Imagine if you had the opportunity to step back in time to the very era that tantalises your imagination. To that place long past where the characters from your favourite book reside. To a world where you can eat, breathe and sleep just as your ancestors did.
Medieval Fayres and Festivals provide an opportunity for lovers of middle history to ‘get up close and personal’ with the period in a unique and informative way. They are also fertile grounds for authors such as Cathy T and I as we indulge our love of all things ‘medieval.’
The ‘Medieval Fayre’ is a relatively new phenomenon in Australia and commenced with the Abbey Festival in 1989. Held annually in Brisbane, the Abbey is a truly ‘authentic’ experience and promotes itself as the largest ‘living history’ event in the Southern Hemisphere.
As you step through the gates you are transported to a bygone era – nothing produced from the 19th century onwards is permitted within the Abbey grounds. The sights, sounds and smells are all genuine to the period, as are the costumes, hairstyles and weaponry of the reenactors.
Ironfest Lithgow, also held annually, celebrates multiple themes and styles. It is an eclectic mix of historical time periods and fantasy worlds where you can brush shoulders with a wookie, enjoy a rowdy melee and have your palm read by a wandering gypsy.
Enormous effort is placed on appearance, with a large proportion of visitors investing a huge amount of time and money into their steampunk outfits, robots, court couture and Viking and medieval armour. It is a feast for the eyes.
Blacktown Medieval Fayre is a relative newcomer to the festival scene, having burst onto the calendar in 2011. Blacktown is a standout for me as it includes the International Jousting Competition, with riders from New Zealand and England competing against the Aussie crew of Full Tilt Jousting. It is also the only festival that offers free entry to visitors, attracting up to 60,000 people over 2 days.
What do I love best? Dressing up! You can’t really appreciate the restrictive nature of a medieval gown, nor the annoying drag of a heavy cloak, the weight of a crispinette or the irritation of a tight belt unless you wear them yourself.
It is easy to imagine the difficulty of balancing a heavy helm upon your head, but it is not until you put it on that you discover just how little you can see, or how the metal rubs against your ears and that the sound around you is reduced to a muffled garble.
Watching men fight, with heavy swords, is dramatic. The sound of the blades as they clash and the manner in which the weapon behaves as it connects with a chest plate has to be seen in real time.
As a writer, the opportunity to immerse myself in such a manner is absolutely invaluable and I highly recommend it to all writers, everywhere. Plus, what not to like about a day at the fayre?
Cathy A and Cathy T at Ironfest Lithgow
Interested in attending a Medieval Festival – check the link for the Australia wide calendar of events