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Hist-of-Birka-art - 9/6/01


History of the Birka event, held in New Hampshire in the SCA East Kingdom.


NOTE: See also the files: Estrella-msg, GW-history-msg, Hastings-2000-art, Eald-hist-msg, SCA-hist1-msg, Two-Score-art, you-know-msg.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



Date: Tue, 9 May 2000 16:05:10 -0400

From: "Jim Revells" <sudnserv5 at netway.com>

Subject: Re: SC - Serving question & Feast Disaster (long)


On Feb. I attended Market Day at Birka XI, an event that I started 11 years ago in NH.  This is a letter I composed telling about it.  I put it up on the humor & Norsefolk list as well as the Baronial news etter but I think it has a few points that reenforce the current thread on events & service.  I may be wrong but I hope you enjoy this letter.

In the year before Birka I decided I wanted to run an event with a Viking theme.  Not knowing anything about how to do this I started planning too late to get it advertised in any of the News Letters except the local one, Carved In Granite.


To get the populace to attend I came up with the idea of going to near by events and passing out flyers. I rented the club house of my apartment complex because it had a Sauna  (Note to Authenticity Police: yes I know they are Finnish, but I like them & if the Vikings knew about them they-would-have-used-them)   and "a bubbling hot spring" (Note to Authenticity Police: see previous note)  ; got me a Feastocrat (Ragnar Mac Hardy) who didn't care that the hall didn't have a kitchen; and to get ready for the event.  We called it "A Viking's Home Coming" it was held in Oct.


The day before the event my former wife, Lady Jane of Stonemarche, made the suggestion that Ragnar and I really should start cutting up and cooking the 25# of Turnips that we needed for the Feast (a good thing too! Note to all future Feastocrats: Precook every thing you can before the day of the event!!) We cooked the Feast at my Apartment that evening.  The event went off well.  I had planned for 50 people, and we had 45 show up.  The Feast was well received.  We had less than 1# of Turnips left over and that was all we had left over (the secret was the Cream Onion sauce) .  The cost of the event, including damages to the site that I don't think we caused, was less than the money taken in-by $5.


This small event gave me confidence that I could run a big event.  It also made me familiar with the proper way to get official sanction of an event. I made this statement in front of the Baronial meeting, many having enjoyed the Homecoming event. They agreed that I should put together a plan to have a big event-"oh, 100-125 people" was what they thought I was talking about.


The original plan was to be a Viking themed merchanting event to be held in November so people could shop for Christmas gifts.  While talking to a group of friends about the event and what I planned, Fitz (yes Stonemarchers: that Fitz!) suggested that I base it on one of the Viking trading towns: Herbidy or Birka.  After a little research I decided that the visit of Anskar (later St. Anskar) was the right time frame and type of market I was looking for. I went to work looking for a hall in Nashua. What I found was the St. Stanisloff's complex. It had 2 halls one that would seat 150 people and the other that they claimed would seat 500.  The only problem was that both Halls were booked until Jan 3, therefore the event date got pushed to January. I did ask one thing of the Hall management, that they hold both halls until I could get approval. They said sure they could wait until mid December to have a firm answer. I put together my proposal and figured out how much I would need to make the small hall work or the big hall work.


At the Baronial meeting the description of the event met with wide approval. I had included every thing I liked to do at an event: Heavy Fighting,  A&S contest, Archery, Thrown Weapons, Food &  Merchants.  I even had a  few things that I thought other people would enjoy & might show up for: Fencing, Dancing and a Quest.  They bought the event as far as the small hall went, but balked at the big hall.  "You really think you could get enough people to come to an event in NH IN JANUARY to break even on the event???"


I replied "Yup. All I need to do is get 200 prepaid reservations and we'll break even."   They agreed that I could use the big hall if I got that many reservations.  Some how I don't think they believed I could do it but I had a few months to prove them wrong.


The first step was to put together a flyer on the event. The second was to attend an event every weekend to give out flyers, talk up the event, and take reservations. This meant going as far as 300 miles from home, but it worked and I got over 200 prepaid reservations at the Mt. Freehold Yule Festival just before the deadline.


The Barony honored the agreement, even though many people still worried that the event would back fire and bankrupt us. Well, everything went right up to the day of the event.  My Feastocrat, Lady Katarina Helena von Schoenborn was willing to cook a feast for 300 that included Grilled Lamb and a Fish dish. The populace of the Barony volunteered to do many different Jobs for me. I delegated every job I could ahead of time. We set up most of the merchants on Fri night.  All was in readiness - so we thought.


The troubles started early Sat morning. Katarina, due to the press of Mundane life did not have very much of the prep work for the Feast done ahead of time. This was the first major problem.  Katarina & the event were all saved by the Carolingian Cooks Guild joining the Stonemarche cooks in the Kitchen to prep the feast.  One of my most vivid memories of the feast was the sight of Master Kobioshie dressed in Japanese silk chopping vegetables- the man is very good with a knife.


The next major problem was the ovens.  When I checked the Hall Kitchen, I had checked the ovens.  First I turned on the left oven and made sure that one worked.  Then I turned it off and I turned on the right oven and it worked. Good.  The ovens in the Hall work right? Not according to Murphy!  Did you know that in Commercial double ovens there is a thing called a metering valve that when it breaks will allow either oven to work independently but will not allow both of the ovens to work at the same time?


Over half of the feast required baking.  When this was discovered, we went in search of the hall maintenance guy was off who knows where, but it took over 2 hours to find him.  In the meantime Lady Jane organized the local people to take the Feast to various homes to bake it there.


We let the merchants stay set up later than planned and announced that Feast would be late. We started the dancing while we waited for the Merchants to get torn down for Court. Court ran over long too so many people left to get dinner else where. Because the Feast was so late I announced in Court that anyone who stayed could eat.  The feast was very good when it was placed on the table and not just because we were all starving.


The rest of the Event went well. The merchants made money and people found treasures that they could not go home without.  Stick Jocks found out that it doesn't hurt that much to get hit when there is a foot of snow on the ground (at least not if you wear a gambison & warm up your armour before putting it on.)  The Barony made enough to pay for the event, pay for the hall for the next year and still have a little left over.  We had between 400-500 people attending.  All in all, the event was a success.


Birka I set the tone for Stonemarche with almost every one in the Barony being involved with putting it on in one way or another. There was an attatude "WE can get it done" that appears to continue through to today.  If it does then that, not the Event, is the more important legacy that we all created together.


Shortly after Birka I was asked, by several people, if I were going to the next Carolingian event. Katarina and I both attended and were made Companions of the Order of the Burdened Tyger.  One small funny thing: I am an early period Viking. Katarina is a late period German. My scroll was a beautiful late period floral patern; hers was done in Runes.


After I gave the report on Birka One at the Barony Meeting, I asked if I could do it again?  They eagerly agreed to Birka II, but you should have heard the moment of stunned silence when I said I was thinking maybe next year we could use both Halls (we did). Birka II was a sucess also, with far less pain and stress.  It exceeded the attendance of the first Birka despite the Gulf War.


We also had a crew from NH Public TV filming the event The TV segment turned out well too, very positive without too many inaccuracies. Maybe we should invite them back for Birka XII?


The Feast was handled by Seosamh O Choda with no excitement and YES, I Did Check BOTH OVENS at the same time that time!


I  had tenitive approval for and had been making plans for Birka III prior to Birka II when I found out I was being laid off of my job the day before Birka II. I asked a friend, Tamooj, to take over Birka III.  He also promptly lost his job, and his wife Deadra took over the event.  I merchanted at Birka III and IV.


Later I got divorced, then was forced by misfortune to move away from the area. I merchanted at Birka IX in a small way.  After years of trying I finaly convinced the owner of Sudden Service to open a store in the North East so now I'm back and very happy about it.  The main reason I came back was to be closer to my daughter Dawn, but coming back to be a part of the SCA here was also a major point.


