Pennsic is rapidly approaching and we are starting to work on some plans to make it an even better experience for any newcomers in attendance. We are reaching out to all of the Chatelaines who will be attending Pennsic, for we need your help to again implement our ideas.
We are going to once again have a dedicated Newcomers track of classes. It will be open and available to newcomers during Pennsic, at a location that is easy to find at the center of activity. Newcomers can take classes geared towards newer members and learning about the SCA and/or ask questions. Right now we are looking to first fill the time slots of 10 am – 5 pm from the Thursday of Peace Week through Wednesday of War Week (8/2/17 – 8/8/17) for Newcomer oriented classes. If we can fill those time slots, we can open up additional days and hours. I have already scheduled a couple of classes, and we are in the process of scheduling a Newcomer’s Social/Ask a Chatelaine Q & A Session, but that leaves many time slots that we need to fill with classes. And that is where you all come in. We need your help to assist with teaching classes.
You don’t need to be a Chatelaine to teach a newcomers class. These classes will need to be registered through Pennsic University like any other class being taught at Pennsic, but on the special request/accommodation part of the form, you will need to fill in “Please schedule this as part of the “Newcomer Track” in the tent set aside for newcomers (tent 19).” We are specifically looking for classes geared toward individuals who are new to the SCA. This is less about offering classes on beginner A&S topics, because individuals can seek those types of classes out on their own if they are interested, and more about helping newcomers to get acclimated and interested in the SCA. For example, a couple of years ago there was a class specifically about Pennsic and what was offered there for newcomers (and it included a guided tour). Another great class could be a guide to how court works. These are just some suggestions, but we really do need your experience and excitement about the SCA to make this a success. We are also looking for classes specific to Chatelaines and training or discussion groups. They could also be booked in the same tent. So if you have any interest in teaching some classes designed to help Chatelaines, that would be fantastic!
We are also going to have a dedicated Newcomers’ Point. Our goal is to have a place that is open and available to newcomers, where they can feel comfortable and learn more about the event and the SCA in general. Newcomers’ Point will be a set place where Newcomers can come to ask questions or get information about the SCA and/or Pennsic. We will also be able to help Newcomers get involved with their local group after Pennsic. It will be located under the same tent as the Pennsic Watch, and we will need your help staffing the tent. Please consider having your Kingdom sponsor a day of volunteering at Newcomers Point. We will be posting more about volunteer opportunities as it gets closer.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s work together to make this Pennsic amazingly special for newcomers!
Duchess Kalisa Aleksandrovna
In the SCA, we need to stay focused not only on retention of our membership but also on recruiting new people. Sometimes in group dynamics, we think “Well, hey… we have 15 people, I have played this game with them for the last five years… why do we need anyone new?” Without new people, a group becomes stagnant and members tire of trading officer positions and autocratting duties between such a small number. This leads to people being overloaded, and suddenly you find older members fading away.
By having demonstrations (“demos”) and recruiting new members, the work can be passed around, resulting in less burned-out veteran SCAdians. As a former canton chatelaine, I will share what I have learned about doing SCA demos.
Before you schedule your first demo, look at your group. What is your SCA group’s composition? Is it mostly people working 9-to-5 and/or over three dozen people with small children? Or is it a lot of college-age people with variable schedules? The reason why you need to ask yourself this question is that you probably should not attempt scheduling a demo at 1 pm in an elementary school if 99% of your populace is at work and won’t be able to get time off.
Questions to ask your group
The best way to avoid having to cancel a demo is to ask these questions at an SCA meeting:
How many people can do a demo during the day or evening?
What is an impossible time to have a demo on a weekday?
Which times are best?
How often should we hold demos?
In this busy world where there can be an event every weekend, plus sewing circles, dance practices, heavy fighting and archery practices, people will burn out quickly if they have three or four demos a month. Some groups only wish to demo once a month; others twice or three times. It’s also best to agree on bad dates, such as Pennsic war week, the week between the holidays of Christmas and New Year’s, etc. It is also a good idea to ask how on short a notice can your group organize a demo? A week? A month? Twenty-four hours?
Should we charge for the demo?
That is a question best decided by your group. I know that in my canton, if we do a demo at a movie theater, it usually gave us free tickets. That was pretty cool, very visible, and got us media coverage. It made for a great exchange of services. We did demos for some non-profit organizations where we opted for either a greatly reduced fee or none at all. If the event is for the sole purpose of making money (such as a Renaissance fair), or a wedding coordinator or event planner wants to hire your group, then you should receive some compensation for your services. Once again, this sliding fee scale is best determined by your officers and populace.
How to get demo requests?
How do we get demos if no one requests one? Well, most likely no one knows about you. The best way to solve this problem is to find out who is the event coordinators at the local library. If you have a small library, it’s properly the librarian. Send a letter, maybe a few pictures and let them know your group is a non-profit organization dedicated teaching people about the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods. They will put the information on file and the next time they have an event such as Chaucer’s birthday party or a Shakespeare week, you may well get a call.
