Happy Birthday Sir Blair!

There is one voice synonymous with The Abbey Medieval Festival – our Herald, Sir Blair Martin. The man with a magnificent memory, voice and presence, Blair has brought style, panache, grandeur, elegance, flair and his unique presence to the Festival for the last 14 years, and it is in this, his 15th year, we want to celebrate the special part he plays as our Master of Ceremonies.

When Blair joined the Festival team he brought with him a love for knowledge and a personality bigger than Ben Hur. A veritable walking encyclopedia, Blair has the ability to come up with discuss any topic without faltering – perfect for bringing a voice to microphone-less re-enactors and performers.

His is a presence to be found in all aspects of the Abbey Medieval Festival.  From our Banquet to the Jousting to the Parade spectaculars of the Tournament, the quintessential skills and talents have entranced and gladdened the hearts of our patrons over these last years.

We wish you a magnificent Birthday Sir Blair – may there be many more!

Children’s Costume Competition

This week we were unfortunately faced with the difficult decision of cancelling our Kids’ Medieval Fun Day. We know that there are many fans out there who, like us, were disappointed with this situation; we want to thank you all for your understanding and support.

Children’s Costume Competition

We know there are many dedicated parents out there who worked hard creating costumes for little Knights and Princesses to attend the Kids’ Medieval Fun Day. So after a little shuffling around, we are happy to announce that we will have a Children’s Costume Competition this weekend at the Abbey Medieval Festival! Any young Lords and Ladies between the ages of 3 – 12 are welcome to participate in the competition which will be held on stage outside the Friar’s Folly at 12.45 – 1.15pm, We ask that those interested in participating please contact performance@abbeytournament.com.

Fun for the whole family

The Abbey Medieval Festival is a weekend full of workshops, demonstrations and fun for the whole family and we thought we’d share some ideas for the young Lords and Ladies visiting Abbeystowe:

Plan Your Day: Families with Little Kids (aged 0-5)

Plan Your Day: Families with Primary Age Kids (aged 6-11)

Plan Your Day: Families with Teenagers

And parents, don’t miss out on a great offer from Medieval Fightclub! Present your Medieval Fightclub sponsored jousting ticket when purchasing a Toy Sword & Shield Set and they will give you another set FREE! You can find their stall in the market place all weekend.


Counting your cards!

Your favourite Heores and Heroines from the  Abbey Medieval Festival can now be a collected as trading cards.  The cards are a big hit, with online orders flowing in.

The trading cards which feature heroes like the Knights Templar, Sir Liam Reilly, Alexander de Vos,  Company of the Wolf, Kryal Castle, Sir Blair Martin and many more, are the first of a new range made available  via the website of the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology.  And if you order now, you can pick them up at the festival on July 6-7 at the Abbey Museum stall, ensuring you have your a wonderful souvenirs to match your favourite memories of the festival.  There are 40 to collect in total, and numbers are limited.  Next year it is hope the the range will be expanded.  The cards are being sold for $20 per pack of five cards.


Q&A with Re-enactors!

We got some of our fabulous re-enactors to answer some questions for us! We asked some questions very nicely (they have big swords!) and they were kind enough to answer. Here are some of their answers to some of those hairy questions!

What do visitors to your encampment never fail to ask you?

Do you really sleep in the tent overnight? Do you really eat what you’re cooking (beast on spit)? Where did you buy that? What did they eat?

Is it a real…fire, food, are the swords sharp, is that a plastic pig?

Is that armour heavy? Is that a real fire? Is that a real animal on the spit?

Are they Greyhounds? or What sort of dogs are they? Why are you here? What did Greyhounds do in medieval times? Did they race? Are these dogs safe to pat? Did medieval people keep Greyhounds as pets? Is it hard to walk in those dresses? What are the dogs’ names and ages?

What do you want the public to know about you?

That we’re very ordinary people…who love to hit each other with swords and cook over an open fire.

