Fanstravaganza, Day 6!

FanstravaganzaLogoWow, it’s the penultimate day of the Fanstravaganza already! It’s been fun, inspiring, and thought-provoking. Here’s the summary and news:

1. Vote on my Vicar of Vicar of Dibley polls from Days 1, 2, and 3 and 5. I’ll be taking votes until end of business on Tuesday, March 23rd. Kind comments are also welcome–especially if you have a different answer to the question than those offered below! And feel free to justify the answer you did give in the comments. I think the comments on Day 5 could be interesting–the poll is lame (sorry about that), but that has made the discussion wider.

2. Also check out my fan showcase with bZirk from Day 4.

3. Thanks to Nat, Fanstravaganzista Extraordinaire! Don’t forget to check out the other blogs, most of whom have new and interesting posts up today:

The Spooks Fan Blog [blog defunct, spring 2015]

4. Day 7 of the Fanstravaganza at “me + richard armitage” is going to be “Fan Haiku Day.” I am giving you the advance notice because I know it’s hard to just sit down and write poetry. More information about haiku here, but we’re going with the conservative version I learned in school back in the 1970s: a haiku is a three line poem with exactly 17 syllables, divided into a scheme of 5 – 7 – 5. Any topic related to Mr. Armitage and his work is fine. No dirty or obscene haikus, please; my judgment on this is final and I reserve the right to delete any haikus that I find objectionable for any reason. To help you out in getting started, I’ll note that “Vicar of Dibley” has five syllables, as do “Geraldine Granger” and “Richard Armitage.” Day 7 of the Fanstravaganza will start about an hour after I finish my Monday morning lecture, so around noon, CDT, tomorrow. Put your thinking caps on! You may post multiple entries as they occur to you. Your prize will be the adoration of all of my many readers. Cough. I’ll also write a post spotlighting your work and assessing it from a scholarly, academic perspective! No fear!

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Our beloved “tea scene” in “North & South,” Episode 1, referenced frequently by fans as the scene that alerted them to Mr. Armitage’s artistry. Source: The Armitage Army [site now defunct]

Today’s very timely interview in the Fanstravaganza fan showcase spotlights the work of Eli, one of the very first moderators of the famous Armitage Army (sometimes abbreviated as “AA”) website [site defunct], which is frequently mentioned in interviews with Mr. Armitage or articles about him, and which is a central location of discussion about his activities and analysis of his work. It’s also the place where I get a lot of the photos I use, so it’s fair to say this blog wouldn’t exist in its current form without the work that she’s been instrumental in sponsoring and hosting. Eli’s been a fan practically from the beginning, so she’s seen a lot, and was kind enough to answer these questions, including addressing the forum’s policy on discussion of Armitage’s personal life.

Servetus: I looked around the website, and there’s a very brief history [link defunct] of the development of the Armitage Army there. I think readers who weren’t around for the beginning would be interested to learn more about the history of the group. Obviously you had a strong personal reaction to “North & South.” Can you think back to that day for us? What were you thinking as you and your original collaborators founded the Yahoo group that preceded the current forum?

Eli: The AA started at the time of “North and South.” I had seen Richard as Thornton. It was the scene where Margaret hands him the teacup that made me sit up and take notice. I thought he conveyed so much of Thornton’s thoughts and feelings without saying a single word. Nowadays a simple search will bring up sites, forums and blogs, but at that time the BBC Drama messageboard was the only place to chat about Richard. It was a great forum, but it shut every night and you weren’t allowed to post links if you had found something you wanted to share, which was frustrating. Morgan decided to start the Yahoo group so that could be done. I joined straight away and it went from there, really. A year after the group started, I added the website so that people who didn’t necessarily want to join a forum could still find out about Richard more easily.

Servetus: Coming to Mr. Armitage’s work so recently, I feel like I’ve missed all kinds of things. What was the mood on the Yahoo group at that time?

Eli: The mood was fantastic. It was wonderful that we had somewhere to chat about Richard and “North and South” and find out all the other things we had in common. Plus there was much excitement leading up to the airing of a new episode of “North and South.” That’s how much people were taken by the series and of course by Richard and the character of John Thornton. We had a countdown to the final episode and the forum went mad afterwards. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.

Servetus: How has the Armitage fan experience changed since those euphoric early days?

Eli: I think that initial, intense level of excitement has become calmer. “North and South” was event TV for the group, and we all came together at that point in his career. Of course, the membership then was mainly people in the UK. Now, as Richard has done so much more work that is shown at different times across the globe, people are coming to his work and the fandom for different reasons and not en masse as it happened then. I think the nearest we got to that earlier explosion of interest was when “Robin Hood” and “The Vicar of Dibley” aired and we picked up a lot of new members bursting to chat about Richard and those shows.

