Chapter 3 – Demonstrations (Demos)

1. Introduction:

Why Demonstrate anything?

Conducting demonstrations (here-in-after referred to as “Demos”) for the public is an important function.  It is one way in which to pursue our mission as an educational organisation.  Demos also provide opportunities to attract potential new members, establish good community relations and cultivate a positive image for your local group and the Society as a whole.

2. Society Demo Policy: This is the current policy on Demos from the Society.  Please make sure that when you are planning a demo, you understand this documents.  If you have any queries, please contact your Seneschal, your regional Chatelaine (Baronial), or your Kingdom Chatelaine.

  1. A demo is an organised, educational effort to teach and / or display activities of medieval interest in general, and SCA interest in particular, to the general public.  they are the primary way of introducing and finding new recruits for the SCA.  However, not all demos are the type that results in new members.  A primary school demo is fun, but the likelihood of recruiting new members is low.  A university demo is more likely to attract new members, but does not necessarily contain the educational information of a school demo.  Both are important, and a group should find a balance between them.
  2. In order to be covered by SCA insurance, demos must be approved by the sponsoring group’s Seneschal and the group may restrict who may represent them to the public.  Restricting participation should be done with extreme caution and care.  A demo may also be an “event” if it meets the requirements for an event as outlined in Corpora.  At any demo, a financial SCA member must be present and in charge of the demo.
  3. Demos where there are no combat-related activities do not require waivers unless they are held as part of an SCA “event”.  Therefore, if there is no combat, and the demo is not held at an SCA event, waivers are not required.  Waivers may be completed individually, or a roster waiver may be used.  It is not required that spectators at demos sign waivers, as long as they don’t become participants.
  4. As with all martial activities, an authorised marshal of whatever forms are being displayed must be present if there is fighting at a demo.  SCA combatants must be authorised in that weapons’ form / style in order to perform at the demo.
  5. Demo organiser should pay particular attention to site / host restrictions regarding SCA and live steel weapons.  In general it is not a good idea to allow the general public to handle live steel weapons at a demo and live steel weapons must never be left unattended.  SCA weapons (non-live steel) must not be left unattended and in plain sight and access of the public.  (They may be stored unattended in tents, cars, etc.)
  6. Since observers of SCA demos are generally not familiar with SCA combat activities, special care for safety must be taken.  Double List-field ropes (if possible 1 metre apart) should be used, and sufficient safety personnel must be provided to ensure safety of combatants and observers.
  7. A member of the SCA may not hit a member of the public with any weapon regardless of whether the member of the public is in armour and gives consent.  Adult members of the public who wish to try armoured combat should be referred to the nearest SCA group for instruction.  (Note:  target archery is not considered a “combat-related activity”, when using blunts, and so waivers need not be signed for that activity, but be certain that all appropriate safety procedures are taught and followed.)
  8. (Please Note:  This particular activity is not allowed within the Kingdom of Lochac) With specific safety restrictions, supervised children age 12 and under may hit an armoured SCA fighter with boffer weapons only, not rattan weapons.  Waivers are not needed from the parents of children who take part in “fight-a-knight” activities.  Minimum safety standards include keeping armoured observers at least 10 feet away from the armoured fighter and child.  Individual Kingdoms may make more restrictive policies.
  9. Whenever a demo is done with children present, a minimum of two unrelated adults must also be in attendance at that demo.  “Children” refers to anyone under the age of legal majority.
  10. No one may bring weapons of any kind onto the grounds of a school without prior knowledge and consent of the school officials.
  11. There is no SCA policy that prohibits an SCA group from charging a “demo” fee to the organisation requesting the demo.  However, most groups accept donations rather than charging a set fee.  With either a donation or a “demo” fee, all monies should be in the form of a check, payable to the “SCA, Inc., [group name].”  Under no circumstances should an individual receive cash or a check made out to them personally.  SCA site fees may not be charge at a demo unless the demo is held as part of an SCA event.
  12. Assuming appropriate safety precautions are in place, and with any necessary instruction, participation is a highly effective method of educating the demo guests – and fund for both the SCA member and guest.

