Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Weird Weekend: The Final Day

I remember when I was a little boy, every Christmas, my little brother would burst into tears at the end of the day because it was all over for another year. At the age of nearly 47 I know exactly how he felt.

Saturday had been an extremely stressfull day; it had been a success, but there were 101 tiny issues (and one larger one) which had to be dealt with, and by the end of the day I was so tired that I could hardly walk, let alone think. But sunday was a delightfull day, an emotional rollercoaster which saw me almost burst into tears at one stage.

First up was Paul Vella. I have known Paul for years, and for the last three years he has offered to give a talk at the Weird Weekend, and to my eternal embarrassment I have forgotten to put him on the bill - until this year. I am not doubly embarrassed, because he was bloody fantastic! Although during the rest of the weekend, I had been fairly strict about keeping to the schedule, he was so popular, and engendered such an impressive dialogue with the audience, that his 45 minute talk lasted nearly an hour and a half - with absolutely NO complaints.

Then came Jeremy Harte, who told of the folkloric accounts of how monsters - mostly dragons and wildmen - had been captured by use of alcohol. His talk was particularly interesting, when, during the discussion on wildmen, a three way discussion between him, Ronan, and Richard F, took the audience by storm.

Chris Moiser gave an entertaining and informative talk about the mystery of the Wrangaton Lion, and explained how the recently introduced Freedom of Information Act has been an invaluable boon to British mystery cat researchers. Chris, by the way, has been the only speaker, apart from Richard Freeman, to have appeared at every Weird Weekend since we started.

Then came Larry Warren - one of the most eagerly awaited speakers of the weekend. Since arrived on Thursday he had quickly endeared himself to both the children and the adults of the village. He had been playing with the kids all weekend, and had also become a firm favourite up at the pub! His Rendlesham Forest talk brought the house down, and there are now North Devonians from the age of 8 to 75 who are devoted Warrenophiles.

Next up were C.A.S, a local band, put together by David Phillips, who works at the CFZ during school holidays and at weekends. They are all fourteen, and the line up were:

Tully Reynolds Vox
Chris Buse Lead Guitar
Richard Harding Rhythm Guitar
Jeremy Manning Bass
David Phillips Drums
George Snell Yeti

I gave them my best Sam Cutler introduction, and Matt Williams provided lasers and smoke, and for a brief three minutes, we were transported back to Woodstock!

But then came the surprise. I have known David's family for thirty-five years, and his mother, Kaye, is more like a sister to me than a friend. David grabbed a microphone, and together with his two young brothers Ross, and Greg, read me a poem they had written, and presented me with a birthday cake nmade by the two younger boys. It was then, for the first and only time onstage, that I very nearly burst into tears!

Then came Ronan Coghlan, someone without whom I cannot imagine evr having a Weird Weekend. He is opne of the most naturally funny people that I have ever met, and he was undoubtedly the most entertaining speaker of the whole weekend. His talk on the goatman legends around the world, from ancient Greece, to moderm-day America.

I wrapped up the proceedings with a few words on the activities of the CFZ over the last year, and what we hoped to achieve in the future, and then it was all over!

There are so many people that I would like to thank for their help this weekend. Apart from the speakers, there were the stage crew! When we started the Weird Weekend back in 2000, it was put together by me, Richard, Graham, and Nichola Sullings - a crew of four. Now, I had a crew of over twenty!

LISA DOWLEY: Security/Floor Manager
DAVID PHILLIPS: Sound and Light
JOHN FULLER: CFZ Staff/retail
JOHN GLEDSON: CFZ TV/First unit Cameraman
DAN GARRAWAY: CFZ TV/Second unit Cameraman
GRAHAM INGLIS: CFZ Management/Driver/Third Unit Cameraman
ROY PHILLIPS: Driver/crew
ROSS PHILLIPS: Floor Liaison
GREG PHILLIPS: Floor Liaison
OLL LEWIS: CFZ Staff/tour guide
RICHARD FREEMAN: CFZ Management/Asst. Floor Manager (Friday)/Compere
MARK NORTH: CFZ Management/Photographer/Retail
CORINNA JAMES: CFZ Management/Retail/Admin
BRIAN BUTLER: Community Centre Liaison
HELEN BOND: CFZ Infrastructure
SUZI MARSH: PA/Admin/crew/retail

That evening in the pub, someone asked me what the point of the whole thing was. I told him that although it is the only English speaking cryptozoological conference in Europe, it is more than that. The CFZ is fast becoming a truly global community, and the Weird Weekend is the one time in the year that this community meets in the flesh. It is a place to see old friends, and to meet new ones. It is a place where people of all ages (3-80+ this weekend), all nationalities (11, this weekend), and from all walks of life can get together, have fun, and be happy.

In the modern world, occasions like this are a real rarity, and it truly has been a very weird (and heartwarming) weekend.

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