If you were not in Chester (Deva) for the weekend of 4th and 5th June then you missed what was easily the biggest Roman re-enactment event in the country this year. Soldiers, Gladiators, Celtic tribes, Roman Cavalry, Caesar, potters, blacksmiths, surgeons, apothecaries, druids; everything from the Roman world, and last but by no means least, the musicians and dancers from the Roman Empire. This was amazing. This was Deva.
Members of the Roman Cavalry
Our first day was baking hot – real Egyptian weather – but thankfully the second day was a lot cooler, and much nicer for dancing. For this event a new dance group had been formed, called Maysoon, drawing from dance classes in Chester. This gave us a “supa-troupe” of 14 dancers for the weekend. We were joined by the amazing Mazaj (Chas Whitaker and Maren Leung); the equally amazing Adam Warne, and the beautiful as well as amazing Nawarra.
Maren, Adam and Chas
Nawarra performs a stick dance
There were two centres for all the fun this weekend – the Amphitheatre and Grosvenor Park. All of the music and dance elements, as well as some of the smaller, more intimate performances, were held in Grosvenor Park.
On the Friday before the event, the park was gradually transformed into a little piece of ancient Rome, with streets of period market stalls with traders selling a wide range of things from hand-made glass beads, to games, furs, pottery and food. You could visit an apothecary, a Roman beauty parlour or get your hob-nail boots repaired at the blacksmith. At one end of this newly formed Roman town were the military tents of the various legions that had descended on Deva. And at the other end; the Celtic Tribes and Iron Age groups and the local druids, but right in the heart of town were the dancers and musicians.
The Roman potter's stall
Phoenece and Tameri play a Roman game
Ya Raqs and Maysoon performed two sets during the course of both Saturday and Sunday, in between music from Chas, Maren and Adam, and more dancing from Nawarra. There were workshops and mini-me dress-up, as well as a chance to get your foot or hand hennaed. Whenever the central arena was being used by some of the other performers, we busked our way round the Roman town, just as the musicians and dancers would have done in Roman times.
Around mid-day, half of the performers joined the other re-enactors, almost 350 of them, as they marched through the streets of Deva in a procession that was estimated to be a quarter of a mile long. There was certainly no doubt that the Romans were back in town.
At the end of each day was the stunning gladiator show in the amphitheatre. I’m not entirely sure that everyone who sat in the arena this weekend really appreciated that they were actually sitting on remains of a real Roman amphitheatre that would have been witness to many spectacles such as the one we were re-enacting. Members of Ya Raqs took part in the show by providing the Deva gladiators with dancers for the Dance of Death; where the veils they dance with represent the souls of the gladiators. There may have been 4,500 people in that audience but you could have heard a pin drop!
On the Sunday, the gladiator show ended with all of the performers; Romans, Celts, gladiators, dancers and musicians gathering in the amphitheatre - a truly impressive sight.
The finale (thanks to Sharon'Dorito Baskerville for the photo)
If you were not able to get to Deva (Chester) this year, then you really, really, should try and come in 2012.
We’d like to thank Chas Whitaker, Maren Leung, Adam Warne, Nawarra, and the Maysoon girls for helping us make this event such a success. But we’d particularly like to thank Paul Harston from Roman Tours for inviting us to be part of such an amazing event.
This WAS Deva and we will be back in 2012 – will you?