Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bolsover Castle

We've been slowly trying to tease out how re-enactment and living history work here, and making contacts with groups. I'm keen to get involved in some 15th C stuff, which here largely is labelled as 're-enactment', and tends to involve Battles, but we're also very keen to get involved in serious living history, and they take it very seriously here indeed.

As part of this exploration, and in order to reach out to some groups, we took ourselves up to Chesterfield to see a relatively low key event at Bolsover Castle. There were representatives from about half-a-dozen groups under the War Of The Roses Federation, mainly from up in the north, so there were perhaps 100 re-enactors wandering around.

 Most of the tents and equipment was small enough to pack into small cars or vans - the little bell-ended tents, and round pavilions, seem to be very popular.
 We were amused that the re-enactors thought it was horrifically hot, as conditions were much like Abbey, so blokes generally stripped down to their underclothes. It was nice to see a lot of straw hats though, something represented in 15th C art that seldom seems to show up on the heads of Australian re-enactors
 The castle itself is in various stages of disrepair, but is located in an incredibly dominating position in the landscape. It was knocked up well after the age of castles, but echoed the design of castles when they had a purpose, right down to having an inner bailey around a faux-norman keep.
 I can see your house from up here...
 The view was staggering, and lovely, the sky was blue, the air was warm. Perfection.
 Needless to say the fountain outside the keep caused every small child to fall around in paroxysms of laughter.
 Hmm. Bob can't be a female fighter because there's limited historical evidence for it, but a female blacksmith is ok?

These guys had a very nice setup, and were really engaging presenters.
 Dad trying to get his kid to interact with the Shining Knight. The kid didn't want any of it.
 There were four jousters, and they jousted twice a day. I was pretty impressed by the organisation of this, as they balanced out a presentation of the pomp and circumstance with the need to keep the event ticking over, but did not dumb it down for the audience too far.

The rider's kit was very nice, and we caught them doing the arming-of-the-knight in their camps with damned fine explanations for the public.

I spent the whole day feeling like I was wearing the wrong clothes, and was on the wrong side of the fourth wall.
 Another penny dropped while we were there: the musicians do not see themselves as re-enactors, nor do the re-enactors or organisers. Also, it looks like re-enactors here do not do music.
 Knights. They're shiny.
 And they're still shiny.
Oh look, he's shiny too.

I almost forgot - coming into Chesterfield we were distinctly puzzled by the church spire, and initially thought we were seeing it from a strange angle. No, it's bent. Even better, the bend, and twist, is not a recent failure of the structure  - the church and spire date back to the last part of the 14th Century, and it's been bent and twisted since it was built. In all likelihood it's spectacularly dodgy workmanship, but remarkably it's not yet fallen over.

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