Medieval reenactment is a popular and rewarding hobby. The have opportunity to learn more about our history and gain skills through experimental archaeology such as tailoring, cooking, wood and metal working, dance and of course combat. On top of this camping at some of the UK's outstanding heritage locations is a definite bonus!
A lot of the common questions we are asked about joining are answered below.
What do the Paladins actually do? What is the club’s purpose?
We are, first and foremost, a performance society. We are hired by heritage sites and event organisers to entertain and educate their visitors, and all our members are expected to take part. During an event, we provide static "living history" displays and live shows. We regularly meet for practice, but the main purpose is to help us prepare for the events: we are not a fencing club or a dance group. Our fighting style was developed for the stage and our tournaments are scripted; our members are welcome to train with other groups if they wish to fight competitively.
How much does it cost to join?
£35 per adult for one year, £15 per child aged 13-16, and for children under 13 a token payment of £1 must be made. This entitles you to train at the club for a year and pays towards your insurance whilst at group events; also, at events most of the food is provided free of charge by the club. If you are on a low income, we can always be flexible, and you could for example make payment at £2 per week.
Where are you based? Do you meet regularly?
The Paladins are based in South West London. We train each Tuesday night from 8 - 10pm at Beverley Hall, 89-91 Grant Road, just off Lower Addiscombe Road in Croydon. As we have attracted several new members from outside the London area we also try to arrange at least one weekend training per month in the off season.
Can I still join if I do not live close enough to train every Tuesday?
Yes, of course. Our members are quite widely scattered, coming from as far afield as Hampshire, Kent, Buckinghamshire, Somerset and Leicestershire! We arrange several weekend training sessions each year for members who cannot train regularly at the club. Our events tend to be in the south-east, but usually you won't have to travel too far.
Is re-enactment an expensive hobby?
No more so than any other hobby which requires specialist equipment. We recommend that you outfit yourself in appropriate costume as soon as possible, although sometimes a limited amount of "loaner kit" may be available. If you can sew then you should be able to get the basic outfit for around £100.
Is the hobby restrictive?
Not at all. We are open to people of all ages, backgrounds, races and abilities, and everyone has a valuable role to play and an important contribution to make. We do have some rules regarding behaviour but these are largely governed by common sense (i.e. you must not consume alcohol or smoke whilst on display to the public). We also have rules regarding historical accuracy to make sure our portrayal of a medieval household is as believable as possible. Our friendly Authenticity Officers will be very happy to help and advise you.
Is re-enactment a family-friendly hobby?
Definitely! We welcome families and children, and promise that you will all have a great time. We do have children within the group and they contribute a great deal to our portrayal of a medieval household. Re-enactment is a great way for kids to develop confidence, social and communication skills and to learn interesting and fun things, and schools are often very understanding and even enthusiastic about children taking part in medieval events.
For legal reasons we require that any child under the age of 16 is accompanied at all times by a parent or guardian over the age of 18, and children under the age of 16 will not be able to take part in combat displays.
Do I need to have any prior experience or specialist knowledge?
No prior experience or historical knowledge is required in order to join. We ask that you have an interest in medieval history, but we can teach you everything else. At our training evenings you can learn dancing, sword-fighting and archery, and to gain help with costume and armour.
If you do have experience in a related field such as martial arts then you may find this helpful, and if you are enjoy cooking or play a musical instrument, or have any skills such as leather-working, carpentry or sewing, then you will have ample opportunity to use them!
What equipment do I need to start?
All members wanting to participate at a Paladins show need a minimum amount of equipment. While often enough spare kit is brought to events and many people are more than happy to lend out their own equipment, it is of course not generally accepted to perform in borrowed gear for an ongoing time. There is plenty of help at hand to make your own clothing and maybe further items like pouches, belts and shoes. Should you prefer to buy your clothes and other equipment, then we can also provide help and assistance with traders and markets.
The Paladins have a small number of spare weapons for training purposes if you wish to learn to fight, so with exception of some form of hand protection the above list should be your first priority.
Please do not purchase or make anything without first having it approved by our Authenticity Officers, as it is much more costly to buy the wrong thing and then replace it, than to get it right in the first place!
What will I have to do at events?
Our goal is to portray an encampment of 14th century nobles and upper classes gathered to play. While some members portray exclusively nobility and gentlefolk, others also provide the necessary servants, craftspeople and professionals that would have been present.
As a performance group, everybody tries to work together under the guidance of experienced members, to make an event enjoyable and informative. While we have several elements within our shows that we practise routinely, every show tends to be different and all elements can be adapted and changed according to our client's requirements. This is our hobby and we do this for fun, but regardless of our personal gain and interest, we also need to make our best efforts to present an organised and committed show.
I’m not sure about “performing”, do I have to be able to act?
Nobody will force you to "perform" if you aren't happy doing so. Not all of our members are drama queens or attention junkies! At our events there will inevitably be some interaction with the public (after all, we are there to entertain them) but you can limit this if you wish by, for example, portraying an attendant to a more experienced member who can field questions for you, or by helping in the kitchen where other kitchen staff can help you out. You will find that you very quickly pick up enough knowledge to carry on a conversation with a member of the public.
Do I need to portray a particular character?
We do ask that members construct themselves a "persona", i.e. your character will need a name, an occupation, and a reason for being included within our household. This helps to give you a focus to your research. Many members choose to portray an historical character, and spend time researching their life in order to portray them realistically, but this is not mandatory and you can often construct a simple but plausible character history from your own or a family name, connections within the group (e.g. family or spouse) and life experience.
How is fighting practice organised?
Combat training is supervised and conducted in a series of formulated steps to ease new members into a safe style without resorting to choreography. In order to be covered by insurance we have a ranking system similar to any other martial art system which enables new skills to be learnt only when a practitioner is deemed to have mastered all previous requirements.
I’m female and I’d like to learn to sword-fight. Can I?
Yes, of course! Most of our members learn to fight, but you will not be forced to fight if you do not wish to. Sword-fighting is accessible to everyone and a great way to keep fit and improve your posture, coordination and stamina. We are happy to train women to fight, although for reasons of historical accuracy you will not always be able to fight at events. If you do fight at an event, we require you to have male costume.
Can my kids train to fight too?
Please note that children under the age of 16 may only take part in training with written agreement from a parent or guardian, and with an appropriate adult present at all times, and they may not take part in fighting at events until their 16th birthday.