On Sunday 4 June Royal Holloway, University of London welcomed over 1000 visitors from the local community and beyond to its inaugural Festival of History, bringing sword fighting, ‘suffragette jujitsu’ and revolutionary rifle-drill to Egham.
The family friendly festival brought to life the struggle for democracy and freedom in the UK with performances, live music, talks and re-enactments. This events forms a major part of Citizens, Royal Holloway’s Heritage Lottery Fund-supported project that reveals the relationship between citizens and the state of Britain over the last 800 years since the sealing of Magna Carta at Runnymede.
Founder's North Quad was transformed by the presence of three historical encampments and over 60 reenactors representing the periods of Magna Carta, the English Civil War and the American Revolution. Former army captain, Sue Kirk, also entertained visitors with a demonstration of Suffragette self-defence and four plays were performed by theatre company Time Will Tell in the Chapel and Quad.
Activities included talks from guest speakers, historians Dr Fern Riddell, Professor Ted Vallance and Dr Alex Lock, as well as a host of children's activities such as shouldering a musket and learning Magna Carta-style calligraphy. The Department of Music at Royal Holloway also presented a programme of chamber music from students Enia Sofia and Theodora Wong.
Justin Champion, Professor of Early Modern Ideas and President of the Historical Association 2014-2017 said:
"The Festival of History was a tour de force, highlighting the imaginative possibilities of engaging with the public (of all ages and abilities) in dramatic and exciting ways. Whether operating a seventeenth century printing press, undertaking monastic calligraphy or watching Diggers agitate for common rights or soldiers marshal their arms – the history of freedom, protest and power were represented in many forms. Powerful lectures on the radical, and at sometime violent, history of the suffragettes were combined with accounts of the Putney Debates and the reign of Bad King john. Set in the beautiful sun dappled quads of the College this was without doubt a day to remember."
Professor Sarah Ansari, Head of the Department of History at Royal Holloway commented that
“The Festival of History was a great success. I was especially pleased that there were so many children and young people visiting, seeing history being brought to life in a meaningful way and being encouraged to become the next generation of historians. Our students are engaged in thinking about how they can communicate history to public audiences and having fantastic events like this being held at their university is a really inspiring example of this.”
The Department of History at Royal Holloway has a strong reputation for its expertise in the field of Public History, being home to the London Centre for Public History and Heritage. Find out more about the MA in Public History as well as undergraduate history degree programmes, which include courses in Public History.
Watch the video for the Festival of History here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVBuHsu-qiA