Putting together an event like the UK Knit Camp is massive, gigantic, and not everyone does it as well as we all might like.  For better or for worse, there is a learning curve when folks bite off a huge chunk.

We’ve become used to a society of perfection. We’ve come to believe that when something – unfortunately and humanly – isn’t perfect, it’s not worthwhile. Anyone who’s taken a class with me knows my feelings about perfection.  Only suckers, liars and fools think perfection is humanly possible.

The organization for the UK Knit Camp has not been perfect. There have been problems – mostly mis-communications – that are understandable given the first-time status of the main organizer. Each of us has a different threshold where we say, “Enough!” but I am far from that point with this event – I am very much looking forward to it.

I’ve been involved in a lot of knitting events, and while this is not the best organized to date, it’s certainly not the worst.

Along with the missteps I’ve been very impressed with the general scope of the event, the projected field trips, the enthusiasm of the participants, volunteers and other instructors with whom I’ve been communicating.  It’s a source of great sadness to me that one of the teachers I was most hoping to meet is now back in the states, that is a very hard pill to swallow.

Has there been drama?  Yes – but not so much for me, personally, and I can really only speak for myself.  Perhaps I’ve been lucky.  We each have different experiences with people, it’s like chemistry.

When one thing goes wrong, folks sometimes begin to pile on.  “Did you hear…”, YES!  And I ALSO heard …”

Now, I enjoy a good gossip as much as the next person, but when it causes a certain amount of panic (which directly affects a good number of folks’ bottom lines) it’s not helpful.

As far as I’m concerned, UK Knit Camp is happening, and it’s going to be great.  I’m writing this on a train from London to Stirling, so obviously I have a lot of faith in what I’m writing. And probably a little bit of hand-clapping for Tinkerbell, too…

Folks may have heard there are some work permit problems with the UK Camp, I’m happy to share what I know.

  • I was told by Jo, the UK Knit Camp Organizer, that my work permit would be in order by the time my classes started.
  • Two UK Knit Camp folks (an instructor & an author) were detained at customs today.  Whether these two women explained to the customs officials that they planned on teaching, or whether  they were on a list of instructors compiled from the Knit Camp website (which is currently down), they were both detained and one was returned to the states.  

    It’s an odd situation as one of the women who was detained ISN’T teaching, she was scheduled for a book signing.  I can only IMAGINE how upset, angry, irritated I’d be if that were me – and it easily could have been if I’d flown into Glasgow.  Actually, I WAS detained by customs in Manchester back in 1982, but that’s another story…

  • When I went through customs at Heathrow this morning I told them I intended to go to UK Knit Camp, but I didn’t mention teaching because until the work permit is in my hot little hand (or the hand of the necessary official) I won’t be teaching.

    AND, if the aforementioned permit doesn’t materialize, then I’ll ENJOY Knit Camp.  I’ll go on the field trips, I’ll see Stirling, I’ll meet lots of nice knitters and UK Yarn would have paid for a nice little vacation for me.

    But I don’t think that’s going to happen, because –

  • Jo and her attorney are scheduled to pick up the work permits on Monday (teaching starts on Tuesday) and I have no reason to believe they won’t be ready then.

Cleaning Your East Coast Train

My mother had a philosophy, which may have been foolish, which was, “Assume the Best.”

She would say, “If you assume the best, the worst that can happen is you look like a fool.  If you assume the worst, you may look like a bitch.”

A flawed philosophy, but it works for me.

So the rumors of the death of the UK Knit Camp have been greatly exaggerated.

And, loving Forensic Files as I do, I’ll be happy to jump into the post mortem when that point arises!  Until then – Camp On!

46 thoughts on “Kerosene

  1. I appreciate your attempt to calm the flames, but dude, what you are referring to as “being returned to the states” is DEPORTATION. That’s a serious legal matter. That person will probably not be allowed to return to the UK ever again.
    I understand that organizing such a huge event is overwhelming and things can slip through the cracks, but to subject someone coming to your event in good faith to something as serious as being deported from a country is highly irresponsible.

  2. Please excuse me if I’m misunderstanding you–but are you suggesting that the teacher that was detained and returned to the US is at fault because she said she was planning on teaching? Even though she was in fact arriving in the UK because she was planning on teaching?

