At Kelmarsh with the Battlefields Trust

I have drawn upon so many of the resources of the Battlefields Trust in devising and refining the Naseby game.  So, Festival of History, organised by English Heritage at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire (just a mile or so from the battlefield) was a chance for me to help the trust on the front line … meeting visitors, explaining the trust and its various projects, recruiting new members.

Festival of History is an enormous event, drawing re-enactors, costume societies and heritage associations from across England and beyond.   In addition to the predominant military theme, there are fashion shows and theatre, from the Suffragettes to Punch and Judy … there are cooking demonstrations, traditional musical forms and morris dancers … there are archaeologists and there are archivists.

visitors crowding to the battle displays

But the arenas are lined a dozen deep for the military displays.   They can be great fun.   They can bring history to life … and they can move people to take a greater interest in their past (and maybe, too, in projects to preserve it).

For organisations like the Battlefields Trust, of course, this makes it a key opportunity to meet the public and explain what we do.  And on a summer’s weekend much of which was very good, there were very few quiet moments.   So a big thank you, of course, to all the visitors: thank you for stopping by; thank you for taking an interest and letting us explain.

In truth, people are very appreciative of the work done on their behalf, and very receptive to the message.   Work at battlefields like Naseby and Bosworth is comparatively well-known, and there is an eagerness to know more.  The majority of visitors to the stand are interested in the location of battlefields local to themselves and to find details of walks and talks.   It is perhaps a pity more politicians don’t attend the event (and witness, first hand, the appetite there is for this island’s story, and the support there is for protecting its heritage … battlefields just as surely as country estates)…

appealing to the smaller visitors

Of course, a major attraction for younger visitors has always been the fighting men of times past and their gleaming suits of armour – and on the Battlefields Trust stand, too, the suit of cuirassier armour worked its eye-catching magic.   Amongst the youngsters trying on the helmet will surely be the military historians, wargamers and heritage enthusiasts of a future generation.

You can support the Battlefields Trust by becoming a member (Join the Battlefields Trust), making a donation (Donate) or by sponsoring James Parker’s charity run (IronManRun) – James will be tackling the Great North Run in a suit of armour and you can back his bid …

The Wargames Tent

Having dipped a toe in the water last year with a few units, this year’s ECW game in the wargames tent was full size and attractively presented 28mm battle.    There was also a colonial game, some WW2 and a (sailing ships) naval game.

general view of the English Civil War game

The game was played at a swashbuckling pace using the increasingly popular Black Powder rules by Jervis Johnson and Rick Priestley.   I have previously only used these at the very further end of their time span, the Crimean War.   We found the game quick to grasp, very simplified, but surprisingly plausible.

The game was kept in constant play and was proving popular with an avid throng of youngsters (though they managed a few minutes for me, too, and ran through some of the nuances of how it plays for the Civil War …).  I shouldn’t need to add that it looked good (hopefully the pictures will tell you that …).   For more information on the supplement (which will presumably be called ‘Pike and Shotte’ to match their figure range), keep an eye on Warlord Games – who have also reproduced a good introduction to the basic game (Black Powder article … ).

close up from the battle

Outside was the usual mix of reenactments and living history displays – including old-fashioned theatre, wartime cooking and gardening –  and games as old as Roman and Viking examples.   The Hurricane ground attack was particularly impressive, and the collection of World War Two vehicles included an impressive detachment of 25 Pounders.

Displays at Festival of History 2010

(my thanks to Chris Ager for the extra photographs – you can tell his from my usual ones quite easily)

A bit of a blustery and showery day on the Saturday, Sunday was near perfect.  If you missed this splendid event in the heart of England this year, watch out for it in 2011 – it is quite a treat.

There are some more pictures on my other blogs

Ancient and Medieval (Ancients on the Move)

Lots more 20th Century kit (P.B.Eye-candy)

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