Friday, July 25, 2014

Live Action Role Playing in the Czech Republic With: Tomáš Lazar Doležal

Tomáš Lazar Doležal. Photo by  Tereza Sára Doležalová
with the group "Ogary Pogoni"

One aspect of European History I have always found fascinating was a people's movement which originated in Bohemia Called the Hussites, or followers of Jan Hus. Wikipedia defines them thus-The Hussites (Czech: Husité or Kališníci; "Chalice People") were a Christian movement following the teachings of Czech reformer Jan Hus (c. 1369–1415), who became one of the forerunners of the Protestant Reformation. This predominantly religious movement was propelled by social issues and strengthened Czech national awareness.

After the Council of Constance lured Jan Hus in with a letter of indemnity, then tried him for heresy and put him to death at the stake on 6 July 1415, his followers the Hussites fought the Hussite Wars (1420–1434) for their religious and political cause. Among present-day Christians, Hussite traditions are represented in the Moravian Church, Unity of the Brethren, and the re-founded Czechoslovak Hussite churches. 
The Prague Neighbors from 2007, participating in the Battle of the River Crossing, in the Heraldic Colors of Matthias Corvinus.

I have always found this movement fascinating. I have family members who although three generations or longer have lived in Texas, are still Bohemian in their attitudes and thought. Several have claimed that they were or consider themselves Hussite. I see direct parallels of the Converso population of secret Jews of Spain. The Hussites went underground and kept their beliefs to themselves and when the time was right reemerged. Now with the advent of time, in Bohemia today you can find Live Action Role Playing groups that have chosen the time period of the Hussite Wars to reenact. Incidentally trying to find out information about these groups is hard to find.

Special note: Live Action Role Play, in America is usually associated with fantasy games or worlds. Vampire and Werewolves fighting each other. Magic users and Goblins or Orcs fighting humans. Think anything you could find in a game of Dungeon and Dragons campaign. In Europe they have fantasy LARP groups. Then they have historical LARP and it is much more akin to what we would call Living History. They strive for authentic clothing, arms, and armour. They try to replicate what life would be like in or during the religious wars of mid XV Century. So there are women and children, cooks, tent, and cordage makers, bakers and candlestick makers.
Preparation of wagon defense in 2013 Battle of Sion.
(c)  Petr Zip Hájek.
It is important to note that the Battle of Sion is organized by Civitas Pragensis

"Czech Hussites fighting from a wagon platform at the Battle of the Ford"

It has been one of my greatest surprises and honor to meet Tomáš Doležal Lazar of Prague, who found me on-line, and as luck would have it, has been at the heart of Hussite reenactment in the Czech Republic;  We began a remarkable conversation.

Q: Who is Tomáš Doležal Lazar, and when did all this start?

A: Right, the easy answer, born in Prague decade before the fall of Iron Curtain. Actually Lived all my life close to the historic city center. That is probably why I was lead towards history, along with my good elementary school teacher Mrs. Myslínová, and my grandmother who was a tourist guide, and very knowledgeable about history. I actually consider the affinity to history and reenactment something that was always part of me, naturally. Though in the beginning, it was pretty much playing with wooden swords in my friends backyard. Of course fantasy literature played its hand in it too. I was nearly 15 when I got my first sword, and signed up for one of the few fencing schools in my area.

Q: What about reenacting satisfies or fulfills your love of history?

A:  That changed over time many times. For me initially it was the friendships I developed. When I was younger, I simply had my knightly dream and the actual intense action and partly theater involved in it were my drives. Cannot say I ever thought much about this really. The older I am, the more I am interested in LARPing aspect of bringing the history to life and finding curiosities about history, simply learning. Cannot say I would be reenactor all along, I'd say that the last six years can be considered attempts at that? Before then, I was one of the countless people who were making more things up rather than even trying to get historically accurate.
Drill Picture of a close group of friends, "Prague Neighbors"
Photo by  Tereza Sára Doležalová

