Mark Cordory’s Blog
Return to OldTown.
Last year I went to OldTown for the first time – this year I’m returning.
In 2016 myself and my travelling buddy Jay arrived from the UK with the bare essentials – mostly just our costumes and whatever else we could cram into the small spaces left in our luggage. We had no tents (there simply wasn’t room), no real plan of where we were going to sleep and only the videos we’d seen from previous events to guide us in what to expect when we got there.
We arrived at night, after having been collected by our driver Kenneth who had very kindly volunteered to give us a lift from Szczecin airport, and after about 40 minutes of driving we were suddenly rumbling across the old disused military airfield that’s home to the event.
And we drove.
And we drove…
We both sat there wondering just how big this site was, but finally the lights of OldTown appeared in the distance before us, and walking through the gates into the town was a revelation. The lights, the wonderful OldTown radio playing over the tannoy, the bustle of characters and costumes in the bars and encampments as we were shown around the site by out guide Wilku, everything was perfect, nothing was out of place here.
That first night was like walking into a film set, it all felt like a genuine party at the end of the world, and with the light of the following morning we began to fully appreciate the sheer scale of the site which OldTown was set within.
The OldTown Wastelands are huge.
The disused military airfield, which is home to the festival, stretches for as far as the eye can see, a walk into the Wastelands is like a genuine exploration into the Post Apocalyptic unknown with overgrown roads and runways and countless derelict buildings to discover scattered through the landscape. If you’re a fan of the genre, then you’ve probably explored the wastes of Fallout 3 & 4, this is like stepping into the environment for real (or, if you’re lucky you can always catch a ride with one of the fabulous vehicles which genuinely look as if they’ve driven off a film set).
There’s little need for ‚suspension of disbelief’ here.
The settlement of OldTown itself is a large shanty town of buildings and encampments populated by tribes, clans and individuals from all over the world and the apocalypse has never felt so welcoming. Honestly, the generosity, enthusiasm, warm welcome and hospitality of all the people we met there was truly amazing.
Add to this the events such as Jugger tournaments, boxing, wrestling & costume competitions, live bands and more that continue throughout the 5 days of the festival (and of course the LARP itself) and you have something truly special.
At the end of the week we left the festival tired (no doubt from spending rather too much time in the excellent OldTown bar…) and very dusty, but with heads swimming with ideas and experiences.
To put this into some sort of context – I’ve been involved in the LARP hobby in the UK for 35 years now and watched it grow from small beginnings, also running many of my own events over the years with my system ‚Mythlore‚. The system was predominately High Fantasy (as the vast majority of systems were back in the early days of the hobby in the UK) but we were probably the first system to produce our own purpose-built full monster costumes and masks in the hobby. Although the system rarely runs these days due to increasing work commitments, we’ve managed to squeeze in a few modern day horror events and most recently an Arabian Nights-inspired trilogy set within the Mythlore world which won awards for Best Events in the UK LARP awards which run annually here.
For me the hobby has been a long-term passion driven by the potential it has for truly cinematic and uniquely immersive experiences unlike any other form of entertainment. There are at least 2 new LARP projects sitting in my ‚To Do’ pile at the moment which I really hope to get around to running at some point, one of them very much in the apocalyptic theme – maybe one day I’ll find the time to do them.
All this inevitably stems from my real full-time job as a designer, props & puppet maker in the TV and Film industry which I’ve been involved with for over 30 years now. In that time I’ve worked on productions such as Doctor Who (where I was Head of Props Fabrication during the Eccleston and early Tennant seasons and also the first season of Torchwood), also working in the props dept for productions such as Tim Burton’s ‚The Corpse Bride’ and other assorted comissions for clients including the legendary Iron Maiden, where I designed and made Eddie for the Fear of the Dark album and tour.
However, throughout this I’ve still supplied costumes, props and full creature costumes to the LARP hobby and continue to do so to this day – it’s definitely an enduring passion for me.
In the past few years my increasing fascination in the Post Apocalyptic genre has led to my developing my own SALVAGED brand of costumes and props which has grown into international projects for LARP, musicians (including the excellent V2A who will be headlining OldTown this year), music videos, other international PA festivals, an Escape Room and even a themed bar, with more projects in the pipeline. I find the process of assembling and ageing for the PA genre just fits the way I work so well, and it probably now makes up over 80% of the work I do these days.
But why OldTown? Well, although I’ve attended a few great, but relatively small Post Apocalyptic LARPs in the UK, nothing really prepared me for the experience of OldTown, which is why, at the end of last year, I offered my services as a behind the scenes ‚consultant’ to the OldTown team, and I’m honoured to say they accepted.
So this year I’m returning to the Polish Wastelands with more ideas, a tent and a few more luxuries, my wife and (work schedule permitting) even some SALVAGED Wares to trade with. There are plans in place for a couple of workshop sessions during the event and I’m looking forward to seeing how some of the ideas we’ve come up with translate into the game this year. But I’m also looking forward to catching up with old friends and new and spending time in OldTown itself and, hopefully, getting the chance to explore more of the amazing wastelands that lie beyond the OldTown walls.
I hope to see you there.