We do living history, and we do it well.
Our primary goal as a living history group is to portray travelling entertainers -known as jongleurs. Jongleurs were the medieval equivalent of The Sun and the Daily Star newspaper mixed with a bit of Britain’s Got Talent awfulness! Their job was to travel from town to town and village to village spreading the gossip and entertaining crowds with their tricks and music. Jongleurs were NOT minstrels or court musicians, they were much more of a raggle taggle entertainer bunch!
Although we joke that we are waking tabloids, we take our research very seriously. The music we play is researched by Niki, who has a degree in music and used to be a music teacher, to make sure that it is in period and played on correct instruments. You will notice straight away that we do not use the same instruments as other musical groups. The instruments in our living history camp must be portable and must be something that the average travelling musician would have owned. We stick to simple things like whistles, tambourines, drums, singing and Niki’s lute. We’re also keen that the songs and melodies from the era be more along the folk and secular music line than the higher class religious music. This has take a lot of research as, sadly, there is only anecdotal evidence for a lot of the music that music historians know exists.
Is that song authentic?
Our simple answer to this is; yes. Our research shows us that travelling musicians would have played tunes on their instruments in the way in which suited them best, so if that meant changing the melody slightly they would have done this. They would have also changed the words to suit whatever situation they met. So, although we can almost guarantee that the melody and words were different when sung and played by our ancestors, we are following in a centuries old folk tradition of modification. If you’d like to see this in action, have a look for the song “Matty Groves” online and see how many different melodies and sets of lyrics are attributed to it!
Non-music living history
When we’re not playing music, we can be found telling stories to enthralled public in the storyteller tradition or playing games. We LOVE games! Over the past two seasons we have invested a lot of time into researching games played in the era and found that quite a few were very similar to our modern equivalents. Mike and Lenny both work in the gambling industry and have been a great help in getting our travelling casino off the ground! One thing to note is: we do NOT allow the public to gamble with their own money when in our living history camp. Our ancestors were great gamblers but we prefer for people to play the games without fear of losing real money, so we provide our public with authentic coinage to play with while in our camp.
We’ve got many games for the public to try including an authentic hand-made chess set, draughts, card games, teetotum, tafl, and lots of dice games with hand made dice. We are working on backgammon (which was hugely popular in the middle ages) and our own living history version of shove ha’penny, which is still played in many country pubs today.
Sports and circus skills
Aside from our board and card games, our living history camp is also keenly involved in medieval sports and circus skills. Fee is our resident fire breather and will put on displays with due public safety considered! She is also good at juggling and busy learning devil sticks and diablo! Hopefully she will teach the rest of us how to juggle!
On the sports side we love a good game of stool ball, which is a game dating back centuries and seems to be a mixture of rounders and cricket. We’re also looking to invest in quoits and skittles. We’ve made our own balls and bats in camp as well as a set of poi for one of our associate members. We’re keen to get the public in involved in our games and are careful never to take ourselves too seriously!
Off season shenanigans
If you’ve read our Who We Are page then you will already know that, outside of reenactment, the six core members of The Hovel are great friends! Affectionately known as “the team” we’ve been friends for years and enjoy spending time going out to pubs, bowling, nights out, and exploring castles! We recently had a discussion about how to enjoy our medieval life during the off season and have decided upon our plans for The Hovel going forward.
We’re putting great effort into our website, our blog and our social media pages. We’ve also got HUGE plans for our YouTube channel to be both educational and fun during the off season and have regular updates during the on season. We strongly feel that history is exciting and education should be entertaining. Keep checking back for updates but we’ll let you into a little secret: it involves Lego!