The Filk Hall of Fame: A Short History
By: Judith and Dave Hayman, © March 2001
The Hall of Fame was conceived while homeward bound from Ohio Valley Filk Fest, in October 1993. It passed its early gestation on the I-90 from Ohio through to Pennsylvania.
That OVFF was known as PainCon. Mary Ellen Wessels was the Toastmistress and Duane Elms the GoH. Mew’s dad was dying and she had Judith on standby to take on part of her duties if she was not able to attend. She got the call early Sunday that her father passed, but her mother urged her to stay for the rest of the day, because she was “already with her other family”. That was also the weekend that Tom Smith’s beloved grandmother was taken to the hospital very ill. Many others were in the midst of personal crises of one sort or another. But the community came together in mutual support and caring. The con ended up being a pretty good one after all. At the beginning of the drive, Dave said that we needed to do “something” to recognize this part of filk: the closeness of the community.
Dave notes that while Judith while busy being a performer in the filk circle, he’d been sitting back with the listeners and especially the organizers. He’d been meeting them and hearing what they were doing. So for him filk was always “the community”. The discussion about what to do continued all along the I-90 from Ashtabula to Erie, PA – about two solid hours of discussion, gelling with the idea of how to recognize those who contribute to the community we call filk in some way. An award of recognition for long-standing achievement was the result.
In March of 1994, Dave and Judith attended Consonance. Dave cornered Bill Sutton in the hall very early one morning and proposed the idea of this award. He was favourable. Later that weekend Dave presented the idea to an Interfilk meeting, with the idea that Interfilk take it on. It was the very first IF meeting for Judith and for Kathleen Sloan. Gary Anderson and Bob Laurent and Bill Sutton were also there, so there was a quorum. While the idea was a good one, it wasn’t really something Interfilk was mandated to do. So the idea was tossed back to Dave.
By FilKONtario 4 (1994) the idea had been broached to the FKO Concom. That year it consisted of Dave, Judith, Heather and Howard. The Concom was receptive but the idea was still very new. Dave ran the idea past Kathy Mar who was FKO’s GoH that year and stayed on at “Hotel” Hayman for a week. She asked a lot of questions and made a lot of comments and also gave us permission to use the dandelion logo on the award. We even toyed with calling the award a “Dandelion”.
Summer of 1994 – Or not an award?
The Concom continued the discussion and it was felt that more people needed to be consulted. This took place, first at Contata, but mainly at WorldCon in Winnipeg. Not all people broached were in favour of idea. Some wondered whether or not we really needed another set of filk awards.
Dave and Jude drove to Winnipeg with mew and the three of them shared the room with Joey. There was a lot of chances to discuss the concept, and also with Dave Clement. By now the idea was not to be an “award” but rather a honour for ongoing achievement, something like the Irvine Thalberg award at the Oscars. During one discussion, at dinner, with all the above mentioned present, Joey asked a provocatively seminal question: “But what about people no one else has heard of?” Dave’s answer was that, of course, they are all eligible, all we need is nominations. These discussions at Conadian, became the stepping stone for the Hall of Fame idea.
Fall of 1994
We ran all the new ideas and questions past Howard and Heather for their approval. The next step was for Dave to talk to the OVFF Concom in October. We wanted to ensure that they did not feel that we were trying to take away the impact of the Pegasus Awards. Dave approached Van Seigling. He felt it was all right and brought it up with the OVFF Concom after the con. He let us know that they had not problem with our idea.
Later in 1994
The Hall of Fame was now reaching the last stages of a very long gestation. The FKO Concom had to decide some guidelines. We all agreed that the Hall of Fame would be a non-political entity. Then we established the purpose and criteria for induction. (As anyone who’s written these kind of things knows, they take a long time. We were picky.) These have been only slightly amended since, and only for clarity’s sake. We also decided that this honour would not be by popularity or open vote, but would be decided by a jury made up of one member from each filk convention concom, along with the FKO concom. In addition, we wanted the decision to be made as objectively as possible based on the content of or information contained in the nominations. Having wrestled that part of the job to completion, we needed to decide how many inductees. We agreed on the 3 to 5 per year partly based on keeping the work and the presentations within manageable size, and partly because the FKO budget was, and still is, extremely tight: the cost of many awards would be prohibitive.
The final step was what the inductees would receive. A citation would be written based on the nominations received and the paper to be used was found by Howard. Heather, Judith and Dave looked at award catalogues and found a plaque. It wasn’t the first choice, but the con couldn’t afford our very expensive tastes <g>. Howard developed the FHoF logo (based on the dandelion) for the store to render as a medallion for the plaque.
Then we went public: e-mail, flyers, rec.music.filk, etc., we solicited nominations from the community. We got nominations!
