Canterbury Faire 2021 is to be held Saturday 23 January - Sunday 31 January 2021

Please email the Faire Stewards for 2021 if you have any enquiries.

Advice for Far Travellers

Canterbury Faire (CF) is the largest SCA event held in New Zealand, a full-on week-long camping event involving 250+ people — big enough to have loads of fun, small enough so you get to know everyone and get to do most things. It is held late January each year, about one hour north of Christchurch, New Zealand. CF includes a melange of heavy tourneys, arts workshops, dancing, wars, archery, bardic arts, court, merchanting and much more besides.

Information about the Faire in general, and the forthcoming Faire is available via the links at left. This page is intended to provide information useful for people travelling from afar, particularly those from Australia.

Duchess Yolande Kesteven on Why go to Canterbury Faire?

Imagine the scene; 250 gentles garbed in soft wools and linens. Banners and pennons fly gently in the breeze that stirs the firs. Nearby is a coffee house, where stories of past renown and future conquest are spun, while spindles twirl a more tangible yarn. To one side, knights and nobles practice the arts martial, while consorts discuss bruise remedies. Flocks of charming children run errands when not playing on the lush green grass. A short walk away there is singing beside the waterhole and splashing in the cool deep waters. A hedgehog snuffles idly by.
Peter Jackson couldn't direct Canterbury Faire more perfectly than Southron Gaard. For five days, fairegoers step away from the mundane world to a place where clashes of arms see honour showered on victor and loser alike; where the gentle arts are taught and practiced at a pace that allows for true learning; where the Mangy Mongol coffee house keeps even the grumpiest in morning trim; and where theatre and music is always just about to happen.
And if you're a veteran of Rowany Festival at Yass, there are but two words to say: no dust.

Yolande on "So is it better than Festival?"

Absolutely, if only because it's smaller, quieter and more period looking, plus less dusty, and with a more relaxed timetable, and easier to get to from anywhere in Lochac except Canberra and Sydney ... I could go on, but the answer is yes. But don't tell the Baron of Rowany I said that, or there'll be Words.

For more detailed info on the upcoming Canterbury Faire, see the all the information here, or use the navigation at left.

The stewards would be happy to answer any specific questions, and can be contacted at this address.

Panoramic view of the main warfield
Panoramic view of the main war-field in action, which is only a few tens of metres from the main marquee on the edge of the camping areas. Note the shade, the lush green grass, the marked absence of bitey critters. Oh, and the fighters.

Sample Budget

Apart from the airfare, the costs below are expressed in $NZ (just convert $1 for $1 and you'll have an excellent safety margin). They are estimates based on visitors travelling from Sydney airport, and subject to some revisions as the stewards finalise their own costs for each year.

Item Total cost per adult Note
Sydney to/from Christchurch $A470.00 Check the luggage costs!
Transport to/from site $60-$80 Indicative only
Site fees (early bird booking) $140 Indicative only
Food plan and main feast $100 Indicative only
TOTAL: $790 more or less more or less

Check the Booking Form for information for more on current costs.

The big variable is, of course, air travel, including your baggage. For several years it was getting steadily cheaper and, in spite of increased fuel costs, there hasn't yet been too much reversal of that trend. But you should definitely compare luggage allowances between the airlines, and it might also depend on the day you book, so get the good prices while they last!

Spending money for CF — whether for snacks, auctions or market items — is an individual thing. A lot of food is included in the above budget; the Mong, a Bardic or Fighter auction and especially the Merchants might absorb some funds, however.

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How do I get there?

Plane is universally considered the easiest method, although some have been known to use boat (be sure to schedule extra time and some sailing courses).

A key consideration in booking your plane fare should not be the cost alone, but also the baggage allowances. These are changing almost daily as this is written, so you will want to check the website of the relevant airline very carefully. Example: Until August 2008, Virgin Blue and Air New Zealand both had a very kind system which allowed for a sportsbag of up to 20kg to count as weighing only 5kg towards your total, provided that bag contains nothing other than sporting equipment. This allowed for a harness, soft armourings, sword and shield, plus another 15kg for clothes and toiletries. From August 2008, Virgin Blue's domestic flight offer became "an extra 5kg allowance if you have a sports bag", and that change is very likely to apply to trans-Tasman flights too. Check!

Qantas have in the past provided excellent service, but has no sportsbag provision. They used to try to minimise your excess baggage costs on the way over, but on the way back their check-in was handled by Air New Zealand, who don't care whether you're happy with the Qantas customer service. The reverse may apply if you book with Air NZ. Be warned that excess baggage is charged at $13 per kilo or more by these carriers.

How much can I take?
Twenty kilos of luggage is enough for clean clothes, a towel, toiletries, some accessories and some crafty or book-type items. Weigh your big frocks to avoid nasty surprises at the check in counter. Your local vet may let you use their digital doggy scale to weigh your luggage.

Sportsbag allowance plus 15 kilos means a suit of armour, padding bits, one sword and shield, then clothes, take extra underwear to make up for probably having to wear the same outer gear on two days.

