JOUST THE TICKET; Let the Centuries Fall Away as You Watch Knights on Horseback Do Battle at the English Heritage Festival of History - and Be Thankful You'll Leave in One Piece
Byline: SALLY EYDEN
HOLLYWOOD'S CURRENT OBSESSION WITH sword-clashing epics such as Troy, King Arthur and Alexander has re-ignited our interest in history to such an extent that this once stuffy subject has become sexy - especially if you're thinking of Keira Knightley as Guinevere in King Arthur, daubed in woad and not much else.
But after you've marvelled at the spectacular battle scenes - and how an actress can pout and pluck a longbow at the same time - you may feel the film is thin on facts. Did the wizard Merlin exist? Was Arthur really recruited as a Roman soldier and did women really wander around in little more than a few worn leather belts?
So if you long to learn more about our past than Tinseltown's version of events, embark on a journey through time at this year's Festival of History.
It not only reveals the truth behind the Arthurian legend, but covers almost every major milestone in our country's colourful past.
The action-packed pageant, organised by English Heritage in association with the Discovery Channel, takes place at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire next weekend.
In the biggest event of its kind, more than 1,000 performers will bring history to life. Nowhere else will you be able to see knights in authentic armour wandering among battle-weary Roman centurians. More importantly, the event allows you to relive history by experiencing the weight of a Roman captain's armour, feeling the ground shake with a hundred hooves, and supping on a flagon of mead.
For children bored of reading about times gone by, this is the perfect way to spark their curiosity and fire their imaginations.
In the main arena visitors will be able to travel back in time to see how British history's most brutal battles were fought. The warrior Boudicca will thunder into the arena in her chariot, leaving the bodies of slain Roman soldiers in her wake during a re-enactment of her final battle.
The audience is then transported through time from 61AD to the fifth century, when a noble King Arthur stands with his knights ready to slug it out with a force of marauding Picts.
Next, to the Battle of Naseby in 1645, where Charles I will lose his throne in the finale to the English Civil War, complete with cavalry charges, musketeers, pikemen and ear-popping cannon blasts.
Tracy Borman, education and outreach director for English Heritage, says, 'The performers are of professional quality, with authentic weapons and clothing. Onlookers will feel like they are actually witness to a battle or a cavalry display, as the entertainment will look, feel and sound real.'
Visitors will also be able to watch how their ancestors lived. In the bustling Medieval Arena, living history displays will summon up the spirit of bygone days.
'This is not just people in fancy dress,' says Kim Siddorn of the National Association of Re-enactment Societies. …