Saturday, July 25, 2009

Kelmarsh, Northamptonshire, 25th July

Festival of History

'Festival of History' is the English Heritage summer event just down the road from me at Kelmarsh Hall. It it very big on the outdoor stuff - living history, re-enactment, fly pasts etc. It covers (mostly military) history through to the Twentieth Century, but with masses to entertain and inform enthusiasts of ancient and medieval warfare: a custom zone devoted to the Siege of Harfleur and Henry's French adventure, a Gladiator ring, and a Tilt Yard - in addition to scheduled displays from the coming of the Romans to the advent of gunpowder in the main arenas ...

(The main Hall vista with Roman drill demonstration taking place)

There was a large medieval component to the living history zones, and a lot of weaponry being demonstrated.
There is an extensive wargames zone run by the Phoenix Wargames Club - historical games aimed at getting visitors to see the light: 2 ancients games (Thermopylae and Caratacus - both employing Warhammer Ancient Battles) an English Civil War game, aerial action with Wings of War and a Battle of the Bulge snowscapes game.

(some of the historical games presented by the Phoenix Wargames Club)

I had an interesting chat with them over the Thermopylae game - it was apparently lasting much longer than WAB battles usually do - there was an outflanking move through the passes that was making slower than expected progress (meanwhile, frontal attacks on the Spartan position were proving virtually futile .. well, that seems OK, then ...). Good effort by the club, and plenty of kids joining in. Ancients looking by far the most popular.

(those 300 Spartans again)

Apart from the fact that there is 'ancient and medieval history and wargaming set therein' throughout the event - so any Society of Ancients enthusiast would warm to it - this is an excellent family event with plenty to do and, I thought, much better access than the similar event for which we used to do the ancient tabletop games some years back at Kirby Hall (History in Action). Expensive tickets, maybe, but more than a full day's worth of stuff to see and do, free parking, idyllic Northamptonshire and a big discount if you join English Heritage. mark it in your diaries for next year and cross your fingers for a sunny day.

With Naseby Battlefield only a mile or two away, there is always a strong ECW theme to the event - and indeed I was there to meet some of the Battlefields Trust activists in connection with a Naseby project I am engaged with for the Pike and Shot Society. Whilst the rest of us go about our normal business, making a living, supporting families, enjoying historical hobbies etc., the Battlefields Trust are waging a campaign (sometimes a rearguard action, it seems) to protect our military heritage from being concreted over as carparks, housing developments and motorways. Towton is near the top of the endangered list. The trust needs our support and help in this vital work.

There are more (ECW) pictures from Kelmarsh (and ongoing updates about my Naseby project at the ECW Battles in Miniature blog).

To find out more about the Battlefields Trust (and help with a donation if you can ...) go to their website ... (here... )

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