The Guardian has published a very interesting piece by fellow Whovian and Doctor Who author, Jenny Colgan, on the history of the “Doctor Who Fan Clan” that has regularly met at The Fitzroy Tavern for over 30 years. The tavern is set to close up shop for renovations and Colgan has pondered if this may mark the end of the monthly meeting of Whovians in London.
Known primarily for bad beer and its status as the former hangout for intellectuals like author George Orwell, “The Tavern” also served as a bastion for Whovians during the 16 year wilderness period between McCoy’s last adventure and the first time we heard Eccleston tell Rose to “run.” As a matter of fact, Colgan notes that the monthly meeting featured attendees that would go on to be some of the most influential individuals working on NuWho (i.e. RTD, Steven Moffat, Nicholas Briggs, Paul Cornell, etc.). Says current show runner, Steven Moffat, of the meetings:
“That form of fandom was much more active than it is now. You only had what you could create yourself. There was no Who on TV. We had nothing.”
If you flash forward to today (with your mind-TARDIS, dear readers!), the monthly meeting has declined in its numbers and Colgan speculates that perhaps the temporary shutdown of the Fitzroy Tavern may be the end of the “Fan Clan,” and puts forth the question, “Can the gathering survive the closing of its home?” The answer is maybe yes, maybe no. While the closing may end up being the catalyst that sees the end of the meeting, the real reason for its decline and ultimate demise may have nothing to do with lack of upkeep or “substandard lager.” Indeed, perhaps the real culprit is the Internet and social media. As Colgan notes, it isn’t hard to find someone to talk to about Doctor Who on the Internet (Kasterborous and our fantastic forums for example!). How many multitudes of fan groups exist on Facebook? Oh, and that shiny electric monolith you may be reading this very paragraph on? The game has certainly changed.
[pullquote align=right]As Colgan notes, it isn’t hard to find someone to talk to about Doctor Who on the Internet![/pullquote]Picture this scenario: It’s the first Thursday of the month in London. You’ve had a long day at the office. The boss has really tightened the screws on you and you’re just ready to get to the house/apartment/townhome/mansion/cave to unwind. You have a couple of options at your disposal. You can a.) Drag yourself back out into town and hit the Tavern for a lovely evening of Whovian discourse or b.) You can pop the top off your favorite gentlemanly beverage from your refrigerator, chill on your sofa, queue up some Doctor Who on Netflix, and have some of the same discourse you’d have had at the tavern on Facebook or Internet forum (maybe even with someone sitting in the Tavern at that very moment!) via your smartphone/tablet/laptop. I’m willing to make a small wager that the second option wins more often than it loses, and maybe that’s OK.
Technology has made it easier to connect with likeminded people anywhere in the world, but’s it’s also caused us to lose some of that face to face interaction that still has such incredible value to us as individuals and as a fandom. For example, I can promise you that meeting and having a conversation with Matt Smith or Tom Baker in person is going to be more precious to me than having a Skype call or IM session with either one of them (Writer’s Note: that last sentence is totally true, but I would still geek out over the chance to Skype or IM Baker or Smith! – NK).
That being said, perhaps we need to make it a priority to keep these fan gatherings alive. By all means, embrace new technology and ways to promote our beloved show; just don’t, as we Americans often say, throw the baby out with the bath water. Hopefully, the original Fitzroy group will find a temporary (or permanent) new venue for their meeting. That group’s contribution to Doctor Who has been too valuable for it just vanish into the ether for good.
So what say you, fellow Kasterborites? Do you have a local spot (or group if the venue changes) for Whovian discourse? Have you ever been to the Fitzroy Tavern or fortunate enough to have been part of one of these legendary “fan clan” meetups? Sound off below! We’d love to hear your stories and experiences!