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Service Opportunities in the SCA ( or how to get more involved )

So, you've been to an event or two, perhaps tried your hand at some new things, and (hopefully) realized that there is a great deal that goes into making an event happen. You may feel that you want to find a way to give back to the SCA a bit of what you are getting from it, you may find yourself a bit bored at events, or you may be one of those people who is really intreged by what makes this whole thing work.

Well, you are in luck. I can just about guarentee that out there somewhere is what I call a service niche with your name on it. A service niche is something that needs to be done and that you enjoy doing (meaning it doesn't interfere with the other stuff that you want to be doing too terribly much, you just enjoy the task, or whatever). You may have to try a couple of things before you find that niche (or you may find that you like so many of them that service takes over your SCA life - we have a word for people like you!).

So, you want to find your service niche but don't know where to start? First, let's take a walk through a typical event.

Let's start at gate (or troll as it's sometimes called). At any event there are nice people sitting behind a table taking your money, giving you information about the event, and generally getting you on your way for a full day (or more) of fun. Working gate is a great way to get to see everyone who comes through the door be they old friends or new ones. Many times the person in charge of the gate will have a sign up sheet for shifts that can range from a couple of hours up to usually at most 4 hours.

Job Title: Gate/Troll

Time requirements: typically 2-4 hours, but you may be able to work something out if you want to help but don't have that much time. At smaller events this may be much more "free form" and any amount of time that you can offer will be gratefully accepted.

Pre-requisites: Someone may need to vouch for you if you will be handling money, unless you are already a known quantity. If you are brand new and want to help, you can offer to do other tasks that don't involve handling money (don't be surprised if you find yourself handling money in very short order, however!) or to work with someone else. At smaller events there typically isn't a minimum age, however larger events may ask that only those over the age of 18 work at the gate.
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Okay, you've gotten into the event. The next thing that you notice is that the hall is gorgeous - someone spent a lot of time working on hanging banners, laying out table clothes, etc. There will usually be a set up crew that arrives on site before the event not only to make the site look nice, but also to check on more mundane things like the toilet paper supply.

Job Title: Set Up Crew

Time requirements: varies with the size of the event from an hour or so to 4+ hours

Pre-requisites: none - find who is in charge and offer to help!
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You find your way to a table and are getting settled when someone comes in yelling "Oyez, oyez!". He/She goes on to announce something about the day's schedule of events and that something called day board will be available in 30 minutes at the front of the hall. The person doing the announcements is a herald. In the SCA there are several different kinds of heralds, this one is usually referred to as a voice herald. They may be making announcements about the event, announcing combatants at the list, or simply trying to find the owner of a found set of car keys.

Job Title: Voice Herald

Time requirements: varies greatly. You may work in shifts for crying the camp at larger events or you may be nabbed at various intervals to make short announcements at smaller events. If you are helping with the list, there's a bit more to it (we'll talk more about that job later).

Pre-requisites: While some voice training and/or public speaking experience is nice, in reality if you are one of those people that can naturally project your voice this may be the job for you! For doing announcements and the like you don't really need to do much more than be able to read your notes and project your voice.
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A few minutes after the herald moves on, the kitchen door opens and people start pouring out putting food on tables at the front of the hall. These people must have been working since dawn to have all of this ready! Oh, and I'll bet there are some dirty dishes in that THAT kitchen!

Job Title: Kitchen Help

Time requirements: varies greatly. Often times a lot of prep work is done before the day of the event, so you can help out without loosing any "event time". There is certainly a lot to be done on site as well, not only for day board but also for feast or any other food related things that are happening. Find out who's in charge and talk to them.

Pre-requisites: virtually none. Kitchens can almost always use someone who is willing to cheerfully wash pots every bit as much as they can use a professional chef. This is one of the "happening places" at events and is a great way to meet people.
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One of the things that the herald had mentioned was that the tournament was going to start in 15 minutes. You head outside to see what that's all about. In addition to the fighters, there seem to be a lot of other people doing stuff related to the tournament. There's a group of people sitting behind a table who ask you to move every time you walk in front of them. There are people who aren't in armor on the field. And there are more heralds. And all of them seem to working together by some unwritten code to make the tournament run smoothly.

The people sitting at the table are the Ministers/Mistresses of the List. These are the score keepers, if you will. They also figure out who will be fighting whom, in which list, when. They will typically have a stack of note cards that they hand off to the herald who, based on which cards are paired up, will announce who is fighting who, when and where.

They also start each round by having the combatants go through a series of solutes. The people not in armor on the field are marshals. These are fighters who for whatever reason aren't fighting that day but rather are spending their time keeping the combatants and anyone else on the field safe. They start and stop the combat as needed and more. As you look around you notice that there is much more going on than you first thought.

There may be some people walking around offering water or Gatorade to people. There is also someone sitting near the Minister of the Lists table who may well appear to be napping until you hear the call "Chirurgeon!". That's our health and safety officer, who is trained in first aid. There's a lot to do here!

Job Title: Minister of the List/list help

Time requirements: varies a great deal, depending on the kind of fighting being done and the number of combatants. You can plan on at least an hour or so of work before the fighting even starts checking everyone in and then, if you chose to stay, the duration of the combat. Once the fighting is over, you're usually done and can pack up fairly quickly

.Pre-requisites: to help out with the list you really don't need to know much. Anything that you do need to know can be taught on the spot. Chose your opportunities wisely - offering to help with a Crown List is probably not the best way to get started.

Job Title: Voice Herald

Time requirements: throughout the tournament, some time before, very little time afte.

