[ This article is written for a West Kingdom audience, but the suggestions apply to everyone. I've aded a couple of translations in square brackets later in the article -- Gregory ]
Over many years, starting when I was running the IKAC, I have noticed a great increase in archery participation in the Pennsic war kingdoms. Pennsic War has a war point for archery. The competition for this war point is set up so that it encourages maximum participation of the members of the kingdoms. The winner of the war point is the side with the highest total score. This means everyone that shoots can add to their side's score. It is not just the scores from the master archers that count. Some of those that shoot the competition only shoot a bow at Pennsic. But, each year a few of them decide to keep shooting and continue on to become involved in archery on a regular basis and thereby increase the total number of archers.
I believe that a similar idea would work well in the West to encourage greater participation in archery. Our present wars with Antir and Caid (when we have one with Caid) involve combat archery in the battles. But, if they were to also include a war point for target archery, it would increase over time the number of people shooting for the war point. It could encourage those that do not fight or do Arts And Sciences competitions to help their kingdom by contributing toward a war point. It would also allow some of the fighters to even further increase their contribution to winning. This increase in archery participation would not take place overnight, but would develop over time.
At this time, September 2006, the Mists Archer, Dauid Morgant, is running a 'Princes' Archery Challenge' between the Mists and Cynagua. This is won by the Principality with the highest total points in shooting the Royal Round. This can encourage anyone, no matter what their skill level, with a bow and arrows to help their Principality by shooting in the competition and adding their points to the total. And even those that lack archery equipment can borrow it to shoot and add their score to the total for the glory of their Principality.
But to give this a better chance of succeeding there are several other ideas that need to be developed simultaneously to increase the visibility of and participation in archery in the West.
Here are ten ideas that can be put into effect by the archers and archery marshals of the West. Some of these are already being done, but need further support.
1) Dress up the archery range with banners and pennons, so that it looks like a planned mainstream activity , rather than a temporary stepchild set up in a conner of the event. The equestrians have done an excellent job of doing this. There should be principality and kingdom banners and pennons to mark the shooting lines. And each archer should be encouraged to bring and put up their own banner or pennon behind them on the line. This will create a more visually attractive and inviting area. When possible sunshades should be made available for both archers and viewers.
2) The results of any competition held at an event should be announced at court and the winners called up. In addition to any possible prizes given, there should always be scrolls handed out to the top archers in each division. These scrolls can be printed up with the event, date and division beforehand and then the names filled in at the event. This can encourage many to participate by rewarding their participation and skill with a moment of recognition at court and a scroll to hang upon their wall. However, care should be taken to do the presentation quickly and not overly prolong court.
3) Archery competitions such as the `Princes' Archery Challenge', Royal Round, and Inter-kingdom Archery Competition should have their current standings and scores put in the `Page' [our kingdom newsletter] each month, as well as being posted on the West Kingdom Archery web site and archery email group. This will let the archers know their standings, help to encourage competition and keep mention of archery before the populace.
4) More interesting to watch, period type competitions should be held at events. The shooting of RRs and IKACs should be generally be done at practices. When possible, competitions should have the top finalists shoot a final round, where the results of each shot can either be seen by the audience as it happens or can be announced to them after each shot. When possible invite the Royalty to observe the final round.
5) More archery marshals should be trained and authorized. This would prevent archery from not being held at an event due to a lack of authorized marshals. By providing a large pool of marshals it would prevent any one or two marshals from having to spend all day on the range and having to set up and take down the range alone. And a larger number of marshals could mean a larger number of archery practices and events.
6) At events a supply of loaner gear should be provided and those that are interested could be given basic instruction. This could take place before and/or after the competitions. Or if there is space on the range and enough marshals to instruct them, it could take place in a separate section of the range during the competitions.
7) Youth archery is an aspect of archery that should not be neglected. Training should be made available for interested youth. When possible special competitions or at least a youth division in other competitions should be provided.
8) There is a good possibility of crossover between both equestrians and fencers with archery. This should be looked into and encouraged. The equestrians use mounted archery in some of their events and could use the opportunity for further practice in basic ground archery. And with what has been mainly fencing or equestrian events, adding archery to them could provide more attendees to watch and perhaps learn and practice new skills. This could also provide a larger gate to help cover site expenses and possibly provide more events for all three groups.
9) Competition between groups should be greatly encouraged. Not just competition for high scores but also for putting on interesting competitions and events, making and using period equipment, etc.
10) Members of the RCA and RCY and any future archery orders should be encouraged to assist in: Training of new archers. Organization of competitions. Marshaling of competitions. Creation of period gear. Teaching period archery. Etc.
11) Have an archery pavilion on the Eric [our central fighting area] at events. I believe the Office of the Royal Archer is allowed pavilion space on the Eric. Such a pavilion would be seen and walked past by most of the populace during an event. It could display examples of archery gear and related material, archery craft classes could be held there, CA authorizations could be held there, a map to the archery range could be displayed, etc., and it would also be a central gathering place for the archers. And it would be a place of information for those that might be interested in learning more about archery. It would have to have knowledgeable volunteers that could be present for most of the day. The Principality archery officers should also have a similar pavilion at principality events. (added 1-07/07)
Here are three ideas that would require the assistance and approval of the Crowns and Coronets.
1) Many kingdoms have an Archer Champion or King's or Queen's Archer Champion or Prince's or Princess's Champion. The champion would be determined by a special competition held once a year and they would hold the position for a year. In some kingdoms their duties include: To arrange the next year's champion competition. To march in procession with the Royalty when requested. To answer any archery challenge to the Crown from an other kingdom. To encourage archery in the kingdom. To set a good example for other archers of the kingdom. etc. Upon successful completion of their year as Archer Champion they may, at the discretion of the Crown, be given membership in an order for the Archer Champions. This order could include an Award of arms. The West once held Archer Champion competitions, but has not done so for years.
2) Maintain some archers on the Queen's Guard. This would help by providing an increased presence before the populace. And could encourage positive interaction between the heavy fighters and archers of the Guard, which could carry over and help to maintain good relations between the archers and the sword and shield fighters in the future.
3) We have two grant level orders for archery in the West: The Royal Company of Archers for target archery. And the Royal Company of Yeomen for combat archery. But , unlike some other activities, there are no lower level awards to acknowledge and encourage archers. Membership could be based upon skill, service, and courtesy. If there were to be such orders, then possible names for them in keeping with the RCA and RCY could be the West's Company of Archers and the West's Company of Yeomen.
Unlike our heavy combat, archery is an aspect of medieval life that almost everyone can participate in. If given interesting competitions to watch and shoot, a chance to learn how to shoot and some recognition for their efforts, many more people may become !involved in archery in our fair kingdom.
Sir Jon Fitz-Rauf, O.L, O.P., R.C.A., R.C.Y.