Q: What group or groups have you had a hand in developing?
A: I suppose the most standout would be my first, "The Prague Neighbors", which started with seven friends at the Battle of Libušín some seven or so years ago. We simply decided that we wanted to go into the battle and closely cooperate. Few months later, I was sitting at home and complaining to my now wife, about how sad it is that only there were only a few doing this in the country, and she told me "Well, grab the reigns and do something about it.", and I did. Eventually the few of us formed a core of what would later become a 50 member Hussite unit, actually more focusing on researching the correct use of historic armament of the era, tactics, strategies, working of command with the tools medieval commanders had at their disposal. Eventually, as it happens with groups of so many people, there were differences in opinions and the more progressive group became Civitas Pragensis, while myself and many of the original group became Ogary Pogoni, the Polish-Lithuanian hussites of Zikmund Korybutovič. Together and with several more groups from around the country we formed the Prague Union, following the historic city union from the Hussite era. Currently we can field around a hundred men at our best. Somewhere along the way, not sure where, the research and reconstruction of things of daily life, customs and such just joined in. The time period we are specializing in is from 1422 to 1437 to be exact.

Q: How many XIV and XV Century Groups are there in the Czech Republic? Do they operate mostly alone or do they come to together for events?

A: I am a very local person, so most of my interaction is with the groups here in the Czech Republic. It is actually not uncommon to find the same people participating in projects concerning all the way from 10th century to the first world war. For me, it is these: Naturally the Prague Union groups for early 15th century, then next comes the "Dvůr hradecké královny Alžběty Richenzy" (The royal court at Of Queen Elizabeth Richeza at Hradec) for early 14th century, and of which I am part of as well. Then it would be Rattenschwanz 1476, as we cooperate on several events due to likeness of equipment, and a little more distantly I am networked through actual Battle of Libušín with Midgard group (viking era reenactment), and people of Curie Vítkov (12th century reenactment). Of course there are other projects that sometimes overlap like Doba Karlova (late 14th century) and several groups focusing on knightly orders.

The Knight is Jerzy Branicki herbu Gryfa, from the group, "Ogary Pogoni" Battle of Sion 2013
(c) Petr Zip Hajek

Q: Several specific questions here: Do you have a war wagon that can be turned into a mobile fortress like the original Hussites? What type of equipment do you field? Is there hand cannons? What about crossbowmen and flails?
Battle of Sion 2013 again by (c) Petr Zip Hájek.
It is important to note that the Battle of Sion is organized by Civitas Pragensis

A: I do believe Civitas Pragensis hold three of such wagons. And as well there are several wagons parked under the Castle of Sion (one of the last Hussite battlefields) which can be loaned for an event. The war wagons are actually a heavy investment that only now seems plausible when everything else was settled. The first of Hussite specific armament that needed to be made was the pavises. We do have a few folk with flails, but since we focus on the city Hussites, the equipment is far from the Hussite field communities. The hand guns (píšťaly and hákovnice) are often utilized, same as the crossbows. However having a plausible number of war wagons, horses or bulls/cows to pull them around, that's something of a lasting dream - one that is not exactly easy to achieve financially.

Q: You hold an event each year. Could you tell us about it?

A: The Battle of Libušín, or History festival at Libušín. I shall start with a little history. The event ran now for long years. So it actually started long before I even considered any reenactment as an idea of Mr. Václav Janda and a fencing group Kyrius. The event started out small and local and eventually evolved to be traditional unlocking of the season (it is held on the weekend nearest the Saint George's day every year). Originally it was more about hitting each other with pieces of metal, then it evolved into something of a meeting with fantasy motives. It was I believe 7 years ago when when Tomáš Lapáček, one of the original group, contacted me and several other stand out people that he would like to evolve the event into a new direction and asked us for help. I should note that among all those names, I was the one least important in my humble opinion. Each of these people represented one of the groups I mentioned earlier. And it was then when we started shifting the focus of the event, away from the battle itself, but more into a concept for people to meet and learn from each other, to have a huge market where they can get new contacts with craftsmen or gear up.
Battle of Libušín 2013, by (c) Karel Křemel

Q: So how did you and the others envision the event?