You will want to do the same for local theaters, colleges, and schools. Your letter has to be simple, to the point, and able to give them the basics. It’s also advisable to send informational letters to bookstores and fabric stores. Some fabric stores offer classes on how to make things, so they may want a person to come in chat about what clothing of the Middle Ages looked like, how to work with what patterns are out there, how to select fabrics. Most of the time, people will just want basic Renaissance fair stuff, but occasionally you will encounter some one who genuinely wants to learn how to make good period clothes… that person could be a potential SCA member. Remember, in sending those letters, be very careful you never sell your group as a “Renaissance-fair-in-a-box.”
What is a “Renaissance-fair-in-a-box?”
If you use this phrase, people will assume you are promising your group as entertainment. Many people think we are an extension of a Renaissance fair, with fire-eaters, jugglers, and jousting with horses. If not corrected, this misconception can lead to misunderstanding and a unsatisfactory demo for both parties. In order to avoid this, keep a pad of paper by the telephone and when you are called, ask these questions:
Who are you? If they don’t identify themselves, how can they be reached later?
What is the organization, the date of the desired demo, and amount of time you’re expected to be there? You might want to repeat this back to the caller to verify everything.
What is the location (with cross streets or identifying markers) in order to direct people there? This is important because if the demo falls in another SCA group’s lands, you should direct the person to that group as a matter of courtesy.
What do they expect? If they just want a few craftspeople and a display of fighting weapons, then don’t talk them into fencing, fighting, and dancing. A simple, well-organized demo is better than an elaborate one requiring a ton of people.
Indoors or out? Don’t go into the demo blind; ask ahead of time whether it will be indoors or outside. What will the fighters be expected to fight on? If it’s July and will most likely be 90 degrees out, I suggest talking to the fighters first to see if they are willing to do a demo on asphalt. If it’s a location with a wooden floor, you may have to ask that no one falls over dramatically or goes to their knees in armor.
What facilities will be available? Will we have tables for arts and sciences displays, or does our group need to bring them? Are there showers on-site that the fighter can use after battle?
Use SCA terms they will not understand without also providing an explanation. Words like: garb, seneschal, gold key, chatelaine. Say, “I will need to talk to our seneschal, which is what we call our chapter president.” Or “I am called a chatelaine, it’s our term for the event coordinator or welcome wagon.”
Say derogatory things about other groups, even if they are not SCA. If the person adores the Renaissance fair, reply that while those are a lot of fun, we are not entertainment performers. We recreate or demonstrate. Never let your personal bias creep in to make you sound negative. Be firm on what you can do but never slam roleplaying groups or Renaissance fairs. This person may interpret you as a snob and you may lose an opportunity to hold a demo.
Never commit your group to something right off the bat. Take the information and tell the person you will get back to them.
What if what they want is not what we do?
If they ask for something outside your group’s scope, then politely tell them what your group can offer: a display of medieval arts & sciences crafts, fencing, or heavy fighters. If no one in your group dances, then don’t mention it. Also, if the demo is supposed to occur over several hours, make sure you discuss how long the fighters can fight and how often they’ll need rest breaks.
During the first contact, repeat what you have been told and make sure you understand the person correctly. Let’s say our fictional demo is a Shakespeare week kick-off party at the main library on a Saturday that doesn’t conflict with a major event. They want people in Elizabethan clothes and fencers to do a fighting display in the main entrance with 20-foot tall ceilings and a 25-foot-square roped-off area with a marble floor. Hopefully, they would like someone to talk about life in the age of Queen Elizabeth for children between the ages of eight and 12.
At this time, tell the person you need to talk to your group and you will call them back in a given time frame (week, day, whatever) to confirm. This gives you the time to get on your group’s discussion list/Facebook group/etc. or go to a business meeting to present the demo and ask whether there is interest, how many people can participate, etc. You will need a marshal, authorized fencers, and people with Elizabethan clothes. Does anyone want to do the children’s class? Hopefully, there is a show of hands, and the date is good, and you call the person back and commit.
What to do if there’s no interest
What if the group is lukewarm at best and no one wants to do the demo? To put it simply, call back the person and say you cannot do the demo.
If the demo is just too good to pass up, you might want to check with the baronial chatelaine (if you’re in a canton or shire) or with the chatelaines from nearby baronies to see if recruiting people from those groups will make it possible.
What if they are asking for nothing like what we agreed on?
This why you have your notes of your group’s decision. Refer to what was agreed upon — the time of day, what activities you’re providing. If you arrive at the demo and the person says, “But where’s the live steel demonstration?” you can reply, “I talked to Joan on July 7th and I told her at that time we use rattan in combat. We agreed to three 15-minute displays over a three-hour period.” In the years I organized demos, I rarely had a complaint because when you have your notes as reference, it tends to help people remember things more correctly.
