It has been reporting season again, where shire officers report upwards about the activities within the arts, sciences, martial activities, and the general health of the Principality. Reports from our seneschals have shown a positive round of activities across the board. COVID has not gone away, but with caution and confidence, these Isles have generated plenty of activity, and pleasingly, for many new faces.
Reporting has a reputation of being a chore and I understand that, having held several reporting roles over the years. I am interested in ways to make this process work well. Having a real world administrative career, my philosophy is such that reports are there to be acted upon. They document your progress, and tell that to the next level up. But that story, as well as any issues or questions you are looking to resolve, needs to be responded to. They should not be there as a piece of creative bureaucracy and left to never see the light of day in someone’s inbox. As such, my report to Kingdom, minus any confidential parts, has been circulated with the group seneschals here, and we are looking to book in a chat about how things are going and discuss the topics within.
I would be very interested in your views on how we can make reporting more collaborative, and most importantly, relevant in assisting the running of these Isles – drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insulae Draconis continues to deliver the goods when it comes to events. The Shire of Depedene hosted a successful Crown, catering for a large list of entrants at one of our most photogenic of sites. The sunshine, the feasting, the courts and the fun has been a joy spread across the various social media platforms.
Baronial events abound in Eplaheimr. Their energy is boundless and opportunities across that fair land have been duly exploited. I was also heartened to see that Klakavirki hosted His Majesty at their first in-person event since the Before Times. This quarter’s report has been full of news of workshops, armouring days, online discourses, feasts, revels, and fighter practices. I myself was down in Exeter, in the South West reaches of West Dragonshire, meeting new members and also the familiar face of Alex of Long Riston as he settles into Plymouth there. My family live in Devon, so any activities in that previously sleepy part of the Isles is most welcome.
However, this swathe of activity is not without looming clouds, clouds that are affecting other voluntary, sporting and social organisations. Still, I am hopeful that our traditional structure of everyone mucking in to build this society can help us prevail.
Last month, I put a call out for a suitably experienced event steward for our Big Summer Event, but I am sad to report that as yet, no-one has stepped forward. If you are interested, please drop me a line for an informal chat and we can talk through your questions and the proposals involved.
I also put out a call for venue logging, for both our existing venues and new ones. However, I am also sad to report that only one new venue was logged. This data is vital for keeping our costs as value for money as possible, our events as accessible as possible and to find sites that can fit larger events. By the end of my tenure, I am really hoping that we will have tackled the issue of events selling out too fast, and our members not feeling excluded due to access and costs.
Please file your site suggestions here: https://forms.gle/LPTvZqSkznm8pQj77
Social Media Officer needed
The Talented Henric van Casteel is stepping down as Social Media Officer without anyone volunteering to come forward. One of the strengths of our community is its online presence, but we are likely to lose visibility, a welcoming presence for new online members, and keeping a sentinel watch for trolls and other problematic characters. We really could do with this role being filled.
Deputy – Fundraising needed
I am looking for a deputy to pick up on fundraising ideas for the Principality. So far, we have relied on ad hoc efforts within major events to support the Travel Fund, etc. This is honestly a bit unfair on the event organisers to add to their organising, so I am looking for someone who can shake the hat, drive the raffles, whisper the donations to the Principality. Your role will sit as a deputy for either myself or the Exchequer, this will be determined as the position develops. The logic behind this is discussed below.
Some Thoughts on Hamlets and Boundaries
I once did some review work on old copies of Baelfyr since its start in the 1990s. It was interesting to note that we have seen quite a few groups rise and fall over the years, so boundaries are not absolute or permanent.
The recent Parliament at Bourn last August raised the discussion about how our existing boundaries of groups are causing quite a few structural problems, namely in the way some of them are simply too big for effective support to individual members, travel distance, etc. As a geographer by education, and with a fondness for interrogating maps, this is an issue I am keen to resolve, or at least mitigate.
Hamlets are an informal and unofficial geographic gathering of members. I see them as a form of household based on locality. It is there as a minimal paperwork way of creating an identity to support members within that area in their participation in the SCA, holding activities according to their needs and interests.
There are two broad ways for a Hamlet to be used. The first has been to define a sub-group within an existing Shire (or Barony) where there are members who potentially could get together, but are not in regular reach of the existing shire’s centre of gravity.
This has worked before, but it also hasn’t. There is a risk of seeing new members who emerge in an area not traditionally supported by a group being presented with the idea of a Hamlet, but from their point of view, their understanding, involvement and comfort of being with the SCA is very new and unfamiliar. Thus, being told as part of your new experience of the SCA that you are now part of forming a new group is somewhat daunting, let alone an imposition.
A secondary implication of a hamlet is that it is transitional on to another format – e.g. a new Shire or a Baronial canton. This raises concerns about challenging Shire numbers and existing boundaries, creating politics. This is a natural reaction, and sometimes the personalities and aspirations of our members is not always harmonious and a new group creation would be the logical conclusion of such tensions. As I mention at the start, boundaries are not absolute, nor permanent.
There has been considerable debate on the issue that, Shires especially, there is a concern about not being able to support activity within boundaries, limited by existing radii around venues and gatherings. This is not surprising, though the idea of reducing shire boundaries by handing land back to the Principality for notional stewardship provokes counter-arguments about whether and how we interact with interest outside reduced borders, as well as dismay by existing members losing a sense of affiliation.
What I would like to propose is to draw from the practice of English Ceremonial Counties. If we hold our group to be analogous to Ceremonial Counties, we can look to Hamlets as recognising our existing centres of gravity without needing to cut down group boundaries. There is nothing to stop horse-trading boundaries between groups, with a nod into the next Parliament. For example, Plymouth practically is a Unitary Authority, concentrating on local activity, yet they are culturally still very much part of Devon. By forming a Hamlet around a centre of gravity, the strength and the limit of group activities is reinforced, setting expectations appropriately without disrupting existing group cultures. Thus, a more accurate picture of where the strengths of a Shire lies. They also do not have to be within existing shire boundaries – e.g. SW London, Surrey and Sussex, Bristol, Lyneham, etc.
Remember, this is an optional tool, not a prescription. Ideas only work if those who are participating like them and are willing to put in the effort.
Efforts to support and improve our events will be ongoing and I look forward to discussions with everyone in regard to this.
With our illustrious Exchequer and her successor, I will be looking at our finances in the coming months. There is clearly still a lot of mythology as to our financial status, particularly confusion between not-for-profit (which we are) and no-profit (which we are not). We are primarily an events-based economy and that has many implications. The CIC has a bank account that is separate to us and is focused on insurance and sundry finances. The Principality holds another bank account. These are administered by experienced accountants up to date on tax law.
What does need working on though is the policy for which the Principality bank account operates. Over the years, we have been creating “pots” to cover the likes of subsidised Royal travel, Regalia, etc. Some of these pots are redundant, and new “pots” have come about – e.g. the new Risk Fund to encourage events. We are looking at another possible pot to support the membership in travel, but without a consistent and up to date approach, as well as a steady income into the Principality pots, we will not be in a position to support these aims. Prior to COVID, the funding level was steadily being drawn down. Bourn 2022 lost a serious amount of money for the Principality and is the driver behind a stronger planning cycle for next year. While it is a good thing to have a reasonable reserve, we cannot absorb too many more such losses.
That will do for now. So many things, so little time.