Can the public join your group?

Absolutely! If you’re interested in joining them, just ask at the Festival!

Is re-enacting an expensive hobby?

Yes and no. Compared to golf or sailing, probably not, but compared to knitting, definitely. The great thing is that members can start off relatively cheaply and then add to their wardrobe and kit each year at a rate they can afford.

Is it a time consuming hobby?

Can be very, but really you’d put as much time as you would any hobby. At least one afternoon a week.

Not really, again it depends on your level of interest. Combatant Training is weekly for both garrisons and you are expected to commit to this as you are required to be a safe and competent fighter.

It can be as time consuming (or not) as members want it to be – some of us spend much of the year making clothing and kit, and researching, and others simply put their clothing on for the festival or another show, and they’re ready to go!

What do you get out of re-enactment?

A way of life. Camaraderie. Satisfaction. Constantly learn and develop skills.

Being part of a large Australia wide group (and there are some garrisons overseas) , enables you to learn about history and learn many skills as you can draw on so much accumulated research, knowledge and experience.

We really love interacting with the public and providing them with information about our time period and about the role longdogs played during that time period. We get asked literally thousands of questions over the course of the Abbey and other smaller events, and its always fun to watch people’s reactions to what they learn. And of course, its always fun to dress up and pretend to be a Lady!

Who are your arch rivals in re-enactment?

The wicked Varangian Guard! Death to those evil wretches.

No we keep killing them off 😉 there is no group that does what we do so we don’t have rivals but many friends.

The NVG is a mighty war machine, we train hard and we fight hard – our biggest challenge is at events like Abbey Festival when the two garrisons fight each other.

None and I hope it will remain that way. We are a friendly group and get on with all the other groups we have come across.

What makes your group famous?

Beast on a spit. The name Blackwolf and the Bedouin Tent.

Our costumes and our cannons

With over two decades of aggression under our belt, we are known for taking our combat seriously and for also playing hard (after hours of course!)

Our hounds are awesome! They love pats, cuddles, posing for photos, and they’re very photogenic.


The re-enactors at the Festival are all lovely, feel free to have a chat with them about what they’re doing, what time they’re representing, how to join, and anything else you might want to know.

Please be mindful of Encampment Etiquette though!

Medieval Airport!

Abbey Medieval Festival at Brisbane Airport

 The Abbey Medieval Festival has an awesome surprise for you if you are travelling interstate or internationally during the upcoming school holidays! As part of our strategy to expand markets, both within Australia and overseas, from the 1st of June to the first week of July, tickets to the Abbey Medieval Festival will be available for sale at the international terminal of Brisbane Airport!

Look for our huge banner and posters that feature the Hero image of the Abbey Medieval Festival! Airport staff and ambassadors for the Abbey Museum will also be sporting Abbey Medieval Festival t-shirts and are happy to pass on information about the Festival!

So stop for a moment, buy a ticket, bring your friends and family and travel back to a time gone but not forgotton.  Press a mental pause on the trains, planes and automobiles and transform yourself physically and mentally to a life that your ancesters might have experienced.  The Abbey Medieval Festival is held on the 6th and 7th of July and the festival is your ticket to time travel.  This celebration is the biggest and most authentic medieval showcase in the southern hemisphere and we are so fortunate to have it on our doorstep in Queensland!  Normally, you might have to travel to Europe to see a spectacular as good as this one and this year is no exception! It’s getting bigger and better than ever before! And having tickets at the airport makes it one step easier for you.

Fill your weekend with enthrallig displays from musicians, dancers and street performers from across Australia and overseas, experience battle re-enactment, jousting, archery, Turkish oil-wrestling, gypsy dance, arts and crafts, authentic medieval delicacies and so much more! There is so much to see and do! You will wish the festival ran for months!!

For more information please call the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology on 5495 1652, or visit our webpage at www.abbeytournament.com.

