What's wrong in WOTR re-enactment?

Historic questions, thoughts and other interesting stuff

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craig1459
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Post by craig1459 »

Good point

I phrased this "What's wrong in WOTR re-enactment?" because - as a new bod - I have been presented with a number of things which I had quickly taken as being a given - the general style of hose being the case in point - only to find in discussion elsewhere that this was "wrong" and I wanted to challenge these basic assumptions directly, for my own benefit as much as anything else

I'm not being deliberately negative - quite the opposite in fact :D

The thread has developed into a wider discussion on "things that could be done better" which I think is great
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Post by X »

My group aims for an average-to-high level of authenticity. I've never noticed it ruining our fun... in fact, members of other groups have remarked - enviously - "You lot are always laughing".

Fun is an attitude of mind, not a consequence of what kind of trousers you're wearing (although humour in others might be related to what kind of trousers you're wearing). Wearing polyester and lurex or hand-woven, hand-dyed wool can both be equally miserable if you're in a miserable group. I've had experience of doing events with a miserable group, and, believe me, their kit had nothing to do with it. They had very nice kit. If they all got wiped out in a freak lightning strike I wouldn't have any hesitation in buying it up at the sale, after I got done celebrating... :twisted:

With respect to new members, or members who can't afford specific bits of kit, the group helps them out. We've got a lot of members who can make items of kit, and enough money in the group account to buy other things. For instance, one of our members needs mediaeval glasses but can't afford them - so the group has paid for them. They will remain the group's property, and if the member wants to actually own them, she can buy them off the group when she's saved up.

We are introducing a minimum kit list, and it's actually quite surprising how little you need in order to start re-enacting at a decent level of authenticity, especially if other people are willing to lend a few bits and pieces initially, like military kit. We also have some group kit that people can use. I've never actually added up estimated costs for kitting someone out with the absolute basics for a decent level of authenticity, but I think it would be interesting to do it... and then to compare it with the setup costs for starting to do other hobbies. Target archery isn't precisely cheap if you get a half-decent recurve, let alone a compound, and fishing always struck me as a bit technical-looking and therefore expensive. And golf! Not only do you have to buy the clubs, but also you need to pay green fees.

But to go back to the topic...

My vote goes for (in addition to the above):
1) Women on the field fighting/archerying in dresses.
2) People who forget that it's all a game. What happens on the re-enactment field is not actually a battle - it's a display, and you're not meant to hurt people.
3) Countersunk screws. Use nails, or cover the things up, it's not hard.

But things have improved a lot over the last ten years. There are still a lot of areas where improvement can be made, but there are also a lot of areas where improvement already has been made, and we shouldn't forget that. I watched the video of Tewkesbury 1995 the other week, and we all had a good laugh. I still have (somewhere) my first tabard, made of poly-cotton and cotton, the checky bits seminole patchworked and the fretty bits done with bias binding. I also have (somewhere) the navy blue lycra leggings I wore with it - my mother's. The leg armour I wore chafed holes in it - and me - and this had three results:
1) I couldn't give them back to my mother, and had to recompense her accordingly.
2) I had to learn to darn so that I could wear them again.
3) I swore never, ever, to wear anyone else's armour ever again, for any reason. At all. Ever.

All in all, I like WotR. Overall the standard of authenticity is OK (at least at the events I go to) and it's fun. There's always improvements to be made, but when isn't there? I bet in ten years' time, when authenticity levels have made great strides, we'll be bitching about another set of problems that we wouldn't even consider trying to change now. Just as years ago, you'd have to make your own shoes or do the best you could with modern (one member of my group had to make do with ladies' pixie boots two sizes too small, poor chap) but now you can buy good mediaeval footwear, maybe in ten or twenty years' time, naturally dyed fabric will be de rigeur and we'll all be laughing at old photos and DVDs of the bad old days in 2006 when everyone was in synthetic dyes... you never know.

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Ian Macintyre
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Post by Ian Macintyre »

Indeed five years ago spring washer mail was considered not only acceptable but "top end"


Moving away from clothing and other areas one that does concern me in all re-enactments is the safety aspect of the combat.
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Post by EmanwelOfGwent »

I what way safety aspects?
Considering what we do, especially the battles, I've seen suprisingly few injuries, and never been badly hurt.
The worrying injuries seem to be more off the field e.g. chap who got bitten on the cheek by a dog, another chap who knocked himself out getting out of a van, both St John's Ambulance jobs.
Getting injured is a risk combatants accept and in a way it's a distinct part of what we do - firearms and artillery people use black powder, close combat people use blunt steel - that's the level of risk people seem to be happy with.
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Post by Fillionous »

As a first aider with my group I would have to say I was plesently surprised at the lack of damage done to people on the battle field when I joined re-enactment... given that people are hitting each other with various bits of metal. I have delt with more injuries at music festivals than at re-enactments.

I find the most comman stuff is more assosated with camping in general... ie trips and falls (tentpegs, rabbit holes, drunkeness, esspecally at night), burns and scolds (a consiquense of open fires and lit candles etc.) and the odd splinter, knife cut, hit thumb (general camp duties)

Most comman battle field problem I would say is folks not taking on enough water / salts and getting problems with heat / dehydration as a result.
Sure thats not to say I have not delt with other stuff... it is just MUCH MUCH more rare.
The thing is, once the guys with the blue flashy lights turn, up everyone sees / knows and thinks the worst... and remembers that inccident in preferance to all the little stuff that just gets ignored as part of re-enactment and does not remember the events that pass off without anything at all happening.

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Post by X »

I'd have to agree with Filonious and Emmanuel. Serious injuries on the field are an extreme rarity - although we all pick up bruises and scrapes on a regular basis. However, injuries around camp are another matter - certainly around our camp. Our safety officer seems to think it's his bounden duty to try out everything once, just to find out how dangerous/painful it is, presumably so he can be more convincing when he tells the rest of us not to do it. Of course, the rest of us manage to remember not to pick up iron bars by the end that was glowing red five seconds ago all on our own. Still, we admire his devotion to duty.

Seriously, though, on the field most people are very safety-minded. After all, you're hitting someone with an iron bar, and that tends to focus the mind somewhat. But back in camp, you're not doing the dangerous stuff, right? So it's safe, right? In our camp, we've got fire, sharp knives, sharp tools, a forge that reaches at least 1500 degrees C, and toxic substances (which may or may not include the cook's products). As well as many things to trip over, like guy ropes.

The problem on the field is the minority who are not safety minded. The idiots who get the red mist, the other idiots who think it's real, and the idiots who think that personal protective equipment only happens to other people.

Unfortunately, the nature of what we do on the field means that accidents will happen. And, given the nature of the weapons, when they do they can be quite serious. However, we need to differentiate between an ongoing problem (i.e., a procedural/training error that results in the same kind of injuries every time - like putting the fuel in the back doors of the BMP2 - frying tonight) and a regrettable, but freak, accident. Hitting each other with iron bars is never going to be totally safe; we all accept that risk when we go on the field.

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Post by Adam R »

Sigurd wrote:Just to satisfy the curiosity of a Dark Age er do you do any competitive fighting in WOTR or is it all re-enactments of historical battles that have to end with the right side winning?
As a former dark Age - now retired WoTR - I think playing with open ended scripts would be worth while. In the Vike the non scripted endings made the field have an air of effort - right to the last man.

Exceptional fun and fun to watch too - especially where the PA can keep the crowd abreast of progress - should be easy with banners.

Of course - the dreaded competitive element can rear it's head - possibly even more in a federation rather than a close society like the Vike was then.
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Post by X »

I was in an open-ended battle once. Well, I was in the start of an open-ended battle. I missed the rest because some nice people took me to A&E to be stitched back together. But according to someone who managed to stay in one piece all the way to the end, it got a lot more violent than the usual plotted battles.

I think it would be interesting to try it again, but it's back to your idea of an experimental tactics weekend, Adam. And it would require a lot more self-control to be able to really try to make the tactics work without actually injuring anyone. There would have to be some kind of hit-points system introduced - or some other way of knowing whether you were injured/dead.

I think that a plotted battle is better for public shows - you can make sure that the public really do get a good display, and you can have a little one-on-one 'competitive' fighting quite safely within that, because there's no drive to roll over the opposition as quickly as possible in order to win the battle. You can still get a lot of personal satisfaction from knowing that even if your side lost, you, personally, got the better of most of your opponents. Or, from the other perspective, you got creamed by every single opponent, but in a fun way. :?

That, of course, is from a WotR perspective - we don't currently have a system set up that allows for a safe competitive battle. Non-scripted battles would have, I think, to await a system for deciding when you are wounded and when you are dead, and what happens under each circumstance. But it would certainly be interesting to try.

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Post by temporary guy »

I can remember at least one 'siege' where the attackers had to negotiate with us to win because they were too easily to keep out, we had them covered with archers and they had to get over a bridge.

Similarly at Castle Rising we had to tear down our own ad hoc defences to allow the enemy in, we had positioned tables and other sticky outy bits of wood so well that the attackers couldn't even get their bills near us, it took the minimum of work to keep them out, but would have looked really crap otherwise from the public's perspective.

Competitive has its disadvantages, am happy to do defending a position again though, bring it on.
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Post by Adam R »

Major change in culture - that is where the competitive side might be insurmountable. In the vike we trained knowing what we were getting into - control and such like were well ingrained and we knew that loosing was part of it - and still there were those who pushed the rules to their own end - of course. A system to reflect different levels of protection that is actually workable - theres a challenge!

Hits? Do hits carry from fight to fight? Just go on 'good kills'? When you have problems feeling the hits in the first place! Probably not.

What about the viking game - a piece is taken when surrounded - something like that - you go down when obviously outnumbered 2 to 1 - 3 to 1 in plate or something? Needs to be an obvious line though..... can't think of anything at the mo - but suspect hits is not the answer (especially after experiences still remembered in Treasure trap 20+ years ago - try counting hits with adrenaline pumping and hits coming in thick n fast... doesn't work to anybodies satisfaction!)

Ponder ponder..... :?
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Post by Ayliffe's Steve »

After feeling, at Tewksbury, first hand how violently competitive some WotR groups are even when the battles are scripted and they are on the losing side (I was about to break through a bill line and was stopped by a bill that was came downwards into my throat - although it only hit my throat because I moved my face I then received eye contact but no apology. That was the second time I have receive a bill in the throat from that line although the first guy did apologise) - I shudder to think what some of those groups would be like if the outcome was meant to reflect who was the 'best' group.
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Post by EmanwelOfGwent »

Anyone remember the Caldicott battle of the flags, about 6 years ago? That was a few weeks before I joined, so I don't know how scripted it was, but the flag thing made for what looked a fairly energetic and tactical battle, and gave combatants flags that they could legitimately try to nick (I think the organisers provided small coloured flags about 5 per side, placed behind the lines, with the combatants pulling out to go back and touch the flag when they died.
If there's concern about groups getting dangerous in competion, maybe have a set time for a battle of flags to run, with the ending decided by Marshals counting who has the most flags left un nicked - that way there'd be less direct competion - who wins won't depend on which side has the most "Imortals".

Adam R - last Tewkesbury a clanky came crashing through the line, got surrounded in about a second, swords clattering on his armour. He carried on fighting for a moment, then lifted his visor and said "Yeah, Alright, Alright I'm dead." Must have been the King :)
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Post by tonw »

Ayliffe's Steve > What period of battle do you normally do,

The on incident of near facial injury at tweksbury ( I generally marshal there) was a case of a Viking re-enactor trying to duck under bill points and get in close while wearing a pot helm when he was almost hit and got no responce he came and complained to myself and another marshal

the reply he got from me was

"well if you put your face at crotch hight and run blindly at bill men what do you expect? You reduced your target area to almost nothing..."

He was no to impressed but I did go and have a chat with the bill group and asked them to drop their bills when he did it again.
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Post by Ayliffe's Steve »

tonw,

I usually do 15c and Tintagill. As for the gentleman ducking and running forward into a bill line - AW!!

When I got hit the first time I was standing still and the second time as I charged I was upright - I am phobic of moving my head down especially in a line of poles, you never know who's not paying attention ;-)


P.S. It may have upset the viking that you spoke to but I think your reply was pretty valid, duck and charge is asking for an accident.
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Post by Jim Smith »

Emanwel wrote:

"but the flag thing made for what looked a fairly energetic and tactical battle, and gave combatants flags that they could legitimately try to nick (I think the organisers provided small coloured flags about 5 per side, placed behind the lines, with the combatants pulling out to go back and touch the flag when they died."

Agreed in principle, though I have uncomfortable memories of the old style Battle of the Flags which used to be run at Warwick Castle. The August 1995 one left me with a dent in my sallet that could'nt be beaten out and mild concussion. Culprit was some C12 bod who reached over the top of the shield wall and smacked me over the head with an axe. That was possibly the most violent I've seen re-enactment get - and not just from a personal perspective either.

Any flag type event would have to be incredibly well marshalled.
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Post by moosiemoosiegander »

I was at Warwick for the Battle of the Flags in 1996 or thereabouts, and I have to say that it was frighteningly violent.

The competitiveness in WOTR re-enactment can be a problem as yes, it does lead some minority of people to play too rough either by fighting stupidly or not taking their hits, or doing ludicrous stuff like rugby tackling etc. which resulted in my other half getting his scapula snapped a couple of years ago!

Another thing which I have a gripe about (and I admit that it may be a little anally retentive on my part) is the rationalisation of so called 'authentic' equipment on the grounds that it makes most sense, or it tittilates the whimsical rather than there being any evidence for it (that I have managed to find, will stand corrected), like belts adorned with hundreds of hanging charms, knives and bells, women wearing men's livery coats and hoods, etc. etc....

Greaat, now I've made myself sound like a total a**hole!
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Post by temporary guy »

"like belts adorned with hundreds of hanging charms, knives and bells, women wearing men's livery coats and hoods, etc. etc...."

some of those things are re-enactorisms, hanging mock 17thC pewter tankards from belts, come on, all kinds of paraphernalia and nonsense.

That is not to say that some didn't overdo it with badges and charms etc, there are always zealots in every era but like everything else what do people want to portray?

No you do not sound like an *rse IMHO.
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Post by Jim Smith »

TG is quite right, you in fact sound fairly reasonable. A woman is either dressed as a woman 100% or as a man 100%. The only people who should have stuff hanging from their belt (other than a purse/dagger) are tradesmen on the job (so to speak :oops: )
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Post by Sir Jarvis Phelps »

I wear a simple wooden rosary on my belt - I'm not Catholic, I'm not even religious but I think it's a nice piece of detail
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Post by temporary guy »

"it's a nice piece of detail"

which is why I don't wash or bruf my teef ;-)
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Post by moosiemoosiegander »

Rosary, fair enough, I have one myself despite the lack of any religiousness whatsoever, but that tasteful wee item is a world away from the scrapyards that some people cart around with them! Ladies did, in fairness carry more things on their belts generally than men, but then again, that was also usually hidden beneath the overkirtle (again, will stand corrected). And yes, Jim I completely agree, I have no objection whatsoever to cross dressing either way, as long as it is done convincingly!
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Post by guthrie »

re rosaries, I seem to recall seeing some argument before about whether they would be worn on th belt or not. I dont recall seeing many in medival paintings I have seen, so I havnt even bought a rosary, since if anyone asks I can always says its in my pouch, thats why they cant see it.

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Post by BigM »

I think there is a temptation to add lots of accessories to a belt just because we have bought them and want to display them rather than hide them away in our tent and use them infrequently, especially those impulse buys that don't quite go with our portrayed status/period but which we must have :P .

We all want to show off the items we have bought, especially if they are unique. It can start a conversation. And we all have sentimental/favourite items that we like to carry with us, especially gifts from our friends.

Its just a combination of human nature and those dastardly traders :wink: supplying us with so many pretty things.

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Post by Ian Macintyre »

There is a battle of the flags every year at the Tatton event. Its always included at least one Fed household normaly more than one and its not a particularily unpleasantly "violent" event from my recollections. Mainly because I think its nice, small and almost always pishing it down on the sunday which cools the ardour.

The most agressive I have experience are Bosworth and Tewks which are scripted. Is it a coincidence that these are the big events whereby the chap in front of you is not somebody you had a drink with last night? Or that they attract the "occassionals"
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Post by Ayliffe's Steve »

Is it a coincidence that these are the big events whereby the chap in front of you is not somebody you had a drink with last night? Or that they attract the "occassionals"
Hmmmmm, that makes a lot of sense.
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Post by Adam R »

Ian Macintyre wrote:
The most agressive I have experience are Bosworth and Tewks which are scripted. Is it a coincidence that these are the big events whereby the chap in front of you is not somebody you had a drink with last night? Or that they attract the "occassionals"
Possibly a factor for sure - another factor may be the very size and the adrenaline buzz that it creates...
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Post by Quayn »

I'm not sure where to start to be honest. I mean in regards to all the info in this thread not what I think is wrong with WotR re-enactment. I'm not presumptuous enough to think I know what's wrong but I'm quite happy to be 'gently advised' rather than be told what is or not Authentic. I often need ‘gentle advice’ or maybe help is a better word for it. Simple things like pewter tankards. Not merely fine in my previous group but encouraged. I was recently advised that Cloaks were ‘old fashioned’ by our period and a gown or coat (cote?) would be better. Never does right or wrong enter into it. Simply advice and help. So I’m more than eager to change.
I’ve never been brought up on authenticity by the public… ever. I’m still new though and maybe I will at some point but it tends to be other enactors with the finger pointing. Though this too I’ve not experienced myself… (yet?) This is all I know of the authenticity side of WotR re-enactment problems or not.

