1st April 2011
Some very timely news to share in the run-up to Towton Battlefield Society's main annual event, the battle commemoration on Palm Sunday... Wednesday 30th April saw author George Goodwin get his splendid new book on Towton, Fatal Colours, successfully launched at Wakefield's Drury Lane Library, with a spirited talk followed by a signing session. Here he is on the left, looking a tad shell-shocked after a very media-intensive couple of days (Yorkshire viewers may have seen him on Look North) - and on the right, busily signing away. If you'd like to buy a signed copy, you'll also find George at the Palm Sunday event... along with those other TBS authors Peter Algar, Graham Darbyshire and yours truly, who will all be in the Barn signing and selling copies of our works!
I've also just heard from battlefield archaeologist Tim Sutherland that some kind person has posted the 1994 Channel 4 Secrets of the Dead documentary on the Towton mass graves, 'Blood Red Roses', on Facebook. This is great news for anyone interested in the battle who missed it first time round - or who, like me, welcomes the opportunity to see it again. You can find it - together with more information about Tim and the Towton Battlefield Archaeology Project - by visiting http://www.facebook.com/pages/Towton-Battlefield-Archaeology-Project/114493701914520 .
It's the first chance I've had to update this for nearly 2 weeks - talk about busy! The first Monday in April saw us at the Towton Battlefield Society AGM - a brilliant evening attended by 47 members, and everyone buzzing with excitement over all the great things happening in our Society. The committee (including me n' hubcap) were re-elected en masse - which I guess means we're doing something right - plus 2 welcome new additions to help with our ever-increasing workload.
Then it was all systems go getting ready for the weekend... on Saturday night, Mick and I were the 'after dinner entertainment' at the Richard III Society's study weekend in York. So we got dressed up in our posh kit to enjoy a fabulous 3-course dinner at the Elmbank Hotel - an incredible Art Nouveau building near York racecourse, which I can heartily recommend to anyone visiting the city. Then I just about managed to keep everyone awake with a talk on Wakefield, and how even a rank newcomer to history like me can get a book published. And to sell it - to my great delight, the members snapped up a dozen copies each of 'Revisited' and 'Walk Wakefield'!
But Sunday was a good deal harder work and a lot less glamorous - albeit enjoyable, in its own strange kind of way. We went off to Towton to start preparing the barn and field for Palm Sunday... essential work given the number of stalls, traders and re-enactors we have to accommodate! The barn was the worst job - unfortunately, over the past year it's become a favourite roost for the local pigeon population, who aren't exactly fastidious in their personal habits...
Yes, we must have cleared out literally HUNDREDWEIGHTS of disgusting smelly guano, feathers and bits of nest while Mick and Peter mowed and strimmed outside... a dirty job, but someone's got to do it! But by the end, we were all glowing with exertion and pride (including the 2 new committee members Dave and Lynne, who are probably wondering what they've let themselves in for!) - that old barn looked pristine, so it was pats on the back all round.
Thankfully my Monday job was much cleaner, although it still made me sweat... taking two classes of Year 4 pupils from Wellington Primary in Bradford through a re-enactment of the Battle of Bosworth! It involved lots of running about, sound effects (shouting Boom! for the guns, Whish! for the arrows, battle cries of 'A York, a York!' and 'A Tudor, a Tudor!' and 'Thrang!' as the 'bill-men' lunged with their pole-arms), but lots of fun. For me, at least... and I think the children enjoyed it. But that's about as close to teaching the Tudors as I can stomach (they're not exactly my favourite monarchs!).
And now it's back to the Palm Sunday preparations: making shopping lists, getting our kit sorted and packed, and liaising with the traders, stall-holders and 150+ re-enactors who are coming... our event may be pretty small beer compared with the major national events like the annual Tewkesbury re-enactment, but this 550th will be the biggest that TBS has ever hosted - and the biggest army that field will have seen since 1461!
Poo - ALL OVER the concrete floor!
Clean-up crew: L - R - hubcap, Dave Lanchester, Graham Darbyshire, Peter Algar ('Mr Strimmer'), Lynne Spedding, me, Neil Wilson, Alex Harrison, Ellen Wilson
Alex, Chairman Mark and Neil get the sh*t detail - you can hardly see 'em for dust - and note that huge sack of poo in the foreground!
Huzzah - we did it! So now we're back home recovering from the Battlefield Society's biggest and best Palm Sunday ever. We all had a fantastic time, helped by the freakishly perfect weather... the Towton event has become notorious among re-enactors and exhibitors alike for its often icy-cold, gale-blowing and sopping wet conditions - but this year was just beautiful from the moment folk started arriving on Friday afternoon until everything was packed up again on Sunday evening.
As ever, it was very hard work - but so many helpers from the Society and guest re-enactment groups chipped in that all the preparations were done by Saturday lunchtime. Which meant anyone who felt inclined to do battle was able to arm up and pose about for Roger Keech and his crew in the afternoon - yup, we're going to be on TV again! Roger's been commissioned to do two more programmes scheduled for screening on BBC 1 and BBC 4 later this year, and wanted some footage of the event and 15th century combat... so we staged a bit of extra fighting for him to work up an appetite before we all repaired to the Barn for our evening barbeque!
L - R: Charlie Drew and Colin Middleton of Knights in Battle, and Adam Woodland of Sir John Savile's Household, looking fierce - pic by Roger Keech
Film crew: L - R: my pic of Roger, researcher Brenda May Lights, camera, action - me being interviewed, pic by Doggetts arm up, also by Mike Wilson - that's me
and cameraman John Anderson Mike Wilson stringing my bow, almost hidden by Mick Weaver!
Then Sunday just went by in a mad whirl of activity from beginning to end. I spent much of it minding our book stall in the Barn, although I did manage to see some bits of the shows - and to take part in the final battle, when I had the pleasure of killing Lord Clifford for the second year running! So all in all it was a fabulous weekend to mark the battle's 550th anniversary... I'd like to think the men who died there would be pleased to know their lives are still remembered and celebrated, and their deaths still mourned.
Towton 2011, before and after: my pic of our camp first thing Saturday morning... and Roger's pic of the event in full swing on Sunday afternoon!
For a full event report, double-click on this button to read my illustrated diary piece for Towton 2011!