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On Friday the 13th of August this year, I had the great pleasure of attending for the first time ever Festival in the Shire which took place in Wales in a small village called Pontrhyfendigad (Bridge of the Blessed Ford) from 13th to 15th August (I attended only Friday).
On arriving I was pleasantly surprised by a handmade rough map of the festival area with Tolkien-inspired names such as "Council of Elrond" for the Conference location, "Halls of Meduseld" for the area of the general festival and the expo, and "Emyn Muil" for the car park.
My main interest at the festival was to attend for the first time ever the Live Action Role Play and the art exhibition. Exhibits included works from Roger Garland, Paul Raymond Gregory and Alan Lee, as well as some personal memorabilia from J. R. R. T. such as letters concerning the dispute about the rights on the books and some war medals. Of course there were a lot of various editions of the books and of fan articles inspired by them and the movies.
The exposition entry itself was styled as a spider cave with a Black Rider hiding in the corner, which I thought was a great idea and created a fitting atmosphere. The exposition talks (separate from the conference) were being transmitted into the exposition itself which gave a pleasant alternative to attending the talks themselves.
In between LARP and exposition I had the great pleasure of listening to Robin LaTrobe who quoted The Story of Beren and Luthien almost word by word by heart with a few amusing name mix-ups and introductions to new characters.
A few notes of various musicans such as singer Anne Lister (great voice), piano player Marco Lo Musico and Celtic harpist Harriet Earis reached my ear as well and I liked whatI heard.
I also had the chance to take part in a Tolkien quiz where I was paired up with a very knowledgeable girl named Cat and where we finished as second with 26/27 correct answers. The stumbling stone was the question of the goblin warlord commanding at the Battle of the Five Armies. Would you have known it?
The LARP was organised by Live Action UK and Wyvern Tales as an interactive introduction to LARP for the attendees. So there were two opposing groups – the Militia and The Villains with an escaped boss – which had to make each other’s lives difficult. The Militia recruited from the public, but since they had no daggers these had to be bought at the vendors in the Halls of Meduseld (I acted as distributer of said knives with the agreement of the vendors) and accordingly mugged by the villains. This was done a few times. Then the village youth with children of the attendees took over poor Gwydion, one of the LARPers, who promptly organised a game for them that included a bit of hacking with LARP weapons and chasing each other. Later in the afternoon the due skirmish between Militia and Villains took stage and the villains were duly “hacked to pieces”. Impressively, one of the Militia was LARPing in a wheelchair and had a lot of fun as well.
From what I saw my overall impression of the event was a very positive one, even though some of the organizers complained about teething troubles as was to be expected when such an event happens for the first time. I was also a bit disappointed that the LARP wasn’t more Tolkien-inspired but I mentioned this in the feedback form they sent out to the attendees.I certainly can recommend the event and look forward to attending the next one.