[Bards] Topic: Is the usage of performers in your area, and event in general, sufficient?

Jay Rudin rudin at ev1.net
Wed Oct 25 07:51:38 PDT 2006

Michael Silverhands wrote:

> To play "devil's advocate":
> Who would comprise the teachers in the College? Wouldn't it have to
> be our experienced bards? If the experienced bards aren't mentoring
> new bards now (I'm not saying they are or aren't, just posing a
> hypothetical question), how would having a Kingdom College of Bards
> change that?

Mentoring a College is different.  Yes, I have apprentices, and will teach 
anyone I can.  But I don't have a Bardic Colloquium as in 1988, or an Autumn 
Fires event as in 1990 (or so) or meetings of bards or other easy 
opportunities to help lots of bards together.

> Wouldn't it be just as effective (and a lot less politics) for the
> experienced bards to just get off their collective duffs and teach?
> Go to events? Host bardic circles? Host workshops? (None of that is
> particularly one-on-one, it's more like one-to-many.)

No, it isn't.  I'm not sure why, but it was easier when there was a College 
to use.  Clearly, a college is a good tool for creating collegiality.

> If that isn't happening now, how can we encourage it to happen? (Note
> I didn't say "...make it happen". I don't see anyone making any
> Ansteorran do anything that they didn't want to do.) Would having a
> College structure encourage it? Or do we just need to do what we're
> doing right now -- shining a light on the problem and deciding to do
> something about it?

Having a college gives us a time and place to encourage it.  If I want to 
hold a bardic event, I'm alone in a room.  There's a lot of legwork and time 
just to find out if anyone's interested.  But if I'm in a college meeting 
and I suggest it, I have an autocrat, a bunch of committed teachers, and a 
large group of people excited about it within three minutes.  (This is an 
actual example, and how we came to hold the Bardic Colloquium in Black Lake 
in 1988.)

> Note that I'm not particularly advocating either position. Just, as I
> said, playing "devil's advocate" to hear your thoughts.

Good questions.  Here are some of the answers.  Note that I am not trying to 
invent some theoretical explanation, merely reporting what I've actually 
seen.  Here's the data:

1. When the College was active, the number and presence of Ansteorra's bards 
was growing.  Since the College died, it has shrunk.  There were nearly 
always performing opportunities at all events.

2. In 1991, at TFYC, Ansteorrans won nearly all the SCA-wide bardic 
competitions.  At one competition put on by the Queen of the East, the top 
eight performances were all Ansteorrans.  (Yes, I know we had more people 
there -- but, according to the judge I spoke with afterward, *all* the 
Ansteorrans out-did *any* of the others, and it was the greatest bardic 
event he'd ever seen.  This was not long before the College was disbanded.

3. The College encouraged a lot of bards by having lots of competitions and 
rankings.  Were they silly?  Some people said so, buty they did, in fact, 
encourage people to learn, to write, and to perform.

4. When the College had meetings, ideas were exchanged among a bunch of 
people at once.  Just as the same piece has a greater effect when fifty 
people are listening than when three are listening, the same idea has a 
greater effect when fifty people are listening.

5. The reason that most Ansteorran ranches have bardic competitions to 
choose their own bards is the College.  The College started holding such a 
competition for each branch, and eventually the branches themselves got 
involved.  (There were many stupid problems and mistakes along the way, but 
the single important fact remains -- these competitions came from the 

6. [Most important to me personally]  If there had been no Queen's College 
of Bards, Robin of Gilwell would never have become a bard.  When I was a 
new, shy, mundane, poor performer, I received neglect from most, active 
scorn from some, but continual support and encouragement from the College. 
When I had been a performer in Ansteorra for eight years, I had received no 
royal approval, no Thistle -- but I had earned rank in the College, and many 
bardic prizes (all from the College), which served to encourage me in ways 
that the Ansteorran award system wasn't serving.

This doesn't answer the question of whether we could do it without a 
College.  The answer is that maybe we could -- but with a College we did 
support an active, continually growing bardic community, and without a 
College that community died away -- or, mnore accurately, became more 
amorphous.  The support from people is always there if you seek it, but 
bards in the 80s didn't have to look for it.  Nobody was asking " Is the 
usage of performers in your area, and events in general, sufficient?"

If anything, the shoe was on the other foot.  There were complaints that 
there were too many performers, that they took up too much ofthe event.

I don't particularly argue for a ranking system (though it certainly served 
me well), because we are now better able to convince Crowns to recognize the 
bards with Thistles, Laurels, etc.  But I am scientist enough to recognize 
two brute facts:
A. When the College was active, the bards were a growing community.
B. When the College was gone, the bards were a much smaller group, with no 
real group identity.

In 1987, I was part of the fencing community and part of the bardic 
community (and others, of course).  Being an Ansteorran fencer means being 
tied to the other fencers, pledged to defend the Queen, just as much as it 
means going out and fencing.  Being an Ansteorran bard meant being tied to 
the other bards, as part of the Queen's College, just as much as it means 
standing up and performing.

Today, I am very much part of the fencing community.  Being an Ansteorran 
fencer means being tied to the other fencers, pledged to defend the Queen, 
just as much as it means going out and fencing.  I cannot imagine an 
Ansteorran fencer who didn't consider himself one of "us".

But I am a bard.  While I have many friends among the other bards, being an 
Ansteorran bard primarily means standing up and performing. It's easy to 
imagine an Ansteorran being a bard without having ties to the other bards 
(and I think we have some).

In fact, we have a lot of ties and friendship and collegiality and mutual 
support and all the rest, but it's amorphous.  When I was one of the Queen's 
College of Bards, it was clear and bright.

Wouldn't it be nice if, two or three years from now, people would 
occasionally complain again that the bards were too active?

Robin of Gilwell / Jay Rudin
Bard of the Steppes 

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