Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Why I Don't Run Pagan Events Anymore

Luana and I spent roughly ten years off and on running Pagan Coffee Meets.  I saw great events happening in other parts of the country and went through a resentful and wistful patch of "why isn't there anything like that happening here?".  Then one day I thought about it more sensibly and decided that if I wanted one, I should start one.

I advertised my first coffee meet in New Zealand forums (this was back in Eziboard days, well before facebook was a thing) and also on Meetup.  I spoke to local shop owners and left my number so anyone interested could contact me.

Meetup decided there weren't enough numbers responding on it's page and officially cancelled it, but we went anyway.  It was attended purely by my friends.  There were five of us in total, having a drink in a quiet corner of the Dux de Lux and we spent most of it planning our next ritual since it was effectively a meeting of our ritual group.

I chose not to be disheartened by it and planned another for next month.  We had a phenomenal turn out for Christchurch.  20 new people came along.  I was excited by this, I felt validated and justified in giving it another go.  Then I learned that many of them had come along because they'd been told that last time we'd sat around backstabbing others in the local community and bitching about people.  They'd come to set us straight on a few things.

I can only assume that there was some other meeting going on that we'd been confused with.  It had only been our little group and there hadn't been anyone close enough to eavesdrop on our conversation.  I didn't know many other people in the Christchurch Pagan Community to gossip about and neither did any but one of our group.  To this day, I've never learned where this had come from.

After a few months, the New Zealand Pagan Centre was created and we chose to come under it's umbrella, continuing coffee meets that were advertised through it's network.  The NZPC soon turned into what can only be described as a clusterfuck and stopped running in anything but name.  We continued our coffee meets.  We had a great core group that met every month.  We'd moved to the Coffee House and the staff there had gotten to know us very well.

When Luana and I created Cauldrons, we began to advertise the coffee meets through our website.  We changed the time to lunchtime on Saturday and had another great group of people start to come along.  We got up to a fairly consistent 10 - 20 people at each meet and caused several connections and friendships to form between people just wanting one or two others to befriend and practice with.

I stopped Coffee Meets when the earthquakes destroyed the central city.  I did look at other surrounding areas but they were always too problematic for people.  Buses and carpooling were just too hard it would seem.  Then I moved out of Christchurch anyway.

After a few years, someone was asking about Coffee Meets again in a local facebook group.  He didn't know enough people and wasn't confident to start one himself, but was adamant he'd turn up if one was offered.  Several other locals echoed his words.  So I set one up.  I advertised it, I posted reminders several times leading up to it.  And I sat there with my close friend and oldest daughter as not one of the buggers turned up.  Well, I had a lovely visit and nice lunch in the sun anyway.

We were also asked on a fairly regular basis about holding a Festival.  We'd both travelled to and worked at other Festivals in other parts of the country, so we set about organising one.

The budget was rather prohibitive.  We found a rather low-cost but also low-amenity venue, but getting public liability insurance was a nightmare - it took over half of our total budget in the end.

We chose not to try and get big overseas names to speak as there was no way we'd be able to afford to pay for their travel alone, never mind any of the other normally associated costs.  We put it out there for anyone in the local community who wanted to share their wisdom.  It was our thought that there was a lot of local talent that went unregarded.

Two weeks out from the Festival, we had four confirmed and paid for bookings.  That's four people in total.  Two of them were children.  We had more volunteers who we'd promised a very cheap weekend to in return for working for most of it.  We were reaching the last cancel-without-paying-full-price date and getting nervous.  A last minute appeal to everyone brought in enough last minute bookings to make going ahead worthwhile.

We'd contacted a local coven to run a ritual as we didn't want that added stress on top of our first festival.  Two members of the coven stayed for the whole weekend, the remainder turned up for the day of their ritual.

Now there are always things that happen unexpectedly.  I don't think it's possible to plan for every eventuality.  Our only real issue was that the main Saturday night feast was late by nearly an hour.  Four different spit-roasted meats.  It was that or we risked undercooked chicken and pork as part of the feast.  I overheard some rather rude snark and bitching about it as though it was a deliberate insult to these people.

I thought everything else went reasonably well, most of the feedback was positive.  The only complaint that was ever said directly to us was that it wasn't long enough, can we pick a long weekend next time?  But I still have stuff come back to me indirectly about that weekend.

We've run another three Festivals, each with their own drama queens making them memorable for the wrong reasons.  Each with small hiccups but mostly they've run smoothly.

Each with associated snark and bitchiness that followed.  Sometimes from people who have never attended a single one we've run.

A friend tried to set one up in her separate part of the country.  She was getting close to the last date she could cancel by without paying full price for the venue and had two bookings.  That sounded familiar, so I was lending support and experience.  Someone piped up and told her she just needed to be more understanding because that person was a "last-minute person" and that was just the way she was.  When I pointed out how rude and disrespectful such an attitude was to the organiser, I was blasted as being "negative" and "the wrong sort".

There are always a few volunteers that go above and beyond what is expected of them.  They are people to be treasured, even though they'll usually just humbly tell you it was nothing when you express your gratitude.  There are equally always a few that can never be found when they have jobs to do or will refuse to wipe the dishes, sweep a floor, clean the loos or even check toilet paper levels.

So as you can probably tell, by now I'm rather wary about doing anything like this.  People piss and moan about how there's nothing in their area, but when there is, they don't support it by turning up.  When they do turn up, they piss and moan about how they could have done a better job, or this was wrong or that was done badly or they invent issues to bitch and backstab about.

For the time being anyway.  I'm done.  You want events, you organise them.  I have enough to do without trying to cater for a community that doesn't respect the time, money, blood, sweat and tears that goes into any event.


1 comment:

  1. It's a shame when you do get to this stage. It's hard to understand why BMS expo type events draw more of a crowd of pagans when we can't get them to attend a pagan oriented event. I get that BMS and psychic fairs attract more muggles, but when there is a call by those in our community for events and then they don't attend it is disheartening and bloody exhausting, not just because of the work put in over many months, but the stress a lack of or last minute attendees puts on an organiser. Both Debbie and I had stress induced nightmares leading up to the festivals. And adding that to the shit we heard back from attendees and non-attendees is enough to make anyone say fuck it, and throw in the towel.
    Would I organise another paganfest? Definitely. Anytime soon? Probably not. Right now I'm looking at attending festivals here in Australia, where the prices are five, six, seven or more times what we charged for ours... but you know, they sell out months in advance and the organisers don't have the added worry of how will we pay for this if we don't get enough attendees. I may have to find out their secret.