Reenactor Interviews: Kelly Grant
Welcome to the first of my new series of reenactor interviews! I hope you enjoy getting to know your hobby-peers, and if you have any suggestions of questions I should add, feel free to let me know!
1. How did you get into the hobby, and how old were you?
K: I made my first “historical” outfit at about 9 years old. Didn’t start playing in the hobby until after my first year of university. I would have been 20/21. The first outfit was for a children’s parade, I was a pilgrim.
W: Did you have an interest in history before that or did that provoke the history interest?
K: I got into the hobby because the photographer for our historical fashion show was an 84th member and he suggested we come show the ladies in his unit how to dress properly. They were wearing shifts and sneakers at that time, with maybe one petticoat. I’ve always had a love of history, but had no idea the hobby was here in Nova Scotia. I had only seen civil war stuff. I’ve always lived in a multi generational household, and I’m named after a historical figure from here.
The 18thC from school, then joining the 84th. That one on both accounts was rev war period. Then Louisbourg’ started having grand encampments, so I went 40 years earlier. Later, we I started playing with the SCA, I dabbled, but then settled in the early 17thC because of a contract for Port Royal here in NS. Samuel Champlain suits.
3. What is your favorite period to reenact? Why?
18thC because everyone tries so hard to get it right. I’m looking forward to getting my geek on more with you guys in the states. My PhD thesis will also be on 18thC clothing.
4. What is your favorite place/site for reenactments?
My very favourite is Louisbourg’s, first because actual reenacting is heads and shoulders above the SCA. Everything is period. Louisbourg is also a big factor in itself, because it is a whole town, about 20 minutes from modernity. When we are there, we are truly stepping back in time. We can see the modern town lights across the harbour, but other than that, 18thC bliss. We have a few spots like that here for revolutionary period, but nothing really compares. I’m big for full emersion events. I think Fort Ticonderoga would compare.
5. What makes you choose many different periods instead of focusing on on specific place and point in time?
K: Reenacting here is seasonal. And a very short season…end of June to labor day. I started playing in the sca because friends were doing it. I love my friends, but hate the organization. I hate the award system, a and don’t much like the lack of ambience at events. But we haven’t had much winter activities in the 18thC, that’s changing though. I can see the eventuality of Hive- like gatherings happening here, as well as closed to the public winter events.
W: So doing multiple periods extends your reenacting season, effectively?
K: Yup. In the SCA here, my household is known for its level of authenticity, so I think we even have a bit of influence there too. We switch mid Sept and mid June.
K: My favourite things are getting my historical geek on with my friends. We learn from each other, share projects, ideas, research. At events, after the public leave and it’s 100% period. The least favourite stems from the SCA and that damned award structure. It creates petty politics. In our 18thC groups there are people who either won’t or can’t meet standards, but there’s an attempt, and we all help each other. I’ve met too many SCA peers that wouldn’t know historical anything if it bit them on the nose. And an SCA T-shirt with your jeans is not historical clothing. Wow, that was catty. And will surely win me favors in the Society…
W: That sort of thing is part of why I have only done a few SCA events.
K: I’m really on the fence whether I’m still playing or not. It’s on an event by event basis
7. Is there anything you do that is unusual within the hobby?
Well, when I started I was a single girl. In a hobby of men mostly old enough to be my dad. My family came with me later. As did my husband. Usually it’s the guys who drag their wives. And we’ve done civilian persona, refugees actually. My husband has no interest in joining a military unit. We don’t own any firearms, though we should have one long gun, for hunting. That’s an expensive prop though. Pierre is military in real life, part of a marine like until that is attached to the ships…he gets his gun geek at work. In the SCA I do post Elizabethan, which has also not won me friends in high places in the costuming community.
I will speak directly about the 18thC here. The research and sharing of that research. My gripes, I’m helping to fix by lengthening our season.
9. Are you involved in the hobby at a different level than most (such as a merchant, umbrella org official, staff at a historical site, etc) and if so, what is that like? Does it change your participation in the hobby?
All of the above! I work in the museum system as a costumer. I also do custom work for people. Because of my existing relationship with many museums, I am often site coordinator for our group. I’m also, until the first of April, secretary for the Atlantic Living Heritage Association. You could say that my hobby and work life blend greatly, so I’m also a big fans of putting our best foot forward at all times. I also teach every week, so that part of my life blends too.
Last summer at Louisbourg, we ran a tavern on Saturday night, we fed a crowd of about 20, beans and bread from the baker’s, not heavy drinking, but there was a bit. It was mostly because of the camaraderie. We were all up until long after midnight, no horror shows. Second would have been our regency house party on valentines day this year. Everyone worked so hard. Mum’s favourite was also Louisbourg, 2008. We had heavy fog and the military units marching out of the fog. It was ghostly. Neck hair standing up moment.
11. How do you think the hobby will change in the next 10-20 years? What changes would you like to see?
There will be more research and more accuracy. Museums are also seeing the value of us. I would like to see more young people, but that means work on my generations part, and I don’t see that mentoring happening as much just yet.
12. What’s your best piece of advice for someone interested in becoming a reenactor?
Don’t go out and buy everything you think you’ll need. Find someone to mentor you and see how they do things. You may find yourself being helped getting kitted up, for much cheaper than buying stuff. Especially if you are helpful around camp. We have mentored three young people now. And mostly for really cheap, through stash remnants and second hand stuff.
13. Do you think the hobby needs to change in order to attract the next generation of reenactors? If so, how?
K: I think the only thing that needs to change is that the older generation needs to mentor more. We need to be encouraging with regards to research and accuracy. That it doesn’t need to be hard or expensive. I’d like to see units have loaner gear that young people can borrow until they get their feet wet and/or can afford to buy, and know what to buy. We also have to not be bossy with regards what young people can do. The life could be so rich and diverse, if we let people create their own reason d’etre.
W: How do you feel about the current attempts to attract young people? What do you think we’re doing wrong?
K: I am loving the young folks out of Ti and other authentic. Love them to bits. I see great research coming from them and that so encouraging.
W: Yes, it really is. I think they’re a great example of how high standards can still attract new, young reenactors.
14. Ignoring cost, practicality, etc, what is your “dream impression”?
To own my own tavern, building and all! I would love to do living history as a full time job.
15. Give a basic description of yourself *outside* the hobby (where you live, employment, family status, other hobbies, whatever you want to mention):
I am a military wife, in a multigenerational family. I live in military housing, on a base. I am married to a great guy. I love to cook. We like to say that my academic “career” is really my other hobby.