TDN Conference

Copied from http://druidnetwork.org/conference

The first ever TDN Conference, entitled “Expressions of Druidry” was held on Saturday 20th November 2010 at the Bilberry Hill Centre, Lickey, in the English West Midlands. As one of the organisers I’d like to offer a few thoughts of my own, along comments from others who participated in the event. The idea for the conference was mooted at the 2010 AGM, in March, when someone noted that the lovely old, slightly battered residential community centre we were in would make a wonderful venue for a conference. Immediately adjacent the beautiful Lickey Hills woodland yet close enough to main line railway and bus stations, and with some (if basic) accommodation… a team was set up to investigate, prepare, book and run a conference… a theme was developed.

Expressions of Druidry.

Druid… Druidry… these words have so many meanings attached to them. What lay at the heart of them that was shared when all else was stripped away? Coincidentally, The Druid Network was attempting to determine this for a different reason – working with the Charity Commission to define our own interpretation of Druidry as Religious Practice, in order to establish our ethics whilst complying with the legal requirements for an organisation supported by subscription. As it happened, the Charities decision found in our favour only weeks before the conference, and we built up to the event even as we reacted to the media interest in ‘a religion of druidry’.

The theme for the conference, then, was based about bringing together as many Druid insights as reasonable practicable in one day, and present them all as “Expressions of Druidry”. Many folk from within the TDN Membership, and many folk outside of it, responded and offered to speak – to present their Druidries (is that a word?). Stallholders offered to present different and negotiable opportunities, and we booked a fabulous double act of James Faupel and Marianne van der Es for the evening’s entertainment. Makeshift, homemade and borrowed, the visual and sound equipment was set up late on the Friday night, seats and stall tables were set out, posters blue-tacked to windows, and away to bed, for dawn approaches!

Speakers: 

  • Andrew Brennand spoke on Druidry in the RE Curriculum, and how the new religious movements including Druidry are being incorporated into teaching. 
  • Laurence Main told tales of Leylines and regaled us with myth.
    (Rob Wilson’s car having unfortunately broken down on the way in, he was unable to speak and we were grateful to Laurence for offering to speak)
  • Mark Townsend kept us on our seats as he related his journey from CoE vicar to Hedge-Priest, and worked magic and illusion right in our faces – and we still can’t work out how!
  • Barry Wilkes, Iain Semple and Steve Davis used historical photographs and documents to tell about the Fraternal Druids such as AoD and OoD.
  • Robin Herne presented Animism and Polytheism in “The Wasteland” and would have gone on longer if we’d let him (and we’d have liked to but couldn’t!)
  • Red Raven explained the climatic changes that drove the development of the early Brythonic tradition.
  • Neil Geddes-Ward used his photography and art to show how his work was built around a visionary creativity, and hosted a stall of his works.
  • Potia enchanted us, not merely with the description of her relationship with deity but also with her hauntingly beautiful singing of song and hymn.
  • Brochfael gave us his academic and archaeological viewpoint on the issue of pagan reburial, often the cause of controversy and protest.
  • Christine Cleere outlined the history of public ritual and Gorsedd, with particular reference to those she facilitates at Cor Gawr / Stonehenge.
  • Joel Greenwell ended the speakers presentations with an update on the cooperative work between The Druidic Dawn and National Trust, at Avebury.
 … and then we had a quick set change and James Faupel and Marianne van der Es took to the stage. James is well know in pagan and druid circles and has a couple of excellent CD’s under his belt, and Marianne reframed his work with her Bridge electric cello – which sent deep and resonant tones deep into the body. I’m so looking forward to the album… (starts a rumour with absolutely no knowledge of if there is or will be one) 🙂
 
Stalls 
  • Runesmith – purveyor of runes, silver, pewter, jewellery and cards
  • Brochfael and Firinne – selling accurate reproduction bronze and leatherwork, and beautiful beaded jewellery.
  • Corwen and Kate with hand made reproductions of ancient instruments, as well as natural crafts in bone, wood and hide.
  • Neil Geddes-Ward – visionary art from which he developed much of his earlier talk
  • Lawrence Main – secretary to the Society of Ley Hunters, selling books and telling tales
  • Red and Nick hosting the TDN Stall with information on the aims and work of the Network, as well as giving stall space to others.
Catering
 
The catering was provided by Green Garden Cafe, a Coventry based dairy free and vegetarian enterprise. We’d not used them before but from all the feedback we will be in the future. As I said to them in an email I hope they use…
“Comment after comment came back to me, and they’re coming back still, as to how yummy the food was. The demand lead to a few queues as you know, but the main feedback was that the food was well cooked, well presented, and good value. We aren’t all vegans – not even all vegetarians – but everyone enjoyed what you had to offer. Thank you. I know we were unable to tell you how many folk were likely to come. That was because we’d never done such an event before. In the end I think we ate you out of everything you bought – which is great because I’d have hated to see food wasted. I don’t know how much more you could have sold, but I hope you feel the day was worth it. If we ever do such an event in the area again, be very sure we’ll be seeking your catering input. Feel free to use this email in any way you choose – we’re very happy with Green Garden Cafe.”
 
Feedback 
  • Too many speakers, one after the other. Although every speaker was appreciated and no-one has suggested any of them were superfluous it made for a long days listening. (We did consider using two rooms for simultaneous speakers and perhaps if there’s a next time we may have speakers in one room and workshops in another, and mix song and music in between both.)
  • The food queues were too long. However, every comment on the queues was accompanied with a ‘but the food was wonderful’, ‘well worth the wait’, and ‘friendly, reasonably priced and tasty’. (A couple of folk would have preferred non-veggie food. A a meat eater, I was wondering what I might find to eat. In the end I was too busy to do so but the menu was very attractive to me.)
  • The venue was basic, but affordable and very clean, easy to get to and centrally located. (Our choice of venue refelcted a desire by the trustees to support an organisation that might otherwise be threatened with closure in these financially tight times. We’ve used it a couple of times now and intend to use it again for the AGM next March.)
  • More practical demonstrations and workshops. If these were to interlace the speakers (with a consequent reduction in the number of speakers) it would break up the day a bit, enable a bit more walking about and stall browsing.
  • The stalls were varied and interesting, and having them in the main event space allowed for some browsing whilst still listening, and allowed the stall holders some entertainment too. Negotiations at stalls did not interfere unduly with folk hearing the presentations, although the acoustics of the room did mean that some folk who thought they were having private conversations in the corridor leading into the hall could be clearly heard…
  • The sound system could have been better. (In truth, the sound set-up was mostly my practice bass guitar amp, digital multi-track recorder, microphone and stand, while the visual feast was courtesy of my laptop, digital projector and a borrowed screen. Home-made, certainly. If we do it again we may look at improving the quality).
  • More information on TDN. The stall was fine, but where we wished to present the breadth of work that TDN Members do we did not manage to accumulate sufficient for the rolling slideshow we had envisaged at AGM. Something again to think about should we do this another year.
  • It was great to have a conference that was utterly Druid. Many other similar conferences (although of course not all) are more generically pagan and several folk commented on the atmosphere thus engendered at our conference).
  • Please do this again! Yes, in fact we got lots of this, which is good to hear and feels wonderful. Who knows… if folk are motivated. Members are free to discuss this possibility in the Gatherings and Forum. 😉
The conference was the culmination of many weeks and months of emails, conversations and not a little stress. Although on the day I was the face folk saw front of house, there was a team behind me and they earn the honour they deserve for their work. I want especially to thank David Orr for his input, without which all my grin and waffle would have fallen very flat. 🙂
Mark Rosher /| bish

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