On a regular Saturday in Sydney, a top secret “inner west location” became ye olde towne square for twelve hours of 14th century celebration and reconnaissance.
The event was to be a Queer Medieval Faire, orchestrated by Marlena Dali, a Sydney-based performer and event organiser.
The medieval faire aimed to reclaim the western-centric aesthetic of the middle ages from its European shackles, and allow it to be reimagined in a safe, queer space, filled with performance, community celebration, workshops and sweaty dance floors.
As we all know, the most crucial and iconic aspect of the medieval era – aside from torture devices, serfdom and general illness amongst the population, of course – was the fashion.
Naturally, while enjoying the sights and smells of 14th century living, VICE had to do a fit check.
João, “model, stylist, potential entrepreneur”.
VICE: Hello, please introduce yourself, and tell me what you do.
Baby darling, I am João. I am a model, a stylist, a potential entrepreneur. I work at Centrelink. I do a lot of things… Was that the question?
That was the question! What brings you here to the Medieval Faire today?
Well, I heard “queer medieval faire” so I was like, “yuuup”. I landed yesterday, I was like, “this is perfect, are you kidding me?” I do have somewhere to be later tonight, but I’ll make a quick pit stop, absolutely won’t hurt.
Tell me about your outfit.
Look, I started the day in a completely different look. It was a bit more wenchy but maybe more pirate wenchy. We had brunch, and I even made a joke then, like, “is this pirate wench look just for brunch?” And it was, because I got home and thought, this is a medieval affair. I knew I could make it more medieval with the things I brought. So I did. The maid skirt really worked, I mean, it’s very wibu to me, because that’s my vibe, but other people kept commenting that it looked a bit rich… And that works for me.
If you were alive in Medieval times, who would you be?
I watch too much anime, so there has to be magic involved. As much as I think I could be a drunk swordsman, realistically I think I would be, not like a wizard wizard, but more a mage. Water is my affinity with the elements, one hundred percent.
What’s your favourite weapon?
I prefer using mage power as a weapon. But if I had to pick, I love a curve.
What the fuck is that?
No, like, curved stuff. Anything with a curve. I love asymmetry. A scimitar is always pretty sexy. But it’s not my go-to. I prefer to use power.
What’s your favourite colour?
I know, ¡escandalo!
No, like I truly cannot pick. I cannot do it. Colour is required. Colour is my preference. Colour is the favourite. Which colour? I honestly do not care.
But pink and green SHOULD be seen.
Alice, a tattoo artist from Sydney and Hannah, a vintage store manager on King Street.
VICE: What’s your favourite medieval moment?
Alice: I think when Joan of Arc got burnt at the stake at the simple age of 19 years old, for simply being a little bit manic. Just a fun, humorous, majestic… quirky, quirky adolescent girl about to enter her big phase of life, and they said “no, you must die instead”.
A very painful death, no less.
You must die the most painful death for being a silly little girl. We all relate to her now, to this day. My Christian name is Joan of Arc, actually.
What’s your favourite animal?
A black cat.
Are we talking house cat?
Any kind of black cat. Love a panther, a Himalayan cross… The black cat family, you could say.
What’s your sun and rising sign?
Leo sun and Pisces rising.
If you were alive in the medieval times, who would you be?
I would be a disgusting shrivelled up street urchin, but I would know so much black magic, I would be pulling men into my little tent chambers and tricking them out of their money through curses and I would be swapping bodies…
You would be shape shifting?
We’re all naturally shapeshifters, but I would be the most eccentric witchy old lady living in the gutter.
With heaps of, like, coins, but no one ever sees them.
So many coins. Nobody touches my coins.
Levi, a blacksmith by trade.
VICE: What’s your name, and what do you do?
My name is Levi, and today I was doing a blacksmithing demonstration. I’m actually a blacksmith by trade and from 12 to 5pm I was forging stuff in front of people, making a few things.
Explain to me what blacksmithing is.
Blacksmithing is how we would make things out of metal in the olden days.
These days, is it more artisanal? Like… I can just go to the shops for metal, do we need forgers?
There is still the very practical side of things! Maybe someone needs a specific tool, or component, or they’re trying to recreate something historic, like for a federation house, so there are a lot of avenues.
Do you get that a lot? People coming to you, like “can you make this… it used to exist”?
Not a whole lot, but sometimes, like for a 150 year old car or something like that. Something that’s quirky, that you can’t get everywhere, not at Bunnings haha.
How long have you been a blacksmith for?
About 23 years.
Holy shit! Do you like it?
I looooove metal. I love making things out of metal. I love being able to make and hold things, like something I’ve seen in movies or games, making something that’s real, I just love it.
