Radio Times: “Fandom Friday: Harry Potter”

All aboard the Hogwarts Express, as we visit the world of Harry Potter fandom…

By Claire Furner | Radio Times | February 20, 2015, 6:00 p.m. GMT

Every Fandom Friday spotlights a different film or television fandom. This week, Claire Furner from MuggleNet takes us inside the magical, creative world of Harry Potter fans, who continue the story even after the books dried up.

Harry Potter was a phenomenon like no one had seen before. Obviously things like Star Wars and Star Trek had their enthusiastic fans but – I am going to sound like a millennial idiot! – fans used to have to post things to magazines, and there was a delay before it was printed. Now fandom is immediate and constant.

One of the reasons Harry Potter got so big is it came just as people were comfortable or oblivious enough to let their kids run riot on the internet. Those kids were 10 or 12, but now they’re in their early 20s and still going. The period between the Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix books, about two to three years, was when the fan explosion occurred and became what it is today. It wasn’t just fan sites but fan fiction, fan art, wizard rock, so many things. There was so many charities set up in the name of Harry Potter: the HP Alliance has done amazing work over the years.

Now we’re entering a new phase. When Harry Potter was at its peak there was news every day. Books were coming out, films were coming out, the cast was talking about it. Since then the films have ended, the books have been out a while, things have been a lot slower. Warner Bros. only release stuff every couple of months, but the fandom keeps going.

People simply want more. If you look at Marvel and Disney in general, they keep extending their universes. It does not just begin and end with the movie. Without more official stories, people will create their own.

It inspires creativity all the time. It’s more about discussion and fan-created content, as opposed to Warner Bros. or Bloomsbury giving us stuff. We have to be proactive, and the creativity is staggering. I personally am not a cosplayer but you see people dressing up in amazing outfits that almost rival the real costumes. They are dressing up as beautiful golden snitches!

MuggleNet as a fan site has been running about 15 years in October/November. Last year we were thinking about how we could transition the fandom from its current state, which is quite quiet but still very passionate, to a much wider group with varied enthusiasms. So we decided to do a live event MuggleNet Live! 2015: Expo Patronum. It’s not focused just on meeting that celebrity from that film – although we will have special guests – but an interactive event focused on the fans.

I’m 24, I work full time for a social media agency and I work on MuggleNet in my spare time ­­– although it takes quite a few hours. When I joined two and a half years ago, the first convention I went to was LeakyCon, which was run by The Leaky Cauldron, another fan site. It was the first time I had engaged with the Harry Potter fandom in ‘real life’ rather than online. All of a sudden I was in this room with 2000 Harry Potter fans of various ages, meeting people I worked with over the internet but who I hadn’t actually met.

StarKid were performing and the fans were going absolutely mental. It had nothing to do with the actors attending or even JK Rowling discussing the books. It was a bunch of singers who sang songs based on Harry Potter, and everyone was going crazy for them. It was purely a fan-created event, it had nothing to do with the official outlet. That has probably been my biggest moment, when I went “Oh wow this is bigger than I ever realised.”

As told to Jonathan Holmes