    • Silly Rabbit – No, I’m not saying that at all. And it IS a very serious issue. I’m not trying to diminish it –

      Katherine – I’ll hold off on discussing the details of the “deportation” until I know more about it myself. Refused entry into a country isn’t the same as being deported, in some cases it has no bearing on future entry attempts.

  3. Annie, you are absolutely spot on about the ‘society of perfection’. Thank you for posting.

    I always used to tell my kids that they should be glad I wasn’t a perfect mother – it meant they didn’t have to be perfect children!

    See you at Knit Camp – a whole week of fun, knitting, sharing and so much else plus total freedom from all my responsibilities at home. What more could I ask for?

  4. You yourself have entered the country under false pretences and I really hope it doesn’t come back to bite you on the bottom.

  5. but I didn’t mention teaching because until the work permit is in my hot little hand (or the hand of the necessary official) I won’t be teaching.

    So, you LIED to gain entry. Nice going.

    • Gwen & Annalou – No, I did not lie. I will not teach if there is no permit. I am signed up for several of the field trips and I’ll be going on those.

  6. I think a HUGE issue is that the organizers tend to go dark when bad stuff happens. They don’t own up and explain but take the attitude of “How is this your business?!?!?” or “Why post this publicly?” Waiting until the absolute last moment and reorganizing classes are rookie mistakes, they are pretty big hallmarks of disorganization.

    And I would say that this is a public event and so the organizers should expect some scrutiny – I know I considered going to this and some things just seemed off to me (the early response to controversies had more of a feel of “STFU and leave us alone” than “Trying to get this all figured out and do what is right”. I know that I would LOVE to go to a knitting camp in Scotland but for me, the risk seems way too high given the time and expense of travel from the U.S. So I for one am glad that many of these things came to light.

    Additionally, a policy of frank and open communication would have quelled many of these rumors. And finally, having an organizer have a nasty meltdown and then posting about sitting in her accommodations while some of her instructors/guests have been deported strikes me as pretty cavalier about really screwing up someone’s week.

    • Liz – I agree with many of your points, and open communication IS the best way to resolve this stuff. I agree 100%. But I don’t agree with your last point – I didn’t get a sense of gloating at all in the comments about relaxing at the camp – just a sense that one storm has been weathered and a bit of a rest is in order.

  7. This has been a disaster from the word go and now a lot of people including Knit Camp attendees and vendors who have paid for stalls expecting a high turnout have been left seriously out of pocket.

    Right from the very start Jo has announced marketplace vendors that had no intention of ever attending and some are still without full details of the agreement, has insisted on a ‘gagging’ clause in the Tutors contracts, used the Ravelry name without permission and has now failed to organise visas in time for tutors landing in the UK. She has then gone on to lock threads, not answer questions and have a very public meltdown when all of the troubles should have been kept firmly behind the scenes in order to give the impression that this is a ‘professional’ event.

    What worries me the most is how badly one woman’s actions are reflecting on the British knitting scene which is always the height of supreme organisation as those who attended Woolfest and Knit Nation will confirm.

    The whole event is a sorry, bloody mess and I think people have every right to feel aggrieved.

    • Yes, Annalou, you definitely do have every right to feel aggrieved. My intention wasn’t to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t feel, but only to discuss my own feelings at this time, and my firm hope that the final event will be a better event than may be expected by some folks. My hope.

      And I’ll do everything that I can do, legally and within my power as someone whose name is attached to the event, to make that so.

      • I believe you will do Annie and I just feel sorry that you and the other tutors have become involved in such a bitter tasting event…we woudl like you all to come back at some point and teach in a more stable and happy environment

        • Annalou – I’ve taught here before, and I’ll teach again. Are you sure you want a ‘liar’ like me to teach you? ; )
          Let’s not predecide that it’s going to be unstable and unhappy for everyone.

          Liz – I shouldn’t have used the word “gloating” – but I DO know that Jo was doing exactly what you described YOU would do – (talking to a solicitor, trying to get the other tutors taken care of, etc.) and has been doing it all day! I’m trying not to make this about ‘taking sides’ because I don’t see it that way at ALL! I see a magnificent chance to learn from the missteps and the GOOD things that have been done for this camp, and incorporate them into future events. The only real mistake is one from which you learn nothing.