A: The concept was simple - to invite everyone - the folk who do the history more in a theatrical way, the reenactors, the sports people, and open this all to general public, so they can learn as well. As the event stands now, it is a carnival. Each major era group has own camp where they present themselves. We organize guided tours for visitors among them, each of the groups has a chance to present themselves, give new insights on history. For those who are not into history the HMB tournament takes place in other part of the camp, there are falconers, musicians and alike. The event holds around 2000 - 2500 reenactors and we get between 4000 and 8000 visitors a year depending on the weather. As the highlight of the day, we organize a battle that is in concept a fantasy - so we can field around 1000 soldiers in the field, something that we have no chance to experience anywhere else in the region.
Battle of Libušín 2014 by (c) Michal Doležal

Q: Do you match up groups to have period correct fights?

A: The big event is following a scenario where we try to pit groups with matching equipment against each other. The scenario is however only rough outline of moves of units, nothing else is scripted. We do not do battle for each period, because that is what the people keep doing here all year long. Because that way, they would only stand against 100 enemies at best. So this way, we give them the missing feeling of standing in a line against 500 instead. It also works as a field lab for exercising command tools of medieval times. After the scripted battle, we give people two or three more battles lacking any script at all, where they can simply test their skill.
Battle of Libušín 2014 by (c) Michal Doležal

Q: How many merchants do you have attending this event?

A: I'll only estimate as the market part is not the part of the show I run, but I'd say we have around 40-50 parcels, a parcel being place for the merchant to sell from. Not all are historic items however, the event is also for the viewers who need their children fed and happy. There is about 10-20 historic craftsmen in the market area, however many craftsmen stay in their period camp and sell from there, mainly for reenactors themselves. Our policy is that "the more historic, the less rent for a parcel up to a free place if the craft is also being exhibited for the duration of the festival.

Q: Do you have participants from outside the Czech Republic at this event?

A: We did. I know that last year we had visitors from the United States, we often have folk from Poland, Germany, Austria, and Slovakia. This year Ukrainians visited us, and I am certain there was several more groups. They sometimes sign up under the Czech group they are friends with, so we are unable to keep a complete list of foreign participants. In closing I certainly want to extend an invitation to anyone and everyone who is in any way involved in reenactment X through the XV Centuries. I know I have been told by my friends from the West, at times that the battle looks unnecessarily dangerous, but the battle alone is not the only point of the event. It is all about inspiration and expanding horizons, about talking and sharing knowledge and ideas. I for one am quite curious about reenactment in other countries and I believe that our Czech community has something to offer as well.
For those who like HMB or Battle of Nations style fighting, it
can also be found at Libusin.(c) Karel Kremel

I would like to thank Tomas Lazar Dolezal for his patience and understanding. This article has taken twice as long to produce due to some changes in my life. Děkuji moc Tomas!

Tomas wanted to provide links to various pages, that will give a better view of the Hussite reenactment world:

This last link is a first person video of life in a medieval camp with scenes of tournament and combat.

This next link, is what it is like to be in a medieval combat zone.

The next link here is further color photography by Karel Kremel.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

King Arthur, a little boy, and Howard Pyle.

The Sangreal or Holy Grail.
When I was roughly at the age of Six years old I discovered King Arthur in a big way. Huge even. I would have mock battle with my friends, dress up in improvised armour and lead battles all over my neighborhood and even go so far as to dig miniature castles and forts in the nearby Mesquite reefs in the open desert of Eastern Las Vegas.

"A Knight" by Howard Pyle.

As a small boy growing up in the wilds of the Mojave Desert, knights in shinning armour held a terrible and gripping fascination for me. I can't explain where this fascination came from. My folks were both from Texas and Oklahoma. My father and mother had both grown up on a farm and cattle ranches. The children and grandchildren of Westward Ho! settlers and immigrants. I could not have been more different from my two older brothers, if the dwellers of the Sidghe had come in the middle of the night and replaced me with small changeling.

I can remember lamenting (my family called it sniveling) about being born on the wrong side of the Atlantic, and how I would never be a Knight because I was not English. I suspect to my Bull Riding father and my mother, the daughter of Panhandle Wheat farmers, it must have seemed like Little Lord Fauntleroy had sprung up in their midst. I can remember saddling up my cousins Shetland Pony named Hiawatha, wearing my beach towel cloak and a yardstick as a handy broadsword riding off to kill giants and slay dragons!

The Knights lined up to see who was the better hand with a lance.
I didn't have to imagine Castles, The Texhoma Oklahoma Grain Growers Cooperative Silos stood in good stead. Made from loamy brown WPA 1930's concrete, they looked like a startling set of fingers jutting up 
into the cerulean prairie sky. Windmills ala Man of La Mancha were in a heaping plenty too. In my head I dubbed myself a Prince of the Prairie, and a Duke of the Mojave Desert. Then at the age of eight or so, I found: "The Story of King Arthur and His Knights" By John F Plummer and Illustrated by Howard Pyle. If I wasn't fatally afflicted with the desire to be a knight, I was well on my way. 

King Arthur Rides Through the Valley of Earthly Delights
In 1973 The MGM Casino and Resort opened for business. My father had been a construction foreman on that project. The owner of the MGM Kirk Kerkorian had also purchased the entire MGM film library. As an added bonus and attraction to his customers who might find themselves too tired to gamble or too broke, he had the MGM Movie Theater built. The entire film library was opened up and my parents, knowing of my fascination for all things King Arthur, took me to see Camelot staring Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave.

Imagine a full sized movie theater screen, sitting on leather couch drinking a cold coke a cocktail waitress just brought you, with the darkness of the movie theater enfolding you into its world... watching the rise and fall of King Arthur and His Knights. Softly in the distance you could hear the hammer beating the nails in my affliction for all things medieval.

I will remember this set of images, as they warred with the images Howard Pyle had placed in my head. Here is a link below to the meeting between King Arthur and Guinevere.

King Arthur Meets Lady Guinevere 

So as you can guess I have and I guess I will always be a hopeless romantic when it comes to things related to King Arthur. I would like to see the jousting friends and associates I know, someday put on a historic based tournament where the participants dress up and assume the personas of the Knights of the Round Table. Apparently in the late XIII and early XIV Centuries, it was all the rage. One of the more notable Knights of that time frame, Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein who was said by himself no less, to have dressed as Venus the Goddess of love and traveled from Venice to Vienna dressed as a lady, breaking over 300 lances in one on one combat along the way. His second quest saw him as King Arthur himself, along with his friends who took on the persona of the Knight of the Round Table, they rode all through Styria and Austria competing and jousting along the way.

I wish I could help it but I have long since given over to my affliction for all things Arthurian. Turn on the movie Excalibur and I am done. I mean no disrespect to the cast and crew,  but it was a crap movie. Horrible. But you can tell they took a lot of cues from Howard Pyle's imagery. Still, turn it on and I am done for the next hour and half or so...

Sir Gawain Son of King Lot of Orkney

"The Herald"

I hope that this has provided you small insight into the forces that helped create the Modern Medievalist. After speaking to a lot of my friends, this affliction or desire to be a knight, like me has been around since we were small. I have a friend who lives in the UK that swears the reason some of us are so strongly drawn to these particular time lines and events, is that we had lived them.-Just that simple.I don't know about that but unless someone who has died recently and comes back to talk about the possibility of a past life, my friends theory makes as much sense as anything else I have heard.

Don't be too alarmed if when we meet I get this distant look upon my face. I might be bashing about in the lists with Sir Kay or chasing the Questing Beast with Good King Pellinore, "What, what, WHAT!"

Thank you.

DS Baker

PS-All illustrations and images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, and are in the public domain.

Friday, June 13, 2014

"Just for the Hell of it Jousting!-Photo Essay!

Lincoln Cathedral.
(c) Ian Foss.
     Have you ever come across a person you just instantly liked? Funny how that sometimes happens. It is not an ordinary event, so when it does happen, it is best to pay attention. I am somewhat of a fatalist, in that I don't believe things just happen. It is my personal belief, so I am not asking you to ascribe to it. But back to instant friendships, it is always fun when you meet someone and they become a mate.

Arne Koets
for the
International I Want To Be Arne Koets Day
(c) Ian Foss
     I have known Ian Foss for less than a year. But in that year we have become mates. We both share a love of history. And curiously enough we share similar opinions about why we are so incredibly attracted to history, specifically medieval history... This love of history has caused him to make a sea change in his life. He spent years as an IT consultant and troubleshooter, and has just recently switched over to a career as a photographer. I thought I would share some his photos today!

Ryde Pier Isle of Wight
(c) Ian Foss.

Ian has been devoting a great deal of time developing his photographic business along with creating a new career working in the Publishing world, creating book covers and creating new covers for old science fiction classic films that have been and are being re-released through various distributors in the UK.

Here is the link to his Joust For The Hell Of It page on Facebook.

Thank you Ian!

DS Baker.

Please remember the Modern Medievalist can be found most days at:


Heraldry by Serbian Artist Prof. Ljubodrag Grujic.

Recently I had the occasion to change my Coat of Arms. The original design didn't really fit what or who I am. Luckily for me an adopted sister decided my arms and crest should look as they were originally designed.With six months of hidden planning with famed Artist Prof. Ljubodrag Grujic of Pancevo Serbia, saw my arms re-imagined and corrected.

I have had technical issues with Google in the past six months so hopefully those issues are now resolved, and I can go back to interviewing the amazing people I have had the good fortune to meet and correspond with.

A XV Century Style Jousting Shield with my new Coat of Arms.
My Crest.

My full Achievement as rendered by Prof Ljubodrag Grujic

Blog Update.

This blog has been off-line due to some major technical issues created by Google. I have patiently awaited their Techno-Ninjas to come up with a fix. So this is just a test message to see if the various issues have been resolved.

PS-Which it seems it has. Look for articles to be coming forthwith.

DS Baker
One of my all time favorite images from Stephen Moss.
The Castle Gate at Arundel Castle.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"Matthew Ryan Historical Illustrator"

Battle of Evesham (c) Matthew Ryan Historical Illustrator
     I have a friend who lives in Nova Scotia, Canada named Pat, who like me is into all things medieval. Several weeks back he informed me he had a distant cousin living in the UK, who did historical drawing, paintings and illustrations for books. We have been friends for over four years now. I was a bit miffed, he was just now mentioning this to me. However I also believe things happen at their own time and pacing in our lives. So when something is supposed to happen it does. I asked him, who is your distant cousin? Matthew Ryan he replied.

     Well I don't know about the majority of people out there, but I have known of Matthew's talents and his paintings about as long as I have my friend. Do you think he would be interested in doing an interview? I asked. "That could probably be arranged" was the reply I received. The conversation you will see below, is the result of an off hand remark, coinciding with being in the right place at the right time. Thank you Pat for your assistance.

Matthew Ryan, welcome to Modern Medievalist. With your indulgence, I am going to just jump right in and start asking questions.

Q: I recently read where you said it had taken you 35 years to get to this point in your career. Where were you 35 years ago?

A: Ah, that was a little tongue in cheek but also very true.... I am thirty five so meant that every time I complete a piece of work the it has took me my whole life to get to this "new" stage. Knowledge of the subject, ideas and technical development is all of course an ongoing thing and in my mind my best piece of work is always my next. I have always been interested in Art and have for a long time had a fascination and love of history especially medieval. I have only recently been working as an historical illustrator but am fortunate to have already had some very good clients and briefs.

Q: Did you receive formal training to be an Artist?

A: Yes I did a degree in illustration.... must admit over here an illustration degree does not include what people would call technical formal training. I learnt much from the degree however but my work is I would say (if this does not sound to self congratulating) a combination of talent, practice and work. When I took my degree in Illustration it was not historical illustration that I was working on... a tutor at the time I remember was often saying "draw what you know and what you love" this at the age of about twenty went right over my head and I remember thinking I can draw whatever people want me to draw. However years later when I combined my two passions and painted historical themes my work went to a new place and the realization of what he said became very true. This is another reason why I only advertise as an historical illustrator now. Painting what your are interested in and love gives your work more sincerity and the passion you have for the subject can come through in the finished work.
Matthew Ryan working on a composition.

Q: Where do you find your subjects? (I know in the UK you just about can't swing a dead cat around your head without hitting a reenactor of some sort.)

A: Reenactors are visually a key source for me, you can not beat seeing in real life the textures and combinations of how light plays on a surface, things such as steel - polished in the sun or rusted in the rain on a dull autumn morning all these things give the paintings depth and character. I am a big advocate of artists drawing from nature and the world around them. However in saying that that is only one aspect of sources for my work... landscape photography is an important element and something I also enjoy. Setting the soldier in his landscape is as much of an important thing for me as details such as kit and uniform etc. Another and possibly most important part of the process is direct contemporary sources and for the medieval period this mostly leaves us with tomb effigies, manuscript art and some of the later period paintings and written descriptive accounts. I find the access now available on-line with digitized manuscripts invaluable. All these things can be used and cross referenced to try and bring together what I hope is as accurate as I can be with a glimpse, or view to the past.
Q: What did you present for this year (publication and completed work) and what does 2014 hold in store?

A:Some of the work in the past twelve months have been.... Four paintings for the channel 4 series "Walking through History with Tony Robinson" about the 1719 Jacobite uprising. The battle of Bryn Glas for Medieval Warfare Magazine, A painting I made of the 1460 Battle of Northampton based on my friend and historian Mike Ingram's work. This was made to help draw awareness to the battle and help save the site from potential development work. The original I donated to the people of Northampton and it is currently on display at Northampton Museum alongside the recent facial reconstruction of Richard III. Also worked and working on editorial briefs for some Spanish military history Magazines, Desperta Ferro.

-Wow! You have really been busy-

I  have been working on a large canvas of the battle of Bosworth, this is a self made brief and so it has had to be side lined for the moment, but I hope to have time to work on it again soon. My Bosworth piece has been in the planning for a couple of years, with the interest now in King Richard III I am sure it will be a popular image and something I hope to become iconic. I have many possible exciting projects for next year, some of which may be work for the Magna Carta 800 project that I would relish. Also in the cards (and due to my archery I must do this) is paintings to mark the 2015 anniversary of Agincourt!

Q: So you are an Archer then?

A: I am. I have been practicing archery since I was a child. My father had several flat bows, and I started from there. I also became a Fletcher, and have made my own arrows. My practical experience with Archery, Fletching led me to creating some of the illustrations for Mike Loades Osprey book on Archery, and they also used several photographs of arrows I had made. By the way, it was perhaps my love of shooting the English/Welsh Warbows that started me off drawing and painting things medieval.

The Power of the  English/Welsh Warbow.

Q: Can anyone commission your work? Or do you strictly work for Authors, Historical Organizations, or Museums?

A: Any one can commission my work, however the magazines, book and TV shows are a great avenue to showcase my work. Also the publishing side of things allows me to have interesting and helpful communications with historians, editors etc within the profession and helps with my constant learning on the subjects. I try and stay fresh with input from reenactors. Without the input of people who have practical application of building a Bow or some other medieval object, then the art would become two dimensional and flat.

Q: What is the latest offering from Matthew Ryan Historical Illustrator?

A: Hopefully by the time this article is published I will have a website up and running, where my art can be viewed and limited edition prints of my work can be ordered.

-His website is up, and will be listed in the link section below.-

Thank you Matthew Ryan. It has been a pleasure speaking with you. Considering all of the irons you have in the fire, I truly appreciate the time you took away from your art to speak to me and my readers. All of my best, and I eagerly look forward to viewing your latest projects.

-DS Baker.

Here is Matthew Ryan's Website address:

Here is Matthew Ryan Historical Illustrator's page on Facebook:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

"National Living History Fayre! & Its Creator David Smith"

    British humor and American humor rarely cross paths with each other understanding what the other just said. Americans have loved just about everything Monty Python has ever produced. Last year on Facebook I began to notice these strange advertisements on the timeline. Pictures of Legolas and Aragorn from Lord of the Rings with these very strange and cryptic messages. Some of them were quite bizarre to this American's reading eye. I hasten to add though, there were very funny, in a dry as a desiccated bone sort of way.

    In America we have gun and knife shows just about every weekend of the year, all year long. It is nothing to have a hunting exposition and a fishing convention to be held at the same time and in the same facility. In certain parts of the upper mid-west and the deep south, you can have half a dozen of such conventions within a three hour driving circle from your home. Putting together a historical fair, where arms and armour, clothing, cooking utensils, fabrics, textiles, shoes... any thing you would need to create a historical persona don't just happen in the UK. There are councils, (Think very small local governments.) to consult. Property Owners, Tax Authorities, Health Officials. There is an enormous mountain of red tape, which has to be cleaved like Alexander slicing through the Gordian Knot. -It is very much a process. Not to mention most of the promoters who put on the various shows, charge money for admission.

     Not everyone wants to go to a market and purchase their "Kit" as they call it, from a medieval style merchant. But if they do, they don't want to be charged for the privilege! To that end my friend and fellow sophisticate David Smith started the National Living History Fair. Here is our interview, perhaps he will shed some light on how things are done in the "Old World."
David Kevin Smith

Q: How long have you been involved in the Living History scene in the UK? And tell us a bit about yourself.

A: Since 2003. So I would guess this is going on 11 years. I left school at 16 and joined the Army, then spend several years working in Hotel Management before going to University and then training to become a Chartered Accountant with Touche Ross & Co in London. Passed my exams and joined one of the companies I had been auditing, spent years counting beans full time before being made redundant in 1993. Since then I've mixed contract work as an accountant with running events, starting with Antique Fairs and ending up with Medieval Festivals.

Q: At what point did you decide to create the Fair?

A: I saw TORM at a venue I was planning to use for an Antiques Fair and thought it was amazing. Then I discovered it was a monopoly and staged just twice a year, and had a waiting list of traders as well as many traders who had fallen out with the management. This was as opposed to competing with 300 other Antiques Fairs every weekend...
Lots of arms and armour from Katso Armour

Q:Explain the significance of this Fair and Why it is so popular?

A: We set out to be friendly and to have fun, and becasue we were the new kid on the block we were quite deliberately going to be more affordable. After a run of disastrous events in 2006 I lost control of the original NLHF, which is now trading as the ILHF at Bruntingthorpe, but several traders asked me in 2012 if I'd re-stage the old NLHF as it used to be - affordable and fun - and so I took another look at it to see if it could be done.

Q:  I know you have exhibitors from all over Europe who attend. Can you tell us from which countries they come from?

A: We won't have quite so many this November as the dates - which are arranged to co-incide with TORM which is just 9 miles up the road - clash with the huge established Medieval market at Pontoise in France. But we are delighted to have Spes Medieval and Lady Malina from Poland, Lixa Bellorum from Germany, Kasto Armoury from the Czech Republic, and Magen from Fairbow Netherland.
Lady Malina Fashions from Poland.

Q: In total how many vendors/exhibitors attend and what services do they offer?

A: Currently we have bookings from 124 traders, who will be exhibiting a vast range of things, from Armour to Beeswax. You can find a complete list on the website, which I try to keep as up to date as possible. Basically, if you're involved with re-enactment you'll find things here they you didn't even know you needed, as well as almost everything you knew about! And we have FREE admission, so you can spend all your hard earned cash on goodies!

Q: This looks to be a new experience for those who are used to the old fair...

A: One of the main issues that folk complained about at the original NLHF was that they couldn't stay over on site. This applied just as much to traders as customers, and although it meant that some local pubs did a roaring trade over the Friday and Saturday of the market, it was a real shame that it wasn't really possible for everyone to get together for a decent social all together.

So when I was looking for a suitable venue for the re-born NLHF I was determined to find somewhere that had the facility for Camping, ideally sufficient room for all the traders and for all the customers as well who wanted to keep their accommodation and travelling costs to a minimum, brave the terrifying English weather, and have some fun as well as doing a lot of business.
The indoor exhibition space, with wide avenues for shoppers and suppliers. 

Onley Grounds EC offers us 1,000 acres – we’ll have trouble filling that up for a few years! And has a brand new Shower Block, and is used to coping with 15,000 or so happy campers for their big Pony Shows…and it has a rather nice Bar, a great cafe, and a brand new and very well equipped Shower and Toilet Block…

Small swords, perfect for that early 18th Century portrayal
Jacob's Armoury

Sounds like a grand time will be had by all! Thank you David Smith for taking the time to talk about your event good sir!

-DS Baker.

Here is the link on Facebook to the NLHF which should also include driving directions to: