It’s fair to say that the Festival of History held anually at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire is the jewel in the crown of the English Heritage events calendar. I had been looking forward to this event for a long time so it was with some trepidation that I watched the weather forecast for the weekend on the Friday night which warned of heavy rain showers on Saturday followed by more heavy rain showers on Sunday.
As it turned out, Saturday morning was a wash-out as it rained almost constantly right up until around 1pm but from there onwards it stayed more or less fine for the rest of the day. I had already decided to take my chance on the Sunday and that turned out to be a day of sunshine and mostly light showers so not as bad as forecast.
The Festival of History presents many opportunities to the enthusiast photographer, but also some challenges. On the positive side, there is so very much to see, so many people and events to photograph and so much going on all the time. The enormous number of re-enactors taking part, the different periods of history portrayed and the variety of set-pieces and encampments to explore is mind-blowing.
It’s the sheer size of the event that presents one of the major challenges. At any given time there are at least three different places you need to be. Another problem is trying to isolate your subject from the background which at times can get a bit messy with white tents, members of the public (refered to as MOPs by the re-enactors), other photographers (grrr!), videographers (is that a word?), trade stands, caravans etc.
The problems continue when trying to shoot the big battle re-enactments in the main arenas. Every photographers worst nightmare, the safety ropes – white this time, a welcome change from blue you may think – are there to ensure that almost every photo you take will contain at least some portion of the dreaded rope.
Despite all the above, I love this event. There are so many photo opportunities all around you but you do have to keep a close eye on procedings and you do need to be lucky sometimes in order to be in just the right place at the right time.
In the event I was very lucky with the weather, one sharp shower in the afternoon but only a few spots of rain for the rest of the day. A very enjoyable day and it was good to catch up with some of the people I had met at previous events.
Update January 2020: You can find many more images from the event over on my website here.