Timeline festival 2011

Timeline Festival is an annual medieval re-creation festival held at the Old Cheese Factory in Berwick, Melbourne, Australia. Sadly I didn’t hear about this until a few days before, by which time I had other plans for the weekend. Desire and pure stubbornness got me to the 2011 festival for a few hours on the Sunday morning.

There wasn’t any map or showbag on offer; I’m not sure if they’d run out or if they just don’t do that kind of thing. People were friendly and just kind of waved in the general direction of activities. They were welcoming, but as complete newbies a map with some kind of guidelines would have been really appreciated.

On our way in, we came upon some musicians wearing period costume and playing some amazing replica instruments beautifully.

There was a large group of tents over to one side. Because I knew there were people sleeping over somewhere I didn’t go anywhere near this area until practically on my way out the gate – a big mistake. I only got a glimpse of what was in this group, but there were a number of stalls.

The first activity we came across featured a group of medieval warriors standing in different formations while a guy with a ballista (ok, maybe I got the name wrong, it’s been years since I played Age of Empires) shot LARP spears at them. After two days of this, he still couldn’t actually hit them, so it was obvious that this kind of weapon would only be any good if several were firing into charging hordes.

Next we caught the tail end of some formations, marching and firing of replica weapons and some possibly antique weapons. Fortunately I caught them posing for photos. Next came the mounted unit parading with the USA flag.
A regiment of Scotsmen paraded in uniform. I’m not sure who the guys in green were recreating – no-one tagged the photos on Facebook, so I’ve been left in the dark.

While I missed the jousting proper, and the swordplay with real metal swords, I caught a bit of the riders tilting at the quintains and rings. Sadly I really needed binoculars for this – next year I will be better equipped.

Spectators were largely in costume, from the cute little girls in their sunsmart hats and dresses to the adults wearing anything from peasant garb, frocks, or combat gear.

In lots of fairs and festivals there are special activities for children. The Old Cheese Factory has a wonderful fort-come-castle structure made out of wood, plenty of room to run and play and, most important of all, there was a special roped off area for children with smaller weapons to beat the crap out of each other. Which they did with gusto. It was fun just to stand and watch them, grinning from ear to ear, mostly defending themselves with shields and all hacking away with swords, hammers or daggers. These were the regulation LARP weapons, not the genuine or replica metal kind.

Invitations were extended to adults and children alike to participate in LARP battles with swords, daggers and polearms provided by Swordcraft, a LARP group here in Melbourne. For the uninitiated, LARP stands for Live Action Role Play – or cool games with dress ups. Swordcraft had invited me to attend the Timeline Festival – or I wouldn’t have heard about the festival at all. Therefore I was particularly motivated to watch their scenarios (short battles) and take photos. It was quite entertaining. The Swordcraft group doesn’t usually play with children; I believe their liability insurance requires a minimum age of 16 and players aged 16 to 18 must have parental permission. The Swordcraft games can be quite strenuous I believe. I am planning to visit one of their regular events, but due to weather and other commitments I haven’t managed it yet. Soon. I digress.

Facebook discussion had made me aware that the Swordcraft scenarios allow for magic users; curious as to how this might work, I spoke to an orc shaman who explained that she has these real-life balls for fireballs. A mage explained that he could cast awesome healing spells but then he could only walk, not run, due to exhaustion after using his magic. This triggered reminiscences about a particular battle where only one magic user was alive on one side, surrounded by her enemy, so she magically shielded herself. Apparently this shield was such that she was permanently invulnerable unless there was someone with a particular class of magic spell at a high enough level to counteract the shield. To their delight, her enemies found one such magic user still alive in their ranks who brought down her magic shield, thus enabling her to be slaughtered, securing victory. These LARP games involving face-to-face interaction between real people leave a much greater emotional resonance on the players: it’s a sport, where the winning ‘football’ team will recount that winning goal for years to come.

Swordcraft split themselves and their Timeline Festival guests into two groups to stage a number of battles. In one a messenger was trying to get through, so his group was to protect him while the other group had to take him out. In another scenario there were two lines that fought. There were a few other scenarios that I’m a bit vague on, but I got the impression that the battles usually begin with more structure before degenerating into the chaos you would expect in a battle. With the large number of primary school aged (or younger) children eagerly participating, chaos pretty much erupted immediately. These serious LARP-ers were gorgeous, graciously allowing themselves to be slaughtered by tiny children, staging death scenes worthy of any theatrical production, particularly the farcical, over-acted kind. Grown men, some of whom looked quite muscular, approached battle with caution, fearing to harm the littlies who hurled themselves fearlessly into the fray, hacking and slashing like berserkers, slaughtering their elders. A good time was had by all, including this tyke who slaughtered that bush.

Blacksmithing apparently isn’t as dead an art as I thought, with artisans demonstrating their skills for those who were interested. Maybe next year there will be apprentice blacksmiths – it would be wonderful to see these guys passing on their skills to the next generation. And, I suspect, it would take a long time to pass on their skills too.

In other areas there were groups of stalls including STAB ME dolls (see issue 7 of DMF, the creator has agreed to an interview), hand-made jewellery, wind chimes made of antique house hold silver with beads,

replica swords, LARP weapons, armour, leather bound books to write in, food, sculptures and on and on. I could have spent hours just browsing through all the varied stalls; next year!

We left too early due to a previous commitment, vowing to return next year and set aside the whole weekend. To that end, I’ve ‘liked’ the facebook page and asked to be put on mailing lists.

All links given in good faith and without prejudice (that is, I don’t get cash or benefits from any of them):

LARP gear:

Calimacil
Esford
Epic Armoury