

The UK meet in Bristol was a pure delight from start to finish, not in a small part thanks to my two travel companions, Skip and Pip. While I may have been an unknown to most participants before the event started, everybody knows Catherine Dair's Pride Bunnies and they were greeted with enthusiasm by anyone who spotted them as they made their rounds with me.

I arrived rather early on Friday morning but didn't have a lot of time to catch my breath after my flight at stupid o'clock since a small group of delegates decided to take a walking tour of Bristol and I was delighted to join them, of course taking my two cuddly friends with me. Bristol turned out to be a lovely town, be it very hilly. Since I'd neglected to bring proper walking shoes, those hills almost got the better of me.

Later that afternoon I was scheduled for registration desk duty and of course Skip and Pip joined me there too, much to the delight of those who signed up during my appointed half our. And that's when I decided I wouldn't allow my two furry friends to leave my side for the duration of the weekend. They were far better at breaking the ice than I could ever hope to be.

Friday evening quite a few of the delegates walked the short distance to the Queenshilling, a nightclub and gay bar where we were welcomed with bubbly and a wonderful buffet. Not much later, Skip and Pip encountered someone they hadn't expected to run into but they didn't appear to be phased by their encounter with royalty and the queen was only too delighted to pose with them.

We had a wonderful time in the club and we met quite a few more people we'd so far only known as names on Facebook but after our early start that morning Skip, Pip and I were only too happy to retreat to our room in the Marriott hotel and lose ourselves in the lap of luxury.

Saturday morning heralded the start of the Meet proper and after a glance at the schedule I had to concede that it would be impossible to enjoy every single item on offer. Choosing was difficult and at times heartbreaking but I didn't regret going to any of the programme items I attended and know from what others have said that those I had to miss were at least as entertaining. For the sake of brevity (feel free to snort here) I'll limit myself to describing the panels and events where I took pictures. I'm sure other pictures and possibly posts will become available from others. Another thing I'd like to add here is that we were constantly provided with tea, coffee, smoothies and an almost endless stream of delicious and very tempting food. To be honest, I'm not sure how I failed to take a picture of those treats.

After lunch on Saturday the bunnies and I attended the BDSM panel hosted by Daniel Kane and T.J. Masters. We were asked not to take pictures during that session and not to talk about it afterwards, so all I can say here is that I was thoroughly fascinated, learned a lot and was inspired to ask T.J. to use his bondage skills on Skip and Pip. If the two Pride Bunnies were popular before that session, they were an outright hit afterwards. 

That evening most of us sat down to a Gala Dinner, which was scrumptious as well as very entertaining. The evening's entertainment was opened by Sing Out Bristol, a choir that had us all mesmerized with their choice of songs and the
Photo courtesy of Charlie Cochraine

wonderful,mostly acapella, rendition of them. I still regret I didn't record their session but I did manage to find an earlier performance, in Dublin as coincidence would have it, on YouTube. The quality isn't great but the video still gives a pretty good idea of their talent.

Next in line was Cherry Poppin, a fabulous drag queen who entertained us with songs and comedy and had brought along a wonderful dancer.

Photo courtesy of T.J. Masters
And finally came the semi-clad butlers. To say they were received with enthusiasm would be the understatement of the event. I'm not sure the lads knew what to make of Skip and Pip when they were asked to pose with them. In fact, I'm fairly sure Cherry Poppin and her dancer were rather bemused by the bunnies as well, but all of them were good sports about it and held them while pictures were being snapped left, right and centre. For the curious there are a host of butler pictures to be found on Facebook. I've decided to show a picture of two of the butlers, the bunnies, and the man responsible for them being tied up.

For me the evening ended in the lounge where I had a fascinating conversation with Elizabeth North about the value of book promotions and the best ways to approach it. Earlier on Saturday she had made a fantastic key note speech during which she made me and many others cry happy least twice. She had also confiscated Skip and Pip because TJ retying them had been, in her words, too distracting. The picture on the left makes it clear that no hard feelings resulted from that action on either side.

Sunday started with a wonderful breakfast after which I introduced myself to Rebecca Scott and Sarah Smeaton from Pride Publishing who were utterly charming and most helpful when I asked a few questions regarding future projects.
Later that morning I went to a panel about 'unlocking your dark side'. I'm not sure how  much I learned about writing darker fiction but I have to admit I laughed my way through the whole session. Aleksandr Voinov and Lori Gallagher Witt should come with a health warning when they are together. I admire Hans Hirschi and Sarah Smeaton for keeping up with that double act.

After an hilarious as well as informative keynote speech by K.J. Charles and a planning session for next year's Meet the official part of the weekend's programme came to an end which meant it was time to start saying goodbye to those who were leaving on Sunday. One of my personal highlights during the weekend had been the opportunity to meet Kate Aaron and A.J. Rose. While I was sad to say goodbye to them after two, all too short days, it was hard not to be happy for them as they went on their way to their joined future.

While most people left on Sunday, quite a few of us stayed until Monday (or later). Having to say goodbye to Bristol and all the people I'd met was bitter sweet. I'd had a wonderful weekend which exceeded my expectations far beyond what I'd dared hope for. I had also made up my mind that come what may I would be attending the 2016 event. It wasn't easy saying goodbye though.

And with that I've almost reached the end of this very long post. All that remains is for me to say a few huge thank you's. The first of those is for Hanne Lie who offered to share her room in the Marriott hotel with me and helped me navigate the new to me Meet-waters.

I can't begin to explain how helpful Skip and Pip were and I can't thank Catherine Dair enough for not only creating them but also sending them all the way to me in Ireland. 

Finally and most importantly I want to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to Charlie Cochraine, Clare London, Elin Gregory, J.L Merrow and Liam Livings for having created a most wonderful event. While I have no doubt endless amounts of very hard work went into getting the Meet off the ground and running smoothly I have to say it all looked effortless to the casual observer. 

Photo courtesy of Temple Dragon 


Note: All pictures used above are mine, unless the caption states otherwise. I'm fairly certain I did not include anybody who did not want to be photographed but if you see yourself above and would prefer not to feature here, please let me know and I'll remove and/or replace the image. 



  1. Wonderful write up for those of us who weren't fortunate enough to be there. Glad you went and had such a wonderful time!!!

    1. Thank you. I really enjoyed myself and I'm determined to go again next year.

  2. What a wonderful way to visit the Meet ... thru your eyes! Grateful that you were socially "baptized" by your lonesome & can now go forth among your new friends. Although, I bet the "funnies" of Dermot were missed. Isn't heartwarming to know that the *real* people in our fb community are genuinely Great & Loving Supporters. Congratulations on going & Enjoying yourself!!! Next year will be here quick!! Love from Alaska <3

    1. Thank you Ann. I'm actually grateful I went on my own this time. If Dermot had been with me I'd have used him as my social crutch whereas now I know I can (also) do it on my own. I did tell him I want him to come with me next year. I have no doubt he'd enjoy it.

  3. Terrific photos! So glad you had a wonderful time.

    1. Thank you, Fen. It's amazing what phones can do these days :) I really did have the best time, so much better than I'd dared hope for.

  4. I don't think I took any pictures so it's wonderful to see all of these together. Great post from a great weekend Helena!

    1. Thank you Yvonne. It was wonderful meeting you face to face and sending time together. I can't believe I haven't got a single picture or you though. How did that happen?

  5. It was great to meet a friendly face to share a coffee with when I arrived on Saturday morning :)

    1. Glad I was there, Lillian although I have to say that I don't think I saw an unfriendly face all weekend :) It was wonderful meeting you and so many others.