THE Easter medieval jousting tournament at the Royal Armouries – an event which has thrilled thousands of families for 15 years – has been axed because of spending cuts, the YEP can reveal.
Seventeen members of staff – including all of the museum’s expert horse riders, professional actors and stable staff – this week lost their jobs as the Royal Armouries began to implement a tough cuts programme which will save £3.4m over the next four years.
The Armouries’ seven jousting horses have also been made redundant – they were all sold to their riders who left work on Thursday.
The job losses means the annual four day jousting tournament, which runs over the Easter weekend, will be replaced with a “horse show” performed by an outside company.
And the spectacular “Queen’s Golden Jubilee Trophy” tournament, which is held on the August bank holiday weekend and attracts jousters from across the world, is also in doubt.
The museum is considering looking for “freelance” jousters to take the place of their axed in-house team this summer.
Museum director Peter Armstrong said: “I would not rule out a joust this summer. If we can do it economically and it makes sense, then we will do a joust.
“If you look under ‘jousters for hire’, you will see a number of companies doing this.”
The Royal Armouries’ in-house jousting and “interpretation” team also put on horse shows and jousts through the summer season.
Mr Armstrong said events will now be restricted to times of “peak audience” and will be out-sourced to external entertainment companies.
Funding cuts meant the museum could no longer justify performing expensive shows for “ten people on a damp day in December”, he said.
He insisted that this Easter’s horse show will still be “dangerously exciting” and involve Roman, Saxon and Victorian horse displays as well as gun fights.
Of the 17 job losses, 14 members of staff took voluntary redundancy and three were made compulsory redundant.
As well as nine riders, actors and stable staff, eight members of staff in the “visitors service department” also lost their jobs, including shop staff.
Bosses drew up the savings plan after being told they faced a 15 per cent reduction in real-term funding from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
Director General and Master of the Royal Armouries, Lieutenant-General Jonathon Riley said, “I would like to thank all the staff who are leaving for their unstinting hard work and professionalism and to offer every good wish for the future.
“We will continue to offer free museum admission and still run our popular events programme throughout the year.”