To up the amount that you can take, if you fight in GPs, wear your fighting boots on the plane since these will almost always be heavier than your SCA shoes. Carry your SCA coat or cloak onboard. Feign indignation if anyone thinks it weird. Carry anything heavy but non-restricted in your carry-on luggage (backpacks are good!), including ceramic goblets, books and heavy items of jewellery (Norse beads, for instance, or plaque belts). N.B. Annular brooches with long spikes are very likely to attract the wrath of security, pack these in your suitcase. Wear jewellery that is bulky if you want to stuff more into your pack, and just act like a super-model.

When travelling to and from NZ, don't describe your sword as anything other than a "stick" when checking it in. Otherwise Pacific Blue, at least, will cheerfully ship it as a restricted item, meaning that it will be delivered to the NZ Police on arrival (without telling you). The Police will just laugh and hand it to you, but you'll waste time in any case.

Swords and shields and other wooden objects are fine to carry in both directions, but will need to be readily available for close borer inspection at Quarantine (wrapping it in clear plastic is fine). Also true of any other wooden objects you have, such as dishes.

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What do I need to take?

Garb — make sure that you take lightweight clothes for day wear as it can get quite hot, and warm layers for night when it is usually pleasantly cool. Garb can be hired; check with the Steward. You will also need feasting gear, bathers/togs if you want to swim (mundane is fine, as it's open to the public). A camera is strongly recommended.

The rooms are fairly basic, so you will need to have a sleeping bag and pillow or other bedding, plus a towel or two, and soap. Sunblock and a hat will be needed, as will a cap or hood for night. Warm socks for night, too!

Take something exciting from a SCAdian perspective; your fabbo embroidery, or a cunning piece of casting for example. Half the fun of the faire is seeing what each of us does in the game, and exchanging skills. If you're a stickjock, plan for lots of pickups to teach and learn.

What don't I need to take?
It depends on how much spare cash you have or how much planning you are willing to put in. The locals are extremely friendly and you can organise a swapsies plan to provide them with bedding and towels when they come to Festival in exchange for similar at CF. Otherwise, you can stop in at the discount shops and op shops in Christchurch and pick up a cheap towel, pillow and blankies, so you only need bring a sheet and pillowcase.

You will usually be able to buy into a food plan, contact the stewards. There is a market day for the purchase of fine dainties and craft items. The Mangy Mongol will keep you in coffee and hot chocolate, plus delicate comestibles. There are often food merchants through the weekend too.

No need to bring bottled water, the tap water is delicious.

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Tents & mattresses are available for hire. Bunkrooms with mattresses (no linen) are included in the site fee. There are a reasonable number available, and some are reserved for families, but it always helps to get a request in early.

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Porridge breakfasts are free! That aside, CF typically has one or more food plans offering lunch and dinners, with the main Faire Feast as a special one-off cost. The latter is often booked out by November and the main meal plan not long afterwards. Some light food can be found at the Mangy Mong, and during the market.

More information on food options can be found here: Food & Shelter

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Superficially very like Festival was at Yass — dry, warm sunny days, cooler nights. But there are some key differences:

  • Unless they are Norwesters, the winds tend to be moderate and very tolerable. Even so, if you are out in the sun at midday for a while, you will be too, too hot unless you find or bring shade. Fortunately, shade is in plentiful supply at CF. Expect daytime temperatures to be 20-25C, higher is entirely possible. And dry, not humid.
  • It can rain, of course, even heavily, and for a day or two. But it usually doesn't.
  • The nights are cool (e.g. 10-15C), but not like Festival at Yass. You won't be racing around to put on a cloak as soon as the sun goes down (and in February, it will be light past nine p.m.).
  • Grass. You will find lots of it, and a lot of it will be an interesting green colour. And, because of the complete lack of venymous fauna (no, really!), it is absolutely ok to wear bare feet around the encampment if you don't mind the odd sharp stone on the main roads.

Think Hobart for climate, or Kent on a nice summer day. Green as far as the eye can see and clear running water in the rivers. The plant life is greener and fresher than Australia's, with many species that are never seen in Australia. It's a genuinely different place, with fresh crisp air (usually low humidity) and vibrant light. And yes, that big yellow buzzing thing is a bumblebee.

Make sure that you take lightweight clothes for day wear as it can get quite hot, and warm layers for night when it is usually cool.

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Unlike Festival, Canterbury Faire is held at a pre-established camping venue, with fairly well-developed grounds, excellent shade, and a good range of facilities, including:

  • The main hall — great for feasting, balls and larger A&S gatherings
  • Kitchen, dishwashing area, and small dining hall (used for breakfasts and sometimes lunches)
  • Numerous bunkrooms which cost no extra and which are allocated on a priority basis to visitors and to those with families
  • Other buildings also containing kitchens, facilities and meeting rooms
  • Good sets of shower and toilet facilities near the bunkroom areas and also at several locations down in the main camping area
  • A large marquee and other pavilions are erected around the main tourney area; their use varies during the weekend, but they always provide plenty of shade near the main events
  • Merchants — in a concentrated spell one afternoon, the hall or main marquee is given over to a frenzied session of trading in the most exquisite goods, foods and refreshing tidbits that can be found in this and several other Baronies. Bring cash, and lots of it (there are some very handy machines at the airport...)
  • Folk at the MongThe Mangy Mongol, an unforgettable tavern-cum-coffee-shop with the best coffee, the best hot chocolate and the friendliest staff this side of Ulan Bator (don't sit down, you might become one of them). Open most hours, including a few that don't officially exist.

