Furrnion 2017 is the first furry fandom convention in Spain. Conceived as such since 2015, it was officially announced in February last year (link⇒), opening its registration in May. From then until its opening, a total of 155 furry fans signed up for the convention; with another 60 to 70 visitors attending the ‘doors open’ day (both children and adults), to greet and meet the fans and their artists. It was held from Friday 27th to Sunday 29th of January, in the municipality of Fuenlabrada (30 minutes by train from the center of Madrid), at the hotel MC Las Provincias. The official languages of the convention were both Spanish and English. It was an event of special significance for the Spanish fandom, as it establishes it as a non-fleeting enthusiastic community, with the capacity to organize, and with the desire, above all else, to have fun together.
The event featured a dealer’s den, an art exhibit and art auction, tabletop / card games, talent show, furryoke (karaoke), disco nights, furrylympics (a competition of activities while in fursuit), educational panels, and the traditional fursuit parade (around the building). 54 of 155 attendees were from abroad (35%), another 101 were Spanish (65%). The average age of the attendees (and the median) was around 25.
If there’s a trait that’s certain about the fandom, is that it’s a diverse group; and nothing shows it better than attending an event of this type, where you meet old acquaintances, and also many other previously unknown people, with all their different personalities and talents. Most of the activity took place on the ground floor where people gathered; artists from the dealer’s den, and almost always some fursuiter. Quite rightly, the schedule included a few hours of rest after lunch (the advertised ‘siesta’), which would be especially beneficial to those who went to bed late at night. On the ‘doors open’ day there were children who came deliberately from far away with their parents to immerse themselves in the atmosphere. The high presence of foreigners incited Spanish furries to practice their English, and more than one will exercise it in advance for the next convention; though barking / meowing works as a last resort. There was also a snack exchange, where every person brought typical foods from their land; and on Saturday a big table with paella and sangria.
The charity for the event was the Madrid Felina Association (link⇒), with a stand at the dealer’s den. It raised a total of 780 € (link⇒), which went to the eye surgery of a severely abused kitten, and to shelter two kitten brothers. In honor of the event administrators, these two kittens were given the names of Salmy and Tronchy at the closing ceremony. The disclosure of the news was a very emotional moment!
The board of directors of the Furrnion consists of Tronchy the gray fox, S (Sierra) the cheetah, and Salmy also the cheetah. A majority of cheetahs at management give name to the last disco night, which instead of being called the Dead Dog Party (as usual), is called the Dead Cheetah Party. With us today in this article is Salmy Cheetah, the de facto chairman of the convention.
Salmy is a furry born in ’73, from the province of Lugo, who’s been settled in Madrid for years. Self-employed computer services provider (competent in other skills too), he’s been known for his hosting and management, for some time now (before the rise of smartphones), of the phpBB forum Furry Madrid, and more recently as an administrator of Inkbunny. His fursona is a perennial 16-years-old anthro cheetah with green eyes.
MR: Hello Salmy! Tell us, how, when, did you find out about the fandom?
S: I met the fandom itself mid-1997. I went online on the Internet for the first time in September 1996. I was a staunch fan of The Lion King, and through that fandom I got to the furry fandom. But it still took me a while to go deep into it, to get involved; I thought there weren’t others in Spain and I didn’t take it as a fandom itself. So I was into it, but not really a part of it.
Back then my thing was role-playing, and Salmy was my first bipedal animal anthropomorphic character. Up until that point I only played characters from The Lion King universe, so I had been feral up until then. It wasn’t till 2006 that I considered that anthro cheetah my ‘fursona’. I’m not quite sure there was such a thing as ‘fursonas’ before that.
MR: You used the nickname ‘KDJ The Net Surfer’, was this one of several others? Does it have any significance?
S: It did back then, yes. In my adolescence and first years of adulthood, I did many things, one of which was learning to be a DJ with the best, at Lugo, and I also loved rap. I even composed songs, and my ‘artistic nickname’ was KDJ, which comes from Kant DJ. I liked Kant, though I don’t exactly remember why!
When I entered the Internet, the most logical nickname was my older one, to which I added ‘The Net Surfer’, because that was the role of KDJ at that time. The silliness of youth I suppose. I’ve never really given much thought about what nicknames to use on the Internet, it’s always been whatever came to my mind first.
MR: How did the name ‘Salmy’ come about?
S: ‘Salmy’ was the first thing I came up with when I had to choose a name; my boss’ surname at the time was Salmerón, and he was walking around at the office. It’s not an epic tale by any means, but it’s the truth.
MR: Damn Salmy, you have to come up with better stories Nobody will blame you if in a fandom filled with role-play you add some ornaments. “I happened to be fighting at the War for the Retrieval of Gibraltar when…”
S: But then it wouldn’t be true. I never say that which is not
MR: Do you still use MUCKs? (text-based online role-playing games)
S: Nah, maybe once a year or two years I get nostalgic and go back to Tapestries or The Lion King MUCK, which were my first ones, but that time is long gone. I no longer do role-play.
