We know turning up to an event where people dress in medieval style clothes and engage in medieval activities can be a little bit daunting. We often get asked if newcomers are expected to have their own recreated clothes and equipment, as that seems like a big commitment to something you just want to try out. Worry not! We do not expect you to turn up in museum-grade authentic costume. We know a lot of people have just a hazy idea of what “medieval” looks like, all we really ask is that newcomers please make an effort not to appear in modern clothing as much as possible, you will be amazed at how quickly you get an idea of what will work for you.
Booking for an event
Bookings are usually done through Google forms created for each event, so they vary slightly from event to event. Some events are happy to let you pay when you get to the event itself. Other events will require you book, then pay before a certain date so as not to incur late fees. This will be clearly marked on the event notice. The event fee covers your bed and board (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and participation in the activities provided.
The event organiser is commonly referred to as the “Event Steward” and there is usually a reservations steward who manages the bookings, assigns beds and takes care of cancellations and so on. They are also responsible for passing on information you give in your booking form to the event steward, the cooks and the teams in charge of the different activities if you require loaner equipment or particular assistance. Ask any questions you may have when you book, as the event organizers are the best placed to answer them.
Remember to register any food-related allergies or medical requirements you may have so that the organizers/cooks can make provision for this. This includes dietary choices such as vegetarians. The cook will aim to provide sufficient food for all attendees.
One thing you might find confusing is a question asking you for an SCA name - this is like an “alter ego” name, we sometimes list people who are attending events publically on event websites, and we use this name rather than what we refer to as “mundane” names, given, legal names. Don’t worry you don’t need to have picked out a name you get stuck with forever, often people use their own first name and of the Shire they live closest to (for example “of Eplaheimr”) until they decide on a more permanent name.
What to do about food
At a weekend event you will normally be provided with some food when you arrive on the Friday evening called Traveler’s fare. Also provided will be both morning’s breakfasts and Saturday lunch and our feast on Saturday evening. You will need to bring along a plate, bowl, knife/fork/spoon and a cup – collectively known as “feast gear”. If they look reasonably “old-fashioned” – made of wood or plain ceramics or pewter, so much the better – but you will learn as you go along. If you’re absolutely stuck you can sometimes ask the event team for “loaner feast gear”, this might be a question on the booking form - but do make sure you let them know in advance. Charity shops are great for finding suitable cutlery and things like tankards and wooden bowls.
All events are bring-your-own-booze, but some venues will be listed as “wet” or “discreetly wet” or “dry”. Respectively these mean: “all booze acceptable”, “booze acceptable but consume discreetly (decant into innocuous looking jug)” and “no booze allowed”. If you want to drink anything other than water you will also have to bring that with you.
We always try to eat our feasts by candlelight in order to enhance the experience. Event announcements will often specify if the venue will allow naked flames (simple candles in candlesticks) or covered flames, in which case lanterns are in order. It is not necessary for you to bring one but you might like to. If in doubt, ask the event organizer.
Accommodation at events
In order to reduce costs and make our events as accessible to everyone as possible, a lot of our events take place in scout camps or sports and adventure centres, so usually there will be a combination of bunks in shared dorms, crash space (this is usually floor space in a hall or room so you will need to think about camp-bed or roll-mat and sleeping bags. Camping might also be available. There may be a distinction between period tents (that are in the style of tents of the medieval period) and “mundane” tents, your ordinary modern tent.
Most events are reasonably accessible by public transport, but if you have any trouble with transportation or tenting, email the event steward (organizer) who could put you in touch with people passing through your area who might have car-space. Every event team will offer some sort of collection service from the local airport (if there is one) or the local train and bus station. There is sometimes a small fee for this service, this will be published on the event notice.
What to do about clothes
One of the things you might hear about is “garb” - this is our term for teh medieval style clothes we wear to events. Very often someone wanting to come along to an event can avail of “loaner garb” - clothes that are made available to borrow for the duration of your visit at the event. This will probably be mentioned in the booking form asking if you require some, but if it is not do please contact the Event Steward, Reservations steward or chatelaine of the group to let them know you are interested in finding some.
You might fancy jumping in and making something - great! you can’t go wrong if you stick to natural fibres – wool, linen, cotton, silk etc. The easiest outfit to make is a T-tunic. This consists of a rectangular body section with a hole for the neck, long enough to reach from the shoulders to the knees, and two rectangular sleeves attached to the appropriate side holes of the body – the whole ensemble being shaped like a “T”. This can be belted and worn over more modern trousers as it will hide the modern waistline and fastenings. Search the internet – there are plenty of how-to sites with instructions.
Shoes will be the hardest thing to hide – try to wear plain leather brogues or boots that look as traditional as possible.
Do try to make/wear some sort of head-covering. It will improve the overall “look” of your garb and distract from the more modern stuff and make the outfit look more complete.
Reconstructing History Beginners - For general information and articles on beginning with historical dress, including patterns.
Some clothing of the Middle Ages, Patterns for simple garb based on archaeological finds can be found here.
But what happens at an event?
Sometimes an event concentrates on a specific activity, for example “Flaming Arrow” is an archery event in Ireland, and “Thrust Piva Riposte” is a fencing event in Scotland. The event notice should give you a reasonable idea if an event a more focused event. More usually, events try to provide a full range of our activities, so there might be armoured combat, rapier, archery and arts and sciences classes as well as a medieval style feast with medieval recipes - don’t worry, the recipes chosen work very well with the modern palate! The feast usually takes place in the evening and it is often followed by games, bardic performances and socialising.
Consider signing up for classes if any are advertised in the event announcements. Not only will you learn, but you will make lots of new friends too.
Don’t be afraid to pitch-in. Help in the kitchens, or fetching & carrying is always welcome and greatly appreciated and is another way to learn about the society and to make friends. Everyone is a volunteer and another pair of hands lightens the load and increases the fun. Kitchens are fun, busy and social, often it can feel like an event within an event.
Bring a project with you. Do not be modest about your talents. If you have a project you are working on that is portable, and is a skill and method that is appropriate to the society, then bring it along. It’s a great way to attract new like-minded friends.
If you fancy taking part in any of the activities on offer, like archery or combat, then please do not hold back. In many cases there will be spare equipment available. If you have none of your own, it might be a good idea to get in touch with the Marshal-in-charge of the event so that they will know to bring extra equipment with them.