Brigantia iron age Celtic re-enactment society

About Us

BRIGANTIA is an historical re-enactment society, recreating the iron age Celts since 1990. We are based around Portsmouth in Hampshire in the south of England.

Since1990 we have regularly travelled around the UK and Europe performing public displays of combat and living history for fairs, museums, schools, local councils and national heritage organizations. Brigantia has also done schools weeks and appeared many times on TV and in documentaries.

We are not a big organisation and usually field up to a dozen of our members at a show. At Celtica 2001 near Aosta in North West Italy we fielded a record 31 of our members!

Slightly Ancient History

Our first meeting to launch the new society was held at Lambeth House in Portsmouth on June first 1990. Our founder members had a couple of years experience in another iron age Celtic re-enactment group, and included:

general secretary
Karl Gallagher

Adrian Smith
Karen Smith
Myriam Keats

membership secretary
Jane Smith
training officers
Sean Hardingham
Steve Edmonds

events secretary
Sean Hardingham
safety officer
Simon Keats

other founder
Paul Axon
Matthew Curl
Mathew Northeast
Mark Buckley

John Storr-Best
Francesca Smith

We begin every year with training sessions held on Sundays in March or April on the playing fields of a helpful local school called Boundary Oak, in preparation for our first show of the year. This is usually at Beltayne over the Mayday bank holiday weekend and is sometimes at Danebury Ring, an iron age ring fort near Stockbridge in Hampshire, organised with the local council.

At the end of the Summer over the first weekend in August we always field our Celtic warriors at The Battle Of Camlann at Tintagel, ever since the first one held there in 1992.

We train both for single-combat, such as one-on-one championship fights, and for big battles. We perform combat shows just with members of our own group, and also with members of other re-enactment societies, both iron age and later. At non-authentic multi-period shows such as the mythical Arthurian Battle Of Camlann (which is still re-enacted at Tintagel each year on the first weekend of August) we take the field against groups which re-enact periods as late as The Wars Of The Roses.

Combat displays
are usually performed at large outdoor locations, such as Iron age hillforts or fairgrounds. Our hosts are national organisations like English Heritage, or local councils, or anyone who organises an open-air show, big or small.

We try to show the audience what the Celts looked like, how they fought and what their characters were like: the last true tribal society in Britain. We field chiefs, champions and warriors (both male and female), equipped with metal swords, spears, javelins, and shields. The chiefs would be showing off their fine clothes, chainmail armour and helms, and the warriors would be ready for battle in warpaint (woad), their hair stiffened with limewash (or a non-corrosive substitute). The show sometimes takes the form of a roughly scripted story, usually based (very loosely) on a story from Celtic myth, in which the druid tells the tale to the audience while the re-enactors act it out as violently as possible. Sometimes the show will be more historical, an illustration of the way in which Celtic tribal society was structured and their combat techniques and hero feats.

A combat shows usually lasts about 20 minutes, and there might be up to three in a day, depending on the host's schedule. Very often the host willhave also hired a Roman re-enactment group who do their show after ours.

Between combat shows the fighters rest or stand by the small living history area that we set up, where we talk to the public and show them our armour and weapons at close range.

We tend to organise our own shows because not many other people do the Iron age Celtic period, but if anyone else is prepared to let iron age Celtic warriors onto their battle field we enjoyed being the guests of other societies. We have provided support at shows at Tintagel, the Vectis show on the Isle of Wight, Ethendune (near Warminster) and St Fagans Folk Museum near Cardiff.


2006 After doing Cuchullain, Rick became Vercingetorix for Terry Jones' Barbarian Lives on the BBC.
2004 Did some fight scenes (in sillouhette again) for episode 3 of the 4 part historical series Pagans on channel 4, written and presented by Richard Rudgley.
2003 Animal Devil - an hour long Burning Gold production about the parts played by various animals in myth. For the section on ravens we enacted great scenes from The Tain - starring Rick as a very credible Cuchullain. Well, he scared me.

Heard but not seen in Boudicca - an ambitious co-production between British ITV and American WGBH network, written by Andrew Davies and directed by Bill Anderson. It was made by Box Films in the Czech republic and the crowd scenes sounded wrong, so we spent a day in a London sound studio recording chants, battle cries and sword fight noises till we were hoarse.

Seven Ages of Britain - a seven episode series produced by Wildfire for Channel 4 introduced by Bettany Hughes. Episode 2 is about the iron age, and this author (Lugodoc himself) was the only person they could find to demonstrate a sling shot from the ramparts of Danebury Ring iron age hill fort in Hampshire. My finest minute.
2002 Conaan and Lugodoc are interviewed for seven minutes on Portsmouth Televsion on August 14th.

In February we did a gruelling three-day shoot to recreate the deaths of several iron age persons in bogs for a documentary on bog bodies made by Brighton Films for The Discovery Channel. We used real bogs.
2001 Recreate neolithic and bronze age sky burial and cremation scenes (mostly in sillouhette) at Butser Ancient Farm in Hampshire for the Bones of Contention episode of Cannibal - a four part documentary on cannibalism made by 3BM for Channel 4. This series was released to coincide with the release of Hannibal (starring Anthony Hopkins) at the cinema.

Ran around like loonies in the night in the Forest of Bere in Hampshire recreating The Siege of Anglesey in AD 60 for Welsh TV. Produced by Telegraffiti.

Rebuilding The Past on Channel 4 - added life to a roundhouse built on the site of an original excavation on the Bisley Farm iron age site in Kent. Conaan wowed us all when he spectacularly wielded a sword reconstructed from a grave find, and sliced a melon in half with great aplomb.

Secrets Of The Living Dead made by Electric Sky for Channel 4 - we re-enact the death of an iron age warrior stabbed in the collar bone. This was the most fake blood we ever had to deal with.
Celtic Myths 4 - Sex & Society made by Electric Sky for Welsh TV, featuring Professor Ronald Hutton. We supplied the young lovers for the short scenes illustrating The Mabinogion.

What If? - Boudicca for BBC Bristol. A half-hour documentary asking - what if Boudicca had defeated the Romans? This time the heroine is played by the wonderfully named Imogen Slaughter.
1999 Ambiorix in Time TouristsA whole episode of Time Tourists for Meridian TV, filmed at New Barn near Dorchester in Dorset. A builder and a cake maker are transported back to the 1st century B.C. We nearly built a whole smithy in less than a day, but we finished the cakes!

Film a small segment of Hope And Beauty at Danebury Ring for Black Inc Productions- a documentary on cosmetics to be shown on The Discovery Channel.
1994 Andrea Mason as BoudiccaTake part with several other Celtic groups in filming Boudicca for Castle Video to be released by W.H. Smith. Andrea Mason (later to appear on the popular cop show The Bill) has the title role.

Take part with several other Celtic groups in filming the iron age Celtic episode of Ancient Warriors to be released on The Discovery Channel.

On February 12th we appear for 8 minutes on  London Weekend Television's flagship Saturday night TV show Barrymore, along with some Romans.
The Celtic Fury -  directed by a mad Italian but never finished or shown, this documentary would have depicted events around the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43. Champion fights, feasts, deer hunts and water sacrifices were all filmed (real film, not video) over 3 days at Castell Henllys in South West Wales, with other Celtic groups including the Prytani and the Silures tribes. If anyone reading this knows what happened to the footage, please get in touch.


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©2003 - Brigantia