Just heard that Tom Burke and Ali Dowling will be appearing at Newcastle Comic Con on 22/11/2015! Cue ridiculous skipping round the house in a demented fashion as I unleash the ten year old child within!!!
I can't believe it, I thought seeing him in the summer was going to be it, although I did have my fingers crossed that he may attend a Carol Concert event in London in December, but this is just such an unexpected and fantastic bonus. Only thing is, it's a 200 mile journey (one way) to Newcastle, but there again it was a 200 mile journey to London so really I can't use that as an excuse, although the trip to London is quicker and I can go by train, this time I have to drive over hills and moors.
On impulse I have bought a ticket and then started worrying about the practicalities and whether anyone else will be going. I know I have friends in The North who would want to go, but at such short notice and near December, they might already have other plans. Fortunately by the evening I have found out that a number of people are going and one of my friends has invited me up on the Saturday so I don't have to do a really early start on Sunday. I can't believe how happy and excited I am. I'm in my 40's for goodness sake, you'd think I'd have grown up by now, but upon reflection I never was a big fan of any particular person/band when I was growing up. I was interested in a lot of things so I wasn't your massive fan-girl type, so perhaps I'm just making up for it now!
I think the closest I got to being a fan-girl was being a fan of Let Loose when I was in my 20's. I joined the fan-club to get some signed photo's and that was that. I saw them a few months later when they performed at my university and I met them and got "proper" autographs, so there was no real point in joining the fan-club. I didn't follow them, I didn't make friends through it, it was all a rather pointless affair, and then the group split up never to be heard of again!
The Burketeer's however are a completely different ball game. There isn't a fan-club, instead a group of like minded individuals have formed over time (and mainly Twitter) and become a group of friends who have Tom in common. I think we now live in world that relies so little on face to face human interaction, that it's nice to find that the people who you chat to online, and have a chance to meet in a safe environment (Comic Con) can escalate into genuine friendships where you meet up, have a pot of tea and chat about this, that and everything! That is a wonderful thing.
This has led me to think about fandom. Is it wrong to claim to be a fan of someone when you are past your 20's. Should we just grow up?
There are a number of people who scoff at me for being a Tom Burke fan, in fact some of his fans are too ashamed to say out loud that they are a fan, they keep quiet so that they are not mocked. Why? Why should we be ashamed? And why do some fans ridicule and taunt their "hero?" That is another act that I equally do not understand.
Being a fan means you love everything about the person who you follow. You love the way they look, you admire photographs of them, you love their talent, whether it be acting, singing, general performing, the way they dress, their smile, sense of humour, and most of all you love being respectful of them. I'm not saying that you will always agree with them, there will be times when you see a picture and you think "Bless you, what were you thinking of when you wore that?" But you don't say anything cruel or shameful in public; you might say it privately with your friends, but why would you try to belittle someone you are supposed to admire?
This is obviously something I have thought about for a while. I think whether you are a fan of someone or not you should still be respectful about them (even if they have made some dire professional choices in their past!) I don't think it is acceptable to send tawdry images viral over the internet, and just because you're reposting someone else's work, well, that is not an acceptable explanation. Would you like your past mistakes plastered all over the internet? No? Well then why would someone more famous that you like it? I think in this computer driven age we forget that what we post is often about another human. Fame doesn't take away the insecurities that the rest of us have, so perhaps before you hit that "post" button, think for a moment. Is what I'm sending really funny? Am I sending it in the right context, would I die on the spot if someone posted me doing this/saying that about me?
But I digress, there is an enterprising side to being a fan, and perhaps that is what I should focus on. Since meeting the Burketeer's, I have found some genuinely lovely people to chat with. My love of reading, writing and drawing has been re-ignited (thank you Mr B!) And as a group we have raised thousands in about 12 months for three charities close to Mr B's heart (at the last count I think it was in the region of £25,000 - or nearly £29,000 with gift aid). We have set up an online shop and created an online magazine, and encountered the many pitfalls that setting up these things bring with them! We have learnt so much, and so for those who say being a fan is a childish and ridiculous thing, however long the Burketeer's may last for, they have left a legacy which will have helped so many people, and if that's what it is to be a fan, well that is no bad thing!