Ludlow Esoteric Fair 2008

28 06 2008

What a wonderful day we’ve had. S, M, K and M and me! A day of good food and good laughter; the best kind, right from the gut and long, loud and full of feeling. Loads of presents, loads of thoughts, loads of ideas, fresh air and sunshine.

Until 4pm this afternoon, I was under the distinct impression that the company was a better reason for coming than the reason we actually convened at the Fair – the talks. As it turned out, the company WAS better – but the talks livened up considerably!

 ‘The Travels of John Dee’ wasn’t riveting and we missed Julia Phillips’s talk on Madeline Montalban as we had to keep going out to move our cars. Ludlow has instigated a ludicrous 4 hour rule on parking for some reason; a real irritation!

Then Ken Rees stood up and entertained and interested us on The Regency. Not a great deal is known about this shadowy group; see Seshat’s Voice for a really good overview of the topic.

I thoroughly enjoyed his talk; he gave an historical overview and some of the local colour. From the outset, he was careful to stress his level of involvement; he was never in the ‘inner circle’, he was explicitly an academic, he took students with him to rituals, took casenotes afterward, and he was making educated guesses on some of his points – but he said as much. During his talk, three people in the row ahead of us spent a lot of time tutting, hissing, laughing and muttering to each other. I was minded to collar one of them after the presentation and ask them what their problem was, but it turned out I didn’t need to. During the question and answer session, the gentleman of the three was called upon, and he proceeded to denounce Ken Rees as a liar and a poor scholar, accusing him of fudging his information and not correctly referencing his sources, implicating the organiser of the show for revealing ‘secret’ information on the whereabouts of Ron White and George Winter’s graves, and ending by saying that his own book (due out in 2 years’ time apparently) would give all the ‘real’ information and knowledge that Rees’s lacked. Rees replied courteously but without giving ground.

Then, one of the ladies of the party stood up and said she was very disappointed in the pack of lies Rees had come out with, and that she had expected better from him.

I, of course, needed to make my point here; this man was doing his best to give an opinion, an overview, nothing more. So I said that I had no connection to the argument but had come to the talk to learn more. I had enjoyed the talk, and felt it was well presented, but that if there was an argument to be had, it should be conducted in a grown-up manner and via academic means (for some reason the Ludlow Three seemed to think I was making a point in their favour, as they all started nodding vigorously. I can assure them, I was not).

Another woman added that personal attacks were completely inappropriate for a forum like a public lecture. The final bolt was thrown when a chap with a PhD piped up and supported Rees on his referencing; he correctly stated that, if the subjects had not given permission, it was unethical and against Research Council rules to unmask them.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an ill-tempered and discourteous treatment of a speaker in a public debate. Those three people, whoever they were or thought they were, attempted a deliberate sabotage. I admire Ken Rees for standing up and giving his talk, knowing full well that people who opposed him were in the audience and likely to cause trouble. And I told him as much.

If paganism is ever to rise above the petty infighting, personality cults and knowledge-hoarding behaviour seen in the worst of the world’s despotic regimes, it’s going to have to follow people like Rees and Ronald Hutton, Julia Phillips and others and engage in academic and balanced debate. In a very real way, it doesn’t matter who’s right; no-one will remain right for ever. The purpose of academic research and publication is gradual and sometimes cataclysmic paradigmatic change. No one person has all the answers. Answers will change over time, and with changes in research method. Also, bringing this sort of squabble to a public meeting is just plain bloody rude. 

I believe it had the opposite effect to that intended by the ringleaders; loads of people signed up for Rees’s online study group on the Regency, and the feeling in the hall supported him.






15 responses

28 06 2008

Oh pants. Typical me to slope off just before things got interesting. I’m astounded at the rudeness of some people, but I suppose there are oiks in ever strata of life. It makes one wonder why their wondrous book hasn’t already been published if they are such authorities – could it be a lack of publisher willing to take the risk or a complete lack of book…? It’s so easy to criticise, but a lot more difficult to make a case with firm evidence and th application to write it.

Is the online study group open to all? A link would be appreciated if so please!

29 06 2008
The Green Witch

I believe so! He took email addresses, so if I get any kind of communication from Ken Rees I’ll forward you the means of making a connection there!

Sounds like a worthwhile experiment – and The Regency precepts are extremely interesting. I’m working on a summary of what Rees said in the lecture.

29 06 2008

What a shame; I’ve been meaning to get to Ludlow for years as it is held as possibly the only serious conference left. And whilst I have heard of academic heckling when presenting a paper to peers, this wasn’t that kind of situation, so it sounds bloody outrageous.

Glad I yet again couldn’t make it this year; I am “yay” close to giving up on the whole conference/moot/forum thing as it is. 😦

29 06 2008
The Green Witch

It is a shame; I think Ludlow has only been going about 5 years and it’s really needed! However, the best thing that could have happened did; the floor supported the speaker. There’ll always be ignorant and personally-motivated people ready to try and stir up trouble – but I’m glad I was there and I’ll go again if there’s another one!

