Longpoint 2016 - Year Of Transition

Longpoint 2015 is now more than three months behind us, although it still feels like it was only a month ago and next year's registration opening shouldn't be something I need to consider yet. Jake Norwood's and my attitude towards Longpoint drifts through cycles over the course of a year. From opening registration to the end of July, our levels of excitement and dread fly up and down the scale, sometimes in synchronicity and sometimes not. Then August hits. We start to think about how much time this sucks out of our lives, and vaguely question each other as to if we want to continue doing this.

2011 was the first year that both Jake and I made it to Swordfish, and it followed our second year running a small event, which had just transitioned over to the Longpoint name and included competitions for the first time. We came back from Swordfish 2011 invigorated. Convinced that we needed an event of equal caliber in the US with the same kind of camaraderie and spirit that Swordfish exudes, we started working on a much larger Longpoint 2012. In this same way, for many of the same reasons that the HEMA community saw this past weekend on the Swedish livestream, Swordfish lifts us out of our August to October Longpoint slump every year. It couldn't come at a more important time of the year for our event.

Every year since 2010, our event has grown by 40% - 65%, with this last year having the highest percentage of growth. Although this doesn't necessarily mean that our workload grows by 50% every year, it does require a higher level of organization, space, money, and time. Despite this, we've managed to satisfy our desire to emulate the community feel of our brothers over in Sweden. We've also managed to find time to innovate and build our own community over the years in the form of distinct rules, cutting competitions under Mike Edelson's hand, pushing steel competitions in the US, being the first large event of our type to include a harnischfechten competition under Jessica Finley, instituting a wildly successful Rookie Training Tournament, and encouraging source material work through Cory Winslow's Paired Technique competition.

So, given this, 2016 feels weird. We signed a contract with Turf Valley for both 2015 and 2016 two years ago, which means we knew we'd be holding Longpoint at this venue at least through this coming year. We've run out of space at this venue without doubling our hotel room pickup, which definitely is not something we can commit to for 2016. This means that Longpoint will not grow for the first time in its history, but be limited by the same maximum attendance we had for 2015.

We see this as an opportunity; an opportunity to do all of the things we're already doing better without also having to worry about scale. We reached a milestone of over 100 fighters in Open Steel Longsword this past year, but we gave up important floor space to do it, so we will be returning to two rings and around an 80 person max. We will be dropping one of our rotating competitions, which this past year were Rapier & Dagger and Sword & Buckler, to make room for running a proper Staff Tournament on Thursday to better help prepare our judges and directors than we've been able to manage for the past couple years. The Rookie Training Tournament will also move to Thursday. Knowing exactly how many staff we will need for the first time ever, we will be exploring some new solutions to accommodate these needs. 

So what of 2017? Well, we wrestled with this for a couple months. Do we want to continue holding Longpoint at Turf Valley, which would either require us to just limit attendance as an open event or turn it into an invitational? Or do we want to move to a larger venue to allow our growth and community to continue, even though this will require even more financial risk? 

We've decided on growth. We do not want to tell people they can't come to Longpoint because registration is full, or the tournaments have filled up. This makes us feel horrible every time we have to do it. All of the items we're scaling back in 2016 to optimize organization will be scaled back up in 2017. We are exploring a host of different options that are inside of major cities, which resolves the few complaints we get every year about Turf Valley.

Turf Valley has been good to us. We were flabbergasted when we realized that we could hold our event there back in 2013 rather than in a gym with a hotel that requires a shuttle or car rentals. Thanks to you guys, we are one of their favorite clients, and they will be sad to see us leaving. Some of these things make it more difficult to find locations for 2017, because we expect a certain aesthetic and certain accommodations now.

Longpoint 2016 will be July 21st to 24th and registration will open in December. We hope that you will join us in our year of transition. 

Ben Michels
Longpoint Event Manager
Broken Plow Western Martial Arts, Pittsburgh