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SIX WIVES: Ian Pycroft as Henry VIII with his six queens at a Blickling Hall Tudor pageant. From left: Catherine of Aragon (Izabela Zebrowska), Anne Boleyn (Molly Housego), Jane Seymour (Vicky Abbott), Ann of Cleves (Bess Chilver), Catherine Howard (Kindra Jones), Catherine Parr (Victoria Henige). Picture: COLIN FINCH
Alex Hurrell, Reporter
Thursday, January 17, 2013
Fed up with work and bored with your life?
If you made a New Year’s resolution to do something about it, Ian Pycroft might be the role model you were looking for.
Ian, 48, used to work in a shop. Nowadays he earns his living as a time traveller.
On any given day Ian might be a pirate, Henry VIII, a Roman centurion, Mordred – traitor knight of the Arthurian legends – second world war pilot Sqn Ldr Johnny “Bouncer” Ball, or Nelson’s chum, Captain Hardy.
“Someone called me a Time Lord once and I’ve now had that printed on my business cards,” said Ian, from Tunstead,
Through his business, Black Knight Historical, Ian gets to visit some of the most magnificent and historic venues in the country – from Alnwick Castle in Northumberland to Pendennis Castle in Cornwall.
Wherever they find themselves, Ian and his Black Knight team of costumed interpreters and specialists will bring history to life for everyone from tourists to schoolchildren.
And, with the Bronze and Iron Ages added to Ian’s portfolio this year, he can now offer expertise spanning three-and-a-half thousand years, up to the Swinging Sixties.
This year Ian and his team expect to attend between 70 and 100 events, including established favourites such as the August bank holiday Medieval Spectacular at Pensthorpe.
It all began in the mid-1980s when Ian happened to walk through North Walsham churchyard where members of a medieval society were staging a joust as part of a fete.
“It was my first introduction to historical performance in a quasi-authentic setting,” Ian recalled.
“I already had an academic interest in medieval arms and armour and then suddenly I came on this scene. I thought ‘Do you mean people ctually act it out? Wow! Can I’?”
Nowadays Ian can call on academics, plus experts in skills including costume, make-up, Victorian photography, and food history to help him plan and realise events.
And he has a growing collection of historical props, featuring a French Revolution guillotine, a suit of armour, a full-sized mummy, and a dinosaur’s head – as collected by a Victorian explorer.
Ian and his partner Kindra Jones, 24, are always thinking ahead and preparing for the next round of anniversaries.
This year will see Black Knight involved with events to mark the 50th anniversary of Dr Who, 200 years since the publication of Pride and Prejudice, and 100 years since suffragette Emily Davison threw herself under the King’s horse during the Derby.
The Black Knight team are also regular visitors to classrooms where they demonstrate everything from crimes and punishments, to medieval craftsmanship and Elizabethan “cures”.
He is hoping to work with clusters of schools this year, to spread the living-history message even further afield and keep costs down for schools.
Despite advanced technology, which make historically-based computer games very realistic, nothing beats the real sight, sound, touch and smell of a live interpretation, according to Ian.
He remembers the excitement on children’s faces as he loaded a musket with wadding and powder, and then fired it at the end of a medieval and Tudor day.
And the sheer joy with which pupils whooped battle cries and took turns to swing a broad sword at his wooden shield.
Ian admits that there are times when he misses a 9am-5pm job and regular wage, but they are fairly few and far between.
He said: “It’s easy to become jaded and miss the fun but then a new project comes along and creates a real buzz in the team. It’s a great way to make a living.”
● Visit: www.blackknighthistorical.co.uk