In 2003, the first U.K. Tarot Conference was born. It was something I was aware of and, as the years went by, was something I always said I’d one day attend. How did I ever leave it this long!
The U.K. Tarot Conference is the brainchild of Kim Arnold. As well as organising the yearly event, Kim is also a Hay House writer, tarot reader, and has worked as a tarot specialist at Pinewood Studios. If this isn’t enough, she is also responsible for the annual Tarot Festival, an event which has knocked up two successful years on its bedpost so far and is where I first met her.
Regardless of her impressive CV, Kim is one of the most down to earth people I have met, both in the tarot community or otherwise. Her passion for the art of tarot is what drives her and her respect for the community and her relentless effort is what pulls people through the door time and again. Over the years, the U.K. Tarot Conference has welcomed such high-profile names as Rachel Pollack, Mary Greer, and Ciro Marchetti, but everyone who attends the weekend event is welcomed with the same personal warmth and Kim’s generosity.
While chatting with Kim at the 2016 Tarot Festival, I knew I had to make it this year, so I set the wheels in motion. Finding out that Caitlin Matthews, who created one of my favourite decks (The Da Vinci Enigma Tarot) was going to be there gave me that extra push. So on Friday afternoon, I breezed through Old Street with my small suitcase, in pursuit of the Barbican Thistle. On the last leg of my journey, I walked past and almost missed Cilla Conway – the artist and creator of The Intuitive Tarot and the Devas of Creation. We’d met before so I re-introduced myself and we chatted about tarot and the Devas while we looked for the conference hall.
After receiving our goodie bags, we all took our place at our tables, ready for our first talk, a workshop by Caitlin and John Matthews about the creation of a tarot deck. With so much experience under their joint-belt, it was a real luxury to be in the presence of such wisdom. As a deck creator and writer myself, I learned a lot about the process, picking up some very handy tips. It was also great to hear from their special guest, Mark Ryan, that a further book about The Wildwood Tarot is in the pipeline.
The Friday afternoon was packed with interesting content. Each year, the conference focuses on a specific card and now that the conference is a teenager, we were greeted with the thirteenth trump, Death. I’ve attended talks by Richard Abbot before and this one didn’t disappoint. I enjoy his no-nonsense approach to tarot card reading and in this years workshop, he ditched the idea of transformation, reminding us that Death really does mean death – something I have always agreed with.
As well as a handful of inspiring spell castings, meditations, and a talk about tarot within Witchcraft by Wicca Meir Spring, we were also treated to a session with Ciro Marchetti. Ciro, who needs little introduction, gave us an insightful look into the business of tarot, highlighting his early mistakes, as well as his notable achievements. Ciro has a wonderful sense of humour and is an engaging public speaker. As well as having a chat in the evening, I was pleased to look through his new creation, Tarot Decoratif.
If all of this wasn’t enough, Steve Hounsome took to the stage as well, describing his method of therapeutic reading and sharing images from his two tarots. As we hit the evening, it became the turn of Rex Van Ryn, Steve Dooley and Andy Letcher, who were launching their English Magic Tarot. I’d previously spoken with Rex online and was happy to find that all three guys (and Steve’s wife, Jenny) were on my table for the whole weekend. The trio gave us all an overview of the deck, but I managed to chat with each individually, finding out a little more about their roles within the making of the deck and book.
I didn’t sleep so well on Friday night. I was most probably wired from the events of the day before, but I was up bright and early on the Saturday morning, ready for breakfast and another hefty portion of tarot. To kick off the day, a special edition of my Tarot Thoughts videos, created especially for the conference, was played.
The day began with a Transformation Master Class with Lisa Eddy. I was really inspired by Lisa’s presentation. While she is an extremely knowledgeable and experienced tarotist, the personality she injected into her opening talk really touched my heart. It’s always great to hear about the tarot cards and different methods of working with them, but there is something really fascinating in hearing somebody’s personal tarot history and how they came to work with the cards in the first place. Lisa shared her own story with honesty and strength, as well as guiding us through a spread connected to death and the Top 5 Regrets of Dying. The workshop really set me up for the day ahead.
Corrine Kenner (author of Tarot Journaling and creator of The Wizards Tarot) directed us through an astrological chart before lunch. A few years ago, I had my own chart made up. I spent more time reading the interpretation than looking at the workings but Corrine’s talk opened it all up for me and it has helped me to better understand it. She provided us all with astrological basics and how we can use them to add a new layer to our tarot readings.
One of the best parts of a conference like this is in the people you meet. There is as much to enjoy in-between the sessions as there is within them. As well as having many chats with my friend, Chloe McCracken (creator of The Celtic Lenormand), I was lucky to be seated next to Kirsten Buchholzer. As well as enjoying her fascinating talk on her Biedermeier Oracle and an overview of Austrian Gypsy Cards in general, we partnered up for many of the exercises devised over the weekend. It’s great when you click with someone instantly and we had many laughs as we worked through different tarot readings.
As we made our way to the end of the conference, Philip Carr-Gomm announced his newest project, The Opera Tarot. With stunning artwork by Linda Sutton, we delved into the theatrical world of both opera and tarot. I’d seen Linda’s artwork before, so was excited to see this new deck being launched. While I didn’t get to meet her, I did have a short chat with Philip.
The end of the conference was rounded up with an introduction to next year’s subject. After Death comes Temperance and it was the author Juliet Sharman-Burke who bridged the gap. While there was so many amazing names at the conference, this was a talk I was really excited about. I have been a long-time admirer of Juliet’s work. I once spent a rainy week in a caravan working with The Mythic Tarot, devouring the interpretations of each card in her beautiful accompanying book. I also rate her guides for her Sharman-Casseli Tarot very highly. Juliet has a talent for giving you all you need in both a practical format and an eloquent and thought-provoking style. Her talk on Temperence (and how it sits between Death and The Devil) was both liberating and inspirational. She really was the perfect person to round-up the weekends events and fuel our excitement for the following year. I had a lift waiting outside so didn’t have a chance to chat properly with Juliet. However, I did quickly tell her how much I enjoyed both her talk and work as I rushed by with my suitcase.
As well as all of these wonderful speakers and workshops, the conference was decked out (pun intended) with a variety of stalls and things to buy. It was great to see the ladies from Atlantis Bookshop once again.
I dumped some unwanted sets from my collection on the ‘swap table’ but only managed to buy just one pack this time. After a really interesting conversation with John Matthews, I purchased his Byzantine Tarot (illustrated by Cilla Conway). As with Caitlin, it was a pleasure to finally meet John, who is a complete gentleman.
Though the doors closed at 5.30pm on that dark and rainy October Saturday, I haven’t stopped thinking about all I learned there since. Though he couldn’t make the conference, I grabbed twenty minutes with my good friend, Andrea Aste (The Lost Code of Tarot), which was also a treat. We’d hoped to get together for longer while he was over from Italy, but with both of us busy, those twenty minutes were all we could snatch.
I’d like to thank everyone who attended and made the conference what it was. Of course, special thanks go out to Kim, without whom none of this would have been possible.