I also suggest that when doing a demo for a Renaissance fair or an event planner, send them a copy in writing. An example would be:
October 3, 2016
Weddings ‘R’ Us
Attn: Tara Lyn Colby
123 Main Street
Anyplace, NY 13902
Thank you for allowing the Society for Creative Anachronism, Shire of Sterlynge Vayle, to organize a demonstration at the Broome County Renaissance Fair. We will be on site by 10:00 am as agreed on February 8, 2016.
We will have two period pavilions in place. From the hours of 11:00 am to 5:00 pm, we will hold one 15-minute set of fighting either with rattan weapons or fencing. We will take an hour lunch break at 12:00 noon. We will have people wandering the fair in clothes of the Middle Ages to contribute ambiance, and we will have a tent with our crafts displayed.
We appreciate your offer of room to camp overnight and use of the gymnasium showers. We understand that there are no ground fires allowed, and we must be careful when setting up our tents to protect the sprinkler system. A groundskeeper will be on-hand to help us.
We also agreed on a fee of $50 to be delivered in a check made out to “SCA – Canton of Edgewater,” to be given to me at the end of the demo on the February 9.
Event Coordinator for the SCA Shire of Sterlynge Vayle (Chatelaine)
SCA Name: Peg the Alewife
123 Bythway Road
Anyplace, NY 13902
When it’s time for the check, there should be no misunderstanding of amount, time commitments, or just what you agreed to provide.
It’s the day of the demo – now what?
Try to get there ahead of the participants. That way, you can be a traffic manager and get people set up the way they need to go.
It’s also important to interact with whomever you’re doing the demo for and make sure you’re still on the right page. Contact them before, during, and after the demo. If they’re happy, they will tell a few people; if they’re seriously unhappy, they will tell a lot more people.
You also will want to set up a table with SCA information for interested people to take home with them. You also will want a sign-up board so you can e-mail or send information to those folks who sign up on it.
There’s a guy here from the TV or the press
You or the seneschal should talk to them to give them the basic information about the SCA and why you’re there. If people are interested in you, tell them how to contact the SCA. Remember that any time you face coverage by the media, the seneschal needs to be informed (and your media officer, if you have one).
At the end of the demo, be sure to thank all the people who helped, and stick it out to clean up if needed. Follow up with the person who requested the demo to make sure they are happy. Then go home… and hopefully you have made new contacts for your group.
Welcome to our interview with the Kingdom Chatelaine, THL Desiderata Drake. This is the fifth in our series of interviews with Kingdom officers, to learn what they do.
What are your job responsibilities? As Kingdom Chatelaine, I am responsible for promoting the growth of the Kingdom by providing Regional and Local Chatelaines with training and support for newcomer recruitment activities and member retention strategies.
What do you enjoy most about the office? I love seeing the excitement and wonder in newcomers as they discover the SCA. I also really enjoy encouraging and supporting the local chatelaines. They are all really passionate about the position, and have wonderful ideas on how to keep The Dream alive for newcomers and current members as well.
Where can people find information about the office? People can find information about the Chatelaine’s office on the website here.
What are your goals for the office? My number one goal is positive communication, both within the Chatelaine’s office, and between the Chatelaines and the membership. Communication between Chatelaines often leads to additional ideas and resources – especially for planning demos, and connecting newcomers with people who may be more familiar with a specific area of interest.
What was your first event in the SCA? My first event in the SCA was helping with a demo. I had been to a few meetings and fencing practices, then helped Angel’s Keep with an Earth Day Demo at Cayuga Community College in 2006 (see photo at right). I was in borrowed garb (which I later bought because I loved it so much), the belt was from Walmart, and the purse I made myself (it fell apart the next day). My first real event was the following weekend at Axes & Ales in Sterlynge Vayle.
What made you stay? At first, I stayed because of the guys with long hair, the parties, and the ability to wear dresses that I could spin around and around in. Now, I stay because of the friendships which are more like family, the opportunity for hands-on learning of so many different A&S things, and helping people find their passion in the SCA. And spinning in dresses.
Are you looking for deputies? All of the Kingdom and regional deputy positions are currently filled, but I’m always looking to train additional people. If interested, please send me an email at email@example.com
The Region 5 Deputy Chatelaine, Vrouw Lijsbet de Kuekere, will be stepping
down at the end of April. I thank her for her years of service, and wish her
well in her future endeavors.
Those interested in becoming the next Region 5 Deputy Chatelaine should
submit a letter of interest to me via email by March 31.
What does a Regional Chatelaine do?
A regional deputy to the Kingdom Chatelain is one who helps collect and
compile local officer reports, sets regional goals for the office, helps to
train and educate local officers in office duties and responsibilities, and
keeps the lines of communication open between Kingdom and local levels.
Requirements of the Office:
Current SCA Membership. Active and responsive on internet, email, and social media on a regular basis. Residence in Region 5 is preferred, but not required.
If you have an interest or questions regarding the Region 5 Deputy
Chatelaine position, please feel free to contact me.