Food festivals, festivals, fayres and fairs:
As the summer turns to autumn, and the leaves, once a dark green canopy, now turn vibrant yellow, so the festival season draws to a close for yet another year. But before we look forwards towards the Christmas season, let me tell you about our last few festivals and events.
Cherry Hinton Festival;
On September the 16th we were invited back to the “Cherry Hinton Festival” This is a wonderful community based event in a part of Cambridge known as, Cherry Hinton (Which is handy when you consider that it’s also the festivals name).
The public, undeterred by the traditional summer rain, turned out in surprisingly large numbers, but then those who know this festival, know just what great fun it is. Like any community based event, it has it’s fair share of community performances, including everything from Irish dancing to Yi Zhong Yang-style Tai Ji (I can spell it, just don’t ask me how to pronounce it).
In the activities marquee was an assortment of activities ranging from messy play for the under 5’s to archaeological activities. Run by 2 archaeologists from Cambridge university, here you could dig through the different layers of ‘soil’ and discover artefacts in the ‘Excavation chest of drawers’, including 9th century pottery, animal skulls and all sorts of things. They even had “The Brickologists” there with their lego building challenges and some doctor type folk who would help you make your very own “brain hat”
Outside there was a music stage with music and on the sports field there was demos and a chance to try out a whole range of sports. Everything from football to Zumba. Climbing walls and caving pods. Face painting and crazy giant balloon modelling, and all free. That’s right folks, everything on offer was free. A whole field filled with fun and all put on by volunteers from the local community. And to those volunteers I’d like to give a great big thank you. For this is what all community fun days should be like. I take my hat off to each and every one of you.
Upon finishing my days work there, Jester Dragonfly, Stormageddon and I headed south to Faversham, deep within the mountainous countryside of Kent (Hey, I live in the fens, one of the flattest parts of England. Compared to here, the north and south downs are two mountain ranges).
Faversham Food Festival;
This year the theme for “Faversham food festival” was medieval. Hence the reason I was booked (well that and the fact that they wanted entertainment that was of the same high standard as the food on offer). Although this part of Kent is my old stomping ground where I grew up (I’d tell you more, but wouldn’t want to shock you) the food festival started soon after I left, so I had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be one or two stalls with grannies selling home made cakes and the local girl guides selling brownies (the biscuits that is, not their younger sisters. That would just be wrong)? Or loads of market stalls from all across Europe and nothing to do with Faversham? More importantly, would there be a good performance space in which yours truly could perform his repertoire of gravity defying juggling, marvellous magic and “lace my corset tighter less I split my sides laughing” comedy?
I needn’t have worried, for the Faversham food festival was a pure delight of orally sensual overload. All laid on with local business’s and local produce. After sampling the free tasters (and not just the chilli sauces) I can put my hand on my heart and say that I now know why Elizabeth Carter, editor of the good food guide, once described this area as The east Kent triangle, an area of excellence.
As for the performance area? As you can see from the photo, they couldn’t of given me a better spot, or a more responsive audience.
It was a lovely sunny day and once the Puppet show had finished I soon had both, kids and adults seated before me. At the risk of sounding egotistical, I can say that the show went down a storm. I judge how good my show is by how much hassle the kids give me (something that I actively encourage) and even the adults joined in, shouting “oh yes it is” etc. in the right places. And the jumping dragons (of doom) fooled all of them, including the adults. There’s even a video of it on their Facebook page. It starts with a 3 ball juggling routine (The likes of which most jugglers would give their right arm to perform). Then concludes with the jumping dragons (of doom). When not performing one of my stage shows, I was engaged in one or more of my walk about routines, including the somewhat apt repeating bananas (of doom) and of cause, woodbine with his pot noodle and another type of repeating.
Other entertainment included a great traditional Punch and Judy show, may pole dancing (in September), little red riding hood and my old friend “Flora the singleton giant”. Always a favourite with the crowds as she leads the parade. Today the parade consisted of all the children entering the fancy dress competition. To my absolute horror, I was asked to be one of the judges. I hate judging the fancy dress as I’m always worried that those who don’t win will cry, or worse still, hate me even more than they hate my jokes!
Then, after the day had finished, it was full speed ahead as we headed home to get ready for the next show
The Ancient Oak Medieval Fayre;
We’d been really excited about this gig. Not only because it’s more money in our pockets, but also because it’s run by some old friends of ours. Many moons ago, when I still had hair (well, more hair than I have now) there was an event called “the Snailwell medieval fayre”. Run by friends of ours this event had a real village green feel to it and was always a favourite, not just in our calendar, but also in the calendars of most local re-enactors and with good reason. Put simply it was a good, well organised event. The type where everyone, families, traders, performers and re-enactors could relax and enjoy a weekend of all that’s best about medieval England. So when they contacted us and said they were thinking of running a new event, well how could we say no.
The set up;
It was held at Stow-Cum-Quy, which is quite local to us, enabling us to arrive early on the Friday. Once there we didn’t just set up and relax, oh no, that would be too easy. Instead Jester Dragonfly took over arranging the traders and allocating pitches and I lent a hand with the ground crew, erecting tents, putting up signs etc. This meant that the main organiser had more time in which to run around whilst muttering that most famous of all event organisers incantations “never again, not ever doing this again ever” ( we don’t call her stress free shaz for nothing). Come night fall the event had come together and was now looking like a medieval event should on the night before opening (I.E. the beer tent was open and full of strange folk in strange clothing shouting things like “hussar” and “Oi watch where you’re poking that sword”).
I’ll be honest here and tell you that when I saw the beer tent, I panicked! During our consultations with the organisers we’d recommended what we consider to be the best medieval beer tent on the circuit. The world famous “Crimson Moon Mobile Beer Tavern” (Never ever call it a beer tent. It’s so much more). They, knowing that we see a lot of beer tents at events had taken our advice and booked the best. So why did I panic? Because it wasn’t until we’d got there that we realized that it was now under new management! “What” I thought “if the range of drinks aren’t as good as they were? What if the staff are a grumpy bunch of folk who aren’t into these events? What if”??? I need not of worried. The beer was good, The cider, very good (I checked it several times, just to make sure). A full range of spirits and kids drinks were all at hand. And all served by lovely friendly staff who were in character and more than “up for it”. Indeed I was so impressed that I’m still happy to call them the best mobile medieval tavern this side of the 16th century (and no offence meant to my good friend Iain, but it takes a lot less cider to find it’s new owner sexy than it ever did him).
Saturday morning we were up early, getting the last few things sorted (I.E. putting up our tents as we were too busy helping out Friday to set up our own camp). As often happens at these types of events, there was a few last minute changes to the program, resulting in a bit of a slow start to the day. But once it got going it was a great two days of medieval mayhem, music and civilized members of the public teaching their children that is socially acceptable to screem for blood whilst watching a bunch of fully grown men beat the hell out of each other with offensively big, heavy weapons.
Music was provided by some old favourites of ours, including “The pentacle Drummers” . A lovely bunch of nutters with a thunderous repertoire of deafening drumming that puts the likes of Cozy Powell to shame (if your saying who? then you’re too young) and the perfect way to wake up a sleepy village on a sunny morn.
“Serpentyne” were also performing with their perfect mix of modern and medieval instruments, all combining to create a magical mixture that perfectly combined the best of both worlds, old and new.
Blood, guts and battles and living history were provided by several re-enactment groups including “The Knights of Honour”, “Wuffa Saxon and Viking re-enactment”, “Ealdfaeder Anglo-Saxons” and our very good friends from your local medieval re-enactment society “Phoenix Warlords medieval re-enactment society”. This wide range of households meant that you had the chance to experience a whole range of different battle tactics. For the fighting style and moves of a fully armoured knight is vastly different from that of a Viking who, although wearing less protection, has the advantage of more speed and mobility. Not that I, as a poor humble fool (all be it Britain’s best poor humble fool) know a lot about fighting. My speciality is entertainment and as such I can say that these heroic warriors were very entertaining and not just on the field of battle. For they came equipped with every thing you’d expect war bands to have. Medieval tents, women cooking around the camp fires. Phoenix even brought their very own cannon with them! It was housed next to their “have a go archery”. Probably one of the most popular side shows in the event. This was where members of the public, both young and old alike, could practice their skills with the famous English longbow. All under the expert guidance of Some of England’s premier archers.
But what would a medieval event be without that most quintessential of medieval sports, jousting? That’s right folks, not only was all the above housed upon this, most green of England’s green fields, but they even had jousting and awesome stunt riding from none other than “The horsemen of the knight”. A foolishly brave troupe of medieval stunt riders who kept us all spellbound as, clad in shinning armour, they took part in death defying duels, charging at each other with lance in hand to the cheers, gasps and applause of public, both young and old.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough, they displayed amazing acrobatic feats of skill. Hand stands on galloping horses and many another feat of daring horsemanship. The sight of which would not only get your heart pumping, but also leave the stoutest members of your local pony club reaching for their large bottle of vodka.
The most violent and bloodthirsty battle England’s ever seen, ever;
Both days ended with an awesome, furious battle, the likes of which have rarely, if ever, been seen on England’s fair lawn. These were no ordinary battles, oh no. For these were battles fought by the most fearless and blood thirsty of heartless, hardened warriors. A band of marauding rabid killers known collectively as “the children”.
Armed with long lengths of pipe cladding, soft enough to do no harm. All the children present were invited onto the field of honour to wage war upon each other. We did try to get the knights to join in, but upon seeing the unabated bloodlust and violence unleashed by these future warriors (of doom), what knights we could find were suddenly way to busy shinning shields, or hiding in the toilets saying things like “don’t send me out there. I’ll be good”. or softly sobbing “I want my mummy”.
All joking aside, the kids loved it as it was a chance to run riot and practice all the fighting skills that they had learnt through out the day. And from the parents point of view, they could laugh at their child’s antics knowing not only that the weapons were too soft to cause any damage, but also that, worn out by this last surge of mindless violence, their children were going to sleep well that night.
But I’ll give you a little bit of insider information. The dates for this, East Anglia’s finest medieval event, may well change next year! “What” I hear you cry! “Then how will we find out the new dates”? Fear not my trusty followers. For all you need to do is click on and like this link to “The Ancient Oak Medieval Festival Facebook Page”. Then be you a trader, re-enactor, family looking for a day out, or just someone who enjoys supping on fine ales whilst watching big hairy men beat the living daylights out of each other. The truth is you’ll be able to sleep soundly, knowing that you’ll receive updates with the new dates etc. sent straight to your very own Facebook news feed.
What’s next I hear thee cry;
But enough about battles past. For the fighting/festival season is over. Our tents are once again cleaned and stored away till next year and Stormageddon, his batteries removed, is placed safely back in his box until next spring springs upon us once more.
So what will we do now the seasons are a changing? Lots is the simple answer. We have a whole range of birthday parties we’ve been invited to. Both here in our own sweet village of Manea and further afield in London and beyond. Indeed we’ve more parties than past winters, due partly to the ever growing reputation of our entertainment and birthday circus workshops, but also possibly to the constant tweaking I’ve been doing to our website.
Now although I’m a magician, who’s just won his second world wide magicians competition (Dear Brian Watson, thank you so much for donating the coveted 1st prize wand holder trophy) I’m no website wizard. So I’m going to ask a wee favour of you all. Could you please take a few minutes to click on the “Birthday parties link” and look at the latest changes. If you’ve any suggestions then simply add them to the comments section on this blog and in return I promise to love you dearly. Each and every one of you.
The Cambridge Living History Fair;
But not only do we have birthday parties a plenty, we also have one more final yet fun filled medieval event. Namely “The Cambridge Living History fair”.
Held twice yearly the up coming autumn fair is being held at it’s usual venue in the Woodgreen animal shelter in Godmanchester, PE29 2NH. Every year this event goes from strength to strength, With more stalls, entertainment and customers than ever before. But although it’s a place to perchures all things historical, it’s not just a fair for re-enactors. For here you may see, taste and buy a number of items you’ll never find at any other market anywhere. Toys, as in real wooden wont be broken by new year cause they’re made of cheap plastic toys that, come Christmas morning, will delight children of all ages (even the grown up ones). Mead, the perfect winter warmer for those long, cold winter nights. Beautiful hand made dress’s, sown with love and care. The type that will look splendid on your wife/girlfriend/boyfriend (hey its the 21st century and who am I to judge). All these unique and splendid artefacts and many more can be found all under one roof. There’s even entertainment with story telling, my own sweet self jestering and yet more that we’re awaiting confirmation on. But it’s only on for two days, so make sure you bookmark October the 18th and 19th in your diaries and pick up some bargains galore at The Cambridge Living History Fair.
Well that’s all for now folks. So I bid thee all a fair farewell. If you’re children are lucky enough to be coming to a birthday party I’m performing at, then do yourself a favour and stay and watch. For although billed as a children’s entertainer, I personally look on our shows as family entertainment, with gags that appeal to all ages. If you’re an event organiser looking for good wholesome entertainment, then get in touch, but hurry as we’re already getting booking for next year and are unable to clone ourselves. And if you’re looking for some excellent entertainment for your childs birthday party (or indeed, your own) then please take a look at our “Birthday parties page” and let us make your child’s birthday party so special that it not only becomes the talk of the playground, but also the envy of all the other parents.
So until next time, I bid you all, fair thee well.
Your fabulous fool