Oh shit, so you will see things on screen and think, “I can make that”? What are some examples?
Absolutely! In COVID, I rewatched all my favourite films. I watched all the Pirates of the Caribbean films, I made Davy Jones’ key and I made Jack Sparrow’s sword. I play the video game Skyrim. I made the helmet from that, I’ve made the lock picks, I’ve made a sword from the game. I’ve made Dumbledore’s wand.
Wow. That’s cool. Is your house just filled with metal?
Yes. Just awesome things I’ve made that I don’t want to leave out in my shed. They come in the house.
What’s your metal made out of?
For me, I find it. I’m a really good recycler. I’ll find scrap metal and I’ll reform that into what I need, I rarely buy metal. Like Jack Sparrow’s sword, I made that out of an old car spring. I use what I’ve got.
So good. What’s your star sign?
I’m a Pisces.
Lize, an artist in Sydney, a filmmaker, a clown.
VICE: What’s your favourite medieval moment?
My favourite medieval moment….
Mine’s the bubonic plague.
Ah! The feud between the Florentine and the Venetian schools of art. They were feuding in a very similar way. All catholicism, all high renaissance, very dramatic, but their styles were very different.
Why were they fighting?
Because they both wanted to be better than the other, obviously. They were the biggest towns in Europe and they each wanted to be the biggest towns. Florence wanted to be the biggest town for painting and Venice wanted to be the biggest town for textiles, so people would flit between them.
I see. What team are you on?
Oh, I’m a lesbian.
Lmfao. How’s your day been so far?
I’ve been here several hours, which, in medieval time, I’ve been married and given back three times. Which sucks because no one even brought the donkeys.
What is the significance of the donkeys?
I wish there was more music. I want a filthy dance floor. We’ve all had some mead and bread, maybe the best is yet to come.
What is your go-to dancefloor track?
“Gypsy Woman” by Crystal Waters.
Nice. It’s a tough question, I know. What’s your star sign?
Virgo rising, Aquarius sun. Let the record show, I’m actually an Aries moon, so, I’m fun.
Do you like pineapple on pizza?
Absolutely fucking not. San Marzano, buffalo mozzarella, basil, that’s IT.
Sarah Jessica Carpark, the set designer, a performer.
VICE: You look amazing. Who are you, what do you do?
I’m Sarah Jessica Carpark. I did the set design for this party, but I also do a lot of other things. I’m a performer, I help my friend Marlena whenever they do a thing. So, I’ve been here all day. But I just went home, showered and put on my ball gown.
Gotta do it.
Gotta experience it, feel it, get into the whole cosplay fantasy. Why spend three days labouring on your dress… men don’t get this stuff.
And they never will. Are you having a good time?
Well, I just walked through the door. I think it’s going to be good.
The stakes are set for a great night. Where did you get this dress?
I’m gonna say Sydney Opera. Where all the ball gowns come from.
I really love the choker.
It’s by Wet Nature. They’re my friend, a queer designer, I used to live with them, I bought it off them.
Who’s going to win the election?
Ugh Anthony Albanese, I hate to say it. Ew, ew, ew. Kill them all.
The whole thing needs to be burnt to the ground.
Indigenous senate now!
Now! What’s your favourite medieval moment in history?
Lady Godiva, riding naked through the town square on a horse.
Excellent choice. Would you rather be wearing flip flops or barefoot?
Barefoot. Flip flops are like a thong for your feet in the not-good way. Learn to wear bare feet more to get your feet more resilient. Get some good house shoes, don’t be wearing those flip flops.
The Jousters, Sir Cumcise and Sir Keira Knightley
What are your names and what do you do?
Ah, we are the Knights of Camelot. I am Sir Cumcise, and this is Sir Keira Knightley. We’re here to joust tonight. We will be having tournaments. If people want to participate, they can join in.
How does the jousting work?
So obviously we have these mighty steeds, and then we charge at each other with our lances, these sexy rods, and then you score points according to whether you get a hit – hitting their body with the lance – or breaking the lance, or dismounting is the ultimate one.
Obviously, these are very dangerous weapons, and our steeds are very well-trained.
It’s hitting people with sticks?
What’s your favourite aspect of the medieval ages?
Obviously, everyone loves a good witch hunt. It’s just a time to really put women in their place, make sure they really feel the fear, to not step out of place. You don’t want any of these “independent women” out there, living their lives.
Obviously, that would be insane.
Right? So, the witch trials have really helped me, personally, keep a lot of bitches in line.
Have you got a favourite accessory?
It would have to be chain mail. It makes me feel safe and sexy.
The weighted blanket of the 1400s.
Exactly. And now we must joust.
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