The Great Dickens Christmas Fair Missive

Great Dickens Christmas Fair 2020 – October Missive

Notes from your Missive Maven:

In a normal year, we would be joining together this weekend in the education, organization and merriment that is the Great Dickens Christmas Fair workshops. This is not a normal year however, so we will have to greet each other virtually in whatever ways we choose. I, for one, have decorated the heck out of my house for Halloween in a nod to the season and as a way to stave off the ennui we all feel at not being together this year. But there’s good news ahead, read more below about Dickens Fair at Home!

We wish you a Happy Halloween and a Blessed Samhain. But most of all, stay safe and healthy.


Please remember to contact the folks referenced in each notice below, rather than hitting “reply”. Contact information for various departments can be found at the bottom of the missive.

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Cat Taylor
Entertainment Director & Missive Maven

A Colorful Past, a Changing Future

When my parents, Phyllis and Ron Patterson, held their first backyard workshops in 1962, their aim was to explore new ways to educate, engage and enliven. The focus of their Renaissance Pleasure Faires beginning a year later, was the daily life of ordinary people in history expressed through improvisational theatre, and unbridled creativity. Their events welcomed participants hailing from all walks of life to express themselves and to celebrate the depth and beauty of our common humanity.

It’s hard to imagine what they’d think of the world in which we are producing events today – rocked to its foundations by a pandemic – in a year roiled by a polarizing government, economic collapse, and widespread racist police brutality, not to mention lack of access to healthcare, safe work, and affordable education for most families. All of this has revealed so much about the toxic inequalities facing far too many in our country and community. Every one of us is struggling to cope with so much right now.

But creativity has always been our response to calamity, as a community and as individuals. As disheartening as 2020 has been so far, the challenges it presents for Red Barn as a production company are galvanizing us to create positive change. We want to share some areas of coming change with you, as we honor the deep community values we all share, and begin to create a new future together.

In response to new health and safety protocols currently impacting the world of live events, Red Barn is redesigning our future productions. Although the next season’s programs, layout, participation requirements and systems may be very different, please know that the spirit, the qualities, and the beauty of our future events will live up to our high standards. We look forward to keeping you informed of our progress and discoveries.

In response to new labor legislation, and the serious economic realities created by the pandemic, this redesign also includes finding ways to stretch resources and adapt to keep our business viable in the face of zero revenue for the entirety of 2020, so that a 2021 event is possible. We know that the Dickens Fair is an important part of many performers’ creative lives, and a substantial component of many vendors’ and event workers’ financial stability, and will do all we can to keep it continuing for many years to come.

And of utmost importance, we, as a family-owned company, are taking a stand against systemic racism and other forms of oppression. We are committed to being an anti-racist organization, and understand that will require our family and our staff to take active steps to ensure that our founding values of education, celebration, and creative expression are implemented equitably, in impactful and measurable ways. To this end, Red Barn leadership, Workshop instructors and others, will be undergoing professional training in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) practices, and are developing a proactive, concrete DEI plan for the company and every future Red Barn event. We have received significant input from LoAD and other participant groups committed to social justice, who have broadened and enriched our thinking immeasurably, and will begin to engage constructively with them and others in the weeks and months ahead.

While the existential nature of the first two areas of change will demand the lion’s share of our attention for the balance of 2020, the DEI plan will be equally transformative. Red Barn leadership has spent hundreds of hours over the recent months reading, meeting, reflecting, and gaining a clearer understanding of what our organization needs to do to ensure the safety and well-being of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled participants, members of all faiths, and all others at our events. The Red Barn DEI plan will be a collaborative document, the first draft of which will be ready to release for community input in early 2021.

Until then, and starting with this issue, each participant Missive will contain a section for DEI-related learnings and resources. These will include links to anti-racist readings and organizations, to articles on prominent Victorians of color, to explorations of the dynamics of race and empire operating in the period we portray, and more. Please send suggestions to We as a community must face and seek to understand past wrongs in order to address them in our work and play – so let’s begin today. We are the storytellers now.

In the 60 years our family has been producing events, we have always aimed at being inclusive. Our stages and streets have been filled with the talent of participants from every background and demographic. We want to take this opportunity to expressly thank every participant whose contributions have helped us tell a richer, more complex story of the ordinary people of history. These participants, and the characters they portray, offer a powerful corrective to any concept of the Renaissance or Victorian era that would focus exclusively on the concerns of the white population, the able-bodied, the economically secure, the members of only one faith. We wish to honor these participants’ contributions – now and into the future – with concrete commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our practices and performances.

Stay tuned. The Patterson family have been at this for a long time. We have managed events through likely or actual cancellations due to fires, floods, earthquakes, riots, bankruptcies, economic collapse, and many other threats and difficulties. We will get through this too, and find new ways to lead and light the way forward for other creatives in our larger community.

Stay safe and healthy and warm-hearted through the dark days of winter. Remember that our roots are deep and intertwined. The Solstice will come, and with it, the return of the light, ushering in the creative and effulgent Spring. And joyful renewal.

With love and deep respect,


The Patterson family, and the Red Barn Productions team

Dickens Fair at Home is Arriving Soon!

