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Our Experiences at Summer in the City

Last weekend we were at Summer in the City, a massive YouTube gathering at Alexandra Palace. We sold books at our stand, had a We Were Liars board where people could write down lies, a book swap and lots of bean bags for people to read in. For most of us it was the first time ever attending an event like this, and here are some of our thoughts:

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 09.42.56Summer in the City 2014 was my first ever YouTube event, and it BLEW MY MIND. Friday’s Creator Day was buzzing, but it hinted at nothing of what was to come over the weekend – I nearly fell off my seat on the bus when I saw Saturday morning’s queue! Literally thousands of teens had come to (hopefully) meet their favourite YouTubers, get inspired and eat burritos (um, maybe that last one was just us). The whole weekend was a melting pot of shared interests and multicoloured candy floss hair and enthusiasm. It was great to hear how many people had read Hot Key books, and talk all things book to people who ‘don’t really read that much’ – but my most valuable experience was undoubtably learning what a ‘Selfie Circle’ is. Not just because I love to photobomb, but also because where else would that happen?!

Oh also – if someone asks to take a selfie with you in the queue, just say no. They will put it on twitter and you will have one eye closed. – Cait

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 17.46.19Although I was only at SITC on Friday I was totally amazed by the whole thing, being at 27 years old practically elderly compared to the YouTube crowd, it is a whole new world to me which I’ve been gradually peeking into in the weeks leading up to the event. When I was a teenager *sounds old* I would have been begging my dad to take me to the next Smash Hits Poll Winners Party to see all the pop stars but if I was 15 now I would probably be dragging him to this! Youtubers are totally the new celebs and SITC had hysterical girls by the bucket load to adore them!

What was lovely to see at this (and YALC) was the way teenagers were in an absolutely safe place to express their fandom and nerd out! Once upon a time you might have imagined that people who spend a lot of time watching videos on YouTube would be shy, retiring and probably lonely but in fact the online world has brought so many people together, and put them all in a place they can be as outgoing and bright barnetted as they like!

Although the funniest part was arriving to set up our modest (but beautiful) stand with Jen and seeing about 25 burly men actually building the YouTube stand from scratch. With hammers. Well, I still think our tablecloth looked pretty great…  – Rosi
Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 09.43.11I think my first reaction was: WTF. I do not understand this. This is so not for me. But then of course that makes total sense, because this event is NOT FOR ME – as an equally practically elderly person (26) I am well over the age-limit for these YouTube stars’ appeal. Personally I wouldn’t want to queue for hours outside only to run (RUN) inside to stand in another queue for hours so I could have my photo taken with someone, but I think on reflection, this is again just a generation thing. The vibe was more, run, run SCREAMING at the person and then sort of reach out to touch them BUT DON’T ACTUALLY TOUCH THEM COS TOO MUCH TOO MUCH so just hang around near them, in the aforementioned selfie circle.

But even though I am clearly too old and far too grumpy to really get the appeal of SitC, I have to say that as the day went on, the whole thing began to make a bizarre kind of sense. There were rules, if you were initiated enough to know them. The star appeal of the YouTubers was undeniably there in buckets. And, given the complete integration of YouTube and the internet in this generation’s lives now, it really shouldn’t have been as much of a surprise to me as it was that this channel has its own megastars. So… I remain feeling personally fairly confused by SitC, but let’s be honest, who on earth cares about the opinion of the boring old woman with a face like ‘Waaaahh…?’ – Naomi

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 09.43.24I have a confession to make, I love YouTubers. I am now well old, I know this because I’m well into my late twenties and when you’re 14 that is ANCIENT. However, I have been watching as YouTubers steadily gained followers and later sprawling, humongous fandoms for over five years now and boy has that world changed.

My Summer in the City experience can best be described as an education. I work in marketing and my primary audience are teenagers but sitting in an office is never going to cut it when it comes to knowing what young people are loving and hating right now. A weekend at SitC has been an eye-opener! I had NO idea that having a natural hair colour was so rare. My sort of brown, sort of blonde barnet was a pretty sad sight compared to the amazing hair rainbow bobbing around Ally Pally at the weekend.

It was so inspiring to see the level of talent of the vloggers. YouTubers have been dismissed by many but the truth is that the YouTube community itself is incredibly discerning. The most successful vloggers are the ones who are experts in their field, whether that be a passion for beauty products, a way with words, a witty and unique way of looking at everyday life, intelligent insight into books or films or music or games. A following of millions is a great responsibility, hard work and the admin is mind-boggling but these young people are managing their businesses admirably and brands working with them would do well to keep that in mind. We can learn a lot from this community and I know I certainly will keep tuning in.  – Jen

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 09.43.54Summer in the City 2014 was definitely an EXPERIENCE! I went on the last day, but it was still as crazy, exciting and insane as I assume the other days were. Seeing endless queues and huge crowds of teens getting completely drenched in the rain (it was absolutely chucking it down on the Sunday morning!), desperate to see their favourite Youtubers was mind-blowing, but not gonna lie, if I was 14, me and my friends would probably do the same! It was so great meeting  everyone who visited our book stand, and hearing how excited they were about the books we were selling over the weekend and how some of them had already read WE WERE LIARS and had loved it! YAY! By the end of the day we were completely wiped out of our free WE WERE LIARS posters and tote bags! And the good of liars board was an absolute hit – I enjoyed reading some very funny, strange and slightly rude lies. All in all, SITC was great! – Monique

The one thing that really struck me is that this group of teens are the only people who will ever have this – technology moves on (as we could see from MySpace comments on our board) and in a couple of years there’ll be something else – holotubers, telepathictubers, hoverboards – and everyone will look back on this as a cute retro thing (Cassingles?  Bless!). – Kate

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 09.43.35This was my 4th Summer in the City, so I felt right at home. I was so excited to show the Hot Key team into my ‘world’ (as I have been making YouTube videos since 2008) and it was so much fun to see their reactions! I loved telling everyone about our books and seeing what everyone was writing on the Liar Board. It was really nice to be so busy during the weekend, not a single moment was wasted! And of course I had the opportunity to spend even more time talking about books during the BookTube panel on Saturday. I’ll definitely be back next year! – Sanne

We absolutely loved meeting so many of you an of course we’d love to know what you thought of Summer in the City if you were there!