Is there ever really a true family hobby? Something that can bring all generations of a family together without anyone dragging their heels at the back or watching the football on their phone? You go hiking, someone gets tired at the back. You go camping, and realise that there's nothing to do once you get there. You visit heritage sites, you very quickly go bankrupt on a diet of cream teas. As someone who was brought into the hobby by my family at around 8 years old, I know that my opinion is completely biased, but I genuinely believe that re-enactment is the best option for a family hobby.
I have a really distinct memory of one of my first trips to a Sealed Knot muster, which must have been in the late 90s. My brother and I had been slotted in to the car amongst various coolboxes, camping equipment and bits of armour. I can remember that I was looking out of the window between books (my brother got the Gameboy colour because he got travel sick!) and being really shocked at just how much green there was. And then we pulled up, my dad had a chat with some people he knew on the gate (he seemed then, and now, to know everyone) and we were in. My brother and I spent the weekend fighting with swords, dressing up and chasing each other around the campsite.
As I grew up, I got more involved with children from other families and I was often excited to go to an event just to see my friends. Around 14 or 15, some of my older friends had already started to go on the battlefield, so I began training with the pike division so that I knew what was going on when it was my time to participate. As I didn't have any contact lenses, and couldn't work out how to wear glasses under a helmet, I was hopeless. When I was 16, I finally got to go on the field and learned what it was like to feel utterly exhausted by totally part of a team. I kept coming, even when I went off to university. I've made my closest friends at musters, met my wife at a muster and now bring my daughter along too.
What's in it for the children?
Short answer: lots!
The longer answer is that it depends on the age and interests of your child. Younger children are quickly introduced to the large group of children from the regiment and spend lots of their time playing games around the campsite. The hardest part for these children seems to be when they are taken home and away from their friends!
Older children tend to take more of a part in the re-enactment side of the regiment. Some of them begin training with different divisions (pike, musket, drums, usually) and often march down to the battlefield with the regiment before peeling off and watching the battle. Lots of children get involved in Living History, dressing up and taking up roles around the camp (this seems to particularly appeal to more theatrical children!).
It's also a really good opportunity to see some of the famous historical sites and houses around Britain. Sometimes having a Sealed Knot card and being in kit at an event will allow you access to a house/castle/site without having to pay. Plus the location of the events is so varied it gives the opportunity to see parts of the whole country - without the lure of August Bank Holiday at Scampston Hall, I doubt that I'd have ventured up from Wiltshire to North Yorkshire!
What's in it for the adults?
Short answer: lots!
Really it depends on what your interests are. Some families have lots of adults going on the field and participating in events, while another family members or a close friend keeps an eye on the children. Some families have one adult who will go on the field whilst the other stays in camp and some families alternate it for each battle. In actual fact, the battles are only a small (but very entertaining) part of the weekend. Lots of time is also spent socialising and heading down to the beer tent in the evenings.
But I think that the biggest draw of re-enactment as an adult is the promise of like-minded people to spend time with and something to actually do with a weekend. It can be very easy to slip into a sedentary lifestyle or become so consumed by work that you don't spend time with your family. Re-enactment, and the Sealed Knot, provides a really healthy alternative.
What do I need?
Not a lot!
A tent that fits everyone. The ability to travel to an event (although members are often happy to give lifts to individuals without a means of transport). The time to contact us and apply for a membership.
If you're wondering what to do with your family this summer, next summer, whenever, then I can't recommend any better than Prince Rupert's Bluecoats!
Photo courtesy of Jo Isaacs