The very first costume competition

Calling all talented visitors to the Festival! For the very first time, we’re running a costume competition! Open to all paying visitors to the Festival (sorry re-enactors and volunteers), this is a chance to show off your skills with a needle and thread.

We’ve been so impressed by the effort that is put into the clothing worn by our visitors that we’re giving you a chance to show them off! We are looking for dressmakers and enthusiasts to showcase their talents in recreating garments from the 600 – 1600 era, so if your costume is well researched and you believe it would qualify as an authentic garment we could see in medieval manuscripts, we think you should apply now!

The competition will be taking place on both the Saturday and Sunday, between 12.30pm and 1.15pm, on the stage next to the Friar’s Folly Tavern.


  • Applications will only be accepted by filling out the Entry form on the website.
  • Must be over 16 years of age (entrants between 16-18 must have written parental consent to be eligible) Consent form can be found here.
  • Costume must have historical reference to the era represented by the Abbey Medieval Festival – we cannot accept fantasy inspired costumes
  • Costume cannot be store bought – our competition is all about showcase the dressmaking abilities of our visiting public
  • Entrants can only participate on one day
  • Members of the Abbey Medieval Festival committee, volunteers for the festival, re-enactors and other entertainment providers at the Festival are not eligible to enter

For more information check out the Costume Competition FAQ

How the winners will be chosen:

  • Historical accuracy/reference
  • Technique
  • Creativity
  • Attention to detail
  • Crowd favourite will be judged according to the loudest cheers from the audience

All applications will be reviewed to determine eligibility; each eligible entrant will be contacted via email directly by the Festival to discuss participation. The judging panel will determine first and second place on each day and the audience will pick a ‘People’s Choice’. Please read the Terms and Conditions and our Frequently Asked Questions for further information or contact us at performance@abbeytournament.com with any questions you may have.

The countdown is on for the Festival, time to get out the fabric and thread and create something amazing!

More information

Frequently asked questions

Terms and Conditions

Parent Consent Form

Apply here!!

Gowns for the Festival!

Between the 10th and 14th centuries women are generally depicted wearing a simple, smooth gown with tapered sleeves and full skirts, and these gowns are great for many different periods. They can be worn on their own with simple accessories to fit in with the 13th century, or can be worn under bliauts, fuller gowns and as an undergown.

Now for a surprise! Three handmade gowns are available; in a forest green, navy blue and scarlet red, they’ll stand out in a crowd. These gowns come with a white belt and a medieval style necklace, to help you get into the spirit of the Festival! The sizing is a medium to large (12/14), and has an approx 20cm train.

Part of the sale price will be donated to the Abbey Museum as well – so not only do you get a great gown, you help the Festival and Museum!

Follow this to the Gumtree site and check them out!


Woodland Walkers and Green Men

We often have people asking us what associations our beautiful woodland walkers have with Medieval history and reenactment, and you might be quite surprised at the reply. They represent a historical (fictional) figure known as the Green Man. If you have never encountered them before, our ‘Green Men’ like to walk gracefully around Abbeystowe during the festival, delighting visitors and posing for photographs, like this:

The figure of the Green Man appears to have it’s roots in carvings from the Messapotamic and Roman eras, but has also been seen in temples in India, Borneo and Nepal. He was used to bridge the gap between the old forms of worship and the new introduction of Christianity in the early Medieval period, although his appearances during this time were few.

From the late 11th century onwards his face became a carved decorative feature used on Churches and buildings of great importance. The Green Man is quite often linked the to the use of other decorative ornamentation used in the Gothic and Romanesque styles during the High Middle Ages, such as gargoyles, mythical beasts, demons, mermaids and green ‘women’. ‘Jack the Green Man’ was incorporated into village fetes and festivals which is why our woodland walkers fit right in at the Abbey Medieval Festival (why or how he was named Jack is still a bit of a mystery!)

Costumes for our four-legged friends.

Everyone loves cute pet pictures, and as we all love history around here, I’ve combined the two and found the most adorable pictures of pets in costume!

