2016 Dickens Fair

In December Julia and I went to San Francisco’s Dickens Fair, which I’d often heard about but never attended. Despite being surrounded by a constant jibber-jabber of lame Cockney accents that would make even Dick Van Dyke wince ( ‘Cor Blimey Mary!‘ ) it was a lot of fun. Seen here are some sketches done in the PreRaphaelite Artists Salon, where we got art instruction from cosplay versions of Whistler, Rossetti, Leighton, and Waterhouse, and our models were ersatz versions of their 1800s posse.

When I first arrived in the USA to work, I heard about a Marin County Renaissance Fair, which I assumed to be a lame Reeboks under the bodkins affair, but was pleasantly surprised by how well done it was, when I eventually attended. There was great attention to costume detail, with people battling in full chain-mail, knights on horseback really jousting, and of course ye olde ‘meade tarvernes’ aplenty, although once again the Brit-accents were atrocious ( ‘Gadzooks! Thou base knave‘ etc ). Likewise, The Dickens Fair was attended by loads of people who’d obviously spent many years (and a lot of money) assembling elaborate Victorian costumes, but thankfully there were also people like us wearing their 21st century civvies, and there to watch the fun. The Renaissance Faire is held outside, in a setting that fits the theme of a 15th century jousting tourney and is very pleasant to attend, but the Dickens Fair is held inside. Although great effort is taken to create ye olde London Town, there is only so far you can go with that illusion when the stockyards at The Cow Palace is your venue.

The space was at times overwhelmingly crowded, and the interior acoustics were such that many amateur drama-club improv scenarios were constantly colliding and overlapping; ‘Get yer cockles and mussels!‘ ‘Stop thief! ‘Why, you young urchin!‘ ‘Good morning to you, Mrs Fizzywig!‘ ‘please sir, may I have more soup?‘ and so on. We enjoyed it enough to want to attend again, but arriving early in the day before the crowds is definitely the way to go.

There aren’t many cosplay options in the Marvel Universe for you unless you’ve got a body like a Superhero, and the universes of Harry Potter, Star Wars and many other fantasy worlds are also surprisingly limited in their own ways. But take heart all ye dumpy and portly folks of all ages; Renaissance/Dickens Fairs provide plenty of opportunities for the rest of us, from toddlers to grey beards, to dress up and have some fun too.

‘Gawd bless us, every one!’

14 thoughts on “2016 Dickens Fair”

  1. I’ve wanted to go to this for years-great report! The Ren Faire used to be(in my high school days)in Agoura, on the old Paramount Ranch where many films were shot. I haven’t been since it moved…but back in the day I did my best to cobble together truly threadbare peasant attire. Good times!

  2. Great drawings! How was the art instruction from your historical teachers?

    What if you and Julia attended the next one in kid proportioned costumes, like those hilarious Star Wars ones from another post? Those could go great with some bad accents!

    • I still draw like a right-hander and have not yet learned that ‘twist’ real lefties do, but I now understand why they do it. Otherwise you SMUDGE everything.

    • Our lunch was great (Fish & Chips!) and we also went to ‘high tea’ which was nowhere near as fancy as we’d hoped, but it came with entertainment (singing chimneysweeps!) so we really enjoyed it.

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