          It’s very kind of Ysolda to jump in – and it’s appreciated – but it shouldn’t leave you with the impression that Jo was doing nothing, or has done nothing, about the work permits. It is a sucky situation – I feel worse for the two teachers involved than I can say, (not sorry as in I’m responsible – simply sorry as a sister human being.)

          When the dust clears and it’s easier to see exactly what happened, there will be plenty of time for blame (and for learning!)

          • And this is exactly the point I made below: I am SURE she is working hard behind the scenes to take care of things, but her posts on the matter are very vague! She would do herself and the event a lot of good if she would just state this factually. I know she has a lot of balls in the air. I would feel devastated in her situation. But she needs to put on a good public face, regardless of what she feels inside.

          • The word ‘liar’ was used by you and not me and at the moment it is a very unstable environment with a lot of unhappy people floating around

          • Actually, Gwen used the word “liar” – sorry I got you confused. The amount of hate mail that’s come in in the past few hours (mostly from 3 ips) is truly astounding.

  8. I didn’t get a sense that she was gloating at all. But I didn’t get the sense that she was taking full responsibility and figuring out ways to make sure that these people were inconvenienced as little as possible. I know I would be ringing up my solicitor at home and BEGGING for help with customs. I also know that I would be marshalling resources for people who may be in the same situation – WHO was doing that? Ysolda, who isn’t even involved with this event!

    This organizer’s plan seems to be pretty much just planning to wait until Monday and rely in insurance. I just think that is absolutely not enough of a response.

    And finally, without the work permits in hand, I have to wonder how this person feels comfortable assuring people that there will be classes. I know you and some other designers/teachers mentioned have better sense than to work illegally so I have to question the wisdom of promising classes that may not come to fruition.

  9. Thank you for a well balanced and thoughtful summary. I’m not down to do one of your classes (missing lorilee already) but hope to say hello at some point.

  10. UK Immigration do not give work permits to foreigners who are already in the UK — it is part of the requirement that you have to be outside the country when the work permit is applied for/approved. I’ve entered the UK twice on work permits, and work with many people who are also on work permits — and I’ve never seen an exception to this.

    I’m afraid that UK Immigration is likely to see you entering without a permit and then applying for one when you are here as deception – no matter how honestly you believe it isn’t. (And I do believe you weren’t intending to decieve – and that you don’t intend to work without a permit.)

    • Susan – The permit was applied for weeks ago, it actually IS ready, but it cannot be picked up until Monday morning (I’ve been told at 9:00 am) so the application is not being made after I’m in the country.

      • I’m really sorry but that doesn’t fit with any experience I have with work permits – they cant be applied to a visit retroactively. The UK Border Agency is pretty clear that if you are coming to the UK and intending to take on any work you should not travel before you ( ie the passport holder) have a valid work permit. The passport holder needs to have the permit with them when they enter the country so the correct visa conditions are applied.

        The entry conditions of a tourist visa (the ones saying you are not permitted to work) govern your current visit and the only way to change that is to leave and then re-enter the country with a valid work permit.

        I do hope this gets sorted for you – but I’m not optimistic that it is as easy as picking up a piece of paper tomorrow.

        • Susan – From what I’ve been reading a work visa isn’t required for a temporary creative worker, just a work permit.

          Jo is heading to Sheffield, to the UKBA offices, on Monday to get the approved work permits. More than this I don’t know, but the fact that Jo and her solicitor are working directly with UKBA speaks volumes to me.

          • Sorry Annie – I’m talking about work permits – having (or not having) a work permit when you arrive at passport control governs the type of visa you receive and the conditions. You are currently here on a tourist visa (because you did not arrive with a work permit0 and that governs the conditions of your visit. You can not work in this country on a tourist visa. In order to work here you have to re-enter the country with a work permit — and that will give you the correct visa permitting you to work (for the sponsor only). I have never heard of someone on a visitor visa being permitted to work by receiving a work permit while they are in the country.