MR: Some say you’re the Spanish furry that’s been active for the longest time. How did you start going to furmeets, to meet with people.
S: I think there’s still a few of us from the generation of 2006, and there are some who’ve been relating with other Spanish furries for even longer. Those were the ones I met back in the day, in the spring / summer of 2006, when I went into Andalfur, which was the first Spanish furry forum I found, and went into its MSN group.
The first furmeet was in September 2006, if I remember correctly, on Wolfyote’s birthday. Later named Kennet Brent, he was originally Naraki when I met him at The Lion King MUCK and in person in ’98.
MR: Nowadays called ‘Mankeulv’.
S: Really I started looking for furries after trying to get into more conventional groups / fandoms without success, such as anime otakus and the like. It was hard to find my place in the cycle of life!
MR: Before using FurAffinity (2005), where did you look up the art, on VCL?
S: Yes, wherever we could… I mostly checked TLKIAA (http://fanart.lionking.org/), the pages of FurNation, at alt.fan.furry (Usenet), on cubcentral…
MR: How many fursonas have you had, is Salmy Cheetah the only one? What relationship do you have with your fursona?
S: Fursona as such, only Salmy, yes. The relationship I have with him is very close. It represents, on one hand, the strange fascination I feel for cheetahs, and on the other, the time of my life that I remember most fondly, adolescence. That period when you’re old enough to do anything, and life is full of possibilities, and everything excites you and at the same time you enjoy everything like a child. As I said earlier, in my youth and as a young adult I did many different things, I was very active and restless. Later in life you adjust to a more narrow path and focus and specialize on something, becoming more ‘closed’ in every way. I’ve never wanted to be fully this way, so thanks to my fursona I think I can still keep some of that wonderment.
MR: Talking now about Furrnion, I suppose you had expected for long we’d have a convention in our country. How did the idea of Furrnion come about, as it is now?
S: Since late 2007, when we did our first ‘mega furmeet’ in Madrid, I wanted to do something bigger and more important, but I never knew how I wanted it to be, nor could I have an overall view of it in my head until I started going to other conventions (ConFuzzled [CFZ], Midwest FurFest [MFF], NordicFuzzCon [NFC] and Anthrocon). It was having visited those, and having the support of young active people like Tronchy, and older and experienced people like Sierra (who managed Ibercamp 2), which made me decide to undertake the project at this moment in time.
I did make a previous attempt a couple of years ago, which I started in Furry Madrid, but that only stayed as an idea. It was much more ‘democratic’, and as it often happens with these things, democracy wasn’t invented for it There had to be a leader, or a couple of leaders, with a clear wholesome view to be able to do something that works.
MR: You’re the chairman of the convention. It doesn’t say it anywhere, but everyone says you are. I guess you’ll eventually accept it?
S: We really don’t have officially divided roles within con-ops or management… basically all three of us are equal in regards to responsibilities and assignments, and each one’s opinion weights the same when taking decisions. We are precisely 3 to that end, and all decisions are taken in agreement or by majority of 2 against 1.
[Enterprise-wise it is common for management members to be an odd number, or if they’re an even number or only 2, more decisive power is given to one of the two, to avoid opposing directions]
So no, I’m not the ‘boss’. If Tronchy and Sierra say the opposite of what I say, I have to put up with it Although it can be said that I’ve been the one who led the way and chose the style of the convention, the original idea was mine; but it wouldn’t be fair to say that Furrnion is my doing. It has lots from many different people.
MR: (quoting Sierra’s intro from the con book):
S: That’s Sierra being Sierra
MR: How did you choose the hotel or venue?
The final decision was, like everything else, based on quality / price ratio, and our estimates for room bookings. Attendance doubled our initial estimates, but we were still within range.
MR: The Furrnion logo is a chimera. How, when, why? Did you create it before, or after Doña Ana and Bertín (official mascots)?
S: Furrnion comes from ‘furry reunion’, and we didn’t want the logo to be the typical wolf or fox or the typical paw. We wanted the logo to represent a reunion of different types of furries (mammals, dragons, avian), so that’s the origin of the chimera. I don’t know if we designed it before, or after, our mascots, because they were different sub-projects. They’ve coexisted. One thing was the logo, and another was the mascots.
MR: How were the convention activities proposed? The ones that appear in the con book.
S: There’s an activities department within staff. Most of them were conceived there. Others were proposed by attendees.
MR: What was your favourite con activity, in which you took part?
S: My favourite activity in all cons is the dealer’s den, seeing and meeting the artists and buying art I also love the furryoke, because I like to sing. Even if I’m ill, with a sore throat and a sinister voice, I’m going to sing
MR: An important difference between Furrnion and other similar conventions (58 attendees in Italy, 37 attendees in France), something which has undoubtedly boosted attendance over the 100 people mark in this first iteration, is the promotional work you’ve done abroad, in foreign conventions. Do you intend to continue with the same dynamic?
