Event Review – Kenilworth Castle 2021

“There was a squeaky chicken and Tony kept doing weird things with it”

Report by Guest Reporter Mike P.

After 18 months of lockdowns, restrictions, fear and grievous loss, arriving on site for our first event post pandemic was, to put it mildly, an emotional experience. To be able to embrace friends, many of whom I had not seen except via video call for all that time, was a blessed moment. The joy of feeling “we are actually here” was almost overwhelming. Then we had a shed load of tents to put up. Some things never change.

Well yes my Brother works at court but it’s a total coincidence that I have been granted a royal warrant to supply the Yorkist forces with these Black Death test kits.

But some things had changed thanks to Covid. Event budgets had tightened and there were fewer gigs around to be had. Fortunately English Heritage found a space for us as the living history component of their showpiece jousting tournament at Kenilworth Castle, bless ‘em. No arena displays and a one way system to, theoretically, keep the public circulating and socially distanced. This broke down on occasion due to Chris attracting so many people around his excellent calligraphy demonstration. In the end people went their own way. But we did what we were there to do: talk to people about the middle ages. Boy, did we do that, and we did it bloody well.

The first morning dawned and we were all prepared, but the call went out: the crowd is getting restless! So the Harrington security detail swung into action to ensure order in the queue of folks waiting to get in. Pete B. and Roy patrolled the line checking, “anyone got any concealed weapons? No? Well, that’s going to put you at a bit of a disadvantage, then!”

At the other end of the social scale we provided well-to-do people to go and be patrons of the joust. Status was very important in the Medieval world and this was made clear to the public by the bodyguard that accompanied them with cries of “STAND ASIDE!!! POSH PEOPLE COMING THROUGH!!!” It was particularly impressive watching Wibble accompanying Sarah and Lee. Wibble never has to act in a threatening manner. His mere presence implies what will happen if you mess with his charges. When Wibble smiles it’s either because he’s pleased to see you or because he’s just decided where he’s going to put an arrow.

This event also saw the first appearance of the camp surgeon (not running away from that side of his sexuality). Visitors were treated to arrow extraction, amputation, urine tasting and leeches. Basically the more disgusting and gory, the more they seemed to like it. Note to self – mug up on anal fistulae. It was especially pleasing to be able to talk about Bradmore’s treatment of the Prince of Wales (later Henry V) at the very castle in which it took place. Thanks to Alex for stepping up to act as surgeon’s victim, sorry, patient, from time to time.

Despite not being able to put on our usual combat and archery demonstrations, we showed and we told for all we were worth. From my stall I could see the chaps waving their weapons in people’s faces, much to their apparent delight. The arts of peace were not neglected either. Jo, Sarah C, Rachael and Kerin kept visitors abreast of needlework skills, nalbinding, herbal remedies and the rules of Hnafltafl, while Sarah H made it clear she was no way in the same (social) class as Kerin. Rosie, Emma and Jess demonstrated that children in the middle ages were just as much a handful delight as they are today.

On the second night the camp was graced with a ghostly visitor. Black, lean and stealthy it crept into our midst, lured by calls of “kitty, kitty, kitty”. We made offerings of cheese and bacon. Suitably pacified it wandered in the direction of the camp fire where the witches, cooing and coaxing it towards the warmth, tried to adopt it as their familiar, but the creature was having none of it. This was its castle and we were the interlopers. It sprayed Jo’s bench and attempted to sleep on Sarah and Lee’s bed before being finally shooed out into the night.

Much as we love putting on a show, the evenings around the camp fire are just as important and this time it seemed even more precious after the time we had been forced to spend apart. Chat, drink, music, and the crack shack – yours truly handing round rocks of Scottish tablet. This was particularly favoured by Lady Harrington who, when the box got dropped was across the camp fire circle to catch it before it hit the ground. Never seen the woman move so fast.

Post setup evening merriment, how we have missed you!

We can’t let this review pass without a shout out to those taking part in their very first Harrington camp. Rachael and Nicky took it all in their stride. Nicky had a great time stirring peas, which the public found endlessly fascinating. Rachael got the rubber chicken stuck (on her tent), prompting Evie’s indignation and lending the title to this article.

We all ended up voiceless through talking too much, drinking too much and breathing woodsmoke for an entire weekend. Ah, the good old days!

Mike P.

(anal fistulae repaired at discount prices to Companye members)

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