- Do you think it’s fun to dress in clothing styles a few hundred years out of date?
- Do you like to talk to people about long forgotten lifestyles, crafts, martial arts, or historical events?
- Do you like to research medieval history, crafts, or material culture and want to hang out with people who appreciate it?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, La Belle Compagnie has a place for you.
So How do I get started?
Getting started in any hobby may be intimidating so, if you’re new to the living history of the Middle Ages, talk to us. We’ll help you find a starting point for your portrayal. If you’ve done this before, or done something like it, talk to us. Show us your gear. We’ll figure out what will work and what won’t (see Vetting, below). Once we all know what your portrayal is going to be, we will work out what you need to achieve it.
Our process for welcoming new members:
1. Contact us. Let us know what sort of portrayal you’re interested in doing. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Join us for one our monthly meetings. Here you can meet our members and get a feel for the group and meet your sponsor.
3. Based on your interests, one of our members will become your sponsor. You sponsor will be selected based on your shared interests and a solid knowledge of your portrayal. He or She will help you do the following:
- Get your kit together. This includes help in making your clothing and equipment. If you wish, your sponsor can also identify vendors who can sell you some of your kit. Items purchased through vendors may require alterations before final approval – your sponsor can assist you with this.
- Provide you with loaner gear. This is compangnie-owned equipment that you may use to supplement your own kit until it is ready. We encourage you to have your basic kit completed within a year so that other new members can use the loaner gear.
- Provide you with historical background information – including a suggested reading list!
- Get your stuff approved – see our vetting process – below. As an educational group, we strive to have the most accurate kit we can. Your sponsor will work closely with you to insure that the stuff you have poured your time and energy into will meet our standards for authenticity.
4. Come play. We have ~6 shows a year.
You’ll be starting off as a Recruit. Once you fulfill the requirements of a Companion (aka a Member) and prove to be compatible with the company’s ideals and approaches, the committee will issue an invitation to become a fully-fledged Companion (there are modest annual dues.) We also have folks called Retainers (members who demonstrate long-term commitment to the Compagnie.) The details of this stuff are in our by-laws.
Getting Your Stuff Approved
We all go through the dread “vetting process.” That’s where all clothing, gear, and equipment is reviewed for authenticity prior to use at a presentation. We want to see it before it shows up at a presentation. Ask any member about how you can get in on this fun and edifying procedure and enjoy the committee’s scrutiny. But remember, you will likely be asked to document your stuff, especially if it’s something new to us. Your sponsor will assist you in this process.
All items should be documented to within the proper time frame for a given presentation, or be shown to be in use in reasonable proximity before and after. In general, earlier is better than later for a convincing argument that an item existed.
If you can’t get your stuff to a meeting or arrange a session with the committee, we’ll consider looking at photos.
In extremes, an item may be summarily approved by a committee member or an appropriate “resource person,” but the item needs to go through the formal vetting process at the next meeting
Documentation is, by preference, from primary sources such as archaeological finds, museum pieces, period documents, manuscript pictures, etc. We have a number of favorite secondary sources by scholars whose work we find superior. Not all scholars are created equal. Whatever you bring as a reference, we’ll need to know the source, so we can put our eyeballs on it, too.
The Quick and Dirty Guide to How it Works
Our most common form of presentation is a “living history” encampment, although we also do lectures, demonstrations, and school visits. for encampments, we set up tents and sometimes other structures and go about daily activities. We appear dressed in historic costume. When guests (the public) appear, we greet them and speak to them about our activities and about any aspect of our camp, goods, costume, and time period that interests them. Whenever possible and appropriate, we speak in the first person, as people of the time period. What we do is termed “representative interpretation.”
We are “representative” because none of our portrayals is based completely on a single historic character. Rather, each is a composite intended to represent an example of the chosen portrayal. We try to make each portrayal as complete a person as we can, including a personal background and opinions on events and practices of his or her day.
We do “interpretation” because we help the public gain an understanding of certain aspects of history and life in our chosen historic period. We are not “re-enactors”, because we do not re-enact particular events.
We hold meetings and workshops to conduct research, exchange information, review gear, consult on event scheduling, and produce gear and equipment. We go through all of this so we can present the results of our work.
The corporation and the re-enactment group are run by an elected committee who establish policies and coordinate the company’s operations. They are charged with fostering research and encouraging the constant improvement of group and individual presentations. They also are the ones who review all published materials and all artifacts and clothing used in La Belle Compagnie presentations.