As we approach 2024 a string of new years resolutions lies ahead – but could a niche hobby be one of them?
With many people making renewed vows to eat less, move more, or try something new, we spoke to MancFurs and Dungeons and Flagons to learn more about niche hobbies in Manchester.
If you’re not familiar with either organisation, MancFurs are the Manchester branch of the furries community – a group of individuals with a common interest in costumes and anthropomorphic art.
Anthropomorphic content is anything animal related – think Zootopia, Looney Tunes or Five Nights at Freddy’s.
Dungeons and Flagons are an independent tabletop gaming events company running meet-ups across the city.
Speaking to MancFurs’ Financial Officer Alex and Chair Seb, we’re told that the group has been going over 20 years.
More than 200 people attend each event and people travel from all over Europe and America to attend.
The furry community also hopes to offer a safe space for people to come and meet other members and make new friends without judgement.
Alex said: “We facilitate making sure that people who come to our meets can experiment and display themselves in these costumes in a way that is safe and spread joy to the general public.
“We want people online or offline to make friends of a similar interest and in person they can meet safely.”
With furry events happening across the UK, Manchester is seen as the central point to meet up and events take place in the city’s gay village on Canal Street.
When asked if choosing a ‘queer space’ like Canal Street was intentional, Seb said: “Absolutely it’s about having a queer space. Most people who attend are queer in some way. A lot of people from rural parts of the UK don’t get to interact with a lot of people who are queer.
“I had it myself when I was growing up I was literally the only gay in the village. But when I came to Manchester I fell in love with it, it felt like home, it felt like a space where you could actually be yourself and feel safe doing that.”
The organisation is run purely by unpaid volunteers and at its heart is a social club that allows people with a similar interest to come together where they won’t be judged for a hobby that is considered quite niche.
Which brings us to Dungeons and Flagons – another Manchester based organisation that is bursting out of the bubble of ‘niche’ and attracting quite the following.
With hundreds of board games being released every year, we spoke to owner and organiser James who told us why a community built around playing games was flying in Manchester.
Starting in 2017 the group started hosting a weekly event to create an American-style concept-cafe offering punters an alternative night out.
James was armed with a degree in events management and wanted a way to share his hobby with others and create a community around gaming.
Starting with small groups in the early days the aftermath of the pandemic saw D&F go full-time and start to host events in other venues.
The events were especially popular as more people wanted something to do outside of their home.
This was also a solution for many pubs and venues looking to attract customers back.
James said: “It looks interesting on a venues weekly run down of events, board game nights seem a bit different, interesting and quirky. It’s a really good way to meet people and board games are a great way to break the ice and get people talking.
“If you were in a pub and saw someone playing a game you wouldn’t usually go over and ask to play but with D&F we have a host station and we’ll make introductions.”
With venues on board such as Manchester Metropolitan University’s union Dungeons and Flagons host between four and five events every week.
This includes every Monday and Wednesday and every Tuesday during term time as well as most Thursdays and monthly Sunday events.
There are also special meet-ups such as a bottomless boardgame brunch taking place at GRUB on new years eve.
With some board games today costing £30 a pop, the £2 entry at Dungeons and Flagons is seen as an affordable way to try before you buy – all while enjoying an alternative night out.
While both organisations’ focus on a very different hobby, there seems to be a common thread of community and feeling welcome among those with similar interests.
Many would agree this sense of community isn’t surprising for the city of Manchester.
If you’re looking for a new hobby, a safe queer space or wanting to meet new people and learn something new the MancFurs and Dungeons and Flagons might be ones to check out.
Featured image PurpleFoxCosmo https://www.purplefox.digital/