Medieval sword fest is stuff of fantasy in Leeds park

PIC: James Hardisty
PIC: James Hardisty
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Knights, magicians and mercenaries are not usually among the attractions at local parks, but if you’re venturing out in Meanwood, you might want to keep your eyes peeled.

These are just some of the unusual characters who regularly roam around Meanwood Park as part of a medieval fantasy live action role-playing (LARP) activity.

The Leeds branch of Fools and Heroes has been running for 20 years and meets for “adventures” once a month,

For those who have never heard of it, national president and Leeds member Lee Long has a succinct definition: “In a nutshell – it’s storytelling laser-quest with swords.”

Members dress up in medieval and fantasy costumes and run about in the woods pretending to be heroes or villains.

Some will view it as a hobby for nerds but the truth is it attracts people from all walks of life – from students to lawyers, from 16 to 60-somethings.

Although they all generally share a passion for fantasy books, films and dramas such as Lord of the Rings and US hit Game of Thrones.

LARP blends theatre, improvisation, storytelling, escapism and action into one pastime.

Construction project manager Lee, who plays a magician, said: “Some people play because they’re really interested in the game, the mechanics of it and winning.

“Others play for the role-play experience and the chance to be someone else and flex their acting skills.

“It’s just getting away from the real world for a few hours.”

He added: “The big appeal for me is not just going to play the game, it’s going to see my mates.”

In their imaginary world, England becomes Ithron and Yorkshire is renamed Evorshire.

Individuals get to create a character and name it, then complete tasks which enable that character to develop.

An overall national plot is outlined but individual branches write their own storylines, fitting in with those themes.

Costuming plays a key factor in the suspension of belief. They can vary from metal plate armour bought from traders for up to £300 – the type used in films such as Braveheart – to unique home-made costumes.

With around 26 branches across the country, members can “adventure” every weekend for the annual fee of £20. Activities are held on the first Sunday of every month. Visit www.foolsandheroes.org or find the Fools and Heroes facebook page.

Ian Watkins

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