Some feedback from the battle of Bannockburn (live). I had read all the previous comments and decided to wait until after the event before posting, and knew of the past battles, and spoke with various people about the battle organisers, but never had been to a reenactment north of the border, although I have spent a lot of time working and travelling in Scotland, and also took into account the probable strong nationalistic feeling that was likely to be present given the forthcoming independence vote, but still decided to go, along with 4 other members of the Medieval Combat Society who were interested in attending.
From the outset it was obvious that it was a well funded, high profile event, and well organised for the Re-enactors. The security was very tight and visible, with security fencing and professional staff around the whole site 24/7 and a seating/stand area around the whole arena. Knowing how many people the arena would hold gives a good indication to the numbers watching each battle, and with the exception of the second battle on Saturday when there was some rain, they were completely full.
The press a few weeks before were telling the public that there were large numbers of unsold online tickets, but in the end they had to turn away people on the Saturday and sell them tickets for the Sunday. The press I believe reported then that it was so popular that the public had difficulty getting in, a complete change to the unsold ticket story!
I cannot say anything for the public experience except that all the ones we met were very happy with watching the battle. The clash with Armed forces day a few miles down the road may have caused some issues, or even bolstered the event as people travelled to see both, and we certainly enjoyed the red arrows, Lancaster fly past and fireworks display. The Armed forces day was a free event and Bannockburn charged a fee, so to sell out on both days, they must have done something right! The public were friendly mainly supporting Scotland and the banter was no different than I would have expected and seen the English give with other English vs 'insert foreign foe' events. After each battle we posed for pictures and chatted with the public, and had no problems whatsoever.
The event organising company did a great job for us, the best I have seen at any reenactment event. We have never been so well looked after with a generous portion of bacon/haggis/black pudding sausage meat in a bun, fruit, yoghurt, with tea/coffee/water provided for us each morning (Fri-Sun), and hundreds of bottles of water during the battles. Also plush flushing loos, (only a couple of portaloos), and clean showers open if I recall 07.00-23.00 only 5 minutes’ walk away in the local school.
The battle but not the event itself was free from tartan, with the various family name clans being present in the clan village, I had a look round as the event was opening to the public, and there were certainly a lot of enthusiastic clans with information on clan genealogy, not surprisingly a lot of their visitors were American. Some of the clans were dressed up in medieval kit, they had done their best, but were left behind by most of the reenactors, and there was even some genuine vintage string mail! Overall these and the associated clan coloured paraphernalia such as clan clocks, banners, T shirts, paintings etc, filled the space where most reenactment events have medieval traders/modern stuff to sell, and probably appealed to the attending public. There were a few medieval style traders in the living history area, and there was a definite separation between the modern and historical areas.
We arrived on the Thursday and there was a practice on Friday, lots of marching and drill (not really my cup of tea), we did more drill and practice and rehearsal than any other multi-bash re-enactment event I have been to. Each group fought members of their own group which overcame the different fight styles (such as choreographed or hit locations such as head, lower legs), inexperience with some participants, and also some with complete lack of hand protection and very limited head protection. Hand and head protection of sufficient quality is enforced with just about every reputable medieval group today in multi-bashes. One person’s axe head did come flying off (no not Bruce's) and some spears were dropped onto others in drilling, luckily no one was hurt, but emphasises, the need for adequate hand and head protection (i.e. HSE Personal Protective Equipment). A number of the participants were 'actors' with very limited combat 'awareness' and kit. Having said that there were no major injuries just a few small cuts and scrapes. I also agree with the comment about mops between the ropes, there appeared to be no policing that I saw, but may have missed, but there were certainly public and the press in there, any incident between the ropes could have voided the PLI due to negligence?
There was a kit list published well before the event, and there is good and bad kit at every reenactment, and yes as with every event there was room for improvement. Thankfully there were no Braveheart lookalikes on the battlefield painted in blue woad and wearing tartan, just some wondering around the event.
As for 3 battles per day, that was relatively easy, if you are used to staying in kit, and for me it was easier than normal as I had ditched the plate arms and legs to be correct for the period. Having said that we were also camped next to the arena, so could easily sit in our camp to pose and rest. There was only 1 fight per battle and that not too long, and it was a lot less heat than Tewkesbury which itself was cooler than Agincourt last year which hit 42 degC on the battlefield, and in a lot more armour.
They did have a few horses, and the arena was certainly big enough to hold them with that number of reenactors. The battle itself was scripted and told the story of the two days of fighting, and made tweaks here and there over the two days to improve the show. The horses ran between an opening made in the Schiltrons, not so good to watch from the front, but impressive from the side. The fight itself involved the Scots ditching their spears (many were not combat safe), and the front lines charging passed each other which gave a nice effect of spreading the battle across the whole battlefield, where people could fight their opposites. In all, the battle was well organised, and had good commentary.
I played Aymer de Valence the Earl of Pembroke on the Saturday, and had a surcoat, shield and banner made up for the event as well as a pair of chain chausses with knee cops to suit the time period, as well as doing some research on the character, including a visit to Westminster Abbey where his tomb exists, (see http://www.themcs.org/characters/Aymer% ... alence.htm
). I know my scabbard was a little early, but I had it in the garage for many years and decided to use it.
We made many friends including those Scotland, England, Sweden (and another Gotland invite
we will have to go), Luxembourg, Portugal, their journeys put our 8 hour drive to get there, to shame.
It is my opinion that if more English reenactors were encouraged through forums such as this to be present with good kit to make the event better, which I believe reading the previous posts, happened in previous years, and those who do criticise may be seen by others as arm chair generals, making comments without attempting themselves to improve such events. Having said that it is better to get peoples thoughts out in the open as long the facts are correct.
There are some pictures of the event here: http://www.themcs.org/other%20events/pi ... index.html
, a lot of the public photographs were only those of the Scottish schiltrons.
After all said and done, if given the opportunity to do the 700th anniversary again, would I? Yes absolutely, it was a great event, our members and I had fun and all of us were glad to have been there at the 700th anniversary event.