            I am sorry to be so adamant about this but quite apart from what happens with Knit Camp I’d hate for people in general to get the wrong idea about entering the UK to work and the requirements.

            I’m glad that Jo is working directly with the UKBA – but I’d point out that there is no other way to get a work permit so it doesn’t say much to me that she is visiting them tomorrow except that perhaps it is a bit late in the day.

  11. Hey Annie, I’m back because my first response was kind of a knee-jerk emotional reaction and so I took some time to organize my thoughts.

    I’ve organized a number of community events, although certainly not to the scale of knit camp, and one thing I’ve learned is that communication is essential, especially when things go wrong (as they will). And not just any communication, but clear, direct, responsive communication.

    What I’ve seen of the organizer’s responses (and certainly I may have missed something) have been indirect and emotional. She says things like “that is untrue” but does not continue to clarify and state what the truth actually is. Her responses come across as evasive and defensive. Even a simple “I’m looking into this and will provide more information as it become available” would probably go a long way in soothing people.

    The reason why I post this is because you seem to have a relationship with her, so I’m hoping you can maybe give her some friendly guidance!

    I don’t think the whole thing’s a complete fiasco.
    I don’t think I know the whole story.
    I don’t think she’s a bad person in the least.

    But she’s a bad communicator and what I’m seeing right now is people saying “Hey, what’s the situation?” and she’s responding with “Why are you being mean to me?” and she’s not doing herself any favors!

    • Katherine – Thanks so much for your clarification – it’s greatly appreciated!

      I hadn’t really met Jo before yesterday, I don’t have a long time relationship with her, and – as with any event – I can see things that could have been handled better.

      But I AM part of this event now, and I DO see many thing Jo’s done right (surrounding herself with folks who are very hard working is one thing – and harder to do than one might think!) and I feel it’s incumbent on me to be as supportive and clear in my own words as I can be.

      My point of the blog post wasn’t so much to defend Jo’s actions, but to defend a sister human being (and defend an event) from panic-driven gossip. Gossip is helpful to no one, but it’s lots of fun, so it catches and spreads like wildfire.

      I’ve seen so much Schadenfreude – joy at other’s pain – in the past day related to this event that I’m pretty stunned by it. But that’s part of human nature, and it’s something I’ve felt myself at times.

      I think it’s good to express concerns and even negative comments about an event – that’s how we all learn. I think Jo will learn a GREAT deal from this, and the rest of us get a college level education at the same time with much less pain. Perhaps one lesson is that an event of this size requires a board, co-organizers or perhaps just a spokesperson to keep everyone informed on what’s going on.

      The amount of work is just too big for one person, that seems to me the basis for much of the grief. And I would also venture to guess that it’s a mistake that every one of us has made at some point (I’ve made it more than once.)

    • A classic example of the lack of communication is the following discussion yesterday:

      Someone posted:
      “I have heard some ‘rumour’ that Jared Flood may not be teaching class on Thursday. Can you clear this up? At the moment I cant afford the luxury of the hotel just for a break..the class being a small justification. Due to funds I had to limit myself to a single class.”

      and the organizer replied simply with:
      “…you shouldn’t listen to rumours!”

      While it looks like the person asking the question got it answered, in reality they were told nothing, The answer should have included the word “yes” or “no” and I can’t help feeling the lack of clarity is on purpose.

  12. Annie – am sending you an enormous hug. I love your attitude. Hope the weather is good for you all. XXXXX

  13. Annie – I also appreciate and agree with your attitude. As an US citizen with a daughter who attends university in Canada, I have LOTS of experience with border crossings. One should take them very seriously, and not volunteer more information than is necessary. You were well informed about work permits, and used careful, correct words at the border. There will be lots of other people prepared to have a great time, learn a lot, make new friends, and do some knitting. Hugs!

  14. I always thought you needed a work permit to gain the necessary work visa? So if you don’t have a permit, you can’t get the visa and you don’t (legally) work. It used to be up to the worker to get the visa after the employer had obtained the necessary permit (sponsorship)? Maybe things have changed.

