Words Simon McKeown
Popular culture is on the rise. From superhero movies to the mobile game Pokemon Go, it is almost impossible to go out and not see how pop culture has influenced society today. There are even days of the year dedicated to singular pop culture fandoms. For example, May the 4th is recognised as international Star Wars day due to the date sounding similar to the franchise’s iconic quote, “May the force be with you”.
Last July at the Youth Arts and Recreation Centre, a Geek Market was run by university society TasPop. The event was well received by traders and attendees, as more than 350 people braved the icy weather in order to get their hands on some merchandise from their favourite pop culture franchises. As the TasPop president, I was excited to be in amongst the action.
I would consider myself a geek. I am a massive fan of Star Wars, Marvel, Warhammer, Pokemon, anime, video games and other ‘nerdy’ things. I am proud of it, which highlights another goal of TasPop, to bring together a community of people young and old, who share similar interests, so they can feel comfortable talking about their passions without the fear of being judged by others. I have even expanded my interests into the realm of cosplay (dressing up as pop culture characters), and have gained knowledge in prop and armour-making, thanks to our group and other cultural festivals.
I became the TasPop president this year, though I’ve been part of the society for three years. Having started as a volunteer, I soon joined the committee and became head volunteer before a promotion to secretary. When our last president left, I raised my hand to take on the position. TasPop is a not-for-profit organisation backed by the Tasmanian University Union. The goal of TasPop is to promote youth-based pop culture and to bring together people who share similar interests, because the Tasmanian community is relatively starved for pop culture events when compared to other states in Australia.
Every year, we run two popular culture festivals, AICon in Hobart, which gathers about 2600 attendees, and MAICon (mini AICon) in Launceston, with 600 people normally rocking up. Running and organising these events takes a lot of work from our committee members. We are all volunteers and committee members invest their own funds to help keep these festivals afloat.
These are the only pop culture festivals in Tasmania. We promote many interests at our festivals, including Japanese anime, manga, comic books, popular TV series, movies, cosplay, alternative fashion, video games, and everything in between. We enjoy bringing this community together and have helped to form friendships across all corners of Tasmania as well as other states. We are very passionate about what we do with our society for Tasmania’s youth, who would otherwise have to go to the mainland to experience events like the ones we run.
Every year, I tried to better my efforts for TasPop, so here I am now. The TasPop group has definitely been a great experience. I have learnt a lot, made many friends across the pop culture community, and shared experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It really brought me out of my shell during university. I am now much more sociable and confident than I used to be. So if TasPop can help me, it can help you, too.
My favourite TasPop past time is hanging out with the group and our extended friends, usually after meetings or events. We have a wide range of characters and personalities in our circle. We always have fun, which is what TasPop stands for.
The next AICon will be hosted next year at the Wrest Point Convention Centre on 4-5 March 2017.