First Year of Induction
The first year of induction would be in 1995 at the FKO5 banquet. The FKO Concom felt that there would not be enough time to solicit other cons for jury members. We had no idea whether or not we would get enough nominations and especially how the community would react. So we elected to set the example with the first inductees, for this one year only. Since then the jury of filk concom reps plus FKO have voted on the nominations. And all of nominations have been retained for ongoing reference. They never go “stale” but they are often updated and amended by the nominators.
Also for that one year, the whole FKO Concom as a whole (Howard, Heather, Dave and Judith) wrote the citations. Then and now the draft citations are reviewed by the recipients for “historical” accuracy.
The first induction took place on April 1st of 1995. Dave commented that if it didn’t work out he could always say that it was just an April Fools’ joke. But the idea was well received. And some of the people who had thought the idea odd, started to be “converted.” At the same time, Dave asked members of the various concoms present if they would like to have a jury member for the next year.
Spreading the word
The word of the Filk Hall of Fame continued to be spread by FKO and other members of the community. Nominations were received, questions were asked and answered and for 1996 a member of each North American filk con had a jury member. A member for the British and German cons were added as interest — and contacts – increased.
Judith developed a binder with all the citations and pictures of the plaques to put on display at subsequent FKOs.
The cumulative plaque and Hall of Fame Concert
At FKO 7, Judith came up with the idea of having a Filk Hall of Fame Concert as part of programming on the Sunday of the con, to celebrate the inductions. Each inductee was asked to choose a few songs to be performed. The concert, with mew’s help, was done on the fly – i.e. members of the con were approached after the banquet on Saturday and asked if they would perform a song. It was a great success and has become a highlight of the con.
For FKO8, a multi-year plaque showing each year’s inductees was purchased. This year also marked the first time we actually planned the concert ahead of time. This was because the banquet was immediately before the concert! Having found this dramatically easier on the nerves, concerts are now arranged well in advance. This means swearing a number of people to secrecy, but is well worth it. The beauty and quality of the concerts increases every year.
Some highlights from the Administrator
Dave felt from the beginning that he should not have a jury vote, but be a neutral administrator. Instead, he gets to contact the inductees and let them know of the induction.
The first year, he phoned John and Mary Creasy to get contact information from them for Leslie Fish. She happened to be there and when asked if she knew about the Filk Hall of Fame, gasped “Yes, and I meant to nominate, but …” then Dave told her that she was an inductee. She was very surprised.
The call Dave made to Rafe Culpin was very interesting. When Rafe answered, in the background was playing North Coast Cabaret, the tape that Judith and Dave produced, and the cut was one of Judith’s songs, “K’Ehleyr”!
Dave knew the year mew was inducted that he could be very sneaky indeed when calling her. He made sure that Ed was also listening. He started with “I’d like you to help out with the Hall of Fame concert again this year especially since I know that you do some of the songs of one of the inductees.” To which mew answered “Well sure, and who”. To which Dave replied “You.” After some laughing and various other comments, Ed chimed in – “She’s rolling on the floor.”
The most typical reaction is “You’ve got to be kidding. Why me? Surely there are others more worthy.” This is generally accompanied by some very giddy laughter.
A lowlight from the Administrator
The FKO concom decided that the names of those for whom we had nominations should be put on the website. This was so members of the community could see who was not nominated yet or could see someone and say “Hey, I bet I could add some information to this.”
Most people thought it was a great idea. However a couple of e-mails were received saying that certain nominees should never be inducted, and they should be excluded from eligibility, etc. The FKO concom then decided to take the names of the web. The Hall of Fame selections from the beginning are not based on politics, but on nominations. Dave will send the listing to those who ask, in private e-mail.
Who is eligible? Do I have to re-submit each year? Can I change, add to or replace a previous nomination that I made? All of these are answered on the web site or in the flyer.
What is the payoff to the founders?
For Dave and Judith there are many. With any luck we are a tiny bit to build a closer knit community, and one that is more appreciative of what people are doing. We are trying to prevent the community from forgetting it’s roots and it’s formative influences. We all can learn about people we might otherwise not have known about. The presentation of awards allows us to be mindful of what we share.
There is a great feeling coming out after the banquet is completed and this carries over to the concert the next day.
The Hall of Fame citation writing committee (usually Howard, Sally, Judith and Dave) write the citations based directly on the nominations that are received. So each of us can ensure that those who have contributed to our filk community are not only honoured, but also given a citation that expresses our thoughts. The citations are also available for all of the filk community to read.
The key element is that it isn’t just what an inductee has done, but it what impact they have had on the nominator and the community, local, regional or larger. There are no winners and losers, its just who gets inducted the current year.
We received nominations and comments from people who did not think it was a good idea. It should be noted that these people have all changed their minds. We’re glad they did.
After eighteen months of gestation, the Hall of Fame was born. It’s healthy and growing nicely.