  15. I’m appreciative of the post but frankly what’s going on here is borderline illegal. Not having permits in place before people travel is quite frankly pathetic when they’ve been organising this for a year. Encouraging people to lie at borders control is complicit law breaking and I for one hope that UKBA keep a very close eye on this event. Publically berating and discrediting tutors who are being deported is quite frankly disgraceful behaviour. Plus as we know a lot of tutors/vendors/Ravelry pulled out due to some very worrying requests being made of them through contracts.

    Then there is the matter of people who worked their asses off at last year’s event being snubbed, either publically or privately, for this year’s event.

    Oh and let’s not forget the stifling of free speech (locking, archiving threads, telling people on a forum which the organisers have nothing to do with that they aren’t allowed to post there becausde they’re not attending) – that’s not miscommunication, that’s active censorship.

    Oh and the public throwing of toys out of the pram don’t help.

    British Yarn (a name that sends shudders down the spine of hard working professional British fibre companies) have behaved deplorably throughout this debacle and I would not be surprised to see lawsuits coming their way.

    I hope those that do attend can salvage something and enjoy a week of knitting, but I for one could not go with a clear conscience about how people are being treated on the sidelines.

    • Polly – You raise a lot of points, many of which I can’t speak on because I’m not aware of the history behind them (or even of the circumstances themselves) but I do feel that they should be addressed.

      Berating of Teachers
      I’m not aware of any “public berating or discrediting of tutors who are being deported”, I really hope that’s not the case anywhere. And, to be specific, Lorilee wasn’t deported but was denied entry, a different situation (not a good one, I’m not trying to diminish the pain & frustration of it) but its good to use the correct terms so an open discussion doesn’t devolve into gossip.

      Anyone who’s ever been snubbed knows is a pretty awful thing. I hate snubbing in any sphere of life, and I hope it wasn’t done here – or if it was it that it wasn’t intentional. As I’ve said, I’m a teacher hired for the event, and my goal at this point is to help make the coming week as positive for my students as I can. I don’t know the history of folks who’d worked previously on similar events, I do know that a snub can sting for a long, long time.

      Free Speech
      Stifling free speech is also a terrible thing. It’s probably obvious from my blog post that I feel that sunlight is the best disinfectant, but the amount of hate mail I’ve received in the last 12 hours is pretty astounding to me (mostly from 3 ips, it seems)

      I know I’m getting a lot of it ‘on behalf’ of the anger folks feel toward the whole situation, but it does give a peek into why some folks prefer to stay mum about things (or, perhaps, go into hunker-down mode.)

      I almost feel that way myself when I read so much vitriol, but I have to remember that although it’s addressed to me, it may not actually be directed at me. This is not to excuse a lack of communication, but to explain why someone who feels besieged may not make the best communication choices.

      The non-disclosure clause in the contract is something I’ve seen in other event contracts. Sometimes organizers include it, sometimes they don’t, and sometimes it’s negotiable. I generally don’t write negative things about an event on my blog so I don’t sweat it. But if I have the feeling I may have something negative to say, I refuse to teach at that event (if there is such a clause.) I don’t see this particular point as censorship, but as a contract that you either choose to sign or not.

      I don’t quite get the throwing of toys out of the pram, but that may be a cultural reference I don’t understand.

      • I don’t want to comment on any of the events and discussion of Knit Camp here but simply to offer a definition of throwing the toys out of the pram/cot :To make an angry protest against a relatively minor problem, in the process embarrassing the protester. The analogy is with a baby who throws toys out of the pram in order to get their parent to pay attention to them. The implication in the idiom is that the protester is acting like a baby.

  16. Wow. I am sorry that you are having to deal with the vitriol. I think the “throwing the toys out of the pram” refers to the thread titled “had enough” – it was completely unprofessional and immature. You want to run a huge event and make all the decisions? Deal with all the fallout and do it in a professional and measured manner.

    And either Lorilee is lying or she was berated/discredited – the organizer herself responded that what Lorilee posted was “factually incorrect”. It may well be that Lorilee’s communication skills and PR savvy are light years ahead of the organizer’s but I have no reason to question her integrity while the organizer of this event seems to relish being opaque. While she was technically ONLY denied entry by customs, she claims that she was threatened and basically told that she should have lied to gain entry into the country. That honestly makes me nervous for the rest of you – I would hate to think you will all be placed in the rather nasty situation of either not teaching and losing income and disappointing students or being pressured to teach gratis or outside the established requirements for non-EU workers.

