Wyrd Weekend 3 3rd-6th May 2002
by Jonathan Downes
My old mucker Dave "Geordie Dave" Curtis (booked to provide the music for the Friday night) turned up on the Thursday night and got horribly drunk. He was drinking by the time I woke up on Friday morning so it was no surprise really that he found a kindred spirit in my cousin-in-law and they went off on a memorable binge and we didn`t see either of them for most of the rest of the day.
Friday 3 May
The evening began chaotically as is the norm, and because of various transport problems people who were supposed to have arrived in Exeter at about 2 pm were phoning in to say that they wouldn`t be here until much later, so we were running a little behind schedule. The punters slowly began to file in and by the time events kicked off properly just after half past eight the room was three-quarters full. After an inspired opening speech by yours truly, Richard Freeman presented his "Cabinet of Curiosities III". I had broken my own rules about no under fourteens because one bloke telephopned to ask if the event was suitable for a twelve year old girl.
As Richard`s talk included the story of a humanoid called Kabaronka that lived in a hole in West Africa and eats human excrement I had my tongue firmly in cheek when I described the evening`s entertainment as suitable for those of a tender age! Richard was followed by George Bishop from the CCCS talking about the 2001 crop circle which appeared to be a human face. Unfortunately because of the officious pricks from the guild of students we had to leave the venue betimes. We therefore decamped to the Postgrad centre where we convened a panel consisting of Ian Simmons (who arrived half way through after a series of disasters), Malcolm Robinson from SPI, Nigel Wright (my old partner in crime), John Tindsley (Chaos Magician), Joe McGonagle (UfologyintheUK mailing list) and Larry "Rendlesham" Warren. The whole thing was chaired by me and Rich and seemed to go down quite well as everyone got slowly drunker.
Geordie Dave turned up just before midnight and the first night concluded in the traditional manner with drunken strummetty-strum versions of Irish Rebel Songs.
Saturday 4 May
Sad news came in via a mobile phone text message. One of our speakers, Paul Harrison had to cancel because his father had suddenly died. As my mother had died only about six weeks ago I could sympathise with the poor fellow, and so the schedule for today has had to be hastily rejigged, but as I write, there is an hour to go until doors open and everything is looking groovy....
After a hasty rejig of the schedule because of Paul Harrison's Dad's sad demise, we kicked off Saturday morning about an hour late with an exquisitely gothic talk by Gail-Nina Anderson who did her own inimitable thing with aplomb and style. She was followed soon after by a workmanlike talk about the mechanics of folklore from Sam Richards. I am seriously looking forward to watching the videos of his performance `cos it was too much to take in all at once especially when one is a fat fortean with a hangover and one's mobile phone rang practically every ten minutes.
BTW All the talks were videoed and will hopefully be available from me very soon at a surprisingly low price. To answer yer questions yup Rachel DID arrive safely although on Sunday she was rushed to hospital after it was discovered that eating bananas caused her to go into anaphalactic shock (but that is another story and she arrived back happy and healthy a couple of hours later to spend an evening in the boozer with us all).
Stepping into the breach at the last momment was my old mucker Nigel Wright (with whom I wrote a fabulous tome called `The Rising of the Moon` which some of u may have read and which is now out of print). He gave an entertaining and informative talk called `Oddities of UFOlogy` which was incredibly professional considering that he only had ten minutes to cobble it together. He recounted various amusing incidents from a thirty year career as a UFOlogist including the fact that British Railk (of all people) had lodged a patent for a flying saucer....
Then came a ridiculous Game Show type exercise put together by my friend Nichola Sullinmgs. Two couples (Richard Freeman/Gail-Nina and Malcolm Robinson/Judy Jaffar competed in a ridiculous exercise whereby the two guys had to mime various fortean thingumijigs where the girls had to guess what the bloody hell they were doing). Mal/Judy won, because Richard`s impression of an alien giving someone an anal probe was just too weird for anyone to understand.
This was followed by Geordie Fortean God Mike Hallowell and the chilling story of the North East`s own dragon cult which he claims (with a great deal of supporting evidence) was still being supported by human sacrifices well into the 1920s. Weird or what?
Finally Malcolm Robinson, again doing his intense stage persona as a cross between Ian Paisley and Harry Price. He gave a mammoth talk covering his long career as a paranormal investigator. He talked about poltergeists, spiritualism, hauntings and all sorts of weird shit for well over 90 minutes (kindly carrying on over his alloted time as the band arrived to soundcheck).