Pre-requisites: Ability to project your voice (voice training is a plus), public speaking experience, ability to pronounce complex names. You don't have to have a "show-biz" spark, but if you do this may well be the place for you!

One other type of Voice Herald is a Court Herald. This is the person who organizes the business that is to be conducted in Court and serves as the voice of the Crown throughout court. Make sure that you've been a few courts and know what you are in for before you sign up! This can be great fun, but it is also one of the highest visibility jobs at an event. If you make a mistake, a lot of people will likely know about it

Job Title: Marshal

Time requirements: throughout the combat plus about an hour beforePre-requisites: must be a warranted marshal, which in this kingdom also requires that you be authorized in the martial activity you wish to marshal for (fencing, archery, etc.)

Job Title: Waterbearer

Time requirements: throughout the combat, about an hour before for set up and about a half-hour after for clean up. "Shifts" are usually determined by the combat schedule, although this is one of those tasks that you can easily help out for an hour at a time.

Pre-requisites: none. Find the Chirurgeon in Charge and ask whom you need to talk to. This is a great way to meet people, see the fighting, etc.

Job Title: Chirurgeon

Time requirements: varies greatly. Most events will have shifts of about 4 hours, other times you may be assigned to a specific battle or martial activity. Pre-requisites: you must be a warranted chirurgeon.
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You wander away from the fighting field and notice that in addition to the armored combat there is also fencing, archery, perhaps thrown weapons, perhaps equestrian activities, maybe hound coursing, and much more. Each of these activities will have it's own infrastructure of people making it happen in an organized way. It never hurts to drop by and see if they can used another set of hands.

What else is going on? Oh, there are classes! Someone had to organize all of those and sure enough you see someone walking by the class area with a list. While this is often a one person job, there are often tasks that can be delegated to someone brand new (like making sure that all of the instructors showed up and that the classes are actually happening!).

Is there a children's area? If so, maybe they need some help, especially if you have a knack for keeping kids busy!

As you walk around the site, you notice that the garbage cans are filling up and worse yet, the toilet paper seems to be running low in one of the bathrooms! This is one of the hardest things to manage for event staff and is a great way to win yourself a lot of friends. Find the person in charge of the event and offer to get the trash emptied and the toilet paper restocked (check the paper towels while you're at it). This job doesn't have a formal title (God or Goddess seems a bit over the top, but it really is that important!) nor does it have any pre-requisites. At the end of the day, there will likely be a heck of a clean up crew! The SCA has an old tradition of working to leave the sites that they use cleaner than they found them to help maintain an excellent reputation with the hall owners. We like to be able to come back to sites, and how well the clean up crew does their job is a huge factor in our ability to do so.

Job Title: Clean Up Crew

Time requirements: rarely more than an hour or so, after the event has ended.Pre-requisites: Can you push a broom? You're hired! I've heard that some of the best friendships are formed by working on the clean up crew. It's a really good way to sort of ease back into reality after an event.
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What about the people making all of this happen? There will usually be one person (or a team of people) in charge of orchestrating everything called the autocrat(s). As a newer person you probably won't be up for autocratting a full event, but you can certainly learn from whomever is so that you can do this in the future. Many of the event staff positions will be held by the group officer in charge of that area - the Archery Marshal will probably be in charge of the archery, the group chirurgeon will likely be in charge of the chirurgeons at the event, etc. Track any one of them down and offer to help out - they will more than likely be thrilled to find you something that needs to be done!
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Depending on the event there are many other possibilities for helping out. If there is an organized activity of any kind someone had to put it together and is probably working to make it happen smoothly now that event day is here. All of those people are prime candidates for finding you something to do!

Outside of events there is plenty of opportunity to help out as well. Each group has a set of officers, with each officer typically having at least one deputy. If you really enjoy doing other things at events, but still want to help out, consider becoming a deputy for an office.

Hopefully you noticed that with very few exceptions there were no age limits and no pre-requisites for many of the jobs that need to be done at events. Please don't let your age or your lack of experience keep you from offering your assistance.

A couple of last thoughts about service. First, it should be fun. If service isn't your bag, you'll make other people miserable if you force yourself to help. Second, if everyone at an event pitched in and did even one hour of service related to that event we would never have enough tasks to fill the hands asking for work. As it is, there are usually a hand full of people working very hard at a given event. If you can cheerfully give even one hour of your time at an event, please do so - especially if your group is hosting the event.

Lastly, service doesn't have to be planned to count. If there isn't anyone in charge of parking but you notice that the parking lot needs some order and you know how to make it better, step up and do what you feel needs to be done (you may want to double check with the autocrat first just to make sure you aren't stepping on toes, but I doubt you will be).

You can help people to and from their cars - SCA people almost always have a pile of stuff that they are carrying back and forth from the car. Help a merchant, even if it's just holding the door for him/her. There are a million opportunities out there to make someone's day by lending a hand.

Don't get discouraged if people turn down your offers to help. I'm confident that if you ask three more people, one of them will need your help. Also, don't take it personally if your offers are turned down. There are certain places that can almost always use an extra hand - the kitchen and the martial activities are two such places.

Thanks to Dame Margarete of Stirlingshire, OP for the gracious donation of her article.


Disclaimer: This is the Newcomers Page for the Shire of Hartshorn-dale of the East Kingdom of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc.  The maintainer of this page is Lee Ann Posavad.  It is not a corporate publication of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. and does not delineate SCA policies. In cases of conflict with printed versions of material presented on this page or its links, the dispute will be decided in favor of the printed version.
This page last modified March 21, 2003.
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