We are dedicated to interpretating social and domestic life. This can include military life, but there are no battles and it would centre around the family. Predominantly we interpret historic houses and our favourite events are where we get to bring the whole house to life, including full use of the kitchen.
We cover the period from Henry VIII to William and Mary, approximately 1530's to 1700. This is a period which has grown over the years, but has found a natural limit based on the equipment, clothes and knowledge the group has built up.
The group focuses on the gentry downwards, in social scale. We like to look at the 'ordinary' people. Because of the level of accuracy we like to acheive, we can't portray the high life due to the cost of the clothes and the scale of everything they do. This allows us to get on with daily life and compare our own lives to those of the past. Something the visitors can easily relate too.
The group is a registered charity and its constitution highlights the educational value that we put into all of our events. We are continuously researching all aspects of life, from first hand documents, books and experimental archeology. Through the use of replica artefacts, we try them out at events and see if they perform as expected. We share all of this information between ourselves, though individuals may prefer to concentrate on certain aspects themselves. Here you can see an oven we built and used, which lasted a few years at this site at Blakesley Hall.
We're not afraid to find out that something is wrong. Information, artefacts or clothing are removed from our current stock and adjusted if possible. We have unpicked whole pieces of clothing, recut and stitched back together, when new evidence shows that it was made incorrectly.
To date we have events and workshops from Cornwall to Yorkshire, and our current membership covers Devon to Cumbria. We're not a large group, and most events need a good turn out, so we all get about to the events we can, all over the country. Nothing is compulsary of course. We do our best to help each other with lift sharing and station pickups. If you don't have your own transport, we'll help the best we can.
Unless it's a field event, where we generally camp, we arrange the accommodation with the event. What we really like is when we've given the oportunity to stay in the house itself. More common is inside camping at a local village or church hall. So hopefully you're up for a bit of communal living. This is also true of our workshops.
First Person Interpretation. Not everyone's cup of tea, and we're not saying it's the only way to do it. It's just the way we like it. People hire us and join us because that is what they want. You don't have to have done it before to come along and try it. We never drop you in at the deep end, but guide and support you through a role. We also like the challenge of differing roles. Each event can take you to a completely different character. One month, a gent with a nice estate, the next a farm labourer working in the fields.
One very important feature of the way the group works is the sharing of kit. the right person is set in the right role for the event, and the group does its best to ensure that everyone has the right clothes and equipment. We also help each other in producing more.
While the group wants to encourage new members to come and join, because of the way we interact with each other, it can never become a large group. We hold 'trust' workshops to help us work together. We need to know our own and others limits so that we can produce the best perfomance and help each other if we see someone in difficulty. The main basis of the way we work is to talk to each other and the public. It is the public interaction that is one of tha major feature of the group.
We develop characters together and no one is put into a role they can't handle, and are supported by the rest of the group. We work to a story line for an event, not a script. A bit like method acting and improvisation. Some characters may only have a walk-on role or be on for part of the day, while others can be there all the time. We keep everything moving throughout the day and only repeat ourselves if required by the museum.
While we all enjoy getting into character, we have to give the museum and public a rounded event. First person characters can't answer all of the questions a visitor may have, and coming out of character spoils the effect for the visitor and the interpretor. We also need assistance in running an event.
This is where the Red T-shirters come in. They perform many roles and are vital to the overall event. All members will be trained in Red T-shirting as well as characters. Some events you may be one or the other, or both.
From the public and museum point of view:
- they introduce the event as people arrive,
- they handle questions the characters can't,
- they lead the public into conversations with the characters, encouraging interaction,
- they act as guides and information points.
From the event's point of view:
- they can step in where members of the public don't quitre understand what's going on.
- they fetch and carry stuff that the characters shouldn't be seen with,
- handle the press and photographers during an event,
- take our own publicity photos.
- clear the crowds to let the characters through safely (e.g. when carrying food.)
The Workshops. This is the part of the group's name to emphasize that we're here to learn as well as teach. Throughout the year, though mainly in the winter months, we hold workshops to target gaps in our knowledge. These maybe organised and run internally, external speakers/ demonstations, or visits out to all sorts of activities. Whatever takes our fancy and someone can organise. These have to be self financing, so we do our best to keep the costs under control, often holding them at members houses or village halls.
Here we're making the backdrops to turn the marquee from a tent to a 'panelled room.' It's not trying to fool anyone, but it helps set the scene. We have various workshops creating and reparing our equipment.
Some workshops get us out and about. We may go to visit a specific exhibition at a gallery or museum, go and see another re-enactment group in action, or do a bit of shopping , visitng a re-enactment market together. This is our stand at TORM, combining the shopping with a bit of publicity for the group.
We sometimes call in a specialist to talk and demonstate on a particular field. Here we have our clothing specialist who we call in when an event calls for something different. This is part of a lecture on the development of fashion le3ading up to a particular event. She catches the small changes in detail as the years go by and helps us select the right outfits for particular characters. This is followed by 1 to 1 instruction on making the clothes.
It is hard work, but the rewards are there to make it all worthwhile. If we didn't enjoy it, we wouldn't do it.
An event can be very tiring, and not just the physical aspect of moving equipment from the store to the event and back again. Keeping in character for the day and packing up at the end can take it out of you, but the public response and interaction more than make up for it. Nothing beats the joy of watching the visitors fall under your spell as you take them back in time to another world.
As well as a group of interpreters, we're fundamentally a social group as well. This is emphasised by the workshops, many of which seem to have an evening party for whatever excuse we can think of. Halloween or a birthday party, it often involves dressing up as well.
New to interpretation, or fancy a change from your current re-enactments. No previous experience necessary. As long as you are interested in the period, come along and see if what we do is what you'd like to do.