The Fair Times Festival

Down near Bilericay there is a farm called Barleylands. You would have been excused for thinking however that it had been the site of some kind of Temporal Rift a couple of weekends ago as there were all sorts of attractions from different periods of time scattered across the place!

From the huge palisaded gates, to the sound of Machine Gun fire the Fayre covered the whole gamut of re-enactment from dark ages Viking up to WW2, and also included Larp supplies, medieval crafts and foods, Laser tag and also an Archery Competion. Add to this the many Taverns including the Crimson Moon, well known to CP regulars, in which I’ll admit I spent rather more time than I was intending (I blame ex-Court of the Dragon members!) the Fayre literally had everything you could need for a day out.

Despite being in the countryside it’s remarkably easy to get to the place, a train to Bilericay from Liverpool street, then a 100 bus to directly outside the visitors centre just 50 metres from the entrance. Knowing when to get off the bus, and of course the usual underground palaver were the only trouble we actually had. All told however it was relatively easy to get to from Goatswood. Getting in to the Fayre itself was easy, and impressive as a full on Palisade had been put together to act as the gate (in fact two had but I didn’t get to see the other one) and the staff were quick and very pleasant.

The moment I got through the gate I headed straight to the “Archery Contest” not to compete as the final was the next day, but just plain to have a go. Which was free. Having taken my first few shots however I decided to quit while I was ahead having got my eye in! Shame I couldn’t come back the next day, with a prize of £1500 the Archery competition would have been well worth a try!

Now I will admit that the price of entry for the Fayre was a touch on the high side, which possibly put some people off. However given the plethora of things to do inside it was worth it in my book. Where else can you watch a man make a genuine Japanese style knife and then step 6 yards to the side and buy a Larp mask? The number of traders were fantastic, including an old style jerky and chutney maker, wood turners, bowyers, cosplay and military equipment sellers, and also Larp kit makers. I didn’t see half the places due to a lack of time on my part but the level of craftsmanship on show was ridiculously high. Avoiding buying all the things was the main problem I had, as there was so much good stuff there. Walking back through London festooned in mediaeval weaponry however would have been something of an issue, so its probably a good thing that I resisted. The fact that the sellers were all clustered in one place, with the re-enactors in the other field gave the sellers area a market place feeling which was good, sort of like walking down the high street of a slightly anachronistic city.

The food on show was good too, although as a long standing larper I went straight to the Hog Roast along with a friend of mine who promptly filled his buckler up with meat. If you have never helped a man devour a buckler full of meat you really haven’t lived! The food vans combined with the taverns meant that there were plenty of options for food, and relaxation. Efforts had definitely been made to make the fare on offer varied and cater to everyone.

There were a number of re-enactment crews present to show off their excellent costume and fighting mettle, all the way from Viking, and Anglo Saxon and ranging up to the WWII re-enactors. They were all exceedingly knowledgeable about their subjects, and at the same time more than willing to answer questions. In fact they were exceedingly informative, and I learned more than I thought I would ever know about WWII rifle patterns. Unfortunately for me one of my mutant powers seems to be sensitive hearing (along with too many taste-buds and the ability to produce minor static charges) so I didn’t get to spend too long near them due to the sheer amount of racket they produced with their machine gun.

There were also a number of talks throughout the weekend but unfortunately I didn’t have time to catch any of them. I would have like to, with such worthies as Matt Pennington (of Empire fame) speaking they would no doubt have been excellent.

All told I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Fayre and I hope they get to do another one next year! If they do I intend to go for both days, and would suggest you all do too!

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