People are social by nature. Most want to gather in groups to talk to others who share commonalities with themselves so they can feel like they’re a part of something. These gatherings can sometimes have a specific reason such as when people go to an event like the theatre, or as general as everyone shows up to the bar in order to just hang out.
When you’re starting out Steampunk, one of the best parts is that it gives you a chance to meet new people and talk to them about this subculture that has come to mean a lot to so many. Social groups have sprung up all over the country and even all over the world. Beyond an excuse to hang out, these groups are often formed to help encourage folks to go out and do things, especially while wearing top hats and goggles.
Despite their proliferation, not all areas have Steampunk groups. Or perhaps it’s a matter of the city or state you live in doesn’t have the sort of group that you’re hoping to become a part of. Maybe there hasn’t been enough communication for interested parties to know when and where to get together. Or perhaps you want to form a troupe with a very specific goal in mind such as crafting or performance. Either way, sometimes people have to take matters into their own hands and get the ball rolling.
In this discussion I’m going to define two specific kinds of groups: Clubs and Troupes. Clubs are a group that are open to most everyone and allows for general attendance to planned events. Clubs don’t necessarily have to have membership to become involved and could be a very loose confederation of individuals with no specific purpose beyond getting together for Steampunk. Troupes, on the other hand, are designed with a specific goal in mind. They want to be performers, they want to start a business, might want to create educational works, or start a blog.
Clubs are the most common form of group you find in Steampunk. These tend to center around cities and in some cases regions and try to give Steampunks a regular series of events to go to. Most events are planned through Clubs, and can range from expeditions to museums to simple visits to someone’s house for a crafting day. Some are full on 501.c.3s that take on dues and use the money to help make things bigger and better. Others prefer to be more free form and might not even have anyone in charge.
So if there isn’t a Club in your area, how do you go about forming one? To start, I asked DJ Doctor Q of the Artifice Club Fame for some thoughts:
For those wanting to start their own organization, I’d say this: “Before you think to do so, make sure you have a community present. Activate your local community; engage the other subcultures going on in your town and you’ll find a great home. Steampunk is everywhere, be it the new circus revivals, neo-burlesque, indie music, what have you. If you make a night of it and allow all folks who border on that Steampunk aesthetic welcome, you’re sure to have a great time”.
As an aside, the Artifice Club does offer means of creating a chapter in your city.
Q is right. Before starting out a Steampunk group make sure you’ve reached out to those who might be interested to give them an idea of what’s going on. There are quite a few people involved in other groups and subcultures who would find Steampunk fascinating and maybe just haven’t heard about it yet. Or perhaps there are Steampunks around who are looking for a club that they could join up with in order to share their interests. Go out there and get an idea for who and how many would be interested.
Once done you need to decide on how you want to structure the club. Do you want to be more formal? Or keep things far more casual? What sort of events do you want to do? Do you want to try and get involved with other, larger events such as ren faires and parades? Or go ahead and stick only to your personal endeavors? Structure and purpose are very important because it’s also going to be affected by those who want to participate. Some will want to be involved in an organization that has a full charter and bylaws, while others might prefer something far less ordered.
A personal mission statement for yourself and the club never hurts. It will help give you direction and guidance, as well as provide you with something to lean on if things ever get frustrating or confusing. If it’s a statement for the group make sure that everyone knows it so they can hopefully understand the purpose of the club.
The Las Vegas Steampunk Tea Society, for example, has no real structure to it. There isn’t anyone who is designated as a leader, and if someone wants to create or run an event they’re welcome to. That’s not to say there’s no support network as everyone is willing to offer what help they can. There just isn’t any sort of formal give and take as far as dues and return is concerned. Our purpose is really just to serve as a sounding board and social network for anyone who wants to do something Steampunk and would like to involve others.
Once you’ve decided on how you want to structure your local Club the next step is to advertise. Facebook, meetup.com, The Steampunk Empire, Twitter, Tumblr, any kind of social media you can get your hands on is an effective means of catching attention. On any given day there’s a fair chance that someone in your area is trying to find out information about the local Steampunk group so the more information you have out there, the better. Social media is also a fantastic way of keeping everyone informed on what’s going on.
Don’t be afraid to have a flier or card set up so that way if people ask for more information at a gathering you have something to give them. Not everyone will respond to advertising like that, but if you can help even a few people find Steampunk, then those little pieces of paper advertisements have already served their purpose. Go to city-wide events if you want to try to spread the word and have something ready to give people. Just make sure you follow the rules required to hand out advertisements at the event.
Once you have the club in order, the rules set, and you have people gathered the next step is to go out and do something. Arrange for your own events, plan for a day trip to the museum, find a train to go ride on, or even just have folks gather at a park for a picnic and pictures. Remember to also be realistic about what your group is capable of. Just because something seems exciting, or that you want to do all the things you don’t have to. If your group is capable of building floats to put into parades, or having a booth set up at the local Dickens Faire then that’s fantastic! If you’re small and don’t have a lot of time and resources leading to an event only once every few weeks then that’s perfectly fine too; don’t over extend yourself and your resources.
The whole point of starting a club is to get involved and bring people together to have fun. And if you’re not having fun, then why are you doing it?