My name is Emma and I like dressing up. Not in a sexual way, or maybe I do, but that's another story. No I like to dress up in historical clothing—17th Century English Civil War clothing, to be precise.
That sounds like it should have been read out at some meeting by someone standing up in the middle of a circle, but in all honesty re-enactment is kind of like that—a dirty secret, if you will.
We began our English Civil War journey about two years ago now when a friend of ours invited us along for a weekend of drinking, camping, and dressing up. It was our wedding anniversary weekend and my birthday so the words "what the hell" escaped our lips. I should mention that said friend is a long-time cosplay enthusiast; in fact, the first time we stayed at his house there was a stormtrooper outfit in our bedroom... Alarm bells should have sounded then.
We travelled for about an hour and reached our home for the weekend, a field somewhere in Nottingham filled with tents, caravans, camper-vans, and to our dismay, festival toilets, i.e. those Tardis like things that pass for toilets at outside events.
The drinking began straight away, and we were surprised at just how much alcohol these people could put away. They drink Port like it's going out of fashion and god forbid you hold onto the bottle too long. Wars have been caused for smaller infractions! The singing started not long after the first bottle was quaffed and the pair of us sat open-mouthed as the foulest lyrics came out of the mouths of the most innocent-looking people. We both looked at each other and grinned... We'd found our people. This was our place in the universe.
The actual battles seemed to be the last thing on people’s minds as they drank until the sun came up, but lo and behold, the next morning cries of "BLEWS TEN MINUTES 'TIL FORM UP" rudely awoke us all from our drunken slumbers.
The sight of people running around like headless chickens frantically putting on layer upon layer of woollen clothing in the middle of summer was a sight to behold, it must be said. People suddenly became very serious and behaving as though they were part of a real army.
I remember looking at these people and thinking they were all complete lunatics for choosing to spend their weekends this way, then the drums began. Drumming is kind of primal it gets inside your head and your heart seems to change its rhythm to fall in line. You stand a bit straighter, hold your head a bit higher and fall in line with the other people marching even when you’re in civvies.
At a Sealed Knot weekend, you take part in two battles, normally Sunday and Monday, with the rest of the weekend devoted to drinking and partying. It took me until the second battle on the Monday for me to decide I wanted to join and I've never regretted that decision once. I’m lying. At our last event of the season last year in the freezing cold at about 5 AM in the morning when I needed to pee there may have been second thought!
There are many ways you can get involved: a Pike man, which is my husband’s role, is basically rugby with a long pole; Musketeer which is all about the gunpowder; Drummer—they basically drum instructions which the regiment ignores completely; or camp follower—traditionally, they would have been prostitutes but these days we stick to making sure the men have enough water and sweets for energy! There are other roles, but these are the main ones within our regiment. We can be found at this website https://www.blews-ltb.co.uk/ and there are lots of photos of battles and drinking and well fun really.
We've now travelled the length and breadth of the country with our regiment and we have found a second family, albeit one that dresses funny!