The full story…
Ironically, it was my American immigration lawyer that suggested I should attend the UK Knit Camp! This was in order to present a good case to the US authorities as a ‘world expert’ for my work visa renewal: it apparently looks better on my resume to show more international gigs.
Susan wisely tried very hard to dissuade me; she knows how tough it is for me to leave Nova Scotia in my summer break. It’s not just the leaving of these shores, as the interruption to my flow of work. It’s a quite different mindset. By the time one returns one feels quite mentally disjointed, and it takes several days to pick up the pieces of the previous life, both work and domestic.
Initially, the teaching offer was for six, back-to-back teaching days, which would make the four days lost to travel justifiable. I agreed and sent my standard contract.
After bookings opened I began to enquire about my class numbers. I was not overly confident about knitting events in the UK (although Ravelry has made a huge difference), or whether they had even heard of me there. I have found in the past that UK knitters are a little more conservative about travel and the whole workshop scene than they are in North America.
This is when I discovered that my teaching days had been reduced significantly and the classes that were originally selected were changed; all without any notification to me. Now down to 3.5 days (roughly), not a number sufficient to justify the loss of 10 working days, allowing 2 days for travel each way. If this had been the initial offer I would have declined.
As time went by I was not very impressed by my class numbers and really felt that it would be wise to cancel my appearance right away, before any more knitters were inconvenienced, as I knew full well that many knitters would have to be making travel plans. In my not inconsiderable experience I have found that desired classes will be booked almost immediately, while any remaining places will sell much more slowly.
The financial aspect is a fairly simple matter: room rental and expenses plus the teacher’s daily rate and expenses divided by a break-even number of students. Only the organizers know the missing numbers. I offered to pull out. It was requested that I stay on the roster until after the publication of an article about my work was published in Yarn Forward magazine (Issue 26, July 2010). With private reservations I agreed to this.
A few weeks later I was notified that I had hit the necessary numbers and was sent my UK Knit Camp contract. In this version of my contract I discovered further modifications to the teaching hours and that a vast reduction of of my daily rate had magically occurred. I declined to sign and said that I would be unable to accept this. However, by this time, quite close to camp date, I was feeling very responsible for the students who had been happily emailing me telling me that they had paid for their flights and would see me in the UK.
I was sent a revised contract, in which I accepted the reduced hours but with the previously agreed rate of pay. However, I did wonder at the time if this was a totally futile exercise. Having agreed to the contract, I went ahead and booked my flights. A really big mistake. However, it is customary for knitting teachers to make their own travel arrangements and pay for the tickets, especially for larger events. It is tricky to make flight arrangements and then to have them paid for directly by a third party. I was trusting.
The die was cast. I sent my handouts as .pdf files three weeks ahead of time. I was told that they were too long, that they only wanted 2 or 3 pages! My notes have taken years to develop. They form an integral part of my class and are a lasting record for my students, saving them from the necessity of taking notes, and they allow me to cover a lot of ground in the time available. I use almost all of the material in a class, with a little up my sleeve for the occasional prodigious knitter and future development of all.
I received a message that I would be met at Edinburgh airport. That was a relief, since, as an expat Brit, I feel surprisingly at sea with UK travel!
I arrived in Edinburgh. Luckily I had sat next to lovely knitter H. on the flight up and I mentioned to her that she might like to hang with me and there might be room for her in the car too.
First welcome: No greeting, nobody, no car.
I e-mailed (all at overseas rates), got an “out of office” reply. I emailed the ‘if you require immediate attention’ address: again nothing. I texted: no response. I felt it would be rude simply to leave the airport lest my kindly driver be stuck in traffic or at the other end of the airport. We had a coffee and then resorted to H’s prepared plan and took a bus and a coach.
The coach dropped us in the middle of the campus of Stirling University. No sign of anything knitterly. No board inscribed with a welcoming message to assure anyone that they had reached the end of their pilgrimage. No indication of where registration might be found. No one to mind luggage whilst registering. There were a few other disorientated knitters wandering around, and eventually, by asking several university staff, we elicited that we might possibly find registration at the other end of the campus. We all trailed through intermittent rain showers, up, very definitely up, to the far end of campus. When we were faced by a goodly flight of steps we all got together and helped anyone struggling with luggage.
Registration ensued, but apparently the teachers’ packages were not there. (Never did see one. In fact, I don’t think there were even name badges.) I did discover though that I was registered in a single room at the extreme opposite end of the campus. Off I went in the rain.
I spent my remaining time that day trying to find my way around the very strangely arranged campus and locate my classroom. A good effort to label the routes, but it was a very difficult location to host an event in. At this time the work visa problems for the US tutors reared into view; this was obviously a very time-consuming problem for the organizers.
I made myself available to take additional students on the first day of classes (as the US tutors were not allowed to teach) to try to compensate some students for their class cancellations. My classroom was full to capacity. My class angel most kindly supervised the reproduction of the workshop notes that hadn’t been done prior to class. I was very glad that I had brought all my own a/v equipment with me or I would have been sadly without.
The next few days I taught classes and met with wonderful, excited knitters from all over the world who where doing their utmost to take the Knit Camp hiccups in their stride. My classes proceeded according to plan, without either help or hinderance from the organizers.
I was concerned as to how I would get back to the airport for an 0630 flight on Sunday morning. I asked around, and a very kind knitter J. volunteered to drop me there on her way home, despite the ungodly departure time required. I informed the organizers that I had made my own arrangements and this was duly noted on the computer.
I will leave you to imagine my amazement and irritation at then being woken at 11.45pm from a surprisingly deep sleep by one of the organizers: to enquire if I had made arrangements to get to the airport! That was pretty much the end of sleep for me. I’m not sure why they thought I should suddenly start relying on them for such an important trip, when they had utterly failed to do anything else they had promised me throughout the entire time!
The whole time, I was very nervous about receiving payment for my classes or travel expenses. A deputation of 5 teachers attempted to secure even partial payment before we left the country. Firstly, obtaining a meeting was rushed (not allowing us all to gather as we had wished) and we were treated as though we had great effrontery to even raise this subject. We were then fed two conflicting stories about not being able to access money in Scotland, and then the classic line “our lawyer says we don’t have to pay you for 30 days”. We regrettably backed down. Confrontation did not come naturally to any of us present in the group.