The past two weeks have been busy, busy, and full of events for me! Last week I went to the incredible Steampunk Festival in Ironbridge’s Bliss Hill Victorian village, and over the weekend I went to one of the biggest and best Medieval Festivals in Europe – Tewkesbury Medieval Festival.
Now, when I think of a Medieval Festival I think of a town going to the local fancy dress shop and picking up a costume, of light weight plastic or wooden props and weapons, and the use of fake guns for the battle re-enactment. However, Tewkesbury have so much more than this! I was astounded by the level of detail, and the sheer size of the festival!
We started on the High Street, with hundreds lining the road – most in everyday clothing, but a number in medieval dress, all eagerly awaiting the start of the parade. And I can see why so many people came to see it! The parade featured a number of local organisations; schools, local businesses, local clubs. But it also welcomed a variety of other people – traditional Medieval drummers, parade floats of iconic Medieval figures, and an incredible flag display from a group from Italy!
The parade lasted about an hour, with swarms of entertainment coming down the High Street – although my favourite part was the end of the line – the drummers. They played a basic but upbeat rhythm which had the crowd cheering, and the dedication and emotion they put into their playing with shouts and dances made it even more amazing. The crowds started to follow the drummers, filtering down the street and following the parade to its final destination on the outskirts of the town centre where we were welcomed by a field of jugglers.
The crowd started to disperse down a dirt track, leading to two more giant fields – one which was laid out with a battle arena and one which was full of shops. We first went into the battle arena field – I was instantly drawn to the stall with a group of local falconers as they had two incredible owls – a barn owl and a giant great eagle owl. If you’re an avid reader of my blog or visit my Instagram much, you’ll know I’m a massive fan of owls!
We then headed for the food tents in the battle arena – although there were much more in the main shopping field – and enjoyed one of the juiciest venison baps I’ve ever tried – complete with mustard and a can of diet coke. Ok, so diet coke isn’t traditionally Medieval, but they ate deer right? There was also a traditional hog roast available in the battle arena, and a variety of sweet and savoury foods on offer in the shopping plaza.
With the battle re-enactment not on until later in the afternoon, we headed over to the shopping field, which was a LOT bigger than I expected it to be – filled with stalls that sparked my imagination and awe. I expected there to be, as I’ve mentioned before, and range of fake weapons and costume jewellery on offer – which there was for the children. But, the majority of the shops were selling incredible replicas of Medieval materials.
We passed fabric shops, clothing shops with heavy traditional clothing, weapons made out of real cast iron and wood, Olympic level bows and arrows, and jewellery shops with stunning hand made pieces for all occasions. There was also a range of shops selling food and drink – my favourites of which were the traditional spice packets made up from historical recipes, and the cordial stand with honey & mint and rosemary cordials on offer. Surprisingly, rosemary is a very nice flavour in a drink! I even got a traditional flower crown to wear around the festival for myself!
Two hours flew past in no time, as we went around the shops – which I soon realised weren’t just shops, but also tents where people from all over had come to stay and take part in the festival – be it to sell their stock or take part in the re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury. And it wasn’t just people from the UK – there were also hundreds of people from Italy and France taking part in the traditional re-enactment.
We headed over to the battle field later in the afternoon and found a soft patch of grass to sit on and waited for the re-enactment to start. Before the re-enactment kicked off, I was delighted to see that there was a show of the owls, kestrels and hawks which swooped about the crowd collecting mice and landing perfectly back on their perches every time.
The battle then began with a short history lesson about the Battle of Tewkesbury from a local History Lecturer from the University of Bristol, before hundreds – and I mean hundreds – of actors took to the field to start the battle re-enactment. They just kept coming! The battle raged on for an hour, with archers, gun fire, sword fights, the odd horse, and an entertaining slap across the face from the Queen for one poor Lord!
Having been my first experience in Tewkesbury for the Medieval Festival – and my first experience of a Medieval festival in general, I was amazed at how much time, dedication and passion went into the whole performance and day from the locals, the historical experts, and Medieval lovers from around the world. It was an amazing experience that I would definitely go to again – and definitely recommend to anyone of any age! I might even dress up next year!