Swords and Broads
Swordy post: I apologise for the long break, this is a little later than I would have liked.
In a previous post I mentioned the Wallace Museum, I found myself there again on the 7th July with The School of the Sword. We had been kindly asked by the Museum to perform a few bouts of swordplay outside on a stage as part of their Noble Art of the Sword: Fencing and Fashion in Renaissance Europe Exhibition. I was honoured to be selected and five of us set off in the battle bus (my car) for London.
The weather has been typically rainy and it seemed as though we were destined to work indoors (not ideal). But thankfully the weather held off at just the right moments. The stage had not been erected, but we were able to perform on the lawn outside – which was even better. Our first obstacle was Baker Street – it was the same day as Pride, and as I pulled up at the junction I found around twenty sparkly Filipinos (I could tell by the flag) blocking my path. Some police had no compunction about letting the five weirdos dressed in black through and we got the the venue on time. We were given our own parking space, warmly greeted and (bear in mind I was expecting to stand around most of the day guarding the kit) led down to what can only be described as a green room. We had food, drink, energy bars . . . there was even a chaise longue! We were treated like rockstars for the rest of the day.
There were a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, people from the school and other HEMA groups, such as @lizuk and @gergaroth (many thanks to them for the great photographs). We had around eighty people watching each time we were on. Caroline, the director, who has many years experience of presenting outdoor displays did a fantastic off-the-cuff talk and really focused the spectators. We did three stints in all, each was only roughly sketched out so there was a bit of pressure to do well, but once we started we just enjoyed ourselves. This, I have to say for anyone not familiar with Historical European Martial Arts, is actual swordplay – not stagefighting, not point-scoring, just genuine techniques as taught by sword masters of the past. Going by the reaction of the people watching I’d say we didn’t do too bad a job. Cars were pulling over, getting moved on by the police, then driving round the square again to watch anyway.
The crowd seemed to grow each time and after every display we invited them to come and talk to us, hold the weapons etc. They were practically rushing to come and speak to us, I was pleasantly surprised by the people that came – that’s what really made the event for me. My kids have had swords in the house since they were very small and I forget how accustomed they are to weapons. The look on the faces of these children when they held a sword for the first time was something to treasure.
There was a lady who must have been in her seventies who was very keen to hold my sidesword, she seemed so happy to to have it in her hand, and told me that she used to do epee when she was younger. There were a lot of kids but there were also many adults asking a lot of questions, it wasn’t just ‘how heavy is the sword?’, they were very specific: how do you cut effectively? How do you stand in guard? Why do you stand like that? Did the manuals teach how to fight as or against a left hander? What’s the best way to hold the sword and buckler? What are all the parts called etc. And they spoke to us for some length of time. A lot of them wanted to know where they could find classes too, so it was great to be promoting the art. In between displays we got a chance to see the exhibition and the rest of the museum, we were all geared up and took our swords with us. Here too people stopped us with lots of questions and we had some really involved conversations.
We’re back there again on the 15th September along with Sussex Sword Academy, so if you’re free that day come and check out the museum, there should be even more things going on – and it’s free!
Which leads me on to a new project that I have become part of: Esfinges (sphinxes). I was introduced via Facebook to an amazing pair of women – Ruth Garcia Navarro and Marianna “Perica” Lopez from Mexico. They started a Facebook group for women around the world who practice HEMA and I got on board, helping to find people and getting the conversation going. In just a few short months we now have over one hundred members, a logo and a whole load of ideas – it’s a very exciting time. A website is in the pipeline but the group’s prime aims are to unite women in HEMA and to promote it to women. It’s a small but growing martial art, and I think there are plenty of women out there who would love the chance to learn how to handle a sword. They all deserve it!