Wednesday, 13 May 2015


Dear Friends,

It is that time of the year again; the time when I begin to panic about this year's Weird Weekend. For those of you not in the know, the Weird Weekend is another of those peculiar projects that I started almost by accident, and which has grown in a quasi-organic manner into something that I don't think that anyone was expecting. In a nutshell The Weird Weekend is the largest yearly gathering of mystery animal investigators in the English-speaking world. Now in its sixteenth year, the convention attracts speakers and visitors from all over the world and showcases the findings of investigators into strange phenomena.

That all sounds very worthy if you are into all that sort of thing, but as always, mere words don't really do the event justice. As I say each year, it is a place Where one can see old friends, and meet new ones, it is a place where alliances have been formed, plans made and research both formulated and evaluated, and above all it is great fun. I truly don't think that there is another event like it in the world quite like it.

At last year's event, for example, one of the founder members of Van Der Graaf Generator talked about his researches into the matter of life after death, a British explorer recounted his adventures in the police state of what used to be Burma in search for a probably extinct species of duck that most people haven't ever heard of, our guest if honour was the ashes of Wally Hope, a graphic demonstration using small children explained how scorpions attack their prey, an exhibition by the UKs leading underground cartoonist, and one of the presenters introduced one of the acts whilst rolling around on the floor wrapped in a bin bag. Oh yes, and there was also the world famous Tunnel of Goats, a haunted teddy bear nest, and a spider baby. And the whole event kicks off with free drinks in a marquee on my lawn. There is music, art, films and some of the nicest home cooked food that one could possibly imagine. Nine months later one of Britain's leading explorers is still eulogising over the feta cheese salad.

I think we have established that the event is great fun, but I also believe that it is an important event, and furthermore one which would be sadly missed if it ever came to an end.

Why is it important? A whole slew of reasons:

  • It is the only conference in the world that is not just aimed at preaching to the converted. it is aimed at the casual enthusiast as much as the acknowledged expert, and there are entry level items as well as ones for the more rarified interest.
  • It is the only conference that I have ever been to where there is no Green Room. There is nowhere for the experts, and famous guests (and believe me, some of the guests are very famous indeed) to hide from the general public. Our guests are encouraged to mix with the public, and our public are encouraged to communicate with and interact with the guests.
  • It is the only conference in the world (as far as I am aware) that doesn't take itself too seriously. I have been asked over and over again why I don't call it something like 'The International Cryptozoological Symposium', and the answer is simple. There are too many two bit organisations that revel in self aggrandisement and give themselves idiotically pompous titles. We already know that this is the best conference in the fortean world, so why be pompous about it? It is also the only conference that I have ever been to which is just as surreally silly as it is academically sensible.
  • It is family friendly. Kids are encouraged to participate, and there are special events (such as the mildly revolting, but world famous, cake eating competition, and the nature walk, that are especially aimed at the younger generation.
  • It is raising money not only for the Centre for Fortean Zoology, but for the Small School in Hartland, a valuable and unique educational establishment. What's so good about the Small School? This is how they describe themselves on their website:

"Welcome to the Small School, a co-educational, independent school for 11-16 year olds, based in Hartland, Devon. We believe education should be based on trust and mutual respect, together with a commitment to the school community. We aim for a flexible and responsive approach to an individual’s interests, needs and abilities, thereby seeking to develop self-motivated learning.

Although over thirty years old, the Small School continues to pioneer a human scale approach to education and there is no other secondary school quite like it in the country. Many new ‘Free Schools’ have been influenced by the ethos of the Small School, but human scale at the Small School means a maximum of 40 students only."

It is a valuable fund raiser for both organisations, but it is not about the money, not at all. We haven't put the price up in ten years. It remains twenty quid for the whole weekend if you buy in advance, and everyone under sixteen gets in for free as long as they are accompanied by a vaguely responsible adult. And if you live in Hartland, Woolsery, Clovelly or Welcome there is a special discount rate.

No, this is not at all about the money. It is about bringing people together for an absolutely magickal weekend of high strangeness and monumental silliness, and I really wish that everyone reading this would bite the bullet and decide to come.


Well, first of all, the best thing that you can do is buy tickets from the link here:

But we are also looking for sponsors. Last year our sponsors included Gonzo Multimedia, Vaudrey Arts, and Erik Norlander's Think Tank Media, and we would love to have even more this year. if you would like to sponsor the event either with a cash donation or a donation of goods that can be used as raffle or door prizes please contact us. We would love to have you on board.

So why am I panicking? I have never made any secret of my incipient paranoia, and although we have held fifteen successful events so far, and never yet had an event where nobody turned up, we have only sold a handful of tickets so far, and Despite the lessons of history, I would be much happier of we could sell a few more.

So c'mon guys. Make a paranoid old hippy a happy man, and come and join in the fun. You won't regret it, I promise, and you will actually be helping to change the world just that little bit.

Om Shanti

Jon Downes

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