Servetus: How do you see the Armitage Army website and/or membership changing in future?

Eli: The website is ever evolving, but its main purpose has always been to let people know what is going on in Richard’s career, especially for those who discover him later in his career. At the site they can find out all about his earlier work and interviews, so that side of his work will always be present for newcomers. The membership changes depending on Richard’s work. Originally a lot of the members had an interest in classic drama which is the style of production they had seen him in in “North and South,” but “Robin Hood” attracted a lot of younger members and “Spooks” brought in people who liked a totally different genre of program. So now the forum hosts a greater range of ages and interests. And, of course, as the availability of Richard’s work grows across the world, we are much more international than in the beginning.

Servetus: How much time are you spending on this activity, and how do your loved ones regard your fan work?

Eli: I spend quite a lot of time on the site and forum. I work on them each day, more heavily when a show is premiering as things get a bit hectic then. Thankfully, I have a fantastic team of moderators on the forum who are a massive help in running that. I’m recently married and I am lucky to have an understanding husband who is very supportive of this and is even willing to sit through TV shows and DVDs with Richard in them. Luckily he likes “Robin Hood” and “Spooks”!

Servetus: What are your favorite things about administering the website and forum?

Eli: The best thing is the people. The AA is not just a fan group but a support network. It’s so lovely to see the help and support our members give each other through illness, bereavement and other personal hardships. It’s wonderful how many friendships have formed! I even met my husband through my Co-Administrator, Lady Wolfshead, so of course that’s a personal favorite for me. The other delightful thing to witness is members’ thrilled reaction to contact from Richard when they meet him or get a reply to a letter. Finally, I still get excited when I get an email from Richard with a message for the fans, as I know how much they love to hear from him.

Servetus: Lots of gratifying vibes there! Is there anything you would change about the group if you could?

Eli: I wouldn’t change anything! Some people would like me to change the policy on non-discussion of Richard’s personal life, but the forum is there for talk about Richard’s work and his interaction with fans. I think he has always treated his fans with kindness and respect. As he likes to keep his private life private, I think we should respect that decision on the forum and website. To be honest, whether Richard is in a relationship or not has no bearing on the work he does, which is the important thing and why we are all here. Plus: as much as we would love it, he’s hardly likely to pop round and declare undying love to any of us! (We can all dream, though.)

Servetus: Congratulations on the marriage–that’s a great example of the positive effects of the fandom! From your description I am sure the AA website and forum are full of stories like that. What is your favorite “fan memory” in connection with the Armitage Army?

Eli: It has to be meeting the man himself. I’m lucky enough to have met Richard and he has been so kind and gracious and everything you hope he would be which sometimes is not the case when people meet stars they admire.

Servetus: It’s so great to hear that. Thanks for your time in answering my questions, and for all the work you’ve done to amass this information and provide a forum for discussion of Mr. Armitage’s work.

~ by Servetus on March 21, 2010.

8 Responses to “Fanstravaganza, Day 6!”

  1. Thank you so much for this interview Servitus and Eli. I was over at the website/forum yesterday and have to agree that the support many members give to others during hard times is a really positive aspect and one that is often not highlighted when people talk about the forum and the AA.

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  2. Something I forgot to ask about was the philanthropic aspect of AA in particular. I’ve often thought that if Mr. Armitage wanted to find a way to praise the better side of his fans, he could point to their charity donations. That could backfire, in that it also could make him look like he is tooting his own horn, but it would shed a better light on his fans and maybe teach interviewers not to always ask the same questions about them.

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  3. Lovely interview – nice to hear about how AA started out. Good on Eli for sticking to her guns on the forum policy re RA’s private life.

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  4. […] 2. Also check out my fan showcase with bZirk from Day 4. And the second fan showcase with Eli of AA from Day 6. […]

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  5. Really enjoyed reading Eli’s take on the AA! Thanks.

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  6. […] event showed off the creativity and personality of some fans we all wished we knew a little better. Eli of the AA and bZirk were featured on my blog, and a number of other fans who have created memorable work […]

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  7. Eli’s always been of interest to me. All that investment in Richard Armitage, and she can still be sane. I really appreciated a blog entry she posted a while back (don’t really remember how long ago it was; probably a few years ago). It was thought provoking about the malady known as CWS (Celebrity Worship Syndrome or more accurately, Celebrity Worship Scale). Sometime soon I’m going to talk about that because I seriously think I’m normal just like Eli. Or maybe I really am in denial. 😀

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  8. […] to do interviews with the few fans of that early generation whom I “know” have been, with one exception, gently and politely declined. Which is fine.) The publicity material that emerged about Armitage […]

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