Meowmories: Life as a Conventional Cat

Mewmories-Life as a Convention Cat

If you’ve ever been to the MCM London Comic Con at the ExCeL Centre, you’ll have no doubt seen them around. They might be curled up on the floor napping, grooming each other, or pawing at the ground while they stretch. Yes, it’s the MCM London Comic Con’s most memorable cosplay group, the Cats. Having spent a long time admiring the group from afar, a fan of the way they appear to completely lose themselves in the lives of cats for the length of the convention, I took the plunge and decided to get an interview. However, the process of this meant trying to talk to several cats who just stared at me blankly or meowed rather than talked. I did finally secure an interview with Cat cosplayer Belle Pullman. We managed to delve into where the group came from, what Belle gets from being a cat a few times a year and some of the hatred the group gets from cosplay elitists.

Laura: Could you start by introducing yourself for our readers?

Belle: Okay, well, I’m known as Belle, I’m a theatre geek and costume maker.

Laura: And can you give us a brief overview of the group you’re involved in?

Belle: Well, we started off as musicals fans. We first dressed up as Cats to celebrate the original production hitting 20 years. We were there to mark the show closing in 2002. Then, several years later, we discovered conventions, dug out the old costumes and our group has steadily built as people have seen us at MCM and wanted to join us!

Laura: There’s been a large group of you at every MCM convention I’ve been to for over five years now. I imagine most of our readers have seen you all around. What’s the appeal of being a cat at conventions for you?

Belle: The things we get away with! I could go into the academic terms of it being a liminal space and an experience outside normal life, leaving the self behind and becoming something other – but mostly, it’s getting fed treats, taking naps in the middle of a crowded centre and tying shoelaces together…

Laura: While trying to get an interview I found several people who wouldn’t respond to conversation, but rather remained strongly in character at all times. Do you find that’s common within the group, people wanting to be completely immersed for the weekend?

Belle: Yes, definitely, holding the character is very immersive! Once you’re in costume, have a tail and wig, you begin to move differently, almost think differently. We take inspiration from the way the actors in the musical interact with the audience, they’re worse than we are, but then they get paid!

29351_650360741648102_818204467_nLaura: Have you ever had any negative experiences, or do people at MCM generally react positively to you?

Belle: Generally it’s very positive! We tend to hang out on the concourse in the ExCeL Centre, with people going past on both sides so a lot of people have to go past us. If people don’t want to interact with us we won’t bother them. There’s an element in the cosplay community who look down on us, I think they resent that we get a lot of attention without being ‘proper’ (comics, anime, movie…) cosplayers. But we’re having fun, while they get stressed and take it too seriously.

Laura: Would you like to say something to that type of cosplayer?

Belle: They need to relax! Remember why we all got into this hobby in the first place, to express our nerdish devotion to our respective fandoms – and to have fun with like-minded people. We don’t need unnecessary drama.

Laura: One of the things I’ve always admired about your cosplay group compared to some other groups is that you remember that cosplay is made up of the words costume and play, not just the costume aspect. Is the performance and losing yourself in a character aspect something that largely remains at conventions, or is it something you and others in the group take part in during other parts of your lives?

Belle: I’m not a cat in everyday life! I think it helps that we have that strong theatrical interest, with that background a costume is always an element of performance. My background is in technical theatre, some of us are trained or training performers, so the convention is a kind of improvised performance opportunity. A lot of people assume we’re furries, but the Cats cosplay is different. Some of us are also furries, and the animal connection is a bigger part of their lives outside of conventions, but we’re coming at the weekend from a slightly different angle.

Laura: If there’s anyone reading who’s interested in getting involved, do you have any advice for them, either about how to get involved or tips once they get to MCM?

Belle: Well, to get involved, or to get help making or sourcing a costume, our forum is the best place to start. There’s Cats cosplayers all over the world, it’s a wonderfully supportive community. If you get to MCM, you’re dressed as a cat – just find us, sit down, and play!  

Laura: Have you got any last words for our readers?

Belle: I guess, remember we’re doing this to play, to have fun and enjoy ourselves. Don’t lose sight of that.


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