This past weekend, I worked with the Brotherhood of the Arrow and Sword (an educational reenactment demonstration group) at the brand new Autumn Knights Renaissance Faire. Autumn Knights is the first renfaire put on by The Knights Hall. It took place this past Friday evening and all day and evening Saturday. First time fairs are always a gamble. In this case, the choice of Winnekenni Castle in Haverhill, MA limits the size a bit, for future growth, but the location is epic and appropriate for a medieval/renaissance themed event.
The Knights Hall decided to make a unique event to showcase all kinds of medieval combat.
Along with the modern armored combat sports demonstrations (HMB, IMCF, Battle of the Nations, ACS, ACW, etc. — full contact modern sport fighting based on medieval tournaments on foot), we also had the Brotherhood with static displays of arms and armor of the 14th and 15th centuries and two live shows including educational talks and a demo of spatting/training.
These were joined by Bayat al-Asad, a group dedicated to research and education on the historically documented combat arts of Persia and other parts of the Middle East. They demonstrated both armored and unarmored Persian combat and even gave some basic lessons for a donation to the school. Aside from the demonstrations of historical techniques, they were awesome at shedding a little light on this oft forgotten part of medieval history.
The Knights of Gore set up a “Fight a Knight” ring where patrons can challenge their champion with padded swords.
The Knights Hall also sponsored a beer garden so our guests could have a refreshing beverage while watching the big fights in the main center ring.
I arrived Friday after work and set up my tent. I got everything set up just as the gate opened at 8pm.
As I was unloading I was asked to armor up to provide one more knight in the crowd. I did and I mingled with the patrons, letting them ask me questions and heft my helmet and sword. As the night went on, it got cold fast. The fighters were steaming when they removed their helmets and in my armor, I have little padding, so I was getting cold. Donning a light cloak I kept going till the last patron left, then armored down and went to bed among all the blankets I brought. I tossed and turned all night and by morning there was hoarfrost on the ground.
Saturday, the Brotherhood did our usual 2 shows, but we were missing Evy and the city didn’t let us do the usual archery demo, but we had Marcus back to talk more about the archery of the time. The late morning arms and armor demo went well and was the first show, only half an hour after the gates opened.
Between our shows, I spent some time talking to people, both other performers and the visiting public. I was happy to have seen the demonstration done by Bayat al-Asad, where there was a good demo of Persian knife and shield techniques as well as shamshir.
After their excellent show, I walked back and armored up again for our fight demo. As is often the case, I armored up a little early to let people ask about my armor and to let it settle before I fight. With Evy (one of our main speakers at the Brotherhood) unable to attend, the other Brian did most of the talking and less fighting than usual. We had Caitlyn, Kyle, William, Andy, Brian, and myself fighting, so we managed to keep it entertaining. Audiences seem to really like that they are pretty close to the action and have a clear view when our safety marshals aren’t jumping out to keep the fighters safely INside our roped off area.
After our show, I remained in armor till about 8pm or so, when it got chilly and I was feeling a bit uncomfortable in places. (I’m still getting my armor to fit perfectly. It does chafe a little in the back and hips.) There was a pretty good crowd and we all took turns attending out static display, answering questions from patrons and posing for photos. We always enjoy letting people of all ages try on some of the reproduction helmets we have on display, or feeling how the swords balance. We had a pretty constant flow through our display, so I had little time to help out with the fights in the main arena. From the sound of things, they were having a blast and the audience loved every bit of it.
In the evening we had some musical entertainment and on Sunday, we packed everything up and went home.
The best part about having all day Sunday to pack is that there was no rush so we took our time and the last person left the site in time for dinner.
I hope to see this event happen again next year. It has a lot of potential and even the initial run was a lot of fun. Now, I need to unload the camping gear into storage and clean the armor and weapons. This may be the last Renfaire of the season, but there are more events to come.
Update: Photographer Joshua Ware made a great gallery of images from the faire! Check it out HERE!