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Dark Rocks

Of Copper and Conviviality

∴ A Return to the Paddox ∴

May marks the beginning of festival and tournament season for many an intrepid fencer. For us, the summer arrives in the shape of Swordpunk, a breathtaking boutique festival where weapons experts and circus performers come together to share skills and soak up the sun in the stunning private estate of Newnham Paddox.

We've been involved with this community extravaganza since before lockdown, and its unique combination of relaxation and serious wow factor keeps us coming back for more. After all, where else can you learn staff fighting, axe throwing, sharp cutting, fire spinning and belly dancing all in the same place?

∴ A Skill Shared ∴

After two events of supervising the sharp cutting stand, we decided to return to our roots with an accessible entry-level metalworking workshop.

Chris decided to teach copper bangle making, recalling the first time he ever brought hammer to metal at a workshop at Glastonbury many years ago. He still wears the copper bangle he made on that day as a reminder of his journey from curious beginner to full-time smith.

We held our workshop in the shady woodland bower at Newnham Paddox, and talked groups of five through shaping and decorating copper bar into one-of-a-kind pieces of jewellery.

We were remarkably impressed by all our participants' efforts, and everyone walked away with something they could wear with pride. We like to think that some even got the metalworking bug, and may go on to create wonders all of their own!

As Swordpunk is, at its heart, all about sharing skills and supporting fellow artists and enthusiasts, we could hardly leave without some handmade mementos of our own. Fortunately Swordpunk's Emporium was full of beautiful crafted items from its multi-talented crew.

We bought a stunning lathe-turned bowl made from spalted beech, and a treasure of a fountain pen made from green-dyed maple burr with dragon-themed brass fittings. Both are the creations of the skilled Ian Savin, and will be used regularly and lovingly at Balefire HQ.

∴ A Song of Fire and More Fire ∴

By day, Swordpunk is a whirlwind of classes, workshops, free fencing and lake swimming. By night, however, it's a firestorm. The legendary Swordpunk fire circle is home to a host of professional performers from across the country, from staff spinners and hula hoopers to whip crackers and costumed story tellers - all with fire as their medium.

On Friday night, Alicia took part in the show herself, showing off some fire poi moves under the watchful eye of the experts. On Saturday, however, the heat was turned up and we saw armoured knights fighting with flaming swords and shields, winged demons setting fire to paraffin bubbles, and fast-paced choreography incorporating fire staffs, whips, poi and rope darts. It all culminated in a joyful pandaemonium as we danced under the stars to live samba drumming.

If this all sounds like a far-fetched fantasy to you, we can only recommend that you come and see for yourself. Tickets for September's Swordpunk will be available soon from We'll be there with our mini forge in tow, teaching blacksmithing and leatherworking classes. Perhaps we'll see you there!

Many thanks to Alex and Suzy Denbigh for hosting the festival on their land, and to Dan Smith and Sally Stone for making this fantasy real.


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