Posted by: Wayne Robinson | May 1, 2011

Easter Shenanigans- Surprise-a-con

A contingent of eight members attended the 16th AMC held at the Danelaw site, Dunghaven under the banner of A Swedish Cultural ensemble. As you’d expect from an event held here, there was acres of gaberdine and lots of these:

Still too many of these

To be fair, there were also acres of fine wool, linen, silk, and finely made shoes, often within the same groups. We were pleasantly surprised by just about every aspect of the event. The hosts had taken on most of the criticism leveled at the previous conferention at the site, the food was of excellent quality and historicity, arguably exceeding that of the previous conferention, with no sign of the shredded cheese or other modern elements that blighted the previous Dunghaven Conferention.

Glenda and I arrived on Friday in the mid-afternoon and made camp in our accustomed site at the intersection of Silver Street and Lad and Maiden Lanes. Our harbingers, Bill and Julie had arrived the day before and set up either side of Silver Street near Cripplegate thus protecting the site for arrival of the main body. Sue, Spike and Helmut took the part of the rear-guard, turning up in time for lunch on Saturday.

Spike, Sue and Helmut arrive

Improvements were obvious everywhere on the site, the tavern was much extended and turned into a long-hall style ediface but still without tables for the convenience of we later people, the craft huts and forge down the main avenue were busy, the beehive ovens were in use baking. The new dunnies were palatial, strong1 and ecologically sound. The market avenue was bustling with activity and high-quality goods, some of them being made to order on the spot. There was a good attempt at a turf-roofed two storey hut, with some evidence of the framing joints being inspired by our efforts from last time. Which brings us to the question on everybody’s lips – the dunny, barring excavation by the resident wombat, was fine. The door hinges showed some evidence of having been left open during a windstorm, showing exactly how much damage can be done by a banging dunny door. The intervening four years have treated our house of office gently. The street signs have aged beautifully, with none ending up as firewood as I had feared.

The outhouse

Even the weather appeared to have been ordered specially, Friday and Saturday were fine and warm enough for the Ancients to be comfortable in tunicae, while cool enough at night to appreciate the cloaks and blankets. Sunday started fine, a low cloud descended in the early afternoon with suitably atmospheric soft rain falling but not heavy enough to be a nuisance. Monday started cloudy, but cleared soon after breakfast.

Competitions and activities, both combat and non-combat, were spread through the weekend so there were enough things to do if you were so inclined, or the coffee house and tavern were available if you weren’t. In the absence of the Perki, AAF and SMAC took on coffee duties. The beverages were well made and of good quality, but a lack of reclining opportunities dampened the experience somewhat.

Individual and collective Routiers entered the brewing and the most historical campsite competitions and were commended. A Swedish Cultural Ensemble entered the bardic competition with a 17th century accent version of How Stands the Glass Around, and ended up doing the Owl Song as an encore. We excelled in honourable mentions against stiff competition.

There should be a photo of an evening meal here, but we were all too busy eating.

The evening meals were so good, they deserve being mentioned a second time. The approach was to present some historical samplers to give everyone a taste of (now) unusual accurate food for the chosen period, accompanied by lashings of a simpler accurate dish that would appeal even to the less adventurous modern palettes. Have a look at the menu sometime. They handled allergies and intolerances well, with plenty of alternatives. I only had to sit out one minor course all weekend and by the end of that meal, was too full to notice anyway. I’m told the fish was excellent. The one negative was how many bottles and cans were around the tables the next day. I know we sold these people nice jugs at the last one, what did they do with them all?

I was going to mention the Order of the Staple encampment as an example of what a group can do in two years, but it wasn’t just the encampment, it was the entire group. At the 14th Conferention, they were a JADDS group. Tentage, accessories, clothing, are now all hand done and all referenced with very few shortcuts which have been identified as placeholders for future replacement. Say hello to them at Blacktown, but try not to drool too much over Hugh’s leatherwork. The mid 18th century encampment was also exceptionally well done. We have to lift our game if we want to stay relevant — we’re not cutting edge any more, more mid-field.

All up, a surprisingly enjoyable event. My photos are in the clickable slideshow below, but are few as I’d broken my prime lens the week before and couldn’t get far enough back to use the long zoom effectively.
Miriam’s photos giving a Dark Age perspective are here.

Click the button to the lower right of the slideshow to embiggen and see the captions.

1 SWL 2,000kg per pair of cubicles.



  1. I missed mentioning the portrayal of the Order of Dobrzyń by Upsala in the highlights. The order as raised in 1228 had 15 knights and a master, so the representation was 1:1 scale. There was a nice level of variation in the equipment while the things that should have been issued by the order were consistent.

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