We first launched the Cosplay UK website as a webring for UK cosplay sites at the start of 2002.
By July 2002 a "Yahoo! Group" for UK Cosplay was set up and we redirected the domain name to forward to the group.
In 2003 NanakiXII used the domain name (along with hosting on the Anime Europe webserver) to launch the first full Cosplay UK website. This was followed in 2004 by separate webhosting and an upgraded website, complete with its own forum.
After several problems with bandwidth theft, NanakiXII asked for the website to be closed in September 2005. A new website (using the existing Anime Europe photo gallery and forum) was written during October 2005 and was finally launched on 1st November 2005. This latest version was launced at the end of March 2006. Once again members can have their own page where they can upload images of their costumes, tell their fans a little about themselves and talk about their cosplay plans - all by using the facilities that already exist within the Anime Europe community.
About Anime Europe
Back in 2001 I was working as the publicity and PR officer for AyaCon (a large anime and manga convention), and I was trying to find convention reports and photographs from previous Aya conventions. After many days of searching (and recruiting a few friends to help), we only found a couple of personal journals, each with a dozen or fewer photographs. The UK online fan community was also fragmenting and it was becoming increasingly difficult to find out what was happening in the UK outside your own group.
If you wanted UK news, then your best bet was to subscribe to Jonathan Weeks' email newsletter and not even conventions had a forum where you could discuss the forthcoming event and make plans with other fans. Most other sites on the net were either very US biased, or only had discussion forums. The only exception was the UK.Media.Animation.Anime newsgroup, but usenet was increasingly becoming a very niche audience.
Late in 2001 I formed Anime Europe in conjunction with my online business partner Robert (Bemused Duck) by merging several other smaller anime related sites I had already been operating. In 2002 we merged all the various discussion threads together to form a new forum and introduced the UK's first anime and manga event photograph gallery that allowed its members to upload their own photos, and leave comments for other members and visitors to read.
Since then the site has expanded to include news and reviews and was also the first to introduce anime news through podcasting. The forum has been upgraded 7 times and the photo gallery has been transferred 4 times. Hopefully what we now have is a very stable and secure platform for the future, that can once again expand to help support other specialist interests (such as cosplay). While I (Kev ~ Lost Ghost) am involved with the overall setting up and maintenance of the site, Robert (Bemused Duck) is working hard behind the scenes testing the various functions and ensuring that the gallery, forum, and other community areas are properly looked after and supported.
About the Webmaster
As well as running the Anime Europe website, I used to be the librarian for the Leicester Anime & Manga Club before moving out of the area, and I am also a committee member for the UK's largest convention dedicated to anime and manga - Ayacon.
"Does Kev cosplay?", you may ask and the simple answer is that I don't any more. In fact I have never cosplayed at an anime convention. I'm getting rather old (my 40th birthday has come and gone), my hair is getting thin (and turning grey), plus I have put on a lot of weight during the last few years, so I don't think I can now cosplay. However, I am fascinated in costume making. As a teenager, rather than having a job in the local supermarket or delivering newspapers, I spent my free time and holidays assisting my grandfather who was a bespoke tailor. Over the years I have created a number of outfits, including an oriental costume with hair plats made from wool!
My other primary interest is taking photographs. I have been very keen on photography since the early 70's, and started developing and printing my own photographs around 1976. My first commercial sale, for a series of black & white photographs (my favourite format) on the restoration of a historic building, was back in 1982. Since then I have had my photographs appear in a number of magazines and books. I now mostly use digital equipment, and even when I'm not carrying around my digital SLR, I can usually be found with a compact digital camera in my pocket. During 2004 and 2005 I have been trying to increase my knowledge of digital photography by going to evening classes on using photoshop.
What is the site for?
We hope to serve a number of purposes.
1. The photograph gallery contains almost 5,000 pictures from events mostly held within the UK. We hope that browsing this gallery will inspire people to give cosplay a try.
2. We want to make sure as many people as possible know of potential cosplay and masquerade events. So our event schedule and calendar are not only available to read on this site, but can be syndicated through RSS or subscribed to through email. Cosplayers won't have to search the web and magazines for events to go to, instead they can sit back and have a list of forthcoming events sent to them.
3. We hope to create a home for UK cosplayers. While most events that include cosplay now have their own forums and there are several very large international cosplay sites, there isn't anywhere central just for UK cosplayers to chat about their costumes and cosplay plans.
Through the use of simple blogging software (either using our own internal blogs, or those from companies like Livejournal and Blogger) UK Cosplayers can keep a journal about their costumes, designs, competitions and other successes. We also offer separate personal photograph galleries for anyone who registers. If you would like to use these services, just say so on the contact form and we will have it set up for you in just a few days. You will get your own page on Cosplay UK which will include a feed from the blogging software and a separate link (or possibly feed) to your own personal costume photograph gallery.