S: Since there were no previous references for a new con, and what we had in mind was to make something big & good from the get-go, we had to promote it a lot. Publicity is the way in which, by definition, something is made ‘public’. This year we aren’t going to need as much promotion as last year, because our best advertising will be made by the attendees of the first con, so it’ll be a mere reinforcement, and we’ll probably rely on numbers and facts, not just promises.
The best feedback we’ve received, and it has been practically the same coming from all attendees we asked, is that the con was ‘much better than expected’. That was the goal. There was much disbelief and skepticism about the Furrnion, reasonably so, because everything we’d done in Spain so far didn’t reach this level, nor did it so in any other country from Latin Europe. We are notorious for being lousy, sub-par, and that’s really what we usually do, ‘whatever, anything goes’. I don’t know if it’s in my nature, or if it was my upbringing, but I’ve always thought that if you want to do something, you have to do your best, strive to surpass yourself and others. It’s senseless to make an effort to do always the same, or something that people will forget in two days.
MR: Give me the names of the non-believers, so that I may write them on my Death Note.
S: Hahahaha There were more skeptics than trusting people, Mike. This is Spain, people here are most likely to think ‘I’m sure it’ll be trashy’ than ‘It’s gonna be awesome’.
MR: What about getting a fursuit. Is it clear to you now? A group of people has now formed, they say they want a fursuit of their own.
S: It’s a normal thing, meeting fursuiters and interacting with them at conventions generates that feeling of ‘I want that too’. It’s a very fun experience. You don’t realize how much you want one until you’re with them, or surrounded by them. It’s the typical ‘you can’t miss what you’re not aware of’. I’ve been considering getting a fursuit since my first convention. It used to feel creepy. Now I want to have one, but I haven’t yet decided what style I’d prefer or who I’d like to commission.
MR: You probably wouldn’t be able to wear it for long being the boss, but you don’t have any kind of responsibility at other cons.
S: Exactly In any case, the amount of work in future events has to be more balanced than in our first year.
MR: Do you mean, delegating? Surely the titanic effort of the board members has inspired the rest of the staff to improve in any way possible. There was also staff who would do their tasks without having to be told twice.
S: Yes, delegating. Our job as managers must also be as hosts, not so much being ‘in the heat of the battle’ doing particular tasks (selling, filling up registrations), but rather we should be solving problems or making sure everything’s going as planned.
The problem we had this year was that hardly anyone knew what they would have to do or why. That’s not going to happen next year. Everyone will know what has to be done and what’s expected of them. We’ve all learned many things this first year. It has been a real field test. The goal of Furrnion 2 is to make it as it is, but better. Or rather, do it right.
MR: Anyone who’s seen it from a non-staff point of view will say it has been good.
S: Next year people will be more demanding, rightly so.
MR: A piece of information, that spread previously, was that the net profits of the convention would entirely go to the charity. From a business standpoint, having no funds for the next con is very risky. Are you going to keep any funds? Is it important for you to make a good impression on the charity?
S: As it is for any not-for-profit association, the first thing is always to achieve self-sufficiency, of course. What we’ve donated to Madrid Felina has been what was planned from the art show / auction, plus what they’ve been able to collect from what they sold and from donations. We still have to do some accounting post-con, and see if after recovering our investment and keeping a financial buffer for expenses for both this year and next year (consultancy, taxes, storehouse…) we can donate some more, but it’s probably going to be difficult.
For me it was just as important to be in good terms with the charity as it was for anything else to go as planned, I didn’t give more importance to one thing or to another. In any case, we were very clear with them from the start: it’s our first convention, not many people are going to come, don’t expect to collect much. That’s why we agreed they’d be present in our first two editions, not just in one. Still, it seems they too have exceeded their expectations! We’re also very happy with that
MR: I don’t have any more questions so far. Would you like to add a final comment?
S: I’d just like to mention that I’m really very proud of what we’ve managed to do. We had a great response from everyone: staff, attendees, artists, the hotel, the charity. The common denominator has been good vibes everywhere. Everyone wants a Furrnion 2. I still don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like to repeat if their circumstances allow it. It’s the best reward you can have as a manager of something that’s not for monetary gain. I can only say that for our second edition we’ll do our best once more to make it better, more organized, more balanced, so that everyone can enjoy the experience just as much if not more. And I’m sure we’ll achieve it, because everyone’s very motivated, and things that we had against us this year won’t be there anymore. All the work we had to do because it was the first one won’t need to be done again, so we’ll be able to focus on the convention itself 100%. Furrnion 2 will be our consolidation.
MR: Furrnion will hit strong in Spring 2018, with a medieval theme (knights in armor, damsels, and dragons). You can check its progress in some months at Furrnion.org, or follow their Twitter @Furrnion . See you next year!