Avalon 2006. November 24-26, 2006
Convention, Wells, England
Each of the morning and afternoon sessions lasted approximately 3 to 4 hours to include the Q&A, coffee or tea, and the photo sessions. The schedule allowed for a break of 1 to 2 hours in the afternoon between sessions, and again in the evening before the auction began, and this gave fans who were not involved in a session opportunities to explore historic Wells and neighboring Glastonbury.
Wells is an ancient community of stone and half-timbered buildings. It derives its name from three wells, dedicated to St. Andrew and once believed to have curative powers, in the market place and on the grounds of the Cathedral and Bishop's Palace. By population, Wells is a small town, but it is granted status as a city by virtue of the immense Cathedral at its center, and it proudly claims the title of 'The Smallest City in England."
The history of the cathedral dates back to 700 AD when the first church was built in Wells in honor of St. Andrew, and it was raised to the status of Cathedral Church two centuries later. Following the removal of the Bishop's seat to Bath, Wells fell into decay until Bishop Reginald de Bolun tore down the old cathedral and began building the current one in 1180, a project that would take 250 years. Today the magnificent Wells Cathedral stands on Cathedral Green in the heart of the town.
Situated next to the Cathedral is the Bishop's Palace, the walled residence of the Bishops of Wells for centuries. The Palace is surrounded by a moat, and is known for its swans that have been trained to ring a bell hanging from the gatehouse at feeding time. The grounds surrounding the Palace and its moat are a public park with walking paths, and tucked away along the path is a large stone marker indicating the direction of nearby Glastonbury Tor. It was to the Bishop's Palace that fans were welcomed for the Avalon event.
On the opposite side of the Cathedral from the Palace is Vicar's Close, an enclosed cobblestone street lined with quaint row houses and towering chimneys. Built in 1363, the Close was once the home of the Vicar's Choral, and today the men of the choir and their families, as well as others who help run the Cathedral, still live there. The Vicar's Close is purported to be the oldest planned and continually inhabited street in Europe.
Beyond the walled grounds of the Cathedral and the Palace is Market Square, fronted by the more modern Town Hall, and the 15th century hotel, The Crown. In 1695, the Quaker and founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn, preached from a room in the Crown to a crowd gathered in the market place below. He was arrested for unlawful assembly, only to return weeks later to continue his preaching before being sent to the New World. Some three centuries later, fans gathered at the Crown to register for Avalon and to meet over a pint in the pub.
Wells holds open markets in the market place twice weekly, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Here visitors can buy a wide range of items from meats and produce to clothing and jewelry. On Saturday afternoon, Richard and Amanda took advantage of the break between the morning and afternoon sessions of Avalon to wander through the outdoor market and the nearby shops in search of gifts to take home to their daughters.
More shopping awaited in the Town Hall, where Legends Memorabilia had set up a room filled with "Stargate" costumes, props, photos, and memorabilia for sale. Dan Shea, Stargate's Sergeant Siler, was also often to be found mingling with fans amid the "Stargate" items. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society also shared a corner of the room and there they offered T-shirts, hats, and other items for sale, and invited fans to become members in support of the oceans and marine life, an invitation which more than 70 fans accepted.
Throughout the weekend, fans could be seen gathering and mingling in the shops, pubs, and hotels of Wells. The Old Deanery, a 12th century building along Cathedral Green, perhaps haunted by the ghost of the nephew of Sir Walter Raleigh and now used as a conference center, was set up by the Avalon organizers as a gathering place with snacks and magazines. Another popular meeting place was the local Starbucks, one of the few public places in town with internet access.
The Avalon organizers also arranged for a bus excursion to Glastonbury, just five miles from Wells. In addition to being a central icon in the mythology of "Stargate," Glastonbury has been a place of pilgrimage among both Christians and Goddess-worshippers for thousands of years. Situated on the Somerset Levels and Moors, Glastonbury was once an island, Avalon, when the lower wetlands were flooded. The Medieval Abbey, now a preserved ruin, is historically significant because of the traditions that Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea came there and that King Arthur and Guinevere were buried there.
Overlooking the ruins of the Abbey is Glastonbury Tor, a rounded hill that rises above the plains. Long considered a place of worship, its earliest Christian roots date back to Saxon times. In the early 12th century, a chapel, St. Michael de Torre, was built at its summit, but was destroyed by a powerful earthquake in 1275. The church was rebuilt in 1323 and lasted until the Abbey was closed in 1539. Today St. Michael's Tower is all that remains of the church at the summit, and a tiered path and stairs lead visitors to the windswept top of the Tor. There one has a spectacular view of the surrounding lowlands, and no hint of the secret cavern of Ancient treasure and technology buried deep below.
Many thanks for the additional photos from:
Carmargue Ltd., Legends Memorabilia, UgzY, Trekkie, Astra, Raquel, Teresa, Beverley J Barrett, dove0709, DMD, Wendy & Kelly & Scott, Diana, Gator101, Marieta, and Gabriele Gerritsen
Transcript written by KateR. Avalon 2006 is a production of Carmargue Ltd. Wells, England. November 24-26, 2006.