The South London Warlords have been a bastion of tabletop wargaming in London for nearly fifty years. They also run Salute, the UK’s largest wargaming convention. We caught up with Mac Cross, longtime member and organiser, about the group’s past, present and future.
Hey Mac! When were the South London Warlords formed?
In September 1971 (under the name of The South Bermondsey Military Modelling Society), the South London Warlords was formed by three wargamers: Jim Shields, Dave Rotor, and Bill Brewer.
What’s your role with the group?
I’ve had many roles in the club over the years: Social Secretary, Treasurer, President, and for the last ten years or so I have been the Salute Coordinator.
What games do you play?
The problem with someone in my age group is that I’ve had far too long to collect game systems, and I seem to be a collector of rule sets (many I have only read and not played!) I have far too many to list here, but just as a small sample I enjoy playing Bolt Action, Rapid Fire, Iron Cross, Test of Honour, Sword & Spear, Kings of War, FUBAR, Shako, and Stars & Lasers.
When did you join?
I joined the club when Salute was being held in the Kensington Town Hall, which would have been around 1998.
I saw an advert for the show and decided that I wanted to go and see what all this wargaming silliness was about… And, well, after a few hours walking around the show, I was hooked!
Has the group’s purpose changed at all over time?
Do we have a purpose? I guess it mentions in our club’s constitution that we are trying to promote the hobby — and through Salute we do, and hopefully we will continue to do so.
How many members do you have now?
That’s not an easy question to answer! On paper there are probably well over 90 members, but that does include some people that only help out at Salute. Full, active members are harder to gauge, but on any given Monday night we normally have around 20 people turning up for games.
Has your membership changed much in the last few years?
Well it has certainly got a little younger! We have seen a lot of younger members joining over the last few years, which has to be good for the club.
Do you do much to attract new members?
We put on a ‘party game’ once a month for any new members that want to come to the club and play; these are great fun and have seen a little success over the years in attracting new members.
But in this day and age of social media we have a simpler and quicker way to contact possible new members. We can arrange for people to attend the club and we often arrange games that new members can join in with, so they can get to see that we are friendly and not too scary!
And obviously we promote through our show, which has always been a great way to get people involved with our club.
How often do you meet up?
The club meets on most Monday nights throughout the year, and we try to get at least one Saturday of each month for those big games.
Does the group have a presence at other hobby fairs and conventions around the country?
Groups of club members often take games around to other shows throughout the year, putting on either displays or demo games. We also travel to a game or two outside of the UK.
What can someone thinking of joining expect from the South London Warlords?
The South London Warlords are a friendly bunch of wargamers and what you get when you join is to be part of a great club. You will see a good selection of games played on a club night, you would be made to feel welcome — and hey, you would be able to help run a great show!
Wargaming has traditionally been a very white male hobby. Some pastimes that had a similarly-limited audience have broadened out a lot in recent years, like video games — do you see a similar trend with wargaming?
I think that may have been true but I think this has changed over the past few years. Just looking around shows like Salute you’ll see a great mix of people enjoying the hobby, from all walks of life and age groups, and the number of female gamers and painters has increased as well.
What are the differences between the different membership tiers?
The South London Warlords have three types of membership:
Full membership gives access to the club hall every Monday and Saturday that it’s open. Members have full access to the club forum, and they also get a copy of the club magazine (Command Post).
Associate membership is designed for more physically remote members who are not able to attend the club every Monday evening. They still have access to the club forum and receive the club magazine by post.
Temporary membership is designed to allow guests of the club to attend on a Monday or Saturday and to help out at Salute.
When was the first Salute?
In April 1972 the Club ran its first open day for the public and it was held at the Surrey Tavern at the Oval cricket ground.
How many people does Salute attract now?
Salute sees a small increase in attendance almost every year. Salute 2019 was no different — we saw over 6,000 people come through the doors on the day.
Does Salute exclusively focus on wargames, or has it broadened out to incorporate other hobbies?
Because most of the traders and gaming groups that attend the show are involved in wargames in some form or another the show does lean heavily towards wargaming, but we do try to promote and encourage other things.
Groups of re-enactors have a place in the show almost every year — sci-fi, fantasy, and historical. We also try to promote the painting side of the hobby with our Painting Competition which has grown year upon year.
How do you think the wargaming scene is doing in the UK?
Seeing the wargaming scene in the UK through my work, my hobby, and through Salute I see a great and varied mix of games being played. There seem to be new rules systems and miniatures coming out all the time, which is great. It’s as strong as ever.
Do the South London Warlords have any exciting plans for the future you can tell us about?
Obviously, our main plan each year is to put on the best Salute that we can. This takes a massive amount of our time to do and is something that we all love to be involved with. Also, a few members of the club have been running small events at our club hall — this year saw a Batman event and a ‘Too Fat Lardies’ day. I believe events like this will be a regular thing in the club year.
Great — lots to look forward to! Thank you very much for your time.
Thank you for inviting me to take part in this interview!
The South London Warlords meet every Monday evening at St. Barnabas Parish Hall in Gilkes Place, Dulwich Village. Salute 2020 is on the 18th April and tickets are £10 online. Find out more at www.salute.co.uk.