3. Society Demo Policy

When planning a Demo, you will first need to determine what type of demo it will be.  Most often, when demo opportunities present themselves, the type is predetermined by the organisation or business that has extended the invitation, such as a school.  Most demos can be, and often are, more than one type of demo.  By analysing the situation and determining which aspects apply, you can identify your goals and plan your activities accordingly.  Make sure that you work with your seneschal, your deputy and volunteers to create a positive view of the SCA.

a. Recruitment Demos . . . . .  are demos in which the goal is to acquire new members.  The purposed of the recruitment demo is public exposure, not public pressure.  Never force an observer to participate or to listen to your “spiel” . . . . . . but do stand ready to address the questions your audience might have . . . . . and extol the virtues of the Society when asked.  A recruitment demo can be held anywhere, from local community fairs to University campuses.  You will generally get better attendance if your demo is tied in with another publicised activity.  Generally your audience is the passerby or those who come to “the main attraction”.  They may also have been attracted by advertising you have put out for your demo.  By showing the general public a “grand spectacle”, using elements of the SCA chosen specifically for their broad attraction and fun value, you will always draw a crowd.  The key to successful recruitment demo is the fun factor.  People naturally want to do what is fun.  If it is obvious that you are having a good time, they will want to join you.  Make it fun for yourself and interesting for them.  Pageantry is the simplest way to draw the modern eye.  Having a large number of well-dressed participants, banners, pavilions (where possible), a colourful dance display, and a vivid display of fighter exploits, are what we do best to draw and excite a crowd.  However, too much activity at a demo can become boring.  Make sure that your activities are as well rounded as possible.

b. Community Relations Demos . . . . .  are demos in which the goal is to let people know of the existence of the SCA by providing a visible presence and / or entertainment.  Obviously, this is closely tied to the other three types of demos mentioned here.  However, the focus and intent are different.  If you happen to recruit additional members, educate a few people and obtain the use of a site in the process, all the better!  These types of demos would include activities such as Charity Fundraisers, etc.  The goal here is to help your community and create a good reputation for the SCA.  Demos for festivals, restaurants, or other community gatherings would also be included here.  The ultimate goal is entertainment and community interaction.

c. Educational Demos . . . . .  are demos in which the goal is to educate students about the Middle ages.  Usually, the Educational Demo is performed at a school as a supplement to the school’s curriculum.  Teachers appreciate our unique ability to crate a “hands-on” style of teaching.  Education is about passing on information is such a way that it is retained.  Having the SCA involved helps to ensure that students will retain more information from our “real live” lessons, rather than what they get to read in books.  A successful demo can inspire students to learn more about he Middle Ages on their own.  Inspiration then is as much a part of your goal as education.  And who knows . . . . . you might just recruit a teacher in the process!  In this type of demo environment your audience is limited to school-age children.  Your possibility for recruitment are slim at best and in any case, not your objective.  The key to an educational demo is authenticity.  Try to find period-looking armour.  Since it is unlikely that you will need or want more than two or four fighters for and educational demo, this isn’t as hard as it sounds.  Always remember that a good tabard hides a multitude of anachronistic sins.  In addition to fighting, other activities can play a significant role.  In schools, especially, your audience is looking for a change of pace.  Many a student or Boy Scout will listen attentively to a story or song during a Demo in their class or meeting, when they would run the other way in a park.  The sight of 30 Boy Scouts dancing the Official Bransle is not be be forgotten.  Gauging your audience’s age level and interests in important.  A group of year 2’s needs more entertainment and less information.  A group of year 7’s can handle more complex information, if they are interested in it.  If you have artisans in your group, ask them to actually do their craft, rather than having a static display.  Get them to make the tools of their craft available for “try-outs” by interested, carefully supervised students.  Role playing can be a very useful tool to hold the attention of youngsters.  It is far more entertaining to learn by watching “characters” than to listen to another lecture.  An evil knight is a wonderful and familiar character to introduce chivalry, (or the lack thereof) fighting and life in the Middle Ages . . . . . getting a short script written out to introduce different characters isn’t that difficult and so much more entertaining for your audience.  Surprise everybody by getting one of the fighters to stomp unexpectedly, beating on his shield loudly, declaiming the poor manners of his opponents . . . . . you get the drift.

d. Acquisitional Demos . . . . .  are demos in which the goal is to acquire something for the benefit of your local group or the SCA in general, such as a cash donation, or use of a site.  Again, this type of demo typically contains elements of the other types of demos.  However, the focus and intent are different.