That brings us up to Sat. Feb 5th.  It was a perfect day for a Winter event clear but not too cold. After getting dressed I started helping friends bring in their goods (Dina from Cloak & Dagger and Ewen from Longship Trading Co.).  It was very hard to accomplish anything for running into people I knew and the ones I thought I knew. Its embarassing to see someone that looks a lot like some one you know but you forget to add 8 years age to their faces.  Friends who didn't recognize me can be excused I've shaved my beard off and added 25 pounds.  I wound up working Troll for a couple of hours. It is the best way to see who is there but makes it hard to talk to them.  I found it great to see all the people who were there but I found myself missing a lot of people who weren't there:  Tamooj & Deadra, Dove,  Anna & Ekkehard, Rusty, Oskar, Kami & Michael, Killkaridan, Chad, Honest Sam, Michale, Bob just Bob, Semaj, Demian the Magyar,  Dannoff, Skia, Dameon, Rae Bradburry, Thora Sharptooth, and many others. I saw Master El but didn't get to hear him sing or tell a story, I finaly got to see Baroness Megan for the first time in 6 years.


The most fun I had at the event wasn't suprising people I was back- it was introducing Dawn to them.   After I left Dawn dropped out of the Society so most people haven't seen her since Birka III. She met me at the event and we cruised it together for a while.  The best was when I was talking to Wolf of Ulster.  When Dawn was younger she used to enjoy greeting Wolf by jumping into his lap and giving him a big hug.  This was fine, until she got to looking a lot older than her age. Being a Gentleman, he made her his "little sister" and warned away guys who didn't know her age (some times forcefully). I talked to him for 5 minutes before telling him that he should at least say hello to his SCA "sister".  The look from face down to feet to face again was a classic double take.  " You've grown up!" in a shocked voice was his response.  She is 20 now.


What did I think of the event you ask?  I have told many people that I am proud of what the Barony has done with the event.  Baroness A'isha bint Jamil, who was Autocrat this year  did a supurbe job on arranging and overseeing the event.  The site was huge with merchants and activites well spaced. (I heard over 100 merchants, 1000-1200 participants, 100+ fighters in the heavy list and about the same number for Fencers.) One of the really effective ideas they have come up with is a special cast pewter token for people who pre register.  This year it was a copy of the pendant of a Norse woman bearing a drinking horn. Many of the traditions I started are still being done: It still has a Norse orientation to the Event. I saw a lot higher % of Viking garb this year than the first year.  It has been a Royal Progress event all but one Year. The heavy list fighting was indoors this year, yet it is still the same basic sustained wound Ox skin Tourney except instead of dying if you step off the Ox skin you just lose your legs.  There were both Lamb and a Fish dish at the Feast.  A'isha and the other Autocrats  have taken my idea and allowed it to grow while still keeping the basic idea intact. Thank you all.


If anyone can come up with a complete list of the Autocrats & Feastocrats please send it to me also photos/video of any of the Birkas.


What is instore for the future Birka? I had been told A'isha doesn't plan to Autocrat Birka next year that leaves a question of who will.  People in Stonemarche are throwing around names.  I hear mine has even come up.  I would if no one else volenteered and it was a choice between me or no Birka, however I think that some one who lives in Stonemarche should be the one.  I haven't been a part of Birka for so long I don't know the inside of the event well enough to deligate jobs to the people who would get it done. Besides I don't think I could get my ideas approved without scaring everybody in Stonemarche to death.  Can you see the response to:


"Well what I have planned is a 2 day event at the big Hotel in Manchester that's attached to the old Armoury Hall- it looks very period- We'll  keep Sat for SCAdians but open on Sunday to the general public at 2 Bucks a Head for adults one for kids, we'll run it more like an SF Con than an Event, do some Radio and maybe TV advertising in NH & the Boston area too, shouldn't run us over $10K up front"


The realy scary part is that was my plan for Birka V. What are my plans for Autocrating?  Well I've been approched by several people from the Canton of Aschehyrst, where I now live, about possibly running a small event - watch the Pike Staff.



Lord Olaf Of Trollhiemsfjord,

Canton of Aschehyrst,

Barony of Carolingia,

Kingdom of the East


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org