First up, His Highness, and the Prince.


His fair Queen, and the Princess.

The lady in waiting.

Their fearless knights.


The court jester to keep them all entertained.

And the fearsome perils of the realm!

Now remember, even though our pets look very cute in costume, they’re not allowed in the Festival!

Winter is Coming – and how medieval people dealt with it!

Here in sunny Queensland one could argue that it never gets very cold during winter, so what did those who were in seriously cold winters wear to stay warm and survive?

Some might argue that they simply didn’t keep warm! Houses weren’t warm as they are now, as heating wasn’t very effective, and tended to smoke up the house. People tended to wear lots of clothing, as the cold inside could be the same level of cold as outside.

For the lower classes, the outer layer tended to be made of wool, with the under layers made of linen. These linen garments were washed occasionally, but it was unusual to wash the woollen layers. The smoke that was almost a constant feature from the fires seemed to permeate the outer layers and act as a sort of deodorant, to help stop everyone becoming too smelly.

Cloaks, mittens and woollen hats were also worn to keep warm, but shoes were often a luxury! Imagine not being able to afford shoes in snowy weather!

The wealthy were able to line their clothing with fur to keep warm, a luxury the poor could never afford. The use of fur was covered by Sumptuary laws, which governed who could and could not wear particular fabrics, veils, and other things like that. Even who could eat what!

Farm families typically lived in a cottage which had one big single room, in the middle of which would be a hearth for the fire. Above the hearth was a hole in the rood for the smoke, and ‘hanging chimneys’ may have been used to help guide the smoke. The windows in the cottage were usually also unglazed, which led to houses and cottages being rather draughty and chilly.

Wealthy families were better off though, as they had less draughty building and more furnishings to trap in heat. The personal attendants of the lord and lady were sometimes able to stay in their sleeping quarters, wrapped up in a blanket on the floor where they could absorb some of the heat from the fireplace. The lord and lady, and their families, also had heavy blankets, feather mattresses, fur covers and wall tapestries to help block out breezes and the cold, and those with four poster beds were able to use the heavy curtains to trap in heat to keep even warmer.

The Festival is now on Instagram!

Because the rich visuals are such a huge part of the Festival, we’ve decided it would be fantastic to join the forces of Instagram and the internet to present… *drum roll please*…the Abbey Festival Instagram Feed!

The hashtag for this is #AbbeyFestival2013 so hashtag away!

Don’t forget to follow @AbbeyFestival on Instagram as well for official photos!

[instapress userid=”abbeyfestival2013″ piccount=”6″ size=”90″ effect=”fancybox”]

A Guide to Encampment Etiquette

Now that we’re getting into the last six weeks of frantic preparation before the Festival (have you booked your tickets or volunteered yet?!)

Is that a real fire/baby/dog/sword?

Absolutely, so please be careful.


Can I go into your tent?

If it’s open, please do. However, if it is closed, it is a private space. Re-enactors encampments are their homes for the weekend, so please respect their privacy.


Can I eat your food?

Due to food safety guidelines, re-enactors can’t let you share their meals. But they will be happy to give you the recipe so you can try it at home.

Can I take a shortcut through your encampment?

The ropes that keep the tents upright can be a trip hazard, so please walk around the encampments, not through.

Feel free to chat to the re-enactors, they’re passionate about what they do and love to share! Please also be mindful of their possessions and space, they’ve worked very hard to create everything that you see.

Capturing The Moments

Our guest blogger is an Abbey Medieval Festival Volunteer Photographer. She writes about her day at the Tournament below.

Why I am an Abbey Medieval Festival Volunteer Photographer?

Like most visitors to the Abbey Medieval Festival I became entranced from the moment I entered the gate.  As I was greeted with a “my lady” and a snap of my wristband I was transported to another time, another place.

