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Aethelfest Festival

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by Tony Collins (subscribe)
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Join in four days of celebration for Anglo-Saxon heroine
An exciting programme of activities is to take place in the historic Staffordshire town of Tamworth across four days next month to celebrate the life of the Lady of the Mercians, Aethelflaed. Tamworth's Aethelfest will take place between July 12 and July 15 and includes a whole range of events, such as an Anglo-Saxon themed family fun day, the unveiling of Tamworth's largest ever piece of community art, guided tours, talks and a weekend academic conference drawing scholars, authors and delegates from across the world. And, to set the scene for the Aethelfest event, Tamworth Borough Council has produced a 12-page brochure listing all the activities. The brochure has been distributed across the region, with copies going to motorway services, train stations, supermarkets, airports, tourist information centres and visitor attractions, including in all of Aetheflaed's fortified Mercian towns, with the hope of attracting visitors to join in the celebrations. It is also available online at www.aethelflaed.co.uk.

Aethelfest
The Aethelfest brochure is packed with information


Aethelfest is being led by Tamworth Borough Council in partnership with a range of organisations to celebrate the life of one of the most powerful and influential women in Anglo-Saxon England. Daughter of King Alfred the Great, Aethelflaed played a key role in defending the ancient kingdom of Mercia against Viking invaders and spent much of her time in Tamworth as a seat of royal power. She took her last breath in the town 1,100 years ago in June 918. This anniversary is being marked with a range of activities, all designed to raise awareness of this 'warrior queen' and Tamworth's role in her eventful reign. Commemorations began with the unveiling of a six-metre statue of Aethelflaed on a roundabout outside Tamworth Railway Station and continued with a national commemorative service at St Editha's Church in the town, organised by Tamworth and District Civic Society and attended by HRH Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, actors from TV series The Last Kingdom, plus civic dignitaries, authors and historians.

Tamworth Castle, Aethelflaed
The statue of Aethelflaed outside Tamworth Castle


One of the highlights of the forthcoming Aethelfest extravaganza is on Saturday 14 July with a Saxon encampment in Tamworth Castle Grounds, including toys and games, coin and parchment making, crafts, storytelling, and a crown making workshop. There will also be a Saxon Living History event at Tamworth Castle (normal admission charges apply), where visitors can learn about Aethelflaed, find out about Saxon battle tactics, take their place in a shield wall and dig for artefacts. At the centre of the fun day will be the live unveiling of Mercian Mosaic - Tamworth's largest-ever piece of community art - which is made up of 1,400 yard square tiles decorated by volunteers over the last 18 months. The Anglo-Saxon-themed mosaic will be laid out on the lower lawn of the Castle Grounds for the first time, weather permitting.

St Editha's Church
Historic St Editha's Church in Tamworth


At the same time, historians, scholars and academics from across the world will be attending a conference in Tamworth from July 13 to July 15 which will explore themes such as women and political power in early Medieval Britain, the re-making of Mercian rulership, the origins of St Editha's Church, the uncontested succession of Aethelflaed's daughter, and Tamworth in the Domesday book. There will also be a photographic exhibition on Mercian landscapes, accompanied by a lecture about Anglo-Saxon influences on modern authors such as J.R.R Tolkien. A variety of local talks and lectures will also be held throughout the weekend including the Tamworth and District Civic Society Annual Lecture with TV historian Michael Wood. Other events include a special guided walking tour of Anglo-Saxon Tamworth with the Guild of Town Guides and a new Aethelflaed Ale, called 'Our Aethel' which has been brewed by Tamworth Brewing Co in Market Street. A variety of Aethelflaed merchandise has also been commissioned to mark the anniversary.
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Why? Four-Day Extravaganza Dedicated To Anglo-Saxon Warrior Queen
When: 12 - 15 July
Phone: 01827 709618
Where: Tamworth Castle Grounds, Holloway, Tamworth B79 7NA
Cost: Free
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