Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Day 1 – Dragon Hall Beer Festival

May 1, 2011 · No Comments


I volunteered to help out at Dragon Hall’s  Norfolk Beer Festival. The event is sponsored by CAMRA (the Campaign for “Real Ale”) in the hopes of raising money for the upkeep of the historical building. CAMRA, incidentally, is the same organization that is responsible for the annual – and more grandoise and boisterous – Norwich Beer Festival. If you recall the Norwich tour early in the year, you may remember (you probably don’t) that in the 15th century, Dragon Hall was the nexus of trade and commerce in a city that was fluorishing due to business engagements with many countries in continental Europe. Anyway, today, it is both a museum and public space. With the Beer Fest, however, the Hall breaks from its institutional langour and becomes, once more, something of a medeival flea market.

Today I was told to work at the reception area, doing menial task, such as getting out the beer glasses out of boxes and handing them to the visitors. All you really had to do was smile and give directions as to how the festival circuit worked. What was interesting for me, though, was the particular vantage point that the job offered; namely, the opportunity to see how events are carefully constructed and organized. Not only had I never been to a beer festival, but I hardly recall ever participating in very many events, fundraisers, etc. (Spoiled, I know). In any case, I had a willing mind. A beer festival is an entirely foreign concept in Korea as it is in America (I think). Understanding that the Brits value good ale, I knew that, aside from learning how to “bartend,” I would be gaining insight into a distinct cultural phenomenon.

Part of this education, if you will, was from meeting many interesting people on the team. One is named Dodge, a stocky, Falstaffian  fellow. He sports a red mohawk, a kaleidoscopic robe/cape tagged with his favorite ale companies, ripped jean shorts (which, I believe, used to be regular long jeans) and black boots. He made a career of driving buses, taxis, and other uncommon forms of locomotion. As for beer festivals,  he has been volunteering at them for years and is a regular at the annuals ones in Cambridge and Norwich. According to him, he has 360 beer glasses in his house. Dodge is the de facto leader of the house, cape and all, traversing the spaces of the hall, striking conversation with strangers and making sure everybody has something in their glasses.

Also, just sitting around the entrance allows me to observe how the Brits interact and exchange pleasantries with one another. Having been in England for some time now, I thought my initial feeling of “foreigness” had dissipated altogether. Yet sitting there that night I realized how much of British culture is still very peculiar to me.

We received a lot more people on the first day than we had expected. Being the first time such an event was held at the Dragon hall, many of the organizers were unsure what the turnout would be. I think the total number was something upwards of 180. Fairly good, especially when you consider that the Hall is somewhat removed from the city centre.

Helas, I wasn’t able to serve drinks but would get the chance to do so tomorrow. It was a wonderful environment, no matter what I was doing. The steady beat of jazz music by the band jived well with the low-key ambient setting, even if I wasn’t up on the top floor to see it.

Date: 29 April 2011
Time: 17:00-24:00
Total Hours: 7
Location: Dragon Hall
Supervisor: Rachel M.

Categories: 2010 Sean

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