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Preparing for LARP

This is more of a summer prep project, but I wanted to get it out in the field for photos before I wrote about it – so enjoy and consider it a “thoughts for next summer” project.

I have to make a confession – I did not have a hand in making this project apart from expressing a wish to my OH and talking about set dressing it. But since it is kit that relates to our characters, and provided some much needed shade and weather protection during the recent summer gathering, I felt it had to get included on the blog.

I also want to talk about possible ways to dress up IC tent areas and ways to turn a modern gazebo into something more medieval.

Thoughts and inspirations

We’ve had a gazebo for Fools and Heroes for the last few years, but as it’s a proper metal framed monster it’s not something we always want to pack in the car when heading to fests. I wanted something a little more portable and reusable that wasn’t just a plastic / canvas box.

So I spent some time on Pinterest (a dangerous place) and found ideas for medieval pavilions and day shades. As tempting as it was to convince my OH to make a proper pavilion for us to paint and decorate, I decided what I really wanted was a simple shade that be turned to multiple uses. If you’re thinking of making something similar, I would advise you reading the blog post on a simple canvas dayshade on Honour Before Victory.

My OH put together his own plans and after hunting Ebay he found a supplier of tarp with eyelets that would suit our plans. He got two pairs of poles – one set longer than the other to form the main posts, with the smaller poles forming the props at the front. He shaped the posts and sandpapered them until they were smooth and cut pieces of stainless steel threaded rod to slot into the tops of the posts to bolt the tarp in place.


Setting up the shelter

The tarp gets laid out flat on the ground and the largest rope draped across where the ridge is going to be.  This is then fixed in place via the loops already tied in place by the threaded rod and bolts atop the taller poles before the whole thing is raised upright. The main ridge rope and associated guy-ropes are then tensioned and pegged in place.

The front flap is then lifted up, the shorter posts fixed and bolted in place and the other guy-ropes hooked over the threaded rod and bolted down. The back of the tarp has loops made out of rope which are pulled tight and pegged in place, and that’s it.

We’re still working on keeping the tension in the tarp, and the eyelets took quite a beating in the wind and rain at the last event, but hopefully the shade will be back at the next. Because tarp is canvas that is already treated to be weather resistant, it’s not likely we’ll be having to retreat this in the near future, but a word of caution – if the tension isn’t quite right the overhead panel can dip and collect rain which needs to be drained off occasionally before it seeps through and large drips form on the inside of the tent. Keep a stick or a spear handy to poke the dip and tip water over the front of the tent – and time it so that you either do or don’t dump water on your guests – your choice.


Set dressing

Regardless of what sort of tent or gazebo you choose to put up to provide a shady spot or somewhere to huddle in the rain, it can always be improved with a bit of set dressing. Lanterns with tea lights, bunting, fairy lights and flags can add to the aesthetic, whilst wooden benches, tables or chairs can provide comfy seating. We like garden furniture that can be easily folded away or taken apart for transport.

Here are some photos taken of our dayshade at the last event – sheltering us come rain or shine.

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Photos taken by: (1 and 2) Anna Atkinson-Dunn, August 2018; (3) Ian Hiddleston, August 2018;

Concealing a modern gazebo

Depending on whether you are able to tuck your gazebo to one side or have a plain side visible, the downside of gazebos is that they often have plastic details that are hard to hide. One way to make a gazebo more medieval is to either drape the outside in different material, or use only the plain coloured panels, or position the panels in such a way that the ‘visible’ parts are plain and the windows are concealed on the inside. If you wanted to you could make new panels out of cloth to hang from the frame, but there are tutorials available on the internet, such as getting “Medieval on Your Pop-up”.

You can also put up banners on the inside, or drape it with cloth to hide some of the more modern details from a casual observer. Once night falls and the world is lit by candlelight or lanterns a lot of things fade away into the shadows.

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Photos: (1 and 2) Nicola Iliffe, July 2016;

It’s funny what can be done with plastic boxes too – the low table you can see in the second photo above is actually a plastic box turned upside down and draped in cloth. You can often get roll ends for cheap from curtain shops or craft shops with a bit of rummaging, or blankets from the market, that would be excellent ways of filling large spaces with tapestry-style drapes. If you are hanging drapes, bring either plastic ties or some cord or thread (I use crochet wool) that you can use to tie your cloth securely to the frame and that you’re happy to sacrifice during pack down. You’re probably going to want to pull things down in a hurry. Bringing a penknife or scissors too would be a bonus – unless you have sharp teeth or the strength in your fingers to rip things apart without damaging your tent or drapes.

So, regardless of what you have – be it a plastic gazebo, canvas tent or tarp shade – with a bit of imagination and some set dressing you can turn anything from the modern into the medieval, and provide yourself with a shady space to watch the world go by. Contributing to the camp setting can be really rewarding as you add to the aesthetic of the game, and there is something special about watching the camp come alive on an evening when people start lighting the candles and settling down to socialise or plot and scheme. Don’t be disheartened – there is magic in LARP and in fabric drapes, especially when it involves a little bit of imagination.

There are other ways to conceal modern objects for a medieval setting – just search the web to find examples of hiding cooler boxes (for your cold drinks) or general boxes (for bringing your gear into camp) or camp chairs for more inspiration.