On the weekend we ran the Combined Guilds Event. This is a kingdom-level event, ie for the whole SCA medieval group in Australia and New Zealand.
We used the Old Goulburn Brewery, which was designed by convict architect Francis Greenway. It still operates as a rather charming if somewhat moth-eaten boutique brewery.
There isn’t a kitchen available, so we had to make do with a pie oven, a frypan and an outdoors campfire.
We’re actually pretty capable with all these, and put on a fine feast including individual venison pies, some stews, tarts and delicacies. We cheated a bit and outsourced the roasted chickens to Coles, but we did make a savoury orange sauce to go with them. I’d give us eight out of ten for the feast.
The event was also the annual ball event for the medieval dancers, and I particularly enjoyed that part.
There were a variety of classes, and I ran a session on an “instant herb garden” where we made up soil blocks and participants planted them with seeds of the herbs they didn’t yet have in their gardens.
Nevertheless, the event had some problems.
Mostly, it was that numbers were low (30 people). It was OK for the dance event, but the crafts bit didn’t really meet critical mass. The advertising was decent, but not enough people came to generate the sort of energy we wanted.
In our local group, we haven’t yet got over some recent health challenges. Some people just happened to be out of town that weekend, or had unscheduled personal issues. You can never suit everybody, and you never get everybody to a particular event. But the end result was that we only had three locals there apart from Allison and myself.
This event was just one week after another small medieval event in Goulburn. Our incoming Seneschal (local President) and her partner wanted to run a small tournament and Royal Visit, and didn’t want to run it in conjunction with the Guild Event, to avoid being overshadowed. And the royals weren’t available for the guild event because of the aforesaid wedding. In retrospect, I’m sure that having two events in subsequent weeks reduced interest in the second one, so we shouldn’t have done it that way.
In the wider SCA, it clashed with a big wedding in the Canberra medieval community, as well as some other events around the country and a one-off international event that took away the rapier community. This guild event is particularly hard to co-ordinate, because of the disparate interests of the guilds. In general, you can’t worry too much about “mundane” conflicts — there is always something. But his time we were bitten harder than usual.
In anticipation of a loss, we were really frugal with the food costs, shopping for specials and using as much from the farm as we could. We made our own pastry and were extra careful not to have any waste. In the end we even made a modest profit on the event.
The other problem we had was simple manpower. Allison and I worked flat out in the latter stages, kind of like the first days of the local group. We don’t have any wwoofers at present, which might have helped. Clair and her sister Karen helped us with some prep work. Tig did a great job with the timetable. On the day, we had assistance from Pink, Margaret and Anne (a newcomer). But we ended up quite worn out.
We have learned some lessons from this event. In the past, we’ve usually worked at full stretch, hoping madly that nothing goes wrong, and we’re usually OK. But I think we’ll now work a little more conservatively, with longer breaks between big events.
More co-ordination with all the different groups would have helped, though it’s really time-consuming. We needed to promote the event in person, at other events, also hard to do.
And we need to acknowledge the vagaries of fortune, and not worry about it too much.