Thursday, 18 October 2018

How (not) to run a modelling club



Background

Earlier this year I was invited to visit a local model making club, for the purposes of this post, I will keep some of the details hidden not to embarrass anyone.

My experience

Having packed the car with a number of examples of my work and driven quite some distance, I arrived at the hall with time to spare and not sure how to proceed, I left all of the models in the car and walked in. There were a number of tables set up as either displays or bring-and-buy stalls and about twenty people milling about in small groups.

I strolled around the hall looking to see if there was anyone in charge.

I saw a small hand written sign on one of the tables - PLEASE PAY YOUR FEE HERE, So I did and placed my money in a bowl and added my name to the list of attendees.

I had now been in the hall for ten minutes and as others entered I had still not found anyone who looked to be in charge, so I made eye contact with some modellers browsed the displays and later sat next to a teenage boy who was also alone. We got chatting about his hobby and he told me that this was his second time at the club.

Fifteen minutes after I had arrived the numbers had grown to about thirty visitors and there was a definite feeling of many different groups all in small tight gangs.

I had still not spoken to or been approached by anyone other than the young boy.

I thought about leaving, but having driven so far and taken the time to attend, I thought I would try one more time to see if I could get anyone to speak to me. Fifteen minutes later - I couldn't.

So I left.

Will I be going back?

After this experience and having been invited to attend I know one thing for certain. I will not be going again.

I believe that I am quite an out-going character and do not think of myself  as shy or retiring. In fact I would describe myself as the opposite, after all I regularly put on displays of my models at gaming and wargaming shows and in the past I actually ran a model making club. But in this environment I felt like an outsider and very much unwanted. This was the first time in some years that I had visited a club and the whole experience was quite depressing for a number of reasons.

Firstly;
Having been invited, I felt that I would have been acknowledged - I wasn't.

Secondly;
Modelling clubs have had years of poor publicity - I thought that they would have improved or learnt how to make new members feel welcome.

Thirdly;
To survive, the lifeblood of clubs is to attract new members. To attract new member - well I think you get the picture.....

Fourthly;
I just didn't feel welcome - I felt like an outsider.

I would be interested in your experiences.

Tony

9 comments:

Maj. Guiscard said...

So, I have a similar story, and I'll share my perspective. I'll try to keep it short. I am a longtime member of a great club, and I convinced some the veterans to take up "Kings of War". We had a great time playing amongst ourselves, and after a few weeks, some of them wanted to enter a tournament. (I'm not really a "tournament" player, but if you do me the courtesy of playing my game, I'll play yours. And this particular subset of the club is tourney oriented. Flames of War was their current thing. It used to be Warhammer, but since the rise of AoS, those models had been sadly packed away)

My google fu was strong, and I found a local tourney, and crew/scene, and we signed up. Things were looking good, and on the day of the tourney, we even recognized some old acquaintances from the Warhammer days.

...and then it all came undone.

You should know something about my buddies. I consider myself outgoing, but they are totally gregarious. They travel all over to play in tourneys, and collectively win over new friends everywhere they go.

But boom, the "cliquishness" of the regulars here was so pronounced it was jarring. Games were quiet, stoic affairs. They would leave the table to carry on hushed side conferences with the judges. It was weird and awkward, and right on the line of openly being snubbed. So strange.

It killed Kings of War at the clubhouse. My guys were so pissed off, I can't even get them to pick it up again.

I'm sure there will be some commenters that point the finger at you, or admonish you to be understanding or tell you that you misunderstood and to give the model club another chance. Bullshit. We're all grown men. Everyone knows what rude behavior looks like. Everything else is just excuses.

Have the confidence of your experience. You know what you're about, and life is too short. Never go back. Spend the energy finding the guys that want to be the "good" ones.

Robbie Rodiss said...

I'm afraid some wargames clubs are no better. They are still dominated by the socially awkward and to be honest downright strange.If one attends either a wargames show or a Military Modelling event you tend to see similar types attending. Perhaps its no wonder that we [the collective including modelers ] are viewed as,strange.

Anonymous said...

In total agreement. I'm part of a local wargaming club and likely the only person under 40, or even under 50. I've been trying to push the members to get out and try and recruit new members, but the yearly fee and reluctance of the group to get out makes it seem unlikely to happen. It's a shame, since they're actually a nice enough group of people.

Kym (Warburton) Jackson said...

Strange. Whoever invited you, presumably the president, was obligated to greet you and introduce you to everyone. Just rudeness.
I don't play or attend any clubs, though I have thought about it over the years I currently have a small group of friends I play with which is more than enough games for us. We actually attended our first tournament a few weeks ago and had a great time! So there you go. :)

Tony said...

It's depressing to read that my experiences have been replicated over so many different occasions.

Tony

Yair Robinson said...

Longtime reader, first time poster.

I'm still in mourning for my local club, which lost its space and organizer (due to a move) a little less than a year ago, and as a result fell apart. It was the exact opposite of what you describe: just full of outgoing and thoughtful people. Lots of games, and lots of different games (fantasy, sci-fi, board games, historicals, every scale under the sun, you name it), and a wide variety of ages (and not all men!). The organizers worked REALLY hard to make it a safe and welcoming space. The terrain was gorgeous, everyone painted their figures to the best of their abilities. Some folks were always preparing for a tournament (and the club ran several, as well as a couple of leagues), but plenty of folks were happy to get a game in, forget about work and enjoy each others' company. The better players were great at teaching without being rude and the younger/newer players were always enthusiastic. I was just at a wedding for one of the club members and it was nice to see and catch up with the old crowd again.

Sadly, this now-defunct club was the exception rather than the rule. So many take place in stores or people's basements (not a problem in and of itself) and the social awkwardness, cliquishness or inappropriately competitive nature of those clubs quickly reveal themselves.

Tony said...

Hi Yair,

Firstly; it's great to hear that you have had a positive experience. In fact I can also confirm that when I was running a gaming club back in Swansea some years ago we also had a great bunch of members - I miss that club.

Secondly; This particular example was just not very inviting and has put me off attending another one. At least for now.

Tony

Unknown said...

There is a wargaming club a ten minute walk from my home in Essex, England that used to have a superb reputation, sadly, in my opinion, not anymore.

I went along a few times but apart from a couple of chaps was completely ignored - one evening, after being invited to join a game by one of the few who did make an effort, I was actually abused and sworn at! I finished the game out of courtesy to the person who had asked me and to save his embarrassment - I have never been back!

I now prefer to make a round trip of 40+ miles to a club where everyone makes an effort to welcome allcomers.

Ernie Fosker

General Hans von Zieten said...

certainly they weren't very hospitable , but would it have been too much to walk up to someone and say 'hey , is here ?