I Volunteer… But Not As Tribute

Sorry for The Hunger Games wordplay in the title, I’ve been reading a lot of discussions on the series lately so it immediately came to mind. But, today’s blog post is not about The Hunger Games it is about volunteering – specifically the volunteering I’ve done this month for the Abbey Museum’s Medieval Festival.

A Feast for the Eyes

This is my first year volunteering for the Abbey Medieval Festival so I thought I’d give everything a go (well not everything, but at least all the different events). The first was the Medieval Banquet held on Saturday the 30th of June. And boy was it worth volunteering for it.

For the banquets, the Abbey team transforms the Performing Arts Centre of the attached school into a banquet hall. Rows of tables are set up, with the high table located on the stage. Each table is divided into sections of eight which are marked by candle holders and decorative shields.

I was working as a server for the evening but before the food could be served all the guests had to be welcomed in and undertake having their hands washed before being guided to their seats. The hand washing was a joy to be a part of; we had jugs of beautifully smelling rose water which we poured a small amount of onto the clasped hands of our lords and ladies who were attending. It was also a fantastic way to see all the different costumes the guests were wearing – there was a number of Friars, Knights and elegantly dressed ladies.

Once all the guests were seated there was an introductory speech on manners giving by the Herald, who has been assisting with the Abbey Medieval Festival for 20 years, and a traditional show of respect for the High Table. Then it was time for the feasting to commence, each of us servers was expected to cover two tables (locating them by the colour of shield in the candlelight) so for each dish we carried out two platters. I’ve never waited tables before so I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t be able to manage balancing two fully loaded plates at a time, but I was. During the course of the evening there was an array of performances, each more stunning than the last and I had an absolutely amazing time even though I was working.

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos from the banquet, aside from one of me in uniform which was taken before we started working. But, it was a wonderful evening full of colours and delicious smells which you can hear a little more about in this Sunday Story Time Video I did on July 1st.

Hordes of Children

After doing the first banquet I was extremely tired, and while I had enjoyed the night I was fairly certain I didn’t want to take part in the second banquet (especially with the chances of terrible traffic from another local event). However, I was still committed to following through with the other events. So for Tuesday the 3rd, Wednesday the 4th, and Friday the 6th I pitched in for the Abbey Museum’s Family Fun Week.

I’d never been into the actual Abbey Museum before so it was great to have a chance to look around whilst also helping out. The museum is only small but it has a number of historic artefacts from all over the world, separated into small sections it is easy to navigate. I had the pleasure of being stationed in the crafts corner, where we also had a number of costumes the kids were welcome to try on.

For the most part, the Family Fun Week was a lot of fun, but it could be extremely tiring as there were a lot of children coming through. We had a number of craft projects the kids could choose from: colouring, making stained glass windows (stencils and cellophane), a split pin knight, castles, caskets, and jousting knights that could be cut out and assembled. Most of the children wanted to do the stained glass windows and split pin knights, so I got pretty good at explaining how to do those particular projects and ended up “assisting” quite a few children with the stained glass windows.

Of course, as with any large gathering of people, there was a lot of noise, and I came home with a splitting headache on Wednesday. But it was a great chance to help out and the kids loved it (especially when we gave them stamps for finishing a craft). So, all in all, it was a very rewarding experience and thanks to me choosing not to do the second banquet I had a decent chunk of downtime before the festival.

The Friar’s Folly

Finally, the main event – The Abbey Medieval Festival – which was this weekend just past (Saturday the 14th and Sunday the 15th of July). I didn’t get much of a chance to really see the festival and all its attractions, but unlike the banquet and the family fun week, I do have some photos (which my cousin took with my camera while she and my mother were in attendance). The reason I didn’t get to enjoy it all myself is because I was volunteering both days at the Friar’s Folly Tavern, and honestly I loved it.

The tavern crew volunteers were amazing. We all had a great time working together and there were minimal mistakes made. Considering it was my first time working behind a bar I was a bit worried about getting overwhelmed, but as luck would have it I managed to do a good job. I spent most of my time working the register (cash registers and I tend to get along pretty well). While I didn’t get to see any of the encampments I got to enjoy beautiful music played by the minstrels based on the stage in our tavern, which honestly makes me sad to think that I won’t have medieval musical accompaniment all the time.

Plenty of people flooded our tavern on both days so we all at least got to see some truly stunning outfits.  We had a number of different drinks people could order: ale, mead, cider, Norfolk punch, wine, beer and water (the most popular of which was the mead supplied by Amrita Park Meadery which we ran out of on the second day). And seeing as I was stationed in one area the whole time it was relatively easy for my family and a friend who was also in attendance to find me. Plus after finishing our shift we got to enjoy some of the delicious beverages we’d been serving all day (a definite bonus to being part of the tavern crew).

Really it’s been so rewarding doing all this volunteer work lately, and I’ve also managed to make a friend through it which is the cherry on top of this whole experience.

If you’re ever considering doing volunteer work I highly recommend it as it’s not only helpful for the Not For Profits that rely on volunteer aid but for yourself – it can provide a sense of fulfilment and it will also look great on your resume!

P.S. If you’d like to volunteer for the Abbey Medieval Festival follow this link!

Kind Regards,

Sasha Hanton.


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