Free Saxon-themed fun and entertainment for the whole family, including the live reveal of a huge community art project, will fill Tamworth’s Castle Grounds this Saturday (July 14) as part of the four-day Aethelfest activities.
Tamworth residents and visitors are invited to join the fun as we celebrate the life of Lady of the Mercians, Aethelflaed, who died in the town 1,100 years ago.
A range of events including family activities, guided tours, talks, the brewing of a new Aetheflaed Ale and an academic conference, will take place over the four-day festival from Thursday, July 12 to Sunday, July 15.
At the heart of the programme will be a free day of fun for the whole family in Tamworth Castle Grounds between 10am and 4pm. A Saxon encampment will take residence in the grounds, bringing with it activities such as coin making, toys and games, parchment writing, jewellery making, crafts, storytelling and much more.
People can get their own ‘warrior queen’ look at a special drop-in crown making workshop taking place in the Community Together CIC hub at the Activity Centre in the grounds between 11am and 2pm. Crown templates can also be downloaded from www.aethelflaed.co.uk for anyone who wants to make a crown at home.
Alongside the free entertainment in the grounds, Tamworth Castle will be hosting its own Saxon Living History event between 11.30am and 4pm (normal admission charges apply). Visitors will be able to discover what life was like for those living in Tamworth during Anglo Saxon times, including Aethelflaed herself. People can also learn about battle tactics from the era, have a go at digging for artefacts and take their place in a shield wall.
Saturday’s excitement will also include the live reveal of a huge mosaic as 1,400 tiles, decorated by thousands of people across Tamworth, will be brought together for the first time in a stunning spectacle.
Each individually-decorated tile is one-yard square and when all tiles have been laid out, they will cover a 70-yard by 20-yard area of the lower lawn. The sheer scale of the project means that no-one will see the mosaic in its full glory until the unveiling on July 14.
Mercian Mosaic is an ambitious project by Tamworth Borough Council’s Arts & Events team as part of Arts in Unusual Spaces – an initiative funded by Arts Council England which has aimed to bring art out into the community and encourage more people to get creative.
It has been led by Tamworth-based artist Maggie Carney, who was commissioned to come up with the intricate design celebrating Tamworth’s rich Anglo Saxon history. At the centre is Tamworth’s ‘Lady of the Mercians’ Aethelflaed, who played a pivotal role in English history, building a chain of fortifications against Viking invaders throughout the Kingdom of Mercia.
The 1,400 tiles have been tied together in smaller sections and around 30 volunteers will be involved in laying it out on July 14. Sections of the mosaic will be carried out on to the lower lawn early in the morning on Saturday, with the hope that the completed design will be ready for people to view mid-morning.
Hundreds of children and adults who have contributed are expected to come along on the day to spot their tile and see how it fits into the bigger picture.
Other Aethelfest activities include a variety of local talks and lectures, including the Tamworth and District Civic Society Annual Lecture with TV historian Michael Wood on July 12, and Tamworth Literary Festival talks with archaeologist, writer and broadcaster Martin Carver (July 13) and a panel discussion with authors Dr Sara Reid, Annie Whitehead, Marianne Whiting and Dr Jennifer Evans (July 14). Author Dr Margaret Jones will also be discussing her new book ‘Founder, Fighter Saxon Queen Aethelflaed’ at an event at Tamworth Library, which is also hosting an Aethelflaed display (July 14).
There will also be a special guided walking tour of Anglo-Saxon Tamworth with the Guild of Town Guides and the launch of a new Aethelflaed Ale, called ‘Our Aethel’ which has been brewed by Tamworth Brewing Co in Market Street.
Aethelflaed’s part in history is of also great interest to historians, scholars and academics across the world and will be explored in depth during a weekend conference to be held in Tamworth as part of the anniversary events.
Scholars from UK and international universities will descend upon the town for the July 13-July 15 conference for a full programme of lectures, exploring themes such as women and political power in early Medieval Britain, the re-making of Mercian rulership, the origins of St Editha’s Church, the uncontested succession of Aethelflaed’s daughter as an exceptional example of female succession, and Tamworth in the Domesday book. There will also be a photographic exhibition on Mercian landscapes, accompanied by a lecture about Anglo-Saxon influences on modern authors such as J.R.R Tolkien. Delegates are already confirmed from the United States, Canada and Europe.
The conference is being co-ordinated by scholars from Keele, Chester and Manchester universities and a limited number of tickets are available at www.aethelflaed.org.
Aethelfest is being led by Tamworth Borough Council in partnership with a range of organisations to celebrate the life of one of the most powerful and influential women in Anglo-Saxon England. Daughter of King Alfred the Great, Aethelflaed played a key role in defending the ancient kingdom of Mercia against Viking invaders and spent much of her time in Tamworth as a seat of royal power.
The four-day celebrations follow the unveiling of a new six-metre statue of Aetheflaed on a roundabout outside Tamworth Railway Station and a national commemorative service attended by hundreds of dignitaries including HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.
A 12-page brochure listing all the activities is available at locations throughout Tamworth including at the Tourist Information Centre in Marmion House in Lichfield Street, Tamworth Library and Tamworth Heritage Hub in Middle Entry. It is also available online at the www.aethelflaed.co.uk website.
A variety of Aethelflaed merchandise has also been commissioned to mark the anniversary and is available to purchase from Tamworth Tourist Information Centre in Marmion House, Tamworth Castle and at a merchandise tent which will be in the grounds on Saturday, July 14. Goodies include pens, pencils, book marks and a tote bag.
Cllr John Chesworth, Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Culture and Operational Services, said: “As a town we have really come together to go all out to mark the 1100th anniversary of the death of Aetheflaed. This historic occasion is not just about celebrating our heritage, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to raise the profile of Tamworth and maybe attract visitors who have either never heard of us before or were not aware of all the place has to offer.
“The Aethelfest programme is being co-ordinated by a range of organisations all working together towards this common goal. It really does have something for everyone, whether that’s finding out more about this key part of our history, joining in some family fun, or watching the live unveiling of one of our largest ever pieces of community art. I hope lots of people take the opportunity to come out and take part in Aethelfest.”
For more information, please visit www.aethelflaed.co.uk.