Tuesday, July 7, 2015

An open letter to the Ansteorran College of heralds, July, 2015


This year's Heraldic and Scribal Symposium, though a runaway success, was also an eye opening event  for me. Despite 15 years in supporting roles at SCA events, over half of a decade of director and AD level work outside the society, the truth of the matter is that there are still things that just have to be experienced first hand in order to be learned.

That being said, I wanted to take a moment and present here some observations of mine from the event. I don't consider any of these particularly revolutionary or controversial, but I do think there are some talking points that might be worth offering up for general conversation. None of these are meant to accuse, or even imply any shortcomings from any person or group, but rather to inspire conversation, both within the kingdom, and perhaps abroad.

The teaching of how to actually sit down and physically make award insignia is an underrepresented skillset within the college of heralds. Making the awards that are handed down by the crown and their delegates is just as important as the scrolls that are written and illuminated for the same. I personally believe that heralds everywhere should work to include award making in their educational efforts, and the future stewards of AH&SS should consider an award-making track as a regular feature of the event.

After setting up for the symposium this year, I was fortunate to have access to someone's personal, and sizable supply of banners for decoration. What I can say is that while hanging those banners was no momentary activity (it took several people, a ladder, and a few hours), the return for the investment was well worth it. Nearly everyone I spoke with mentioned the decorations, and several people, specifically new  or newer members commented that the site helped make the event a better one for them.

In short, my advise to anyone considering decorating their event in the future is a hearty endorsement of the idea, if at all possible.

I think Mistress Sara Penrose will be able to verify that my decision to host this year's Symposium on the 4th of July was not universally popular. In retrospect, however, while we did lose attendance of some people, several others commented that the Friday before (which a lot of business and establishments did set as a holiday/day off) afforded them travel time and let them come to the event when they normally would not have been able to.

In the end, the decision to use the holiday was neither pro, nor con in itself, but did "shake things up", as it were, for event attendance. While I am not going to go (anywhere near) so far as to say you should try and schedule on holiday weekends, I would submit that this year's symposium makes a strong case that a holiday weekend is a time-frame worth considering, depending on the event and the audience.

As another point to consider, I deliberately set the schedule so that people could leave site at the close of the event and reasonably make it as far as Namron or Northkeep (Norman and Tulsa, OK) in time to see local fireworks. Additionally, We had a designated coordinator who lead anyone who wanted to go out to the local fireworks display. While the attendance was small, those who made the trip all agreed that the show was well worth it and put a good capstone on the day.

The "Instructor's Library" 
One last thing that I did with some measure of success was to put a table out in the hallways and advertise it as a place for instructors to place two or three copies of their class handouts for people to read if they didn't make it to the class. Totally voluntary, totally open, no one to stand by and monitor anything. By the end of the day the collection of papers was modest, but still respectable. I got a lot of feedback from teachers who were glad to the added outlet, and a lot of feedback from attendees who were glad for the chance to see class notes that they otherwise wouldn't even have known about.

In closing,

All told, the event itself was an amazing success, and I feel like I both learned a lot, and showed a lot of people that I have something to "bring to the table" when talking about SCA event organisation.

As is usually the case, my perspective on things is shaped largely on a very different history than is the "average" in most situations, and I like to think I bring a good contrast of ideas, even if my own aren't always "good" upon detailed inspection.

As I said above, (and I want to say here, just to be sure) this letter is entirely about sharing ideas, and spurring conversation. No part of it in meant as (or should be read as) one-ups-manship, or "I know how to run an event." [just covering my bases with that little disclaimer].

I look forward to seeing what AH&SS looks like next year, and seeing what the event steward does with it.

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"