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A view from the top 


By Sheree Hoddinett 

 



Elke McConnell gets to experience the Abbey Medieval Festival from a height like no other. Chances are if you have been to the festival in the past, you would have seen Elke making her way around as one of the roving entertainers. It’s easy to spot her, as she towers over the crowd on her stilts. Elke has been performing at the festival now for at least the last 20 years and can’t wait to get back out there for the 2024 festival (July 6 and 7, with a Family Fun Day on July 5). 

 

“I absolutely love the atmosphere,” Elke explains. “It's like stepping back in time into a fairy-tale world.  

“Lords and Ladies dressed in their finest, jesters, dancers and many patrons fully embrace the festival spirit and dress up. The crowd is always incredibly receptive and the people who attend truly embody the essence of the festival.” 

 

Elke first stepped into the world of stilt walking more than 20 years ago after being mesmerised by a fellow performer at another festival.   

 

“Inspired by her elegance and the magic she brought to the crowd, I decided to take up the art myself. Little did I know it would lead me on such a wondrous journey,” Elke recalls.  

“People are often enchanted by the otherworldly fantasy we create and the interactions with the crowd are what make it all so special. It's a unique experience to communicate without words and seeing the awe and joy on their faces is incredibly rewarding.” 

 

Returning to Abbeystowe year-after-year has certainly left a long trail of memories for Elke, too many to choose from. 

 

“The festival is filled with the sounds of medieval music and merriment and the bellowing voice of the Herald echoing across the grounds,” she said. “The delight on people's faces, of all ages and the sight of patrons dressed in splendid medieval attire. The tantalising smells of delicious food and spices wafting through the air create an enchanting backdrop that adds to the magic.” 

 

In sad news for anyone who hasn’t yet bought tickets, this year’s festival has already sold out! But those already lucky to have tickets in hand, you’re in for a treat. 

 

“Visitors will be delighted with the sounds, sights and tastes of 1000 years of Medieval history, as they are transported back in time to Abbeystowe, our medieval village,” Marketing manager Kellee Neville said. “We have eight main event locations hosting shows and presentations all day and more than 60 encampment activities daily, demonstrating life in medieval times.  

“Along with a professional medieval Joust tournament, visitors will experience Birds of Prey, Turkish Oil Wrestling, armoured combat, battle re-enactments and so much more. Wander the markets for food, drink and retail wares, or rest at the Stag Inn or Heorot Hall and enjoy a cold drink or warmed mead.” 

 

There’s no denying it’s a weekend full of enlightenment, fun and food, with plenty to see and do. 

 

Nothing can compare to the energy of Abbeystowe on festival weekend and it’s always a highlight on everyone’s calendar!” Kellee said. “It’s amazing to see the look of wonder and joy in the faces of visitors who are always wowed by the whole experience. There’s so much to see and do and we love seeing the amazing dedication and commitment from guests with their costumes and outfits adding to the whole pageantry of the weekend.” 

 

This year will see the introduction of a Family Fun Day on Friday July 5. This will involve a sensory-friendly day with fewer crowds and less noises – no cannon or weapon firing. Organisers and re-enactment groups have worked tireless to prepare a family-friendly day of activities for all ages to enjoy. 

 

“Friday tickets are selling fast so don’t miss out!” Kellee said. “If you missed out on the weekend and want even more history – stay tuned to our social media pages as we announce something new coming soon!” 

 

For further information, visit https://www.abbeymedievalfestival.com/ 

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