It's not a particularly large site, with only one significant contour. If you started by the main gate and walked for about five minutes, that would take you along the flat past the main warfield, the marquee and tourney area, the herb garden dell, the Half-Circle amphitheatre, the steps up to the main hall, the not-so-noisy camping area, the quiet camping area and then the back field which might one day be used for war, or equestrian, or more camping, or... The site map is here, and you can take a look at this Google Earth placemark.

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Logistical Support

CF stewards typically arrange billets as required, along with a scheduled transport option to and from the CF site. For the trip from the airport to site, attendees can book a place on the single daily GoBus service available on the first Saturday and Sunday (leaving at 4:30pm YTBC) or will need to make their own arrangements to get to the site. Collaboration with others is recommended and the online noticeboard 'The Market Cross Online' has been set up to assist with this. Please check out the information below and keep an eye out on email lists and Facebook for communications.

A shuttle service will be available on the final Sunday to return attendees to the airport.

For visitors planning to make Canterbury Faire a regular stopping point, inexpensive storage on site is available for you to store items between Faires.

Market Cross Online for Canterbury Faire 2020

Cooperation and communication are keywords for Canterbury Faire 2020. Utilse the ‘Canterbury Faire 2020 Market Cross Online’ noticeboard for your transport requests or offers, for checking out the commercial transport provider information that’s been supplied, or for posting event notices.

The Market Cross Online has been created using ‘Padlet’, which is used either via a web browser and/or a mobile app (Padlet is by Wallwisher Inc). It is available on the App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android) for free download. Users are not required to create an account to be able to use the Market Cross Online, in which case your post will be anonymous. Alternatively, you can log in with your Google or Facebook credentials.

The Market Cross Online can accessed here. The permission level of the Market Cross Online is ‘Secret’, i.e. it is hidden from the public and only accessible via this link. The event team look forward to seeing you checking in at the Market Cross Online!

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Miscellaneous Hints and Cultural Notes

Southron Gaard has a very strong tradition of consistent use of SCA persona names at SCA events. To reduce confusion and help maintain the right atmosphere, it would be appreciated if you could do your best to stick with persona names rather than mundane while at the Faire.

It's well worth having a Pilgrim scrip bag: it's very handy to have a lightweight cloth bag with a good flap to keep things in. In this you'd keep lip balm, sunscreen, a drink bottle, nibble bar, camera, a notebook and pen, a song book, a fluffy toy, and be prepared for any eventuality.

You should also strongly consider taking some small gifts — you'll find someone who is worth giving one to (host, people who lend you bedding/tent, fighter auction etc.)

Remember your membership and authorisation cards!

Crossbows are legal in New Zealand for both combat blunts and target sharp use. If you can't use one at home, borrow and use one while at the Faire!

The natives are exceptionally friendly and welcoming to visitors, and the shock of hearing someone who writes beautifully nonetheless talk in a strange local dialect wears off after, oooh, five days or so.

More from Yolande

What actually happens at the Faire?
Go and read the timetable and activities page, it will be more informative than I could ever be. Some extra things that are probably not detailed there include the large and raucous party, er, gathering of like minds, held by a prominent household with a set theme every year. If you see respected heralds dressed as women, rest assured that it is not a kinky sexual thing (usually).

Storytelling in the Mong (the Mangy Mongol to those of you who have never kneaded your own identifying silly putty) is a regular occurrence. Bribe Baron Bartholomew or Baron Callum for tales if you wish to pass a half-hour enraptured. The indefatigable Baroness katherine has been known to make sure that theatre happens - listening to the tales of kings and songs of lovers has never been so spellbinding as under a bright moon on a stone seat.

And then there is the flock of very clever and interesting young people who move en masse and manage to be helpful and useful, whether they're carrying armour or hunting hedgehogs. Even the baby-eating Bishop of Bath and Wells would like this lot.

But you will probably spend most of your time as we seem to, catching up with friends that you don't see often enough, and meeting up with people that you will want to see more than once a year.

What are the Kiwis really like?
Lovely, they even give everyone a free half-day to get out all their fush and chups and sheep shagging jokes. Naturally these are rebutted with comments on deadly fauna and Australian sheep shagging. Standards of authenticity are generally high, but people aren't crazed about things.

What else is there to do in Christchurch?
Unfortunately recent geological events mean that some of central Christchurch is closed (but you knew that), however that doesn't mean there's nothing to do, the whole Canterbury region is known for its fine food and wine and there are many beautiful spots to explore.

The locals would be happy to help out with suggestions for everything from local activities to major tours of the country north and south.

Check out BeThere and for local events and activities.

Canterbury Faire 2021 is to be held Saturday 23 January - Sunday 31 January 2021

Please email the Faire Stewards for 2021 if you have any enquiries.