Witchfest International was always going to be a strange one this year, stepping away from the ever faithful Fairfield Halls in Croydon to a new venue of The Brighton Centre in, you guessed it, Brighton. In a roundabout way it was a three-day event, with an opening concert on Friday with Spriggan Mist, Crow Dancers, and Inkubus Sukkubus and a book end on Sunday of the Doreen Valiente Foundation Exhibition, “Where Witchcraft Lives” at Preston Manor.
Briefly speaking about Friday, the concerts were fantastic. I have seen Spriggan Mist and Inkubus Sukkubus before, but the sound in the main auditorium was far better than any other venues I’ve seen them play in which allowed me to enjoy their live performances far more than I have done in the past. Crow dancers were something else, harnessing the spirit of The Dolmen and going further with that same energy, certainly one to watch for in the future.
The main event it’s self was fantastic. Once again an amazing array of talks, workshops and musical entertainment which means I was often disappointed due to several speakers I wished to attend clashing, though this isn’t unusual for Witchfest! The usual faces were there, Ronald Hutton, Damh the Bard, Kate Wes, Rufus and Melissa Harrington, Barbara Meiklejohn-Free, Flavia Peters, Kevin Groves, Pete Jennings and Raegan Shanti, along with some new names I’d not seen before.
All the talks I went to were extremely well attended. The “small” rooms were larger than the ones at Fairfield but there was clearly no difficulty filling them, in all the talks I attended in those rooms people were still sat on the floor. The only issue I feel is that more of them could do with microphones, while I could hear where I sat I think others nearer the back may have struggled.
The market was bustling and full of beautiful wares to tempt the many people to part with their money. I felt it was a bit more crowded than Fairfields, though that might have just been the sheer number of people attending. However, due to the spread out nature of the building, you only really got a sense of exactly how many people were attending when everyone had filed into the auditorium for the opening blessing at the beginning.
As I left the building, after enjoying Damh the Bard and The Dolmen (who all again very much benefited from the fantastic sound), I couldn’t help but wonder what was next. I feel that Children of Artemis would perhaps struggle to return to Fairfield Halls if Witchfest remains as huge a success next year in Brighton as it was this year. With more opportunities for people to attend the talks they wished to attend, I feel there would be arguments when speakers who have easily filled a 400 capacity room is forced back into one with only 100 seats.
All in all it was a fantastic weekend, there are things to work on, but Children of Artemis are very aware of this and know it’s something to work on for next year. It was always going to be a learning experience the first time around, I’m sure they’ll get it perfect in 2017.
Review by Jenny Cartledge