Photo by David de Groot

Inside the gates so much to see, smell, taste, experience and especially to photograph! Forget a safari or road trip, I hardly put my camera down! I knew I wanted more than anything to photograph inside the second rope. This was a world of swirling Romani skirts, the clash of sword on armour, the crack of a jousting lance as it shatters, of smiling kids running and playing barefoot. For photographers capturing each and every moment of the experience is paramount. I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer as a photographer for 2011, and again in 2012, not just the Medieval Tournament but also other great events at the Abbey Museum.

We  photographers get funny looks. Comments about our “medieval Canons” or the contrast between our costume and the hefty gear we carry around. We try our hardest to keep from blocking others views of the activities. Many times this means spending the day in wet and sometimes muddy clothing from sitting or laying on the ground. I call it being authentic.

Photo by Jeff Fitzpatrick

So how does a photographers day start? For me it starts months before as I work on my “medieval camouflage”. By blending into the rest of the festival as much as possible I can capture the day better, and combined with my official Abbey Medieval Festival Volunteer Photographer Tunic I’m ready to go as unnoticed as possible.

The night before the tournament begins I set an alarm, and a backup, for early in the morning. Inevitably, I wake early from the excitement and by four I’ve gotten up to check that I have batteries, backup batteries, flash, monopod, lenses, spare lenses, and the all important memory cards packed. I also take the time to gather up fingerless gloves, a warm hat, the list goes on!

Before the gates open and the grass is dry, photographers can be seen setting up, getting photos of fellow volunteers, the morning sun setting the castle aglow, glinting off a sword propped against a shield, or trying to plan out how to best capture everything.

And then the day begins!

For those who have experienced a tournament you know there’s so much to see and do. Photographers get assignments to cover, but there’s always more to fit in. Many times we may forget to eat or stop for more than a quick drink at the fountain because something just happened to catch our eye. From the chilly morning, to sunny bright afternoon, then back to the brisk evenings we’re there in the grass capturing each moment of the festival. But our day is hardly over when the gates close. After driving home we  get all our cards downloaded, backed up, and reformatted. Batteries charged, a bite to eat and to bed to try and rest. Meanwhile images flits through our brain, and which ones we want to try and capture the next day! Even long after the final boom of the cannon on Sunday there is work to do, processing, editing and submitting all the photos to the Abbey Festival for use in promoting this great event.  While this doesn’t seem much to some people, we photographers tend to have thousands of photos each day and that can sometimes take us all the way up to our deadline a month after the festival.

Guest Blogger:  Neda Lundie

Neda Lundie was born in the United States and now a citizen of Australia, Neda Lundie fell in love with photography at an early age. From the moment she picked up her first 110 camera as a kid in the early 80’s, to buying her first SLR second hand in year 11, the important thing for her has been to capture life to preserve memories.

Neda has covered events at the Abbey Museum since 2011 including Abbey Medieval Festival, Kids Medieval Fun Day, Picnic at Pemberley, Kids Dig it Day and new to 2012. the Birds of Prey Experience.

Wonderful people needed to Volunteer!


We need your help….HELP HELP HELP! (Did we mention we needed some help??)

Thank you to those of you who HAVE registered for this year!!! We currently have about 150 volunteers registered but need another 150 to make the Festival go off!!

Please register now if you are planning on helping this year!

(To get to this specific information, just scroll down once you get to this page.) It is a good idea to note the preferred roles and times on a sheet of paper ready for Registering.


Please put AS MUCH information as possible when listing your preferences and the times you would like to be rostered. This makes it easy for us to meet your preferences. Please have a tape measure with you when you register to enter in your correct measurements for your costume.


Black Death Resurfaces in London!

There have been a slew of medieval skeletons found across the UK in recent months. The latest finds are Black Death victims uncovered in London during the excavations for the new Crosslink rail at Farringdon. The exact location of the mass grave was previously unknown, and archeologists are uncertain exactly how many skeletons there may be buried under the site – they may number in the thousands – but experts are satisfying themselves with just studying the ones found in the shaft. They are already running out of room to store the ones they’ve found!

