In October 2014 Elena Krysova became the Chairman of Oxonmoot, one of the oldest and largest annual events of the Tolkien Society.
FB: When did your relation with Professor Tolkien start?
EK: In 2001, just before the first The Lord of the Rings film was due to come out, I got the book to see what the fuss was all about. I didn’t make it very far – I was 14 and my level of English reading comprehension wasn’t up for such complex narratives. I gave up a little way into The Two Towers and didn’t come back to it until 2004 when all the films and their extended editions were out – my attention was grabbed then. Funnily enough, the chapter I quit reading on the first time round, The King of the Golden Hall, is now one of my absolute favourites.
FB: How did you hear about the Tolkien Society?
EK: I heard about the TS first in the ‘appendices’ of the extended edition of The Return of the King. It might have been even Brian Sibley who was responsible for it! And then, when I moved to the UK in 2011, I looked them up and saw that the TS was having a large event the following summer, The Return of the Ring. Of course, I signed up ASAP.
FB: Worldwide, volunteers tend to run societies like this one. Why not just sit back and enjoy the ride, rather than taking on this kind of responsibility?
EK: Are you kidding me? And miss all the wonderful connections and the opportunity to feed my inner control freak? Seriously though, I volunteered initially because the Progress Report in 2012 said that if you didn’t know anyone, volunteering was a good way of making new friends. And they were absolutely right. I was a bit taken aback at how welcoming and friendly everyone was to me as a volunteer and as a newbie. I spent most of the four days in a sort of a daze, not quite believing I’d found this group of people. Then it kind of snowballed into managing the Oxonmoot art show in 2014 and Chairing it in 2015.
Photos by Andrew Wells
FB: What can you tell us about the story of Oxonmoot?
EK: Oh, you’d be better off asking Charles Noad, our leading bibliographer and scholar of Tolkien, for this one! He handed me a nice little document, detailing briefly all the previous 40 Oxonmoots – when, where, who ran it, notable happenings. Briefly, it was proposed in a personal ‘fanzine’ in December 1973, shortly after Tolkien’s death, by John Abbot, as a ‘convention’ in Oxford the following year. It was only after the wreath-laying at the cemetery, though, that it was decided to make this an annual event. Attendance numbers have gone from 17 to over 140 in the span of 8 years, which prompted the creation of a subcommittee for Oxonmoot number 9 in 1982. The event used to be spread out all over Oxford, with members staying in taverns and inns, and using some college facilities. But from 1991 onwards Oxonmoot was held in one venue, an Oxford University college. And so it continues to this day – Oxonmoot 2015 is set to return to St Antony’s College for the first time since 2002, having done the last 6 years at Lady Margaret Hall.
FB: That’s quite a history! So, organising Oxonmoot – what’s it like?
EK: It’s actually all very well-managed. I’ve got a marvelous subcommittee, many of whom have been doing this for years and decades. We get a fair number of volunteers on the day, too, who help to run things smoothly. The only real unknown for me this year is the new (old) college venue, St Antony’s in Oxford, and we’ve been working very hard to ensure there are as few surprises as possible, doing two visits to the college and many, many emails.
I also find that things I fret about over the months in terms of organising, often have a way of resolving themselves for the better. For example, I was a bit wary about contacting the suppliers we’d need, but most of them simply went “we know who you are, we know what you need, consider it done”. It was a bit surreal and it’s great.
FB: If I were a prospective first timer, what would you say to me?
EK: This can and will change your life, if you let it. There’s a reason we’ve been talking about Friendship a lot this year. Some might think that it’s all high words, literature, fiction – but we get to live it. And another thing. Sleep is overrated – go, see and do as much as you can, don’t have ‘missing out’ regrets.
To find out more about Oxonmoot, check out the Tolkien Society official website. Accommodation and meals booking will close on Thursday the 13th of August.