Drum roll please…! The official announcement of our gift to Dickens Christmas Fair fans (everywhere), Dickens Fair At Home will go out to the general public (and the Missive list) a week from today, Friday November 6. The program begins on what would have been our opening day, November 22. SO – Please be sure your extended family and friends are signed up for email announcements via the dickensfair.comwebsite if they want to receive various special announcements throughout the season!

As mentioned in the last Missive, new content will be posted each weekend from “opening” day, thru Christmas eve. We are keeping it simple, (no ‘virtual fair’ by any means), but chock-a-block with delightful input from a selection of performers, groups, and vendors.

Insider tid-bit, Father Christmas will be reading letters from children, and the original ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, by a crackling fire, …streaming on Christmas Eve.

Shop online! An important part of the Dickens Fair at Home project will be to encourage our general public as as all of us and our wider circles, to do their holiday shopping – online – with our Dickens Faire vendor community. The list of vendors set up to sell online is growing, as you may have seen via our “Vendor of the Week” posts via Facebook, since the beginning of Summer. Please see the full list here:

Reminder: Performer Websites/Facebook Pages

Some members of our performer community have created online opportunities to share their craft in new creative ways – and perhaps raise a few shekels by setting out a virtual “hat” (Venmo, PayPal, etc.). Please be encouraged to patronize them, … and perhaps join them!

If you plan or already have such a site or page, please share the links with us via so we can help spread the word. Here’s a fun example from our own, our very very own, Shelby Bond:

DEI Resources – October:

Note: Unless expressly stated, RBP does not have an affiliation with any groups listed

below. We offer their work in the spirit of connecting our community with thought leaders in anti-racism and social justice, especially if their resources are free or low-cost.

●Harvard Bias Test: Some begin their anti-racism journey by getting honest with themselves about the biases that they may harbor, and this test is one way to do that. It can be useful to re-take it on a regular basis, to note how your perceptions change.

● Free online anti-racist training available through the Diversity and Resiliency Institute of El Paso. Still available FREE if you register prior to October 31 (reminder from previous Missive)! The training includes about 6 hours of instruction, and (for a fee) CE Units are available.

● Meet Jamaican/Scottish nurse Mary Seacole, world traveller and heroic health care
Provider during the Crimean War:

Recommended Reading:
(we encourage casts and friends to form reading groups around these important works)●

So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
(Audible version is free for members)

How to be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi:

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ):
Red Barn Productions belongs to the Marin County Chapter of SURJ. Find out what’s happening in your community at:

A Care-Full Reminder – Please Read & Share

We are going through hard times.  Every one of us is facing problems of various types.  But the fact is that these problems aren’t insurmountable.  We are a family.  A community of caring and resilient individuals.  A community of intelligent and resourceful creators.  We are thousands – and we thousands have many, many resources.  And you can tap into those resources at any time.

Remember Alvin Straight’s advice:  “You can break one stick.  But if you tie a bunch of sticks into a bundle, you can’t break that.  Well, that bundle… that’s family.”

If you are feeling helpless – if you have financial or emotional problems – you can find among your friends (and even among members of our ‘family’ whom you haven’t met yet) persons who can give you advice, lend a hand, or perhaps even resolve the issue you face.

Remember gratitude.  When things aren’t going our way, it is easy to forget all the gifts we’ve been given.  And that moment, when things aren’t going our way, is the exact moment when it is crucial to remember to be grateful for those gifts:  our health, our friends, our skills, our knowledge.

Don’t isolate.  Stay in contact with friends & family.  Use your phone, your email, social media – check in with friends.  We have been taught that self-reliance is important.  This is true, but it isn’t the whole story.  No one can do everything alone.  And being alone can often be very harmful because it can take you out of your normal emotional patterns.

Be candid with each other.  It is pointless to always tell people that you are ‘fine’ when you aren’t.  Letting someone else know what is going on in your life can actually be a gift to that other person:  it is honoring them with knowledge about you and it is giving them the opportunity to be of service to you.

Ask for help.  Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness – it is a sign of intelligence & practicality.  So ask for help.  Or ask if they need help.  Many times, just asking can save energy, or reduce losses – or save a life.

Address problems early.  If you are having financial issues (and who isn’t these days?), don’t wait til things are critical before asking for help.  That old ‘stitch in time’ cliché is a cliché because it is true.  The best time for roof-fixing is when it isn’t raining.  Seek help before you are barely hanging on.

Help is available, 24  hours a day.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  You do not need to be suicidal to talk to them – and it’s called a ‘lifeline’ because they handle all kinds of emotional distress:  800-273-TALK (8255). Also available 24/7 is the The Trevor Project for LGBTQ Youth at 866-488-7386.

Don’t despair.  Despair is a pernicious destroyer of life.  And you can fight despair by staying in the mix, among your friends, interacting with your tribe.  Talk it out – let someone know what’s going on.  You have nothing to lose & everything to gain.

And if you are reading this and thinking, “Nothing here that I need,” then perhaps you should call a few friends – because they might need your help.

2-1-1 Bay Area – for food, shelter, counseling, employment assistance, quality child care, senior services.

Quick Links and Contact Information

Join the Public Email List

Contact Information:

For specific questions regarding performing at the Fair, please email Cat Taylor
If your group would like to perform at the Fair for just one day (school caroling groups, etc.)
please email Robert Young
For specific questions regarding vending at the Fair please email Vendors
For specific questions the beverage department please email Beverage
For questions regarding costumes, please email Costumes