Kelmarsh Festival of History 2012

The story of what was billed as one of the country's largest multi-period events

In mid-July the English Heritage "Festival of History 2012" was scheduled to be held in the grounds of Kelmarsh Hall.

I attended the event as a member of both The Birmingham Pals and The Diehards.

The spring and summer had been one of the wettest on record, and several of the events I had been booked for were cancelled due to flooding.

English Heritage, who organise the Kelmarsh Festival of History assured everyone that the event would certainly take place as advertised.  They claimed the Kelmarsh site had an extensive drainage system which would ensure that the area was useable.

On arriving on Friday afternoon we found some parts of the venue very wet with some surface water.  I was directed to the Victorian Living History where we set up the tent on a small rise.  In the late afternoon it again started to rain.
In the early hours of Saturday morning we were awoken by horns blowing and people shouting - another rowdy night at the beer tent?

On venturing outside I found that the tent was surrounded by fast-flowing, foul-smelling water. A viking swept past on an airbed - still asleep!

The river had burst its banks, and the flood swept through the middle of the site - at times up to two feet deep.

It was fortunate that my tent was on slightly higher ground that (just) missed being flooded.  Other re-enactors had lost all their kit in the muddy water.

English Heritage at first said that the opening time would be delayed, then they said that the Saturday show was being cancelled, but Sunday would go ahead as planned.

Eventually mid-morning they cancelled the whole event when they realised the extent of the damage and destruction. 

I was lucky that my camp was undamaged, and that the equipment could be packed up.  I managed to leave the site early Saturday afternoon. 

Some others were not so lucky and were unable to leave until Monday, having had to be towed out of the car parks and fields by tractor.