Wednesday, 11 September 2013

On Small and Informal Events

The diversity of the SCA means that there is a great spectrum of events, from the exquisite formal Crown events, where the finest garb and arts may be shown off to great effect, to the intimate, informal events, with a much more relaxed feel. The bigger events tend to get a lot more of the attention (as is natural), but there is great value to the smaller events that is sometimes overlooked.

What does a small event bring to the SCA? There are several things which can be brought forth from such situations, including a very different feel bigger from the larger events (with several benefits), and a wonderful opportunity for training people in the various roles.

A small, informal event has a very different feel from the larger, more formal events. While formal events let us show off the best of our works, the expectation of being at our best can make the preparations somewhat more involved. Given this, and the more regulated schedules that are necessary when there are multiple things to get done, mean that an informal event can have a much more relaxed atmosphere.

One of the effects of this more reduced atmosphere is that, for new members, it can make those in authority (such as the local Baron and Baroness) more approachable than they would be at a formal event.

The team required for a formal event includes a large number of roles, including steward, kitchen crew, heralds, listkeepers, gate staff, and more. An experienced crew can help to induct inexperienced members into these, but at a formal event, there can be the impression that it's too hard to start out. Those who've been running events for longer than a Collegian has been alive make it look almost effortless. At an informal event, it can be less intimidating, and if the group's culture has a focus of encouraging people to "have a go" at their smaller events, it can build a skills base among the populace.

Take the example of the Politarchopolis Baronial Sunday for a training occurrence. The steward's job is made simpler and less intimidating, as the hall is already arranged, no kitchen crew is required as it's a pot-luck event, and being a theoretically-monthly event, there is at least a small group who can be reasonably expected to be in attendance every month. If a tourney runs, the list-keeping and field heraldry jobs will be available, and with nothing particularly at stake, it's less nerve-wracking than it otherwise might be (heralds are particularly guilty of deep-end training: I've seen people use Crown Tourney as their first field heraldry experience). The regular constables can have their numbers boosted by those who wish to train as gate keepers. As for the kitchen crew training, a pot-luck feast is a great way to build some experience with cooking period recipes, and gives a captive and willing testing audience for new recipes.

One of the inevitable effects of being good at running events is being asked to do so more often. This can be stressful, and possibly lead to a particular crew becoming burned out from the load. By training more people to help, it can spread the load about and decrease burnout.

Finally, by having a good collection of smaller informal events, interspersed around the larger formal events, there are more opportunities to get into garb, and enjoy an event, without the massive increase of workload on event crews as having such regularly-occuring events on the formal scale. More activity is good.

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