One of the Festival organisers, Barnet-based historian Dr Susan Skedd, offers an insider’s view on the eve of this momentous event.
With one day to go, the first signs of the forthcoming Medieval Festival are in place. The least glamorous element of the event – the portaloos – were delivered early, to be followed by the most important participants, namely the lead re-enactors who pitched their tents under the film-set lighting provided by the rugby football club. The transformation of Byng Road Playing Fields from a paradise for dog walkers and runners into a fifteenth-century encampment has begun.
The weekend of 11th and 12th September will see Barnet Medieval Festival return to Barnet Elizabethans RFC for the third time. After two successful festivals in 2018 and 2019, the Festival has been postponed three times during the ongoing pandemic. During this hiatus, the Festival organisers – who are a small team running a dedicated charity – launched a range of Festival merchandise to raise much-needed funds and to maintain the profile of this relative newcomer to the calendar of events in Barnet.
Lengthy Zoom discussions kept alive the possibility of putting on the Festival during the 550th anniversary of the Battle of Barnet, while the actual anniversary, the 14th April 2021, had to be commemorated with a private, socially distanced commemoration at the monument in Hadley Highstone. Fortunately, the fabulous heraldic banners created by volunteers at Barnet Museum have adorned Barnet High Street since April and provided an ongoing reminder of the day when Barnet became the focus of the rivalry between the Yorkist and Lancastrian claims to the English throne.
In a year when many events have been cancelled, the determination of the re-enactors and historical traders to return to Barnet for the Festival has been a decisive factor in deciding to go ahead with the event. Their support has been matched by the enthusiasm of the hundreds of local people who we have met over the past year and who have bought either merchandise or advance tickets for the Festival. Furthermore, our hosts – the Barnet Elizabethans RFC – have rearranged their fixture to allow us to take over their grounds and our friendly independent shops have volunteered to sell tickets for the Festival. Loyal volunteer stewards have signed up for the event once again and we are delighted to welcome new recruits too. All of this is incredibly positive and heartening and shows that our community is keen to get together once again, despite the ongoing menace of Covid-19.
The stage is set for a memorable weekend of combat and firepower displays, amplified by expert talks and skilful demonstrations. Visitors will be able to sample various medieval recipes courtesy of Jane’s Medieval Kitchen, to admire the detailed and atmospheric depictions of medieval battle scenes by the artist Graham Turner who provided the artwork for our posters, and to enjoy a medieval music performed by A Merrie Noyse. Topping the bill will be re-enactments of the Battle of Barnet at 4pm on both days, together with a re-enactment of the Battle of Tewkesbury, which is also marking its 550th anniversary this year.
Please join us for this unique event in London – tickets will be on sale at the gate, £5 for adults, free for children 16 and under. You can find more information on the website.