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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Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Weird Weekend - it's a family affair

The advent of the CFZ bloggo has not just had far reaching effects upon our publishing schedule, it has changed the human map of the CFZ. There are people who have now become part of the CFZ family, who at the beginning of the year were total strangers; Emma Biddle, Gavin Lloyd Wilson, Glen Vaudrey, Liz Clancy, Naomi and Ritchie West, and Derek Grebner, for example, and there are people whom we have known for ages like Tim Matthews and Jan Edwards who are reaching new levels of importance within the CFZ family.

Because the CFZ really is a family with all the joys, and all the sorrows that this involves.

There have been a whole spate of illnesses recently, with Marjorie Braund (my adopted mum, and Dave and Ross’s grandmother), our next-door neighbour Stuart Rickard (who some of you will remember from last year’s Weird Weekend) and our very own Emma Biddle being taken seriously ill and having spells in hospital.

It is too early for any realistic prognoses, but one can only hope (and pray) that the outcomes will be favourable.

With the Weird Weekend approaching I always find it heartwarming how nice and unselfish some of the members of the CFZ family can be. Take Davey and Joanne Curtis for example.
They, for the second year running, are travelling down from the north of England at their own expense, with their daughter Rosie and a car load of craft materials (also paid for at their own expense) to do monster model making and picture drawing workshops for the younger generation at this year’s event.

It is this, I think, which makes the Weird Weekend such a unique event. After last year’s conference I came in for a fair amount of criticism, some of it from people who really should have known better, for allowing children in to a “scientific symposium”.

The Weird Weekend isn’t a scientific symposium. Nor is it a Fortean conference. Nor is it a village fete. Nor is it a hippy-type festival. Nor is it a traditional community event. It is none of these things, and it is all of these things and more. It is the Weird Weekend and it is completely unlike anything else that I have ever heard of.

But it works, and one of the reasons that it works is because it IS a family event. And one of the reasons why I believe that the CFZ is rapidly becoming a very important organisation over and above its position within the rarefied little world of the global cryptozoological community, is because it has something to offer for all ages.

And for as long as I have anything to do with running the organisation this is the way that it will stay.

And as I don’t intend to retire any time soon, please accept the fact that the child-friendly atmosphere, the surreal silliness, the comedy and the music and theatre will stay. Because in their own little way they are as important as the publishing, the research and the expeditions that are our bread and butter.

One of the things that I think is most important about the Weird Weekend is that it is - as far as I am aware - the only even slightly Fortean conference in the world which is not just aimed at the true believers or the Fortean faithful. The general public are welcome, and they can (and do) attend.

But we don’t insult them by dumbing down the talks to make them entry-level. Our speakers are all experts in their own particular field, but they are all aware that their audience are not necessarily experts, so they tailor their talks accordingly, but they do not treat the audience – whatever age they are – as if they are stupid. And the audience - of all ages - appreciates that!
The Weird Weekend is, as I have always said, a place to see old friends and make new ones; a place where friendships and even marriages are made, where alliances forged, and working relationships formed. A place where papers are written and presented, where beer is drunk, where jokes are made and expeditions planned.

But the thing I am looking forward to most about this year’s event, which is only a few months away now, is that I am going to get to meet some of my new friends who have become such important parts of the CFZ without us ever having met in the flesh.
And that is going to be a great privelige indeed.

Weird Weekend Tickets are available for £20 for the whole weekend (advance booking price) and can be bought online via paypal or by post from us here at the CFZ. Please make your cheques payable to `CFZ Trust`.


Nick Redfern said...

God forbid it should be a hippy event!

Neil A said...

Rock on Jon...Kids are an integral part of the crypto-community. As a kid many of today's researchers were raised on tales of monsters and mysteries, whilst some kids just turned out like Tim Henman. It is vitally important that we get 'monsters' and mythology into schools, so it's great the WW allows kids to not only be spooked by monsters, but also intrigued so that one day they too may seek those creatures they once only read about in books. One day one of these children may be a valued researcher, or like Jon, start a whole community.

Anonymous said...

The other thing the Weird Weekend does, apart from giving the likes of me a holiday, is teaches people that you do not need a fistful of qualifications to do research in this sort of field. Indeed, some of the world's best know scientists such as John Bennet Lawes were almost unqualified (Lawes was in fact a university drop-out, yet founded the world's oldest agricultural research institution).

It also does help to give the cryptozoological field a sense of community which is sadly lacking and has been for ever such a long time. Time was when the UFO researchers didn't talk to the paranormalists, and neither of them went anywhere near cryptozoologists, so all of these niche communities never shared knowledge, and took decades to realise that areas rich in ghostly folklore were also UFO hotspots and the site of cryptozoological happenings.

Finally, it gives the likes of me a chance to mention completely off the wall topics. So, I would like to ask if the CFZ has any computer system running the only computer OS that I know of that is named after a cryptid; the Ubuntu Linux release "Jaunty Jackalope"?

And if not, why not?

Tim the Yowie Man said...

An event without kids is an event without a future.

I dip my hat to you Jon for encouraging kids, non-believers, true, believers, families and all and sundry to attend.

Bravo Jon. Bravo!

Jon Downes said...

SYD HENLEY WRITES: I for one, would be disgusted to see the format of the Weird Week-end changed from how it is.
It is the current combination of utter madness, pure science, fantastic friendship and all the other associated bits, that make it what it is and what the vast majority of those attending want. Has for the kids, they are just as important to the event as the adults and must be wholeheartedly encouraged, as they will hopefully one day, be the Downes's, Freeman's, Shuker's, Redfern's and maybe even the Heuvelmans of this world.

For anyone who does not like the present format, I have one piece of advice, - Don't attend

C-E B said...

Well, I just wanted to say what a lovely yet sensible post, Jon! I for one am very chuffed to be in the CFZ and am also looking forward to meeting everyone in August! I read the article in FT about Weird Weekend last year and though I've never been to one before I DID think it was very harsh! Children are the best people to invite to things like this because often their imagination is stifled at school and these are the scientists of tomorrow! Plus, anywhere that doesn't accept children is just downright miserable. We've got a pub in Heywood that has banned them and shall be boycotting it when I can afford to go drinking again! Lizzy