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Sherlock On Masterpiece

The Game Is Afoot: Sherlock Holmes Societies in the Pacific Northwest

March 23, 2016
NOTE: MASTERPIECE's fourth season of Sherlock returns January 1, 2017. Stay active on all things Sherlock, and learn more about Pacific Science Center's Sherlock Holmes exhibit
 
“The detective story, especially Sherlock Holmes, is universal. He is one of the most recognizable characters anywhere,” says Fran Martin. For more than 20 years, Martin has been president of The Stormy Petrels, the Sherlock Holmes Society in Vancouver, B.C. that was founded in 1987.
 
Margie Deck (Seattle), Fran Martin (The Stormy Petrels), Mimi Noyes (organizer of Seattle SherlockCon)
 
Like many other Sherlockians, Martin was drawn to Holmes because of her love of mystery stories, from Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden to Agatha Christie. In the 1980s, when Jeremy Brett was portraying Holmes in the Granada television series, she began to re-read the original stories by Sir Arthur Conon Doyle, and her appetite grew.
 
“I couldn’t get enough of Sherlock Holmes, so I joined The Bootmakers of Toronto, the largest Sherlockian society in Canada. Soon after, Vancouver formed a group and I joined immediately,” says Martin.
 
There are six official Sherlock Holmes societies in Canada, almost 50 in the United States, and 50 others across the globe, from Uruguay to Switzerland. Here in the Northwest, the Stormy Petrels of B.C. are joined by The Noble and Most Singular Order of the Blue Carbuncle in Oregon and The Sound of the Baskervilles in Washington.
 
The Stormy Petrels meet once a month to discuss an individual story from the canon. They also host special events, such as a picnic at “Reichenbach Falls” (a.k.a. Shannon Falls near Squamish, B.C.) and a Master’s Dinner (celebrating Holmes’ birthday in January). They also meet occasionally with the Oregon and Washington groups.
 
Martin says that one of the best and most fun parts of being a Sherlockian is keeping in touch with other like-minded people. She and other Petrels have attended the “Gillette to Brett and Beyond” conference held in Bloomington, Indiana, as well as a conference in Minneapolis hosted by The Norwegian Explorers in conjunction with the Sherlock Holmes Collection at the University of Minnesota Library.
 
In New York, two groups —The Baker Street Irregulars and The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes — host a weekend every year in January to celebrate Homes’ birthday. Other gatherings include The Scintillation of Scions in Baltimore as well as SherlockCons in Atlanta and Seattle. 
 
“They are all well worth attending,” says Martin. “Speakers and discussion panels never disappoint. Not to mention meeting your favourite new author.”
 
Thanks to the popularity of the Robert Downey, Jr. movies and the new BBC series featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, the clubs have seen a boost in membership. 
 
“It is the internet that keeps us all connected with each other,” says Martin. “News travels fast. We can find out what is happening in London, in New York, in Toronto, in Japan (which boasts the largest Sherlock Holmes society in the world). More pastiches and reference books are being written all the time. It is really encouraging to see younger fans join in the Sherlockian world. The fandom has become phenomenal. Fan art is very popular.”
 
Randeep Katari, a storyboard artist and illustrator in New York’s East Village, has been drawn to the new BBC series for its cinematography and refreshing take on the classic tales. “The style and the modernization along with Cumberbatch's portrayal make it one of the most fantastic, unique and addictive new shows I've ever seen,” says Katari. “The fact that it’s always 90-minute episodes also gives it a lot of breathing room to really delve deep into the characters’ minds and get you really invested in the people and stories.”
 
Kat Kinast is one of the newest members of The Stormy Petrels; she joined the club as a fan of the latest BBC series as well. “When I started watching the BBC show—probably a year after the initial release — I hadn’t seen anything featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, who has now become one of my all-time favourite actors. Many of the shows I had been watching were on hiatus and I was looking for something new to watch.”
 
Kinast already had developed a fondness for BBC shows in general, and was right in the middle of watching the BBC's Being Human and the newer Doctor Who series with Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant when she rediscovered Sherlock. “The [Sherlock] production values seemed amazing — more like little movies than the television shows with which I was familiar,” says Kinast.
 
Kinast’s favourite character, Data, from Star Trek: The Next Generation was a fan of Holmes, and that piqued her interest early in life. However, it wasn’t until recently that she joined The Stormy Petrels. She was new to the Vancouver area and wanted to make new friends based on common interests. “I've had a blast and met so many interesting new people,” she says, “and I would encourage anyone who is a Sherlockian to look into finding contacts in their local area that share their same interests.” 
 
“Discussing the canon and hearing the stories and appreciations of other members who are more knowledgeable creates a fuller sort of intensity and love,” Kinast explains.  “Sort of akin to going to Comic-Con with a friend who really knows the ropes and is completely addicted to a show or series. Everything seems richer when you are surrounded by passionate people; their enthusiasm is infectious in the best possible way!”
 
For Sherlock fans, new and old, the appeal the stories and the camaraderie with fellow Sherlockians won’t fade any time soon. 
 
“The stories are classic. They are unique. They range from gothic in nature to the classic mystery, to the macabre and even comical — such as ‘The Red-Headed League,’” adds Martin. “Some stories are more popular than others; for example, people who are not Sherlockians will most assuredly have heard of ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles.’” 
 
Martin adds that the stories have never been out of print since they were first penned in the 1880s, and they are second only to the Bible as the most widely translated stories in the world. “Interest in the Sherlockian world is increasing, and I am very excited to be a part of it!” she says.
 
To find a club near you, check out the Sherlockian.net directory. Even if you don’t live in the area of a specific club, you can still join to receive event invitations, newsletters, and other information.
 
Images courtesy of The Stormy Pretels. 

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Rebecca Bollwitt

Rebecca Bollwitt founded the award-winning blog Miss604.com in 2004 where she covers events and lifestyle news in the Metro Vancouver area. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook .

More stories by Rebecca Bollwitt

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