Last week, Phillipa Hardman was invited to Walsall to take part in a rather unusual Awards Ceremony. It marked the successful completion of a year-long project to develop and perform a series of four street theatre events. The plays, which were performed in Walsall town centre in August and November 2012 and February and May 2013, feature a unique set of wooden figures known as Bayard’s Colts that have been associated with Walsall possibly since the sixteenth century (now in the local museum).
What did this have to do with Reading? Phillipa and her co-investigator, Dr Marianne Ailes, were working on an AHRC-funded research project, investigating the tradition of Charlemagne stories in England, including the story of the magical horse Bayard. So when a team from Walsall Council and the Civic Society decided to bid for Heritage Lottery funding for their project, they consulted Phillipa and Marianne, who gave their academic support, and have maintained links with the project throughout the year.
At last week’s ceremony, the Mayor presented Phillipa and Marianne with Bayard’s Colts awards to recognize their contribution to the project: the golden head (which bears a strong likeness to images of Charlemagne with his beard and imperial crown) is an exact half-size replica of one of the original figure-heads. Images of the plays, which are planned to become an annual cycle of performances, can be seen on the website: www.bayardscolts.org.uk