Festival in a Forest.

Hear ye, hear ye! I’m standing in a forest glade with sawdust strewn under  tall trees. The morning is bright, with warm spring sunshine filtering through the canopy of leaves. The sound of flutes and lutes and fiddles fill the air; there is wine and food a-plenty along with a grand parade, a carnival of  street theatre,  market stalls and a community of people dressed in medieval costumes.

You might think all of this as quaint, weird, interesting or just plain boring (as my young ‘too cool’ adult offspring did) but this is the scene of the (14th) annual medieval festival held in Balingup at the end of August each year. It’s purported to be one of the main medieval events outside of America.

There are minstrels and jesters in pointed hats and bright spangled clothes who bid me a cheery, “My Madam, fair day to you,” and there are cries of, “M’Lord the battle is on,” as the re-enactment of historical battles are staged in a sawdusted clearing. It’s medieval street theatre at its best.

A storm cloud breaks overhead. As rain begins to fall crowds huddle under tents, in Jongleur Park, Tipplers Yard and in front of the main stage where the band, ’33 Trees’ plays on. Drips fall in time to the haunting folk music, plop-plop, onto the unsuspecting necks of those people standing at the tent’s outer edges.

“Good weather for a shipwreck,” someone remarks, “And a story about a whale and a giant squid,” a court jester intercedes.

There are maids a-plenty with garlands of flowers and crowns of green leaves in their hair, and I come across five pretty maids all in a row in a bright pink tent – the members of Quintessence – before the Bad Piper thrills us all with his explosive and energetic bagpipe playing.

The Grey Company re-enacts historic battles throughout the day, dressed in heavy chain mail and period costumes.  (www.iinet.au) Swords fly and crack against wooden shields  in life-like armoured combat until the fallen arise, red-faced and puffing, to prepare for the next  staged, mortal combat.

If you enjoy dressing up and getting into the swing of medieval times, or even if you don’t, you’ll find plenty to entertain you at the Balingup Medieval Carnival (unless you’re just a ‘too cool’ teen!)

Blog weather report for 29th August 2010 – Weather fine and sunny early on, but cool – sweater required. By 11am rain and cloud.

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