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Planning Retirement Online

Out of the box. Historical Re-enactment Societies

                                       September 2010

This is our regular OUT OF THE BOX feature where we give suggestions on different things to try.      

If you have tried something unusual or different, tell us all about it - and send in a photograph as well if you can – so that we can share your experiences with others.


This month we look at …… Historical Re-enactment Societies

Throughout the summer months and also sometimes through the winter, you will come across adverts for historical re-enactments.

These historical re-enactments are a type of theatre, where participants attempt to recreate aspects from an historical event or period.

English Heritage

Picture from English Heritage

Many are re-enactments of specific battles, but there are also groups who attempt to portray life as it was it specific periods of history such as in regency times.

Some of the performances put on are of an extremely high standard and are so good that the participants are invited to top shows and events throughout the country and can be paid quite a lot of money for their efforts. At the other end of the scale are very small local groups who have a lot of fun trying to bring to life a period from history with limited information and rehearsal time.

For people who become really involved in this, there are actually special terms for different types of participants. The top end, where everything is done to the highest level, including enormous attention to accuracy and costume, and where the participants often immerse themselves in the characters and activities of the period they are representing, can be known as progressive or authentic re-enactors. One step down are the mainstream, where a lot of effort and enthusiasm is involved, but not total dedication; and then at the more relaxed end of the scale are the farbs. Farb is an interesting word that is thought to have an American origin, and really covers people who want to get involved but have a “good enough” attitude and don’t over spend on time and money to re-create total authenticity.

Generally, the majority of people involved in re-enactments do it as a hobby, for the fun of it all and also because it does offer a great way to make new friends. Participants in re-enactments come from all walks of life and from right across the age groups, from young children to quite elderly. There are usually roles for everyone who would like to be involved; from taking a dramatic and leading role in front of the public eye to a costume researcher or being a general helper behind the scenes to ensure everything goes according to plan.

Interest in this hobby is increasing and it is now thought there are around 20,000 people belonging to re-enactment societies around the UK, including many families who find it hugely enjoyable and also educational to spend weekends recreating distant periods.

For anyone who is interested, there are general societies and also societies that specialise in specific periods of history or events. There really is a huge range of options available, but one thing is that most societies are always on the look out for new members.

Really it is a case of making some initial contacts and then going from there. You will soon pick up a great deal of information and can move on to a more appropriate society if necessary. The easiest way to get started is to tap in key words such as “historic re-enactments” or “victorian re-enactments” into google and many contact ideas will come up. There are some websites, such as: that seem mainly to concentrate on military histories, while others such as concentrate purely on one historic period.

Another useful site is plus there are some specialist magazines available such as Skirminsh (10 times a year) and Living History Digest published twice a year.

English Heritage is also a good source of information, they have over 400 historic sites around the country and many often run a special re-enactment event. Visit

One good thing about this fascinating hobby is that it is so educational as well as being active and fun; becoming deeply involved in a specific historic event or period can be a real eye-opener on how life was really led in those far off days.


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