4. Demo Ideas: Below is a list of ideas for demos.  It is not intended to be “all inclusive”.  As always, be creative.  If you have new ideas, share them with this Office and other local Chatelaines.  If you are explaining a demo or display in a place of business or culture, always be sure to obtain approval from the appropriate management officials.

  1. Conduct a demo and / or set up an information table / static display at your local University.  Many Uni’s have clubs weeks or “O-days” and if they do not already have an SCA College up and running, this could be the start of a new group down the way.
  2. Teach a class or give a demo in garb at a store that sells supplies you use.  Do historic costuming at a fabric store, spinning at a yarn store, woodworking at a hardware store, embroidery or illumination at a craft / art supply store, etc.
  3. Display completed works in the windows of appropriate stores.  Almost anything is appropriate for books stores and libraries.
  4. Go as a group, in garb, to the opening night of a historic themed movies.  Be sure to bring flyers that provide a brief description of the SCA and local contact information.
  5. Hold fighter training in a local park.  Encourage non-fighters to attend, in garb, to work on their projects and add to period atmosphere.
  6. Sing period Christmas carols in garb a local shopping centres, Christmas craft fairs, book stores or local coffee houses etc.  (Depending upon location and temperature at this time of the year.)
  7. For school demos, give presentations for classes other than History or Social Studies.  Offer to cover medieval recipes or period clothing for a Home Economics class, armour for a metal workshop class, period wood working for a woodworking class, Calligraphy and Illumination for an Art class, herbalism for an Agriculture class etc.
  8. Contact a library or book store and volunteer to read, (in garb) “period-themed” stories to children.
  9. Man a “relief station” or participate in charitable marathons or telethons.

5. Organising Demos: Technically speaking, demos are the responsibility of your Office and that of the group’s Seneschal.  As your local Group Chatelaine, you should always be involved in their planning.  This does not mean that you must take personal responsibility for planning every demo for your group.  If you are not the primary organiser, be sure to be available to provide assistance and advice to whoever is taking the lead.

  1. Successful demo planning depends upon the planner’s attention to detail.  As stated above, demo opportunities often present themselves and the type of demo may be pre-determined.  Deciding what activities will be appropriate and interesting will depend upon a number of variables; your primary purpose for conducting the demo; the composition and size of your audience; the site and any site restrictions; the skills and numbers of your volunteers.
  2. Ensure that the site has a designated point of contact with whom you can communicate about the details of your demo.  Be sure to confirm the date of the demo with the hosting organisation and your volunteers.
  3. Always ask for volunteers.  Never assume that someone is able to attend or is willing to participate.  If specific skills are needed, it is sometimes prudent to ask a “potential volunteer”, who possesses the needed skills, for their help.  If they are unable to help, ask them for the name and contact information of someone who can.  Several weeks prior to the demo, remind your volunteers of their agreement to participate and confirm that your understanding of what you think they have agreed to bring and / or do is consistent with what they think they agreed to.
  4. You may want to arrange publicity or press coverage.  Be sure to coordinate your efforts with the hosting organisation.
  5. Hold fighter training in a local park.  Encourage non-fighters to attend, in garb, to work on their projects and add to period atmosphere.

6. Guidelines for participation in Demos:

The following is a list of general notes for anyone preparing to organise and / or attend a demo.  Local Chatelaines may wish to copy this section and hand it out to everyone planning to hold, or attend, a public demonstration by the Society for Creative Anachronism.  Remember, at a demo you are on display.  You represent the entire Society and should plan and behave accordingly.  All that is expected is that you make the best presentation with the available resources.  Some of the guidelines presented here may seem like obvious common sense but when all is said and done, sometimes common sense is the one thing that gets left behind when you are trying to pack for a demo.  Collect yourself before the demo starts.  Take a deep breath and relax.  As tense as some large demos can be with all the planning, preparation and people, they do not have to be a chore.  Demos ar fun!  If you love what you are doing and you are having a good time, it will show.  This is your chance to share who you are.  Why do you enjoy the SCA?  You probably have lots of different reasons.  What are they?  How would you describe it to someone who knows nothing about it?  Demos are your chance to share that feeling.  Someone out there is ready to learn something new, fun and amazing, from you.  Perhaps they may even join in.  You could find them standing beside you at the next demo.  Have fun.  Make friends.  Teach something.  Learn something.