In regards to battles, yes not enough participation or number of archers. Every battle I read about tends to be one side up a hill gaining the shooting distance advantage and therefore winning. But I’ve no idea how to balance it out. I doubt watching two sides loose arrows for an hour would be a crowd pleaser. Again with plate, too many and too much but again it seems the public don’t mind.

Where an authentic re-enactment of a battle would have countless archers loosing followed by a few billmen going in and slaughtering each other with hacks rather than our nice safe pokey pokey approach and barely any shiny crowd grabbing plate armour on show it wouldn’t be a crowd pleaser. Though it would be more correct.

Somewhere above someone mentioned do we display for the public or merely for our own amusement. Well if the crowd line has a selection of plated persons fighting and making noise, along with cannon and guns in the background making noise I think the billmen are left to their own devices.

I’ve said before and stick with it, the public as a generalisation like to see certain things, horses cannons blazing and shiny plate hitting each other. In the Living history department, They like an approachable person who seems interesting, despite the amount of knowledge. I’ve found many a person very appreciative when I say ‘I’m sorry but I don’t know, I’d rather not take a guess and tell you something that’s wrong.’ Either this or pointing them in the right direction. ‘No this isn’t a full suit of armour but that man over there has one on display.’ I’m still learning and I tend to find out anything I didn’t know and was asked about. Maybe I’m wrong in this regard, but it’ll be re-enactors that say so, not the public, who seem happier with honesty as opposed to ‘winging it’

Ah,
Off topic again,
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Post by gregory23b »

"They like an approachable person who seems interesting, despite the amount of knowledge."

LOL

I like your style young Quayn, you will go far.

The A word is so many different things to different people and groups.

One group says this the other says that, there are some accepted common grounds but in some details there is difference, not always out of a need for the A word but sometimes just to get on with it. My only beef with people using the A word about their kit, fights etc is that it is used as a throwaway line, 'of course, we fight authentically, have authentic clothing etc' when it is patently obvious they don't even at a minimal level.

The claims to A*****city rather than the aims of A*****city are what irk me, if you catch my drift?

Besides I don't believe shiny armour, turned shoes, natural dyed cloth, hand sewn doublets make anyone a****tic, atmosphere is what does that.

A dressed up dummy not being able to deliver a sense of the time or explain the context is less A*****tic than someone wearing a pin stripe suit and sporting an umbrella who can with words and actions transport you there.

But I do want as accurate replication of kit as I can acquire, that is another story though.
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Post by BigM »

The 'A' word should never be applied because the only truly a*******c objects are those made in the period. By definition the 'A' word refers to an item that is not a reproduction or copy and which is not chronologically misplaced (i.e. not anachronistic). Our kit is a reproduction (baring metal detector finds and those lucky enough to own some period items) and chronologically misplaced. Using the 'A' word for everything is just bad english and G23b is right that it is used in a throw-away manner.

I am happy as long as I try my best to portray ordinary people and events using the available sources and within my budget (hand carded, spun, and woven wool would be great but is way beyond my means!). And why is the 'A' word so often used in the context of expense? Someone has an 'a*******c' hand forged sword that cost an arm and a leg, or a hand stitched padded jack etc. but nobody boasts about the holes in the knees of their hose (just as 'a*******c' and free!!! :wink: ). The most infuriating application of the 'A' word occurs when someone is chriticising the kit standard of someone who is skint but tries their best.

It is all about creating atmosphere and telling a story and a group is better off with a member with lower kit standard who engages the public than someone who can buy the best but just sits and poses (although we are all a bunch of posers really 8)). It's all about the people. And if a person can't reach a minimum kit level then its up to all of us to help out.

I hate the use of the 'A' word in reenactment and think its overuse and tendancy to divide people detracts from real historical debate and sharing of information.

Rant over :D

Mark

BigM

Post by BigM »

And Quayn is spot on too. We can't all know everything instantly and it takes time to pick up on the subtle dos-and-don'ts of each period.

I would hate to know everthing about my period because there would be nothing left to learn, no discussion, I would get bored and would go and find another interest.

M

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