06 October 2010

Way leads onto way...

I've been thinking about posting this for some time now. And I'm resolved.

Some of you have no doubt heard of the train wreck that was UK Knitting Camp and Ravelry Weekend. The official website seems to be gone now, but there is a mirror site here.

Where to begin? I guess at the beginning.

Last year, some local friends of mine went to Sock Summit, where one of them won the grand prize: enrollment, room and board at UK Knit Camp. She was over the moon thrilled. She encouraged me to contact them and ask if they needed any more teachers and I dragged my feet thinking that it was all settled. Finally, though, she talked me into it. To my surprise, the organizer added my name immediately to the list of tutors and had me teaching knitted jewelry classes. Mr. Romi and I were excited and thought about trying to take a family vacation, partially using the money I would make teaching.

Fast forward to early this year. I received a packet of info including terms and contract info etc. I noticed that the tutors were expected to pay their own way and then be reimbursed. Noticed is perhaps an understatement. I took one look at air fares - well over $1,000 - and had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The materials went on to stipulate payment methods to teachers. Now, I don't know how many of you have had the experience of being paid in non US funds or even in US funds drawn on a foreign bank. Fees, fees, and more fees. Naturally, I was disheartened at the thought of losing money even on my airfare. So I did what I sometimes do when I am conflicted: absolutely nothing. I am not proud of this aspect of my personality, but this time it seems to have been the right thing to do.

I did send back pictures for my classes and some biographical info, but that was all. I noticed that it didn't find its way to the website. So I wrote to inquire. I was told "tonight! I will be putting everything up tonight!" Many tonights passed, with nothing happening. I was now fairly sure that this was not going to be happening for me. Sure enough, soon after that, I received a terse email canceling my classes. Another couple of months passed, and I was still receiving inquiries about my teaching at the event. I was forced to ask the organizer to remove my name from the website. I also noticed that the list of tutors had become increasingly fluid.

My classes being officially canceled, I turned my attention to other possibilities, and launched my 7 Small Shawls challenge. Isn't it funny how one thing grows out of another? I wouldn't have had the time to do it, what with class prep and travel, had I taught at Knit Camp.

Meanwhile, my friend's prize kept being scaled back until it did not include enrollment in classes, but instead had her assigned as a helper in someone's class. Hmmmmm. I kept watch over the Knit Camp group on Ravelry because of her, and saw, to my dismay, the disaster unfold. First Ravelry pulled out - they had no contract until the last minute and then found the terms very understandably unacceptable. Then came a report of a teacher being sent back to the US because her work permit was not forthcoming. Others were forced to leave the country and re-enter when paperwork was in place. Throughout the whole thing, the teachers' comments were incredibly professional, and in fact, I have never heard to the contrary. As poorly as the event was organized, as difficult as the terms were, the teachers all did their very very best to give their students a wonderful time. And it seemed to work! I heard glowing reports of the teachers and fun time had by all, including my friend, who absolutely adored the teacher she assisted.

But a couple of weeks ago, my friend said "you need to read Lucy's blog."

Oh. Most of the tutors hadn't been paid. They still have not. Not only have they not been paid for their teaching time, they haven't been reimbursed for their airfare or other travel costs. In other words, they paid their own money for airfare, lost a week of possible business elsewhere, and then were not paid for their work. This is causing severe financial hardship in some cases, aside from the horrible feeling of being badly used.

But out of the ashes, some beauty has come into being. Kind and wonderful Jane has set up a fund to collect money to be paid to the tutors. She has done this at her own expense, and it is squeaky clean. She will never touch the money; it will all go to the unpaid tutors, first to cover out of pocket expenses, and then should there be anything left, this will go for unpaid fees. I encourage you to read her blog post and then the thread here on Ravelry. To donate to the tutors via PayPal, go here. Clifford Towers is the accountant retained to run this fund.

I can't tell you how sick this fiasco makes me; I can only imagine what financial horrors I would be going through right now if I had been unlucky enough to go. Please, if you can spare anything at all, do send even a little bit. It really does add up, and perhaps it will help save someone who does not in any way deserve bankruptcy or worse.

Thank you for reading this far. Hopefully, the ugliness will be overshadowed by all the good out there in the knitting community.

eta: Breaking News!!! It appears that some small portion of monies owed has been forthcoming! More here.



Anonymous Annmarie said...

Such an interesting write up. Did your friend end up going to Knit Camp? I cannot believe that a wonderful prize was downgraded to unpaid help.

3:51 AM  
Anonymous Annmarie said...

Sorry to serial post but I just checked out the 7 shawls to knit. Ohh.Ahh.Lovely. I must purchase and knit these shawls they are fantastic!

3:55 AM  
Blogger Rudee said...

I had no idea that all of these knitters and teachers had been fleeced in such a way. Pun definitely intended. It's a low down dirty shame.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Joansie said...

What a horror story. On a much smaller scale, I was to teach (for free, mind you, to help out) at a local "open house" fiber event. First, I had to put kits together for students when I thought they would be purchasing the yarn from this vendor holding the event. Then I was asked to supply a tent. However, when I received an e-mail asking me to contribute $15 towards the "porta potty", I backed out of the entire thing. I already was donating my time and the only person to make money was this woman holding event.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Mia said...

I followed that whole fiasco. Even Ysolda offered to help out and she never got a contract to teach there or withdrew. It is nice to see that something is being done. I wonder if any action can be taken against the organizer? I am pretty sure the UK courts work like the US ones since the US courts are based on English common law.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Gudrun Johnston said...

My experience was similar to yours Romi. I however was always going to Scotland anyway to see family....but some of that time was spent worrying about the tutors I was spending time with over there and how it was all going to evolve.....not good as it turns out!
Thanks for blogging about it.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Cookie said...

Romi, thank you for this. I had wondered what had happened with you teaching over there. While I'm sorry you missed a chance to teach in the UK, I am so glad that you were not another knitter misused at that event.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Lucy said...

Thanks so much for your blog. The knitters that came to camp were wonderful (I believe I met your friend, please send my greetings to her).
I'm so glad that you were not further embroiled in the camp saga.Happy stitches.

5:27 AM  
Anonymous Mary said...

There was a very significant exception amongst the teacher in terms of attitude and professionalism.

Most were stunningly wonderful in an impossible, horrible situation. One was not, and will never, ever get a penny from me again.

10:10 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home