300 skeletons were previously dug up during the excavation for a new station at Liverpool Street, also plague victims in a mass grave. These mass graves were set up around 1348, when the Black Death arrived on the shores of England. They were quite orderly, with the deceased being buried in individual graves alongside each other, not just thrown into a big pit as most plague death victims were later on, when the disease was widespread, space was tight and the need to remove bodies was paramount.

Black Death plague was indiscriminate of class and killed so quickly it left few traces of it’s presence on the bones of it’s victims. Just a small cross section of the skeletons found will provide historians with enormous amounts of information about the lives of Londoners in the early 1300‘s. The remains will later be reburied in a different location.


An illustration of plague afflicted victims, from the Toggenburg Bible (1411)

We will have our very own “Black Death” performance at the Abbey Medieval Festival this year, courtesy of the fantastic House Troupe who will be entertaining our visitors throughout the day.

New Benches for Abbeystowe!

We have been busy making improvements to Abbeystowe (the Festival site) for this year and are proud to reveal the new bench seats that have just sprung up across the field!

There are 30 new benches in total, each one is 2.4m long and capable of seating between 4-8 people at a time. They have been dotted all round Abbeystowe, particularly in places where you, our fantastic visitors, have requested them – near the food!

“More seating!” has long been a cry of our visitors to the Abbey Medieval Festival and we’d like to thank our team of volunteers who put in the time to transform these lovely new seats from raw slabs of timber to backside bliss. We are now on the lookout for large sandstone or granite boulders to dot the site (let us know if you know where we can get some!).


Jousting Tickets – Quick and Easy Online Bookings!

If you have tried to purchase tickets online for this year’s upcoming Abbey Medieval Jousting you may have noticed it was a little fiddly. Well, no more! We have just implemented a simpler, faster booking system so you can get your tickets for the joust of your choosing in a matter of clicks, right here 🙂

*** Please make sure you have purchased your festival entry tickets. Joust tickets only give access to the Joust session you have booked. Joust tickets are NOT festival entry tickets.

A Brief Overview of Kirtles

The kirtle is a garment worn by women through most of medieval history and was the main garment in their wardrobes. It went through stages of being worn as a simple overdress is the 12th and 13th centuries by common and wealthy women, and was also used as an undergown. In the later 14th and 15th centuries, it became the main overdress for commoners, and an undergown for the wealthy, being worn under cotehardies, sideless surcotes and houppelandes. 1

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the kirtle was a floor-length and loosely-fitted gown, and had long, tight sleeves. The wealthier women would use more embroidery on their gowns to help denote their status, and the mantles that they wore may be lined with fur, to further enhance their status and display their wealth. 2


The kirtle became more close-fitting as time went on, and in the 14th and 15th centuries they were generally either laced or buttoned closed. We can deduce that laced kirtles were intended to be worn under overgowns, as it would be too expensive to have buttons on a gown that would be unseen, and lacing would create a smoother silhouette. It appears that wealthier women would have lacing at the back of their kirtles, as they would have had assistance with dressing. Buttoned kirtles were generally worn as overgowns, as they could convey the wealth of their owner better. 3

Even later still, they could be constructed by combining a fitted bodice with a skirt whichwas gathered or pleated into the waist seam. This image shows a woman wearing a kirtle over her smock, c. 1626. 4

There are so many variations on the kirtle, that it’s difficult to pin it down and say ‘yes, this is it’. Especially as they’re not always called kirtles, the terms cote, cotte, tunic and gown can all be used as well. This leaves us with room to create something that is elegant, stunning, or simple, depending on our tastes (and sewing ability!) What do you think of this clothing item?

1 http://www.revivalclothing.com/newcolorsandsizes10th-14thcenturylinenkirtle.aspx
2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1200%E2%80%931300_in_fashion
3 http://rosaliegilbert.com/kirtles.html
4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirtle