Saturday, 23 May 2015

Living History Festivals and why they are so good!

Recently we went to the Living History Fayre in Chester, a wonderful event at St John the Baptist Church. A meeting of re-enactors covering all different historical periods from World War II to the Napoleonic Wars and the Roman era.
Many tents had been set up around the church with displays and living history camps representing soldiers from England, Russia and Germany. Inside the church were armour displays around the Saxon stone crosses, musicians playing whilst home-made cake was offered and members of the Napoleon contingent :) The detail throughout the fayre is extremely authentic and you can immerse yourself in these bygone times, what better way for children to learn. There is so much to see but it was fairly quiet! Why, why, why!? For a Sunday afternoon in Chester this should have been buzzing. There were characters such as an old bobby on the beat walking around the city to tell people and there were certainly plenty milling around but alas the church was quiet. As a lover of history this made me a little sad, so I'm here to tell you how amazing Living History events are and why you should go to one if you have the chance.

soldiers camp living history
What can you learn from living history

1. Living History Fairs are unique opportunities to learn about different eras, sometimes there are several centuries shown in one place, so like the Chester event you can learn about the Medieval period then turn a corner and you're in a World War II camp. You are experiencing history and connecting with the past, it gives us the opportunity to understand people, how life has changed and how society came to be as it is today. Living history is a valuable educational tool that's quite often free (like this one was) and easily accessible. 

German living history
2. See authentic costumes, beautifully made to show you exactly how they looked and were worn in their day.The costumes cost a lot of money, no expense spared and those that wear them are passionate about detail.  A friend of mine is involved with Battle of Waterloo re-enactments and his uniform and other bits of kit and weaponry has cost well over a thousand pounds. Most are hand made and the historical accuracy really brings the subject to life. For example, when looking how to dress as a medieval lady, manuscripts may have been consulted to see what the illustrations show.

Image source

{One observation - it would have been nice to see more female re-enactors at the fayre!}

Red coats
3. Chat with enthusiastic people about history. The knowledge of the people here is immense. They know the dates, the stories, can tell you all about the outfits and the weapons. There are role plays to watch and those involved wander around completely in character with the accents and mannerisms.

The home guard
4. See traditional techniques such as crafting, wood working, cooking and doing the daily chores. Have a look at forgotten arts and the tremendous skills that would have been involved. The man in the image below is wood turning. Learn about different trades and a glimpse into the lives of people from the past and the roles of men, women and children.
wood turning
5. There are hands-on opportunities to explore armour and weapons such as longbows, arrows,  gauntlets and swords. Combat demonstrations will give you an appreciation of how people lived and fought, of how physically strong and skillfull they were.
knight and squire
6. Hear historic music being performed and look at the different instruments. Dance along with the pilgrim bagpipers or the  accordion.
 photo music-at-the-living-history-festival_zpspcahfvwu.jpg

7. Learn about and sample historic food. In the encampments see food being prepared the way they did in a particular time period. The camps are full of artefacts that give you a real sense of the past. An interactive experience with all the sights and smells. (excuse the cuddly pig and horse in the picture below - that might have been a step too far for a church in the city to have real ones! )
Something's cooking at the Living History Fair
8. History is entertainment. Battle re-enactments are good fun to watch and chatting with the Duke of Wellington whilst a crusader walks on by or a Roman's having his lunch is quite humorous. What better to stir the imagination and put a smile upon faces. Seeing history come alive this way grabs children's attention and put the flesh on the bones of the history books and lessons. Often whole families are involved in re-enactments events, extremely committed to bringing the past to life for us to enjoy. Chester-St-Johns 9. One of my favourites - the opportunity to buy a little bit of history. Specialists come to these fairs so whether you'd like a reproduction of some period clothing, World War II ephemera or books, here is your best bet.
war items for sale historical-items-for-sale
10. Discover the historical locations they are held at too. In this case a church where we saw Medieval wall paintings, effigies of knights and the ruins of a chapel after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
St-Johns-Church-Chester Chester-St-Johns-Church-ruins

Learn more:
Living History Fayre Chester 2013
Living History events
Living History Forum 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 


Cathy Winston said...

This sounds fascinating - I love the fact there's so many eras to discover together. #countrykids

Sophie P said...

This looks amazing, and something that would be a fun thing to do as a family! M loves being outdoors and experiencing different things, so i will be looking out for days like this, thank you! #countrykids

Leslie Rickerby said...

We have something like this in Peterborough in June every year. It's always interesting to walk around and I normally end up going to both days of it. Last year they had a particularly gory 'pub fight' between some drunken sailors. There is always something new to learn and Dexter actually met King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. It was amusing to see them stood posing for a picture with a baby in a bright red Qunniy buggy.

Coombe Mill (Fiona) said...

I love events like this, what a shame it wasn't better supported. Looks like such an effort too with all the kit and dress, it looks wonderful and as you say so educational and the people are always so knowledgeable. Lovely post, it makes me want to go. thank you for sharing on Country Kids.

Anca said...

Ohh, I've missed this event. I have to make a note for next year. Looks so interesting, I love re-enactments.

Hayley said...

Love this post! Your photos are fantastic too. My brother does history reenactments and we are going to see him in Chester in August, I'm so excited as I haven't been to a really big one before so it should be good! Really do love your post xx #countrykids

Sarah Bailey said...

Wow what an amazing looking festival - I haven't seen one like this in a long time, I accidently came across one years ago and it was amazing.

Chez Mummy said...

This sounds so interesting. I think it's important to learn about our history and re-enactments is a good way to bring it to life.

Helen said...

I used to go to so many of these type of things when I was younger, they are a great day out

Helen xx

Michelle Ordever said...

These are really interesting! We went to a Military show a couple of years ago, and there was an area of living history and it was fascinating!

beautykinguk said...

I'd love to go to one of these, they always look so interesting. I'll have to see if there are any near to where I Iive. Stephen :o)

Beautyqueenuk said...

I knew the mister would like the sound of this x

Jess Howliston said...

This looks great and a fantastic way for older children to learn in a completely different way! x

Erica Price said...

We went to a similar event a few years ago with lots of different time periods on one day - it was a lot of fun and very interesting.

Cass@TheDiaryofaFrugalFamily said...

I think my husband would have enjoyed this even more than the kids would ;-)

Ness said...

We quite often go down the National Trust and English Heritage listings to find such events. My children can't resist dressing up!

Merlinda Little said...

What an amazing experience! Making history a reality is a real fun way to learn how it was before. #countrykids

Jen Walshaw said...

I totally agrtee with you, Living jistory ios amazing. That is whty I love Beamish as it is the museum of living history!

Claire Toplis said...

living history is fantastic i do enjoy events when I go to them

Angel Eden Blog said...

I love living history events, but I always want to grab a dress and join in!

Michelle Twin Mum said...

Brilliant, on Saturday we went to a castle siege in Arundel and had the same kind of experience, truly brilliant, Mich x

Globalmouse said...

I absolutely love living history festivals, they relaly bring it all to life, especially for children.

Ickle Pickle said...

We have never been to anything like this - it looks brilliant, what a great way to learn about history. Kaz x

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