Going back in time: a spectacular day at the Abbey Medieval Festival 2023
Have you been?
If you have never been to the largest medieval festival in Australia, plan to make a trip north of Brisbane in 2024 to the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology. Along with more than 24,000 other visitors over the weekend, the entertainment includes more than 300 medieval reenactors, and animals from eagles to greyhounds. You can shop, eat, battle, dance, and learn what European and Middle Eastern life was like in the period from 600 to 1600 AD.
Room to move
This year, I was actually relieved when I saw that the Medieval Festival was sold out, as last year (2022), was so crowded and the lines were so long that I was glad to know that they capped the number of tickets sold! This year was a lot less crowded and the lines for shows and food much shorter, and the whole experience more fun.
What will you see?
The Abbey Medieval Festival is a very festive affair with colourful and outlandish characters everywhere you look knights, jesters, forest nymphs on stilts, jugglers, Turkish oil wrestlers, market stall sellers, and people firing cannons and trebuchets!
It’s best to start with the opening ceremony, where you are welcomed to the day, and have the opportunity to see the pageantry of the reenactor parade as men, women, and children in medieval clothing march, play music, and walk their animals around the Castle Arena. The costumes are magnificent and authentic. And they must be. To be a reenactor in the festival, you must wear authentic clothing representative of the time and your position.
Feeling the vibe
As you walk through the acres of forest and dirt (it’s not paved, so wear comfortable shoes), you can hear music drifting from the Stagg Inn pub (Stagg in – stagger out? Ha ha!), where my favourite treat is the hot mulled wine cooking in a pot over a fire. The pub entertainment is continuous, and there are many opportunities to join in the fun. My friend and I joined a group lesson from a Morris dance troupe who were shaking their bells and waving their scarves. It actually takes a lot more coordination than one would think!
What is the most popular show?
Also, be sure to get a ticket to the Joust. This is the festival’s most popular show and always draws huge crowds. The horses and riders are both wearing armour and run toward each other with long poles called lances. The goal is to snap their lances on the other rider, with the best break scoring the highest points. If you actually knock the other rider off of their horse, you win immediately. This event sells out every year, so be sure to get the jousting ticket when you buy the ticket for the main entry.
Not safe for rodents!
The Falconry Presentation is a spectacular demonstration of birds of prey, where you can see wedge-tailed eagles, falcons, kestrels, owls, and hawks swooping through the trees and among the crowds. In medieval times, humans used them to hunt and kill animals. Some of these birds were so huge they looked like giant pterodactyls soaring in the sky before flying down to grab meat off of a string one of their handlers was spinning in circles in the air. Such a sight!
You cannot eat a long dog!
Speaking of sight, if you’re as partial to sighthounds as I am, you need to see the Knights of the Long Dogs. There are Greyhounds, Borzois, and some absolutely giant Wolfhounds lying looking large and magnificent while their human companions educate people about their long history and the prestige they held back in Medieval times. Back then, Sighthounds (who hunt by sight rather than with scent) were bred by priests to be given to noblemen. They were the treasured hunting dogs of nobility. Visit their encampment to learn more and give a few pats to these beautiful, lazy, fast, and affectionate historic hounds.
A provocative sport?
One show I never miss is the Turkish oil wrestling. As a westerner, it looks a bit like male affection gone wrong, as they pour urns of olive oil into their hands and rub it into their bodies and then go into battle; the object is to pin the other to the ground for the win. I have learned that this is Turkey’s national sport and is well respected. Nonetheless, there is something a bit mischievous and quite entertaining about seeing these muscular men writhing on the ground trying to grab each other’s underwear under their leather pants (because everything else is so slippery!). There is much cheering, oil, and merriment. And when it’s all over, the wrestlers are friendly, so go to them and say, “Merhaba!”
If all of that olive oil makes you think of food, then there is a clearing in the forest with food stands offering prepared meats, roasted nuts, exotic dishes, pizza, and even vegan delights. There are two pubs to wet your whistle if you desire some ale to wash down your meals with as well.
What is there to do?
There are craft demonstrations in the encampments and markets where you can purchase anything from armor and medieval clothing, to candles, herbs, and tarts. There are also stalls for wine tasting, with Mead on every menu.
If weapons of war are more your thing than shopping, check out the firing of the cannons, trebuchet, and visit the encampment of Cottereaux – Company of the Dagger to learn the history of gun powder and cannons.
Now, I’m just scratching the surface of what there is to see. You and your kids can get into a sword fight, go to presentations and talks about medieval life, take dancing and cooking classes, play games with Viking re-enactors, and even try your hand at archery. It is a huge day (just think Medieval Disneyland) that never disappoints.
But what should you wear?
Of all things, my favourite has to be dressing up and feeling part of it all. I don’t really do authentic medieval, but rather use a bit of creative license. I wear Alternative clothes such as gothic or pirate outfits, as well as vampire or Steampunk – all which fit in nicely and are fun to wear.
I confess that I have worn the Isabella Skirted Bustier and matching dress with Captain Esmeralda’s boots from the Funtasma range at OtherWorld Shoes more than once. I add a hat and wig and get smiles and photo requests all day long. Other times, I wear Steampunk clothing such as the Baroness Steamy Steampunk skirt with the Victorian Elegant blouse, a Steampunk fascinator like the adorable Smaug Hairpin, or the Steampunk Bowler Hat, with gloves and arm bands – all from OtherWorld fashion.
Come see for yourself!
The Abbey Medieval Festival is a weekend of fun and merriment There are so many people with creative and fun costume creations, you can let your imagination go wild join in the fun!
The next Abbey Medieval Festival will be the weekend of 6 & 7 of July 2024 at the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology at 31 The Abbey Place in Caboolture, Queensland.
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As they say, eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we shall diet!