Norfolk's 'bowmen' entertain city cinemagoers

Tara GreavesWith the victory of past battles still shining brightly in their eyes, they made a fearsome, not to mention unexpected, sight for cinema goers in Norwich.Tara Greaves

With the victory of past battles still shining brightly in their eyes, they made a fearsome, not to mention unexpected, sight for cinema goers in Norwich.

In celebration of the new film Robin Hood, which features Hollywood hardman Russell Crowe in the title role as the folk hero, members of the Ormswald Anglo-Saxon Re-enactment Society entertained people outside the Odeon Cinema at Riverside.

Formed early last year, many of the group banded together after attending an ancient warriors adult education course run in the city and in Bradwell by former Royal Marine David Holman, 50, from Tunstall, near Great Yarmouth.

Mr Holman, who has appeared as an extra in another Russell Crowe film, Gladiator, first became interested in re-enactment after seeing a display at Framlingham Castle in Suffolk.

"I lived in Gorleston at the time but there wasn't a local

re-enactment group and so I started one which continued for several years but then my wife Frankie and I moved to Finland," said Mr Holman.

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While he continued his passion when they were abroad by teaching Viking courses, when the couple moved back in 2007 Mr Holman decided to try to run something similar in Norfolk, using his martial arts training and skills he had honed in the marines to teach the ancient warriors course.

"Once the courses had finished, many people wanted to carry on and so Ormswald - which takes the Viking word orm, meaning dragon or serpent, and wald, meaning forest or wood - was formed," he said. "The skill is to make the combat look as realistic as possible to give the public a thrill, but to do that safely you need to be highly trained.

"But it is not just about fighting and weapons; some of our members are leatherworkers or enjoy basket making, woodworking or pottery.

"For me it's great to get away at the weekend and leave 21st-century trouble and stress behind to camp out, cook on an open fire and socialise with people who have similar interests."

The white dragon of their emblem, which appears on hand-crafted shields, is taken from the ancient symbol of the Anglish or English, and learning about history is another important part of what the group is about.

With men and women from all walks of life and many different parts of the county, Mr Holman, who is a welder by day, said they had about 30 members, ranging in age from 18 to 55.

Their first major battle as a group was Hastings 2009 but they have also been booked to do their own shows and 2010 looks like a busy year for the group, who would also like to do film work.

As reported, Norfolk has another connection with the Robin Hood film as Stephen Ralphs, from Kenninghall, travelled to Australia to coach Russell Crowe in archery ahead of shooting.

Mr Ralphs, 55, makes and sells bows and arrows as well as consulting on films.

Kate Price, events manager for the Odeon in Norwich, said she was approached by Mr Holden after he had seen the film and he asked if the group could come along in costume.

"We welcomed them; it's not only nice to be able to support a local group but it's great to entertain guests too. Robin Hood is doing really well, May seems to be the new summer when it comes to big films."

� For more information about the group, visit