Trombones and fairies and swords, oh my!

Building community around alternative hobbies

The Historical Combat League hosts tournaments in historic martial arts.

Photo by Daniel Crump

The Manitoba Trombone Collective practicing.

Photo by Meg Crane

With more than 700,000 people in Winnipeg, it’s easy to get lost in the hustle. That may be why so many small communities have formed.

“Society is really oriented around (the idea that) everyone is an individual, you all do your own thing. But at the end of the day, you still need to have a community. The onus is now on you to find your tribe,” Cody Skillen says.

Skillen, co-founder of the Historical Combat League.

Les Pattison, co-founder of the Historical Combat League.

Skillen is a co-founder of the Historical Combat League.

He and Les Pattison created the organization to run tournaments where people fight using different styles of historical martial arts.

“One of our goals is to bring the different swordsmanship communities together,” Skillen says. He is the head instructor at Winnipeg Knightly Arts, a school for German martial arts.

The Historical Combat League is hosting monthly tournaments, but Pattison says they will start organizing skirmish soon as well.

“It’s an opportunity for everyone to get together on a less competitive level,” Pattison says.

Part of the reason for this is to help build the community. Skillen says it’s a way for people who are interested to learn more about swordsmanship before actually entering a tournament.

“If you want to meet more people who share the same passions as you do, then that’s a good way to find them,” Skillen says.

He says when you meet someone and find out that you have had similar experiences, you have an immediate connection with that person. Skillen has found those types of relationships in this community.

“It seems to be that if you practice martial arts or you practice swordsmanship, you tend to have a similar mentality or set of values,” Skillen says. “You’ll be able to talk about what you care about more easily.”

For him, being in the community isn’t just about doing something he loves; it’s a space where he can relax and be himself.

“You know that they kind of have your back or you can feel comfortable around them, I’d say that it’s actually something that was really kind of missing in my life beforehand,” Skillen says.

He sees people coming to events more often when they’re dealing with something stressful in their life outside the community.

“That, to me, is a very strong indicator of how much people value this,” Skillen says.

Manitoba Trombone Collective practicing.

Manitoba Trombone Collective practicing.

Trombonists might also find some value in gathering with one another to reminisce on shared experiences, at least that’s what composer Kenley Kristofferson says.

“Trombone players are a very unique group of people,” Kristofferson says. “Trombone players are often the butt of orchestra jokes, usually portrayed as the boisterous troublemakers in the ensemble.”

He says when the Manitoba Trombone Collective gets together, it’s usually a fun time full of jokes and laughter.

Joel Green, Manitoba Trombone Collective director, says the group’s practices are an opportunity for trombonists to get together and simply be happy about being trombonists.

“There’s a lot of great adult trombone players in Winnipeg, like a disproportionately large number – which is a good thing,” Green says. “I think it’s a happy coincidence, on the part of the trombonist.”

He says strong band programs in the city propagate a large number of adult instrumentalists.

“We wanted to create this group to give everyone an opportunity to play together and create a sense of camaraderie,” Green says.

He thinks that it has been working so far, as the group is holding together and has even increased its number of practices.

“If you talk to most trombonists, the reason that they picked trombone is that they really, really love the sound,” Green says.

With other instruments, there are often other reasons, such as its position in the orchestra, melody or virtuosity, Green says.

Historical combat and the trombone are rather specific activities that have the power to bring some people together, however Friendship, Acceptance, Inspiration, Recreation, Youthfulness (FAIRY) Girls is a group that bonds over something less tangible.

“I think what ties us all together is that we’re unique,” Gina Marincil, who currently runs the group, says.

A lot of members have a crafty side or interests that are different than most people.

The Facebook page defines the group as “a collection of free-spirited, alternative, intelligent, real, you-nique girls who thrive off of the positive vibes and harmony, and fun provided by the togetherness of the group.”

Marincil says FAIRY Girls used to be exclusively for women, but it is now inclusive of people of all genders.

While there are no set rules about who can join, there are guidelines about what people in the group are not allowed to do, and they basically revolve around creating a safe and respectful environment.

“I’ve had many people tell me they wouldn’t be where they are because of FAIRY Girls,” Marincil says. “It’s brought people out of their shells.”

The groups gets together for activities such as crafts parties and fairy photoshoots.

“We’ve all become a big group of friends,” Marincil says.

Whether you like a certain type of fighting, a particular instrument or crafting in a respectful space, there are probably others in Winnipeg doing the same thing who would love to welcome you into their community.

Published in Volume 70, Number 26 of The Uniter (March 31, 2016)

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