Spotlight on...Medieval Society

Wednesday 22-11-2017 - 11:06
Med cover

On Wednesday evenings at around 18:00, something unusual starts to happen on the third floor of The Union – students bearing shields, swords and banners make their way into Rooms 6 & 7. Intrigued, we went to have a look and chatted with Callum Speirs (third year History) to find out more about the Medieval Society, what they get up to and what it’s like bringing history to life.   

Tell us a little bit about the society.

“It’s a medieval re-enactment society. What you’re seeing today is all the craft that’s going on – we make all the equipment and clothing we use to re-enact the period. When I say medieval period, we’re talking specifically about 12th century England, so it’s the Norman period, going up to about 1215, so the Magna Carta – a very tumultuous period, you’ve got a lot going on. We replicate the battles, the clothing and the everyday life of that period, and then go across the country to castles, putting on big shows and performing. When people come to these places, we want them to feel like they have stepped back in time. Rather than just reading about it, they get to see it!

It’s all very heavily researched too – a lot of us are historians and there’s lots of regulations around what we do. We educate people about the 12th century, and it’s entertaining because it’s fun watching people fight and dress up.”


What re-enactments have you done?

“I’ve been in the society for three years now, and during that time I’ve been all across the country, from the North of England and down to London. We go to castles – one in Tutbury, one in Whittington, such amazing old castles. We don’t tend to re-enact particular battles, because they would require one side to lose and one side to win. It’s all competitive fighting, so it’s not just like a performance, it’s like a sport. There’s a skill to it and after three years you get very good at it!

 If it was a scripted battle it would be much less interesting to watch, but as it’s a fight it can go either way based on the skill of the people involved. At the same time, we are trying to put on a show, so there’s lots of acting, lots of dramatics and we’ll create a story around it. The battle might be between two lords arguing over some land, or the bishop’s brother was killed by a king or something like that. Then with all our armour and our clothing that we’ve spent months making, we’ll line up, have battle cries being shouted, flags waving, lords ordering their troops about and we’ll all go into battle – its fantastic!”



What events have you got coming up?

“We’re in the off-season now. The show season is March onwards with better weather and when it’s warmer. Everyone is wearing linen and wool which might sound nice but if you haven’t got a cloak (which you have to be high up in medieval society to have) then you will freeze. What we’re doing at the moment is getting ready for a few training events, so next weekend we have a day dedicated to making clothing. We’ve got some of the best people who make dresses, tunics and cloaks coming down to teach some of the new people how to sew their stuff. The week after that, we’ve got another training session to get everyone safe enough and competitive enough to fight properly – so preparing for the season.”


What do you get up to outside of training and re-enactments?

“Recently we went down as a group to Platt Fields Park for Bonfire Night celebrations. It’s a very social group – the people I live with are all people from the society or people I’ve met there. There’s quite a few houses in Manchester like that, with people who have met through the society. We’ll go to the pubs and have a chat. It’s a society with a lot of interest in history and gaming, so we have board game nights and socials. It’s just a really friendly society if I’m honest – some of the nicest people I’ve met!”


What would you say to anyone interested in getting involved in the society?

“Go for it – the more the merrier! As I said, it’s a very friendly group. There is no paywall, so you can get straight in. If you want to come to shows, you’ll have to buy your own kit for that, but to train and to come along and start crafting and fighting it’s completely free. Its open to everyone, there’s no need to have experience in this sort of stuff. I came in, never having done anything like this before, and thought I’d give it a go. Someone asked if I wanted to hold a sword – why not? Who wouldn’t want to do that? It’s easy to get into and it’s very different from anything you’ll ever do.”


Find out more about Medieval Society and get involved. 

You can see all our clubs and societies here, or get in touch with the Opportunities Office.



T: 0161 247 6432


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