I’ve been to the Ham Hill Experience day a couple of times now. My last visit was memorable – lots to do and see like blacksmiths, pottery makers, hog roasts, Roman soldier displays and much much more. You can imagine my excitement, then, to hear that the event was going to be on again this year. Naturally I attended, but what I found actually left a lot to be desired.
Although there was the usual Roman marches, Viking battles and various activities like mud hut building and fire-making with the scouts, I was disappointed to see that the usual bustling tables and stalls were largely empty, the majority of the visitors focusing on the centre arena. While this may sound like a good thing, I should note that the arena had been set up with a modest amount of space; the organisers clearly expected a much larger turnout than what there was.
That’s not to say that it wasn’t an enjoyable day, however. The majority of stalls were actually really interesting, welcoming and well set up. The only let down were stony faces from some of the stall owners: The Owl Rescue and Petting Zoo stalls to name a few. I shouldn’t have been surprised as they do say people who hate people work with animals…but you would think that an event that is supposed to appeal to kids and families would house people that want to show enthusiasm for their hobbies, not complacency irritation at having to answer questions from children.
To contrast this, the Viking warriors put on an amazing show, despite only having around 6 “fighters”. They had lots of energy and were very entertaining for child and adult alike. Even the downpour that arrived halfway through their display couldn’t dampen their spirits, very much like their Nordic brothers of old. If only the rest of the envoy had this kind of mentality, the day would perhaps have gone a little better. Also, I should make it clear that last time I was at this event, I tried water buffalo burgers for the first time (they were phenomenal by the way) and yet there were none this time around. Even the signature Hog Roast was not present, in it’s place a ‘traditional medieval’ pizza stand.
I have heard on the grapevine that the event is actually struggling and may not even be on next year, which would be a great shame as it is clear a lot of effort is being made to keep the event running. Donations were being taken on the day to help support the event, but I can’t help feel that a select few are going to let the rest of the team down purely by being seemingly non-committal. Personally, I found the location of the event very strange; instead of having it in the usual spot of just below the war monument, it had been moved to the outskirts of Ham Hill, much to everyone’s confusion (including my own – finding it by road was almost impossible). I can’t help feel that this change of setting took away the event’s initial appeal – bringing Ham Hill and our local area’s history to life for all ages to enjoy.