  17. Annie, I hope your trip is wonderful and I hope that the event goes off without a hitch. I can’t help but be interested in how the week unfolds since I was originally scheduled to teach, but that interest is based in a hope that it’s a really wonderful week for the tutors and the students, all of whom I have great respect for.

    I wonder if it wouldn’t make sense, just for your own peace of mind, to contact your local American consulate and just find out what you can and cannot do and what exceptions could be made. That would give you a chance to get into either teacher mode or tourist mode, based on sound, unbiased, legal advice. Since they represent you, as an american, you wouldn’t have t worry that anyone would accuse you of being there under false pretenses or any of the other scary things people have mentioned.

    A big hug to you. You are a great teacher and I hope the folks in Scotland get to experience your energy and wisdom.

  18. I just can’t believe the amount of people who are being so vindictive about Knit Camp. OK it hasn’t been organised brilliantly and there are many things that could have been done/said better, but there are lots of people going, to learn, teach, or sell, and lots of us are feeling personally attacked, ‘got at’, and I’m sure other people who were just coming to the marketplace may not bother now. I hope this makes the attackers feel lots better!

    Anyway, Annie, I’m really looking forward to you being there, to being there myself – and it will be fun.

    • Freyalyn – I don’t think that people are being vindictive, so much as horrified at how things are unfolding. Anyone following this event cannot have missed problem after problem, and organizers who do whatever they can to not disclose what is actually going on.

      As many people have said…. now that at least one non-EU tutor was turned away at the border, UKBA is well aware that there is this event, and that, at least in one case, appropriate work papers were not obtained.

      Following that thought, this means that UKBA is now looking at what is going on there….. and that could have very bad repercussions for everyone there.

      • Oh, I get that most people are just horrified/appalled at what’s happening, and I’m completely with them. But there area few who seem to be rubbernecking just for fun, and taking delight in other people’s upset and distress. It’s bad enough without others making it worse.

        I shall turn up on Thursday night with my stall stuffed in my van, and just hope there’s enough people left to make the marketplace worthwhile. But I’m sure there will be.

  19. Annie,
    this may seem like knit-picking to you, but according to immigration, you did lie, since the intended purpose of your visit was to teach. The fact that you, quite appropriately, say you do not intend to teach without a permit in your hand is not relevant. The point of your visit was to work. UK immigration does not allow you to change the reason for your entry “just in case” the permits don’t work out.

    I say this for your own protection and to clarify that this seemingly minor detail is critical in this case. The permits needed to have been obtained before you left the US.

  20. Wow, I am obviously living in the dark ages because I missed all of this, but when I first read about Knit Camp my first reaction was “I wanna go toooo!” (all the way from Australia). How surprising to hear of all the miscommunications, etc. As I said, I know nothing and am just looking on from the sidelines, but *gosh* I’d love to attend (if it’s ever held again!) and I hope all works out Annie re the work permits, etc. Yikes.

  21. YIKES!!! This seems to have unleashed lots of hot comments. Anyway, hope you have a good time in Scotland, Annie. You referred to me as “your Scottish Sister” when you taught in Tulsa at Loops, I’m sure that was so long ago and far away that you don’t remember but I do. Have a good look around–my husband and I are looking for a place to vacation in Scotland close/on the sea so if you see something like that…jot it down for me please!!! And above all else, have FUN!!! I love your mom’s philosophy!!

  22. I’m hoping you have a wonderful time in Scotland and the UK too, Annie. I’ve appreciated your positivity in your post – not to mention the gorgeous photographs.
    I hope ALL you knitters and spinners are having a good time in Scotland (and a virtual hug for all the disappointed knitters and tutors).

  23. from someone there as a knit camp attendee and as a seller i can say with absolute honesty that organisation was dreadful, information was dreadful, and some classes were dreadful

    the fun element came from people making the best of a monumental utterly unprofessional mess – i had an excellent week because i was surrounded by fabulous people determined to have a great holiday despite, not because of, knit camp itself

    all on my blog in utter honesty and detail, and with some very interesting replies

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