  1. Behaviour and courtesy:

a. Be courteous and chivalrous at all times and to everyone.  Leave any emotional baggage at home.  If you maintain a personal grudge with some one participating at the demo, either learn to be civil, or stay home.  If you are having personal problems, put your best “game face” forward.  The public is very sensitive to “bad vibes”.  For your part, do not be affected by any rudeness, either from modern spectators or other SCA members.

b. If you want to speak to friends for a while, or get into an involved conversation, please step away form the “demo” area to continue or even better, agree to get together after the demo has concluded.

c. Do not try to sell anything at a demo, or promote a private business, either way verbally or with business cards etc.  Too often this can cause modern attendees go believe that the Society itself is a business . . . . . we most definitely are not!  We are a non-profit, educational organisation.

2. Appearance:

a. All mundane items should be kept out of view, or disguised in a feasible manner.

b. Keep your gear (toiletries, paperwork, armour bags, etc.) contained and unobtrusive.  If there is a staging area or spare tent / pavilion, organise for all involved to leave stuff there.

c. Bring a period-looking drinking vessel.  You may want to bring your feasting gear to show off, or maybe even to eat from / with.

d. A crucial part of any demo will be your heavy weapons combat and this is usually the biggest drawcard of the day, so make an effort to make it look as period as possible.

e. Wear your most period (speccy) garb.  Use the most correct accessories you have and be prepared to answer questions about what era, culture or country you represent.

f. You are responsible for your personal possessions.  Don’t take anything of value to a demo and if you do, make sure it is stowed in a safe place where you (or someone in the group) can keep an eye on it.

3. Participation:

a. If you are participating as a fighter, have fun and make it look good.  Issue a challenge to your opponent, make a show of fighting for the honour of a lady (or lord as appropriate).  And remember, we are here to educate and entertain.  It doesn’t matter who wins.  Save your self-indulgence for the list field.

b. If you are putting something on display, but do not want it handled in any way, put it in a display case or frame.  Really precious articles should be left at home.

c. Small objects, such as embroidery, tablet weaving etc., give you something to do and talk about.  they help show another aspect of medieval life.  Works in progress are a great way for letting people see how things are done.  Don’t worry about how good it is (or isn’t).  The point is, you did it yourself with your own two hands!

d. If you want to demonstrate something larger than lap-size, be sure to check with the demo steward to see if you can be accommodated, (i.e. physical space, time slot if needed, or other site limitations).

e. If you are really shy and do not wish to actively participate in the demo, please come anyway!  Keep in mind that participating can mean doing behind the scenes work, like setting up the photo boards, water carrier for the fighters, or helping to set up the list field, pavilions and static display.  Don’t let the public unnerve you . . . . . some of them may be just as shy but interested in what we do.

4.  Information:

a. There is no such thing as a stupid question.  Respect the curiosity of the people attending at your demo.

b. If you do not know the answer to a question asked of you, don’t make something up.  Instead, refer them to someone who may be able to answer their question.  You should say something like, “That’s a good question.  I’m sorry I don’t have an answer for you but let me introduce you to someone who may know . . . . .”.

c. Refer any media presence, any mundane event hosts, or any other officials directly to the demo Steward, Seneschal or Chatelaine.  If none of these individuals are available, direct them to the most articulate group Officer in attendance.

d. Any requests for general information on the SCA should be directed to the Chatelaine, or whatever information point has been set up for the demo.

5. Safety:

a. Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you at all times.  Children and pets move fast and generally in the worst possible direction . . . . . like straight through the list field!  Watch for people picking up weapons and armour during demos.  These items can cause injuries.

b. Check in advance regarding the wearing of “dress steel”.  If it is permitted, always carry it “peace tied”, (i.e. tied with a cord into it’s scabbard so it cannot be drawn inadvertently).  Always heed the mundane laws in your State & NZ, as some States forbid the carry of such weapons in public.

c. If possible, familiarise yourself with the demo site.  As most people now carry mobile phones, finding the nearest landline is moot.  Where are the nearest toilets?  Where can you get water?  Where can you find the site host or security person?

