Summer in the City founder chats TanaCon failings and making convention safe for LGBT community

Summer in the city has been running since 2009 (Picture: Jon D Barker/Summer in the City/Tom Burns/YouTube) Summer in the City has just celebrated its 11th annual event, bringing internet stars and fans to the capital to celebrate all things YouTube.

However, as founder Tom Burns pointed out to Metro.co.uk during the event, running a convention isn’t always smooth sailing.

The YouTuber explained of the convention’s beginnings: ‘Summer in the City started as a gathering at the time, it was in a field, so it was just an event we made across three days for a kind of selfish excuse to just meet friends [and] hang out with people who shared the same geeky interests.’

He added: ‘It was just a really nice way to connect – I think back then YouTube wasn’t really that cool and a lot of people got bullied for being outcasts and YouTubers, so it was that sort of safe place.’

However, Tom quickly became aware that some YouTubers’ fanbases grew with alarming rapidity, as he recalled that during the early days: ‘There was one moment where Charlie McDonnell came onto the field…so we’ve got Dan [Howell] and Phil [Lester] and everyone just casually walking around chatting. Charlie comes up and gets swamped – he was there for five hours.’

Tom pointed out: ‘That for me was like, “This is not the same as before.”‘

Despite SitC having had a relatively smooth growth, other conventions have had some pretty spectacular failings.

Back in 2018, YouTuber Tana Mongeau was forced to apologise as her event TanaCon ended up having thousands of unregistered attendees turning up and being stuck outside in the California heat without water or shade. The 11th event has just taken place (Picture: Jon D Barker/Summer in the City) ‘Often conventions that happen once and don’t happen again is because they’re not logistically prepared for the crowds,’ Tom explained. ‘They’re not prepared security-wise, they’re not prepared for the flow [of attendees].

‘We’re very fortunate and in the unique position where we grew with the community…we had our mistakes, at one convention we had people waiting outside a venue in 2012 much like TanaCon did.’

However, he added: ‘With TanaCon, I feel there was an element of sticking it to the big guys, the big events.

‘At that time, the complaints were around someone who is not one of the big guys, who is very involved with the community and very actively working as a guest manager, it’s run and founded by someone who is a creator themselves, much like SitC.’ Tom admits that the convention’s definitely made mistakes (Picture: Jon D Barker/Summer in the City) However, he’s not afraid to admit that SitC also had its struggles with crowds in the early days, especially in terms of meet-and-greets.

He recalled that, in 2014, ‘we had kids queuing from 3am at Alexandra Palace in North London with the queue snaking around the venue.

‘And the second those doors opened, everyone ran straight to the meet-and-greet lines.’

Nevertheless, with the introduction of the ‘upfront and honest’ ballot system, which sees meet-and-greet tickets dished out fairly, things haven’t been quite as hectic. Tana Mongeau’s event TanaCon was disastrous (Picture: Rex Features) Meanwhile, earlier this year, VidCon faced backlash when Miles McKenna was misgendered and deadnamed on the LGBT panel . Miles was due to appear as a featured creator at SitC but the event later confirmed he would no longer be attending.

‘It’s awful what happened. It’s had a knock-on [effect] to us,’ Tom explained before clarifying he meant ‘guests not being able to make it to the event’.

‘We’ve always been very big on the LGBT community at SitC. When building panels, we’ll try our hardest to profile and ensure we’re covering different elements of the LGBT community and we’re catering to different requests from the community,’ he said, adding that a big request this year had been including asexual YouTubers in the LGBTQ+ panel. Miles McKenna was previously deadnamed and misgendered on a panel at VidCon (Picture: Twitter/TheMilesMcKenna) ‘[As for] moderators, we work with people who are in the LGBTQ+ community themselves but also we know people on the panel and they’re fully briefed,’ Tom said. ‘They go and check before they do anything and make sure everyone’s happy with how the panel’s running, how things are being pronounced, I think that’s the key thing – it’s just that preparation.’

And how about the future of SitC?

‘The best answer is it’s really unpredictable. I’ve wanted to do Winter in the City, which we’ve just launched tickets for, for years. But it’s finding the right time to do it where it doesn’t take away from SitC,’ Tom said.

‘We’ve gone for a smaller event, trialed at the [Birmingham] NEC, [we’re] considering the concept and potentially treating it as a touring event depending on things go.’

He added: ‘I see SitC hopefully staying in London as its core place, but I see more of a shift towards Winter in the City as our additional event that enables more people from different areas who might not be able to reach London to engage with the community, join the community and get involved.’