So, in Calontir, as you may know from reading past entries, I’m the Principal Herald. This means that I lead volunteers within my regional group in heraldic activities ranging from vocal to sign, heraldic art to book (names and devices), and everything in between.
When I stepped into the job, I knew I wanted to build heraldic community as much as I could, so that heralds across the kingdom could ask questions and get answers from other heralds in their own backyard. What a better way than to have a heraldic retreat?
In this blog entry, I’ll go through the ways that the heraldic retreat was put together, and how you can do one in your own kingdom.
My biggest help was having a deputy I could say, “hey, you want to help run a non-event?” It was also good to have someone that I could bang out ideas with, and get feedback on. My deputy was great in going, “hey, maybe you should think about informal classes? And maybe downtime where nothing is scheduled, so if a question comes up, others could answer it!” Make sure this person is someone you can trust to run this event – someone who can be your brain.
The other part was finding a good site that was otherwise unscheduled for the date we were hoping for. Thanks to a local herald-groupie (as she calls herself), we were able to use her giant house for the retreat. This allowed us to hang out, watch SCA-centric movies, swim, do heraldic art, and enjoy each others’ company. An additional perk was having wi-fi, so we could show newer heralds how to use OSCAR (Online System for Commentary and Response) so they could comment on names and devices themselves.
Once we had those two things, it was business as usual for an non-event. Much like SCA events, it’s making sure the news gets out. We posted on social media and the kingdom heralds’ list every Friday until the day of the event. Serendipitously, one of our senior heralds called it a “semi-informal” event, which somehow came out as being “simian formal,” and voilá, we had a theme for the event. (And then my deputy got the brilliant idea for t-shirts, so, we ended up with those, too.) I also grabbed heralds at other events and asked them to consider teaching classes at the retreat.
Food for the dinner at the event was handled by potluck, and divided up by region. For example, this is how we divided up our potluck (instead of by name, because there are quite a few people in the SCA with names at the front half of the alphabet):
Central – main dishes (since we have the least distance to travel)
Northeast – bread and butter and cheese (possibly the greatest distance to travel)
Northwest – salads or fruit or veggies
Southwest – desserts
Southeast – drinks (also possibly a great travel distance)
For breakfast, my deputy and I provided cold cereal and warm cinnamon rolls, as well as orange juice and milk, once we got a decent headcount of those who would be attending, which we kept track of using a spreadsheet and a Facebook event.
After this, it was waiting for the event, and making sure that classes happened and more importantly, people showed up. To help with getting people to the event was that my deputy had a pizza board sign made with two crossed trumpets. We also put out a sign that also had a monkey on it so people knew they made it to the right place.
When people arrived, they were greeted and handed a small token: a small rubber chimpanzee (we kind of like our jokes here). These were something that we saw at a local toy store and kind of ran with the joke, but it worked out well for us.
One of the downsides was that our retreat did run on the last weekend of Pennsic, so we didn’t have those heralds. Others had attacks of life. All of these things will happen if you choose to have an event like this, and I think it’s an important thing to learn in general. It would be wonderful to have the entire College of Heralds attend, but sometimes, it’s just not possible.
We also had some wonderful classes scheduled. A class to paint heraldic banners, a basic device consultation, basic conflict-checking, and even classes on the new heraldic handbook that’s going to be coming out for Calontir soon. All were well attended, and I can say that those who attended basic conflict-checking learned much from the instructor. So much, that they were trying to conflict check things on OSCAR later that evening, which adds so much more joy to my job as Principal Herald.
On the other hand, we had plenty who weren’t going to Pennsic or had clear weekends. Classes happened. Banners were painted. Silly photos of heralds and Principal Herald were taken. And at the end of the weekend, people had fun and learned how awesome heraldry is within the SCA.
4 thoughts on “Heralds Running Amok; or How to Put Together a Heraldic Retreat”
Sounds like fun was had by all!
Definitely! We may have to have another again soon.
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Another retreat happened this year, and I am pleased to say that it was even better this go around!
Things I learned in between last year’s retreat and this year’s retreat:
Conflict is going to happen. I don’t mean conflict between people (though that can happen), but I do mean that the event will conflict with something. In this case, the retreat again conflicted with Pennsic, so we lost heralds there. On the other hand, we had nineteen heralds attend – up from last year’s numbers of around ten heralds, so the numbers got doubled.
That brings me to my second point: advertise often. Tell about perks of the site, what to expect, and what the classes will be. Look for connections. Advertising started with a Facebook event page that was launched in mid-May, with the event happening in mid-August. From May to mid-June, sporadic posts occurred, with weekly posts from mid-June point to the day of the event. Additionally, we set up a Google Form to have people sign up for the event so we would have a more accurate headcount.
So, I scheduled a lot of classes, and tried to make them all fit. This really didn’t work as well as I would have hoped. In the future, I would suggest a few key classes, and then leave time for people to hang out – a lot of work got started (including an impromptu session to register some things for the kingdom and a few preprints painted for Their Majesties to use), and I think by having more time to work on those things without the pressure of having to take a class helps.
We had tee-shirts again, with a theme of “Trousers of Nobility: Even Drunk, We’re Good at This!” In keeping with the theme, we had drunk OSCAR commentary Friday night after most the people staying the night had arrived. Make sure that if you have drunk commentary that you have 1) a sober person to type commentary and to filter out the drunken ideas and 2) a good (sober) moderator, as like with any commentary, things can get enthusiastic. And then, after drunk commentary, drunk star-gazing at the Perseids was quite a bit of fun, too.
In assisting with the post-mortem of the event, a survey (also done on Google Forms) was put out to those who attended so we could better gauge what could be done to improve the event. This can be shared with the organizers of next year’s retreat, and can help to figure out and zero in on things that the College needs to build on in the coming year.
Thank your host. Clean up things. Keep things clean, and respect the space. Thank people for coming. Basically, be a good human, and be aware of things.
I am tickled that this went relatively smoothly, and I hope that next year’s organizers do an even better job.