LONDON – This past weekend on November 18, 2023, Witchfest International took place in Croydon in South London at the Fairfield Halls venue. Witchfest International celebrated its 21st anniversary bringing together countless experts on Witchcraft and Wicca, Paganism as well as community leaders and Pagan entertainers who rocked the night until 2AM. Despite the celebrations, the event was greeted on Saturday by a Christian protest group loud enough to disrupt workshops and events while creating worrisome conditions for attendees.
Witchfest International is a yearly event held in Croydon, South London, and hosted by the Children of Artemis (CoA), a non-profit group of UK-based witches. Witchfest International is widely viewed as the largest such event in the world with a “wide range of Witchcraft, Wiccan, Pagan, Heathenry, Occult and Mythological subjects” and five simultaneous events and workshops occurring hourly. The event is practically ritualized in the calendar of UK Pagans, Witches, Wiccan, Heathens, polytheists, and others within our community.
Croydon is a particularly good location for the event. Data from the UK Office for National Statistics suggests that the London borough hosts the largest number of residents in the country who identify as Pagan and Wiccan.
During the afternoon while workshops and other events were occurring a group of approximately 30 self-described Christians gathered in front of the Fairfield Halls venue and began broadcasting evangelizing messages on sound equipment and protesting the event from the street. Witnesses described the protesters as “loud, aggressive and abusive.
The Christian group was prepared for the interference having brought megaphones and amplifiers to ensure their message would be maximally disruptive for hours. They also brought a supply of leaflets, banners, and crosses. They also loudly played hard rock and metal in between calls to repent to ensure they would impact the event. Witnesses noted they were clearly organized and trained for the disturbance to gain maximal effect.
There have been previous reports of protests at Witchfest International with shouting and abusive behavior, but not on this scale. Witchfest is waiting to speak with the authorities before issuing a formal comment but noted that this year’s protest was the worst they had experienced.
Well-known author and priestess Sorita d’Este witnessed the events. She commented, “Christian protesters stood outside, screaming violently and loudly at those who attended Witchfest in Croydon today.” She noted that the protestors were “nonstop for hours with a megaphone.”
Workshop attendees well inside the building where Witchfest was taking place could hear the protest. One attendee, who declined that we use their name for safety concerns, said that the sound system used by the Christian protesters was so loud they couldn’t hear the presenter of the workshop they were attending.
Met police were called to the event but there they claimed there was little they could do.
d’Este noted the irony of the police’s inability to respond. “If Pagans or any other religious group disrupted and made this much noise outside a church, I am sure more action would have been taken by the Met police.” She added, “It is disgraceful.”
Author and presenter Pete Jennings told TWH that “There were a load of fundie Christians making a row outside. The police told them to get off Fairfield curtilage and quiet down.” Nevertheless, the Christian group continued throughout the night occasionally re-entering Fairfield Halls grounds, according to witnesses.
Megan Manson, also known as Pagan Tama who writes the Pagan Shinto News on Patheos said that “the protesters were there all day and into the night. When my friends and I left at midnight there was just one woman there hurling abuse at us as we left. She yelled out “Repent, you witches!” Which caused us all to burst into laughter.”
d’Este called the protest a hate crime. “It was a thing in the past and probably will be a thing again in the future at this event.” Several members of the community encouraged witnesses to report the event as a hate crime.
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The Christian protestors’ activities were recorded on social media and shared publicly.
“Christian” protestors have taken over the entrance to Witchfest International Convention and are causing a huge disturbance with microphones, interrupting speakers we have paid to see. pic.twitter.com/a4KfbHNdxt
— Cleo ✨ (@vvitchii) November 18, 2023
Jennings added “I subsequently reported a religious hate crime to the police, who re-visited. They told me that several other individuals had made complaints. GOOD – glad to see fellow Pagans using the laws that we fought for. It shouldn’t be necessary, and Fairfield’s own security staff seemed useless and afraid.”
Absolute scenes outside Witchfest in Croydon where the screeching loudspeakers of protesting “Christians” are being drowned out by metal from the venue’s even louder loudspeakers. The protesters are uncharitably furious. pic.twitter.com/ZnebNXDLje
— Kat Brown (@katbrown) November 18, 2023
An FB profile of the name Jangu Eka Mukisa did respond to criticism publicly. The name is a phrase from the Lugandan language spoken in Uganda roughly meaning “come and receive blessings.”
View this post on Instagram
Mukisa commented “It was not hate, we were preaching about the love of Jesus christ [sic], how Jesus loves you and died for ur sins. The devil is a liar & deceiver, he wants you to burn in hell but its not too late to turn to Jesus christ [sic]. God created satan [sic] and he disobeyed and was cast out of heaven. He’s a curse, so why should I worship & serve a creature and live the creator? Its not too late. Repent. Jesus loves you.”
#Witchfest2023 was amazing. Even the Christian fundamentalist haters couldn’t ruin it, despite being especially aggressive and loud this year. Ironic that this week is #InterfaithWeek… #Witchfest #interfaith pic.twitter.com/uTwXoLmXCE
— Pagans For Secularism (@PaganSecularist) November 19, 2023
The Christian group has not yet been identified however, there was evidence of organization. Steve Weatherill publicly wrote on Facebook the day before Witchfest International “An international gathering of witches and occultists is taking place in a witchfest in Croydon tomorrow, Saturday! This is the largest witchcraft festival in the world and it’s here in the UK. This is happening on our watch. Praying people, you know what to do.”
Another Facebook profile, Dawn Martin, also publicly commented after the event,
Today about 50 believers or more gathered at Witchfest in Croydon to share the Good news. It is the largest witchcraft event in the whole world. It was heartbreaking to see so many gone astray and destroyed and destroying their families. We saw people taking their children to the event. How tragic! One Irish man I spoke to said his family has 500 years of witches. He believed in 240 gods! He didn’t believe in Hell. Another lady I spoke to said she and her husband used to be missionaries and she is born again and witnessing to the witches inside this event! She was dressed as a witch in a black witches hat and all in black! I told her that we are supposed to come out from among them! This woman is not a believer. She is deceived. May God open blind eyes. We gave out tracts and preached the Gospel. I spoke to a policeman [sic] and warned him what is coming on the world and shared the gospel with him. May many souls be saved and turn away from.this darkness! Thank you for praying for souls! It was a wonderful opportunity to share our faith alongside many beautiful brethren, all passionate about souls! May God bless them all. It was a tiny slice of Heaven seeing all brethren united and about the Father’s business. What joy! Psalm 133
Despite the protests, there was plenty of praise for Children of Artemis and Witchfest International. The comments were unanimous in their support of the event and the organizers. No date has been set yet for next year’s Witchfest International but there are plenty of events on the books for next year.