Through the On-Site Review program, 4Culture evaluates arts and heritage organizations who receive Sustained Support funding. On-Site Reviewers attend events produced or presented by recipients and write up short reviews, which give the adjudicating Sustained Support panelists a patron’s-eye-view of each organization. Each month, the 4Culture blog presents excerpts from these reviews. This month’s review is by Jessica Lenderts.
For those with a love of history and a desire to try something new, the Camlann Yuletide Feast is nothing short of magical. While a Renaissance Fair-type reenactment might be the first thing that comes to mind, the Yuletide Feast is a much more intimate and relaxed experience, and one in which you are an active participant, not just a spectator. Camlann is a living history site, and it’s clear that its members (or “interpreters”) are truly making an effort to help you feel like you’re being transported in time – from the surroundings and clothing to the preparation of the food and even patterns of speech, everything reflects a careful attention to detail and historical accuracy. I was once part of a reenactment troupe myself, so I know that it can be somewhat challenging to find the right balance between the historical character you’re portraying and the fact that you’re interacting with very modern people. In my opinion, the interpreters at Camlann do a great job of navigating this divide and playing out a historical scene with both earnestness and a sense of humor.
When my guest and I arrived at the feast, we were greeted warmly by Roger, the “hosteler” at the Bors Hede Inn, and ushered into a large room where other guests were already seated at long wooden tables. Roger and the other interpreters – serving men and women, a herald, musicians and performers, and a noble lady who presided over the feast – were all in period costumes. The feast began with a speech of welcome and presentation of a yule candle to the noble lady, and then trenchers – slabs of bread that were used as plates in the middle ages – were distributed to each guest, and spiced wine was poured into heavy metal goblets. Three courses were served throughout the evening, and as each was brought out, Roger described the dishes being served and their preparation. My guest and I were continuously impressed with the sumptuousness of the meal, which included multiple kinds of wine, roasted meats of every variety, a whole goose, salmon, and dessert. The dishes used only ingredients and cooking methods that were available in the Middle Ages, which in some cases made them unfamiliar to the modern palate, but they were always delicious. All the food was shared communally, and dishes were passed down the table as they were served. There was also entertainment – medieval songs and a performance by a “traveling minstrel” – in between each course. The evening progressed at a leisurely place, and we left feeling full, happy, and like we had enjoyed a very unique experience.
It’s obvious that the staff put a lot of effort and heart into this production. It seems like it has also become something of a community center point, and the interpreters knew several attendees by name or face. Efforts were also made to dietary needs, which is never an easy feat with a large communal meal! The flow of the event was smooth and practiced, despite the complexity of bringing out many different dishes on time.
The feast took place on the lower floor of the Bors Hede Inn in the Camlann village. With the exception of the bathrooms, which were thankfully modern, the building is stylized to resemble a medieval inn, from the building façade and furniture to small details of decoration. The feast room was crafted to resemble a small hall, with long wooden tables and benches, a central fireplace, and beautiful paintings on the walls that were carefully done in the style of the period. Food was brought down from a kitchen on the upper floor. Although there was a small fire burning, the room was fairly chilly, and sitting on hard wooden benches for hours does start to become a little uncomfortable – but this is all part of the authenticity of the experience. Unfortunately, it was too dark when we arrived to explore the village as much as I would have liked (and it was also a very cold night); but what we could see was reminiscent of a small medieval village just as I would imagine it.
Camlann Medieval Village has a variety of events year-round; the Mid-Lenten Feast is on March 22, the St. George Feast is on April 26, and the May Festival is on May 3 & 4.