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The Great Dickens Christmas Fair Reimagined…
“Beginning this year we will celebrate more than the holidays - we will celebrate diversity.”
SAN FRANCISCO, May 9, 2021 ~ In the 1960s, before Hamilton: An American Musical and Netflix’s Bridgerton opened hearts and minds with their multiethnic interpretation of history, Ron and Phyllis Patterson’s Original Renaissance Pleasure Faires (and later the Great Dickens Christmas Fairs) were magical gathering places for people of all ages, races, and ethnicities. The BIPOC community was represented throughout; from the artisans to the street musicians and even their Royal Courts processing through the streets, these Fairs were among the first to lead the way toward immersive, interactive, and deeply inclusive theater.
“My parents were artists and educators, they wanted to live differently, engage audiences differently, and educate differently,” said Kevin Patterson, Executive Director of Red Barn Productions and Co-Producer of the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. Beginning in 1963 as a workshop in their backyard, the first Renaissance Faire quickly evolved into a major fundraiser for radio station KPFK, whose progressive mission aligned with the Pattersons’: “...to engage in any activity that shall contribute to a lasting understanding between nations and between the individuals of all nations, races, creeds, and colors...” Over the decades these productions have continued to evolve, joyously dedicated to the creation of surprising, participatory, and transformative live events.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which forced the cancellation of the 2020 Great Dickens Christmas Fair, the Pattersons were provided a rare opportunity to reimagine the Fair, redefining its broader purpose. “The last year has been life-altering for the entire world, especially the BIPOC community. Each of us has had to confront our unconscious biases and hold ourselves accountable for our part in systemic racism. The Black Lives Matter movement, and the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubery, Breonna Taylor, and many others, has sparked this long-overdue racial reckoning. Red Barn Productions not only has a responsibility to evolve as a business, but we also have the opportunity to embrace and celebrate the diversity of our world by including historical figures with intentional diverse casting in a joyful public celebration of the arts as inspiration and a path to healing and moving forward together as a loving and compassionate society,” said Patterson.
Patterson and the seasonal staff of Red Barn Productions have begun evaluating and rebuilding their business practices through online training and workshops. RBP will be engaging the assistance of a nationally-known DEI consultant to help develop and provide a comprehensive DEI plan with an inclusive strategy for hiring, casting, and training.
Inspiration and guidance has already come from some of the 1,500 diverse artisans, food purveyors, street performers, and musicians. Patterson credits several new affinity groups at the Dickens Fair, including Londoners of the African Diaspora (LoAD), for their deep commitment to racial equity and helping to inspire this next evolution. “Red Barn Productions believes this is an important step forward for the theatrical living history events community,” said Patterson. “Just as the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire was an emblematic example of a pivotal time in history and the eras in which it was produced, the Great Dickens Christmas Fair is committed and excited to be involved in the evolution of this art form once again.”
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More information and details about Red Barn Productions’ commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion can be found at https://redbarnproductions.com/community/. The decision to hold a live Great Dickens Christmas Fair at the historic Cow Palace in Daly City in 2021 is still to be determined, but regardless of that decision, this year the producers will offer a second season of the highly popular “Dickens Fair At Home,” a free online experience that brings home the magic of The Great Dickens Christmas Fair & Victorian Holiday Party to audiences otherwise unable to attend in person.
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