Which forums, out of interest? 🙂

29 06 2008

Lol which ones haven’t I been a member of over the years!

Pagan Network (although I joined back in the day when it was Wicca UK), been gone from there as a member for close to two years, although I occaisionally visit as a guest, and am almost always underwhelmed and disappointed.

UKP, still officially a member but only visit once or twice a year.

FearnLlamas, asked to voluntairly have my account suspended for fear of what I might actually say to some folks.

Hedgwitches cottage, voluntarily left out of embarrassment because of how so called “hard core” pagans of my aquaintance were treating the younger umm more genteel residents.

Lol the list goes on; I have come to the conclusion I don’t get on with most forum oriented people 😀

29 06 2008
The Green Witch

Haha! I wonder about forums (fora? I never know). I’ve been a member of WhiteWicca since 04 and still regard it as a central part of my online life. I have tried others… SeaxWica, WiccaForums; I liked WF very much but couldn’t seem to get past the trolls; the other, nuff said!

I am very interested in what particularly disappoints about most of these sites, in your opinion. I get stuck, you see; I either get resentful of the bullying attitude, or I can’t get a word in with people trying to learn how to astral-travel via what amounts to a correspondence course.

WhiteWicca’s different. No highfalutin’ geniuses sending down the knowledge from on high along with thunderbolts aimed at the hapless noob, and equally, not too much of the special brand of madness that seem to afflict pagans of a particular stripe.

I think this forum issue is a perennial problem.

29 06 2008

This was the first year I’d heard of Ludlow, but I’ve been out of the loop for the past two years due to personal issues. I’d hoped to be able to go up but lack of notice plus a recent job change meant I was totally out of money to be able to travel up 😦

Being London based, I’ve met Ken a number of times and he’s never been anything less than professional, polite and extremely well informed! If this chap infront of you had a book coming out on the same subject, he could have shown a bit of courtesy and at least agreed to differ. Perhaps he was just upset someone had beaten him to the crunch on the topic.

30 06 2008
The Green Witch

Funnily enough, Caspar, I wondered the same! 🙂

I also found Ken very professional and well-informed. I always think that, if there’s another point of view to be presented, that someone holding it should gather their notes and stand up, face the crowd and present it. I wish this chap (I think his name was John – we never learned his surname) had done so; it would have turned a bad tempered attack which garnered him no favours into a sober debate in which people could have felt the weight of his knowledge. The proof of the pudding, and so forth!

30 06 2008
Abdur Rahman

Peace Green Witch,

Given that I only live about an hour or so away from Ludlow, I thought about coming along myself – though in the end, parental responsibilities got in way. I am wearily familiar with this kind of debating strategy. On one level, all it does is obscure dialogue. On another level, it merely demonstrates that the argumentative person has a number of ‘ego issues’ to deal with – and, whilst I might accept elements of such a one’s intellectual argument, I would very quickly stop listening to what he had to say.

Abdur Rahman

30 06 2008
The Green Witch

Salaam, Abdur. Yes, I agree. Not the way to get yourself a good reputation!

I think what annoyed me most about this person is that he didn’t have the guts to stand up and identify himself. He delivered his attack slumped in his chair, and we only found out his first name because Ken Rees addressed him directly. Cowardly!

30 06 2008
Ludlow Book-Feast and Bun-Fight « Seshat’s Voice

[…] Green Witch has given a very fair assessment of the lectures that day, including a good summary of the nasty little showdown at the end of Ken Rees’ lecture. I too have signed up for The […]

30 06 2008

Well I had my suspicion as to “who” the protagonist may have been and a quick bit of research all but confirms it. The behaviour is about par for the course for that person from what I have heard unfortunately and I suspect had you been looking around at the faces of the audience there would have been many a rolling eye!

*sighs* still doesn’t make it right or proper though!

30 06 2008
The Green Witch

Ha! Interesting. I was at a loss for rolling eyes due to sitting in the back row, but I’m glad to know this was not unprecedented. I shall be looking out for this chap myself in the future.

7 07 2008

Nicnevyn, I was close to giving up on most fora, too. In fact, in the last three years, I’ve vacated quite a few, including WiccaUK, PN, UKP, TheValley (or whatever its called now) and, more recently, Pentacle. I don’t attend conferences, events, moots or open rituals anymore, mostly because I am oft disappointed by the behaviour of the community at large. Funnily enough, I don’t feel I’ve missed much.

Your report on this particular lecture at the Ludlow conference confirms this, TGW. I’m sorry your enjoyment was marred by such an episode.

8 07 2008
The Green Witch

It was interesting to see that this sort of thing is not unusual amogst people who could be reasonably expected to know better. It hasn’t yet sickened me of the whole scene – I’ve still got the stomach for it, as long as the quality of the lectures remains like that of Ken’s, or the excellent talk by Ronald Hutton I attended earlier in the Summer. I regret not seeing Julia Phillips’s talk – she’s got an enquiring mind and a fine, incisive way of writing.

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