7. Suggested Handouts, Flyers, Activities & Displays:

As with any list in this handbook, it is not all inclusive . . . . . use your imagination!

a. Handouts

  1. Flyers that contain information on the SCA and your local group, including a list of contacts and up-coming events.
  2. Membership forms.
  3. Copies of the newcomers pamphlet “Forward into the Past” which can be downloaded from the net, or ordered through the Stock Clerk.
  4. Copies of the “Compleat Anachronist” available for perusal on your static display table, as well as copies of your local newsletter and perhaps “Pegasus”.
  5. Illuminated bookmarks with information and contacts on the reverse to give out.
  6. Copies of (copyright free) black and white line drawings to give to children for colouring pages.  Include dragons, knights, kings & queens, knotwork, illuminated letters etc.  Several packets of inexpensive coloured pencils and textas so the kids can get on with the colouring there and then would be good.


b. Static Display

  1. Photo albums with pictures of a variety of SCA activities.  A presentation pin board with enlarged photos and colourful captions / titles.
  2. Dressmakers dummies displaying court garb.
  3. A table set with Feasting Gear.
  4. Hands-on exhibit . . . . . hats, garb or bits of armour, for people to try on.
  5. Displays of as many aspects of the SCA as you can get your hands on.  Active displays, (where people are actually performing their craft) are very effective.  Try to represent such activities as armouring, arrow fletching, scroll making / illumination, needlework, woodworking, leatherworking, spinning, weaving, etc.  The list goes on and on.
  6. A period gaming table with someone to explain the rules to those interested in playing.
  7. Appropriate Music.  The music can be used for a dancing demo or just background music.  If possible, live musicians are even better.


c. Other items to bring:

Sign-up sheets where people can fill in their details if they want more information.  This sheet should include columns for their name, address, phone no., email address and topics of interest.  Some people are hesitant to fill out this type of sheet if there aren’t any other entries already filled in, so fill in a few dummy names and info for the first couple of entries.

8.  Post Demo Follow-up:

After your group’s demo has come to an end, there are still some post-demo tasks to be accomplished.  You should follow-up with those who took the time to put their name on the sign-up sheet and who expressed an interest in the SCA (potential newcomers); your site contact, who provided you with a location and information necessary to conduct a successful demo and the members of your group who donated their time and talent.

a. Potential Newcomers:

It is essential that you contact everyone who filled out the sign-up sheet as soon as possible after the demo, (within 5 days).  The preferred method of contact is via telephone as emailing is too impersonal.  Verbally invite them to any newcomers’ meetings you have scheduled, then follow-up with a written invitation.  If you do not have the time to phone, then email them but do so promptly.  If you don’t have enough newcomers to schedule a newcomers’ meeting, offer to meet with them personally.  You can meet with them at fighter training, an A&S meeting, or any other activity scheduled for your group.  When you speak with the, find out what aspect of the SCA they are interested in a plan accordingly.  Whatever you do, make sure that they know that you haven’t forgotten them a find a way for them to get involved as soon as possible.

b. Site Contacts:

Always follow-up with your site contact to foster positive relationships within your community and ensure that you will be welcome back in the future.  Were they happy with the demo?  If not, why not?  this can help you improve the quality of future demos and / or clarify expectations.  If you were doing a demo for a fee, did your group receive payment?  If you were doing the demo in exchange for use of the site, have all arrangements been finalised?  do they want you to do another demo next year?  Do they have any comments or suggestions for next year’s demo?  Consider inviting them to your next event.  Whatever the outcome, always be sure to thank the person(s) who graciously welcomed you and allowed you to conduct your demo at their site.

c. Thank everyone!:

Always thank the good Gentles who donated their time and talents to help you make your demo interesting, educational and fun.  Some of them have travelled a considerable distance to participate.  Before they leave the demo site, make an effort to verbally thank the.  Ask your Chronicler to publish a thank you note in the next newsletter, post a thank you message to your groups email list.  You’ll find you will get more assistance and cooperation for future demos if people know that you appreciate their efforts.