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If you happen to see sword fighting or men and women dressed in costumes like that of a scene in a Game of Thrones episode this weekend, you’re not hallucinating – it’s all part of the Museum of Australian Democracy’s Medieval Fest.
The free event, held at Old Parliament House in partnership with the Society of Creative Anachronism, will celebrate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta by King John of England and give locals a glimpse into what it was like to live in the middle ages.
The Magna Carta, agreed to on 15 June 1215, was considered one of the most significant democratic documents in history.
First drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make peace between the unpopular King and a group of rebel barons, it promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment and access to swift justice.
Medieval Fest organiser Kate Armstrong says the museum wanted a way for people of all ages to learn about the Magna Carta and the Medieval ages in a more “immersive, interactive” way.
“We wanted to do something in the style of living history, it’s about adding some colour and movement to the era, so people can get a better understanding of why the Magna Carta was important at the time and give an impression of how people lived at that time,” she says.
“I’m hoping this is going to be very much a cross-generational event, I think history is something everybody can enjoy and providing it in a way that’s interactive, immersive, colourful and fun is what we’re aiming for on this particular day. I’d be happy to have everyone from seven months to over 70.”
Canberrans are encouraged to dress in Medieval garb at the event, which will feature activities for all ages including medieval food, dance displays, live music, crown-making activities, craft, calligraphy and sword play.
“There will also be an exhibition as well as The Magna Carta Discovery Trail – a self-guided trail that encourages visitors to visit other institutions in the Parliamentary Triangle that have a Magna Carta offering such as Magna Carta Place, Australian Parliament House, National Archives of Australia and the High Court of Australia,” says Kate.
“On Monday 15 June, Human Rights Commissioner Professor Gillian Triggs will deliver a lecture at the ANU titled Magna Carta: How relevant to Australia and Human Rights?“
Kate says many of the rights and responsibilities that we recognise today, can be traced back to the Magna Carta.
“It was about ensuring equality under the law and that no-one was above the law,” she says.
“I think that’s important to remember; sometimes with our democracy we can become complacent about our rights and privileges, so for me it’s about ensuring we occasionally pause to consider how lucky we are to live in a democratic society.”
What: Medieval Fest
Where: The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House
When: 10am-3pm on Monday 8 June
How much: Free
Featured image: People are encouraged to dress in medieval costumes. Photo: Amanda Swadling