It’s not often in life you come across a bunch of burly blokes who can all turn their hand to embroidery.
But for those involved in re-enactment, it tends to go with the hobby, or at least it’s a skill many will acquire in time to maintain or even make kit and equipment.
Jim Evans (40) became so adept with his hands that he spends some of his time as a historic trader, selling anything from medieval-style pendants and earrings to Viking warlord belts and – a fairly recent diversification this – pirate belts and other equipment.
He says of his needlework: “Unless you were ‘scum’, you would have tablet weave and that can take 45 minutes an inch to make, and you might have 100 inches on a tunic, and embroidery on top.”
Jim has also learned the art of the ‘scrimshaw’, and can carve horn, bone and husk, and learned to maintain his weapons and shields – and to make some of those too.
Historic clothing and artefacts aside, his résumé also includes being a battle field pyrotechnician – simulating things like cannon hits on the battle field – all-round re-enactor and ‘larper’ (live action role play) – as well as being commander of a hundreds-strong army.
Until a few months ago, Jim was living on the Isle of Wight where he was lecturing, organising re-enactment events and demonstrating, both in schools and at functions. He and his team have been in high demand at pirate-themed events for the past decade and Jim organises the biggest in the UK, Brixham Pirate Festival.
For some years he also taught all forms of armed combat, mainly to older teenagers on the Isle of Wight, who he says typically don’t find regular employment until they are in their mid-20s.
They benefited from the fitness, the confidence building and the positive social activity.
Now he is offering people in the Spalding area the opportunity to learn those skills at the town’s first School of Sword, which starts on Tuesday, February 28 (6.30pm).
The sessions cost £3 a week (plus £3 sword hire later on) and will include some stage and film fighting for people interested in creating a realistic-looking fight on stage. Jim is holding the sessions at Act II Theatre Company’s rehearsal space at Welland Business Park in Clay Lake, though they are open to anyone aged eight to 80 who is interested.
The first few weeks will be spent on stickwork before progressing to ‘swords’ – the weapons are made of carbon and foam covered Latex, so are lighter than re-enactment weapons.
Spaces are limited to 15 per session, so contact Jim on https://www.facebook.com/groups/1853483904937668