We spent a day with the Medieval Re-enactment Society
Drink mead everyday
The Medieval Society have a reputation for dressing up in chain mail and having fights around campus – both things that sound like a lot of fun.
We thought it would be fun to go along to a weapons training session to wave spears around and argue about Lord of The Rings. We also figured we could chat to the group and try to understand what the appeal is to pretend to be from a time where killing for sport was socially acceptable.
We went into our challenge assuming everyone would be a Dungeons and Dragons nerd, prancing around wearing tights, yelling “Forsooth you blaggard” and dropping Games of Thrones references every 5 minutes.
How wrong we were.
Arriving at the Vanbrugh Bowl, we were met by Will (otherwise known as the Black Knight) who was quick to warn us: “Never let anyone borrow your shield” – a sentence I never thought I would hear.
Around us, members chatted about warhammers, bucklers and obscure sci-fi references, and we felt a bit out of place. The society’s treasurer, aka. The Keeper of the Coin, told us “Just call me Littlefinger” – the first Game of Thrones reference of the day, much to our delight.
Everyone broke off into activity groups but instead of dirtying our Tab tees, we went to bother committee members. They showed us weapons and let us ask all sorts of uneducated questions about the society.
Although called the Medieval Society, it’s not just the middle ages that you get to experience first hand. If you always dreamt of a time when you could pillage like a Viking, this is the place for you.
Just remember the importance of period appropriate choices of weapons. It’s like cultural appropriation but in the Dark Ages. For future reference – you can’t use a two-handed axe with a round-topped kite shield. It’s just not on.
We gossiped about feudal fashion with society chair Leah, who told us all about their socials – and they’re better than we could have imagined.
Last year they held an Agincourt drinking game and cooked a pig’s head (it wasn’t an initiation, don’t worry YUSU). Also on offer are crafting sessions, witch burnings, feasts and a summer tournament.
We also had some misconceptions cleared up. Medieval re-enactment has nothing to do with LARPing – which, for you peasants who don’t know, is Live Action Role Play – featuring wizards, magic and historical inaccuracies aplenty. Re-enactment is much more realistic, so we unfortunately didn’t get to pretend to be goblin kings.
The only occasion where historical accuracy didn’t matter was when it came down to Health and Safety, but there were enough cries of “end him” and “avenge me” to keep us satisfied. In-jokes and historical banter were plentiful, our personal favourite being “Don’t do a Godwinson” whenever anyone walked too close to the archery target. If you don’t get it, you should have paid more attention in History GCSE.
We were allowed to try our hands at archery, which is harder than Legolas makes it look. The enactors were pros and gave us helpful tips on how to stand, so we eventually hit the target. Sorry to whoever’s shield we used. The best part was, even though we were journos, everyone was generous and helpful – letting us get stuck in and borrow parts of their costumes to take our selfies with.
The climax of training was the “Battle Without Honour”. This was three minutes where everyone was allowed to work out tensions by pretending to slaughter one another until a victor emerged.
It was hilarious to watch and even more entertaining to see the reactions of everyone strolling past,who all looked mildly concerned by the 15th century bloodshed unfurling.
MedSoc lived up to our expectations with the amount of obscure references and knowledge of historical battles some members had, but we sure weren’t prepared for the amount of fun we had wielding daggers.
We also learnt a thing or two about the Dark Ages thanks to the very knowledgeable members. Everyone here seems seriously into history, but they don’t take themselves as seriously s you’d expect. They’re just having a laugh with their mates and they basically don’t give a fuck what you think.
Things to know before you join:
Don’t mentions the fourth Crusade.
Both ends of a Quarter Staff kill.
Moniack mead is better than Lindisfarme mead.
You can join the Medieval Societies Facebook page here.