Yesterday I drove to Kelmarsh Hall in Northampton for the History Live! festival, the best weekend of the year! Organised by English Heritage, there are numerous events covering British and international history from the ancient world to the c.20th century. Re-enactors flock from across the world to this festival to take part in battles and demonstrations. During the day, I watched re-enactments of the Battle of Hastings, the Battle of Tewkesbury (the War of the Roses), a demonstration of WW1 tactics and weaponry, a medieval joust an assault on Fort McHenry in the War of 1812, men fighting in the gladiatorial arena, and a D-Day drop with allied soldiers parachuting into the parade ground. A range of fantastic events! The joust was particularly good, as the men go all out - it looks easy but it takes a great deal of skill riding the horses and aiming the lance, as well as you know, not getting smacked in the face. A couple of years ago one of the riders told me his armour cost £15,000 (!) so clearly, it's not just a hobby for these guys.
The weekend is a great example of Public History. It's about engaging people of any age, through visual activities, through fun and education. Each event had a narrator telling the audience what was going on, what weapons were being used and what happened at that time and after. History by the experts, with few compromises. What could be better?
It's incredibly inspiring not only to see the passion of the re-enactors but how much children enjoy the various events. I saw little boys and girls dressed as Romans running after Gladiators, sword and shield in hand, others playing Victorian games or cheering their favourite knight in the joust. I'm really passionate about bringing history to a public audience, particularly children, and English Heritage do it so well.
The best day out of the year.