We went to Clydesdale House where everyone was entertained by a groovy set by "Square the Moon". Their groovy Steely Danequse stylings, however hardly prepared anyone for the sonic onslaught which was me and the "amphibians from outer space" playing our first gig in six years. We made a gloriously brutal noise. I swore, screamed, was horribly politically incorrect and ended the gig by rubbing my guitar against my amplifier in a disgustingly phallic manner as we played `Louie Louie` in a hail of feedback as Richard F screamed an invocation to Great Cthullu with tomato ketchup on the palms of each hand as he played at being a stigmatic.
I think I`m gonna enter the band in the next series of `pop idol`.......
Sunday 5 May
The morning dawned fair. The birds were singing and God was in his heaven and all was right with the world. I didn`t even have a hangover! Nigel and I went out to the cash and carry to replenish food supplies for Sunday`s catering, and finished our shopping in record time and we happily drove to the venue. Then it started to rain and we discovered that Exeter had beeen crippled by a charity fun run, and that it was practically impossible to get from one side of the city to the other. Nedless to say we were stuck in the wrong side.
The police were kind and helpful, but when a fat git dressed up as a pink bunny rabbit told us that we shouldn`t mind being stuck in a queue for two hours because "its all for charidee innit?" it was hard not to be rude.
Because of the events of the morning we were again running late.
John Tindsley gave a fascinating talk about the Elizabethan Occultist John Dee, and was quickly followed by WYRD Magazine Editor Bob Mann who presented an entertaining description of the life of Devonshire`s best known proto fortean The Rev Sabine Baring-Gould. All good fun.
Lunch and various cigarette breaks followed, and then our old friend (and CFZ Zoological consultant) Chris Moiser from Plymouth CFE gave a fascinating talk on the subject of Victorian Travelling Menageries. Then came another legendary annual event THE QUIZ when Richard F grilled two teams (chosen arbitrarily by yours truly from the speakers and the home contingent) on their knowledge of "Monsters, Ghaiiirsts [sic] and UFOs". For the first time in three years the visiting team, captained as always by the lovely Judy Jaffar actually won! (It must be admitted that last year they only lost because the tie breaker was a question about the name of one of my pet cats!) The winners were presented by what Richard claimed was a jar of Ivan T Sanderson`s phlegm.
Larry Warren gave a fascinating account of his involvement in the Rendlesham Forest UFO case. As always I was touched by the level of his sincerity. Larry`s testimony is practically unique amongst those who claim close encounters as it makes me suspect that much against my better judgement, the truth might actually BE out there.
Ian Simmons finished off the afternoon with a fascinating lecture entitled "Sex at Room Temperature the fortean aspects of Buffy the Vampire Slayer". Wonderfully his talk included references to vampire vegetables and fruit, and even vampiric garden tools. Great stuff.
We then decamped to the pub.
Monday 6 May
On Monday morning at eleven, various fortean folk braved the crappy weather and walked around the weirder parts of Buckfastleigh before climbing the 200 odd steps to the churchyard of Buckfastleigh Old Church. The church had been gutted by an arsonist in 1992.
Bob Mann introduced the event with a lecture explaining the truth behind the legends surrounding Richard Cabell and the Devil`s Hunting Pack. This was followed by Gail-Nina Anderson who talked about the iconic significance of the black dog in society and Mark North who talked about Black Dogs in Dorset. Nigel Wright discussed his theories about the links between big cat sightings and the ancient Black Dog legends. Finally Richard Freeman rounded the afternoon off with a talk about mystery dogs of the world.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for coming. Each year we get a few more, and whilst I am very disappointed that more people, especially those from Devon itself didn`t attend despite massive amounts of advertising, the feedback I have received suggests that those who did attend had a good time.
We raised enough money (just) to buy the CFZ a second-hand elderly laptop computer to assist us in our research, which is what we had hoped to achieve.
I ain`t gonna make a fuss about the number of people that came, but I do think that it is a pity that the only non-corporate convention of this size in the UK is so poorly attended. We will continue to do what we do because we believe in it not because we are in it for the money we ain`t but because we believe what we do to be valid. It is sad however that over sixty people telephoned me over the previous ten days and promised to come. NONE of them did.
Let`s hope that WYRD WEEKEND 4 in October 2003 will attract more people, because although it is great fun it is an enormous amount of work and at times I feel that we are banging our heads against the proverbial wall. However, as forteans I guess we should be used to that .
I would like to thank the organising committee: Graham Inglis, Jo from the University Sci Fi club, JohnJohn Allegri, Nichola Sullings who has been an absolute angel, George Bishop and Richard Freeman for their enormous amounts of work over the last four months. I would also like to thank my team of helpers John "Black John" Fuller, Nigel Wright and my daughter Lisa. If there were such a thing as a fortean medal for services above and beyond the call of duty they would have been awarded it. Finally, I would like to thank Joe McGonagle (who was after all a paying customer) for ferrying around some of the more infirm members of the party and staying sober in order to do so.
Until next year .