Have you ever thought, ‘you know what, I’d quite like to go and watch a joust on a chilly October evening’? No? Seriously? Not even after watching a Knight’s tale? Well maybe you you should rethink that, and here’s why. Last weekend saw Nottingham Castle transported back to medieval times as it’s annual Robin Hood Pageant kicked off half term with a little bit of living history. The Grounds of the castle were taken over by several re-enactment groups, showcasing everything from traditional clothing both on and off the battlefield, crafts such as wooden spoon making, candle making etc to story-telling with a bit of magic and bird handling thrown in for good measure.
What’s more there was plenty to entertain us big kids as well as your little ones (I went with my brother and parents). We booked our tickets (less than a tenner each) for the evening joust meaning that it nice and dark giving the whole place that extra authentic feel (and an excuse to try out taking photos in the dark for the first time) but I think you would have just as much fun during the day to (more-so if you wanted to have a go at the crafts – it’s hard to work by candle light afterall!). We were greeted by a plethora of canvas tents dotted around the gardens near to the bandstand and many very friendly people willing to talk to you and pose for photos. One guy even let my mum loose with his sword!
Despite being outside the whole place had a kind of cosy magical feel to it and you really did get a sense of what life may have been like.
Just in case you quickly tired of all this you were soon summoned towards the bandstand where we were treated to a pre-joust variety show courtesy of men in drag (who by the way were enjoying wearing their dresses a little too much). I can’t say much more about the show as we didn’t stick around to see it – personally I was more interested in all the living history.
Then, before we knew it it was time to meander our way up to the castle green for the joust – well for a quick warm-up act by the resident Sheriff of Nottingham and Robin Hood of eating and juggling fire etc. Once everyone was in place it was time for the main event.
I haven’t been to see a joust since I was little myself (back when Camelot theme park was still open) and while I enjoyed it back then for its entertainment value, I think this time I thoroughly appreciated the sheer skill involved. There was everything from sword fights on foot, on horseback, joust and comedy (mainly provided by the lovable Friar Tuck) and all out chaos. It takes some talent to be able to spear you lance through the middle of a stationary small disk while riding a horse at speed, never mind hitting somebody else coming at you at speed. To coin an over-used phrase – it was just good old-fashioned family entertainment. And to top it all off? what else but a firework display (which incidentally gave me an excuse to try out the firework filter on my camera) but a swift half in the Ye Olde Trip to Jersulem – the oldest inn in England.
I think that re-enactment groups are often given quite a ‘nerdy’ status and so are often undervalued. However it is events like these that help bring history to life for everyone, not just children. I would just like to thank everyone who was involved in the pageant, you certainly gave me an evening to remember. And to everyone else, if you were/are ever undecided about going to an event like this my advice would be to find a friend, take a camera and experience a bit history -you never know someone may just let you have a play with their sword/crossbow/other weapon of choice!
Until next time…