Hez Jamil: historical reenactor

29 Jul

Everyone has a story. Hez Jamil has always enjoyed history, but it was thanks to Islington friends that he discovered that he really enjoyed being a 13th century mercenary fighter. Here Hez introduces his character Sala Hu Din and chats about the good times he has as a reenactor who loves to fight. Interview by Nicola Baird

Hez Jamil from Highbury is one of a handful of people in Islington who fight with a 13th century living history re-enactment troop known as Drudion.

Hez Jamil from Highbury is one of a handful of people in Islington who fight with a 13th century living history reenactment troop known as Drudion.

Hez Jamil grabs an ice coffee at Blighty Café on Blackstock Road and in the sunny garden starts explaining what being a 13th century reenactor involves – fights, injuries (well massive bruises) and chunks of meat eaten off your knife…

Hez Jamil xx

On the right, Sal Hu Din (aka Hez)  training the younger generation. (c) Hez Jamil

In his real life Hez is working at Argos, and studying for a renewable energies engineering qualification at Watford with ATL. He’s also a busy dad with three children so it is hard for him to take the time to join reeneactments although he’s planning to join one at the Forest of Dean in August.

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His troop, Drudion, are specialists in 13th century living history offering a camp with skilled craftspeople, trader, cook and fighters giving demonstrations based on the time Richard the Lionheart was King.

A battle with Pic simon troop leader/callum wearing a tabard over his chain mail and helmet.

Re-enactors love to fight. Here’s Drudion troop leader,Callum, wearing a bright red and yellow tabard over his chain mail. He’s fighting Bran who has protective gauntlets. (c) Hez Jamil

There’s also the LARP events (live action role play) where foam weapons are used – but there are far fewer rules when it comes to fighting. “We really go for it,” says Hez who at 33 is now an old hand – the average age of death for a mercenary in the 13th century was 19 years. “It wasn’t just fighting that made them die,” explains Hez. “Hygiene was poor. And if there was a big battle with bodies then diseases spread like wildfire. I don’t imagine many of our troop can read or write, or play chess that’s for the high class people. We specialise in fighting…”

At either event first the tent has to be put up and food organised.

At a LARP event. (c) Hez Jamil

During LARP (live action role play) everyone involved with Duidon has a Middle Age name, and they dress and eat as if it was the 1200s. (c) Hez Jamil

“We eat a lot of meat!” grins Hez. “Stew and vegetables take too long for mercenaries on the move, so meat is easier. We cook everything, and eat from wooden bowls with our hands. There are stabbing instruments, but no cutlery.” He also admits that the meat might come from the supermarket – though once on the showground it’s treated as if it has been freshly caught and will all be cooked straightaway as there is no refrigeration.

When I ask if any of the troop sneak in tomato sauce Hez looks horrified. I suspect his son Callum, 13, who has been a few times with his Dad, but not enjoyed it much, might have found the food a bit strange. Plus, as Hez points out, his teenager might have found: “It’s a lot of hard work setting up and putting down the camp in one day,” although sometimes Dominic, 11, joins his Dad at the troop.

Because reenactment is mostly done for the public demonstrations, Hez is used to explaining the intricacies of 13th century life. “I always find it surprising what surprises the public. They try on helmets and armour. They are always shocked by how heavy the chain mail is, but we explain that the boys will have been wearing this since they were about eight-years-old, so chain mail feels normal to them.”

The Faltering Fallback on Enis Road (just off Stroud Green Road) is on the Islington/Hackney border - but definitely a pub worth visiting.

The Faltering Fullback on Perth Road (just off Stroud Green Road) is on the Islington/Hackney border – but definitely a pub worth visiting.

Places Hez Jamil likes in Islington (and close by)

  • I love finding the little gems in Islington – like Blighty. You’d never know from the outside of Blackstock Road that the cafe had a big garden.

  • Rowans Bowling in Finsbury Park has the same name as our troop leader’s wife’s reenactment name, Rowan. It’s an old name, and a tree. People don’t make the connection with signs.

  • I like the parks around here. Clissold Park and Finsbury Park both have skate ramps for my son. With a paddling pool and animals you can have an enjoyable day outside.

  • The Faltering Fullback pub off Stroud Green Road has a beer garden which is like Narnia. You’d never know it was there.

 

Hez as his character Sal Hu Din prefers to use a shield and sword. None of the fighting is choreographed.

Hez as his character Sal Hu Din prefers to use a shield and sword. None of the fighting is choreographed. (c) Hez Jamil

Life as Sal Hu Din
“My character Sal Hu Din is a Muslim Saracen. He was born in the Middle East and did something wrong with someone of position’s daughter, so he was banished and forbidden to return to the Holy Lands. During his travels he met a band of mercenaries. At first they challenged him and then when he impressed them by his fighting skills they asked him to join them. He’s quiet, not friendly.”

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Reenactors start young! Lots of children watch the shows. As Hez Jamil points out: “they are meant to be fun.” (c)  Hez Jamil

“Back in those days I would have been picked on, and called an infidel, but we do the shows in front of lots of children, it’s meant to be fun. I do read about the 13th century. On site we are all in character,” explains Hez.

“The last fight I did with Joel/Bran was a truly epic battle. We use real weapons (though they are blunt) and the rules are no head shots or below the knee but we just went for it. It’s pretty brutal, but I heal quite easily. You get massive bruises. If you haven’t come away with a huge bruise you haven’t done it properly. Our troop leader Simon/Callum does the commentary so it keeps him on his toes – and it’s good fun,” says Hez clearly looking forward to his next battle.

Back to Islington
Hez’s family are from Malaysia, but moved to Islington when he was around a year old. He went to nursery at Ambler, then school at Gillespie Primary and finally Highbury Grove. “My oldest son is at Highbury Grove now and I was surprised that I knew some of the teachers – and that they recognised me,” says Hez genuinely.

Hez’s mum now lives in Enfield, but very sadly his father died when he was a teenager. “My birthday is the same day as my parents’ anniversary and was the same dad my dad had a heart attack and died when I was 15. He was in Malaysia – the other side of the planet. I still really miss him. Most young boys think their dad is an incredible super hero and try to emulate him. It’s the influence of my Dad that makes me try to teach my children the difference between right and wrong, and morality and how to have some fun,” says Hez.

Hez still lives close to where he grew up in Islington, but now he’s married to Natasha, best friend of the old school friend whose boyfriend first introduced him to historical reenactment years ago. Natasha has joined the reenactments, but so far baby Thalia has not. Maybe this summer will see her introduction to the troop?

  • Living history (shows you the scope of reenacting, where the next events are and even info on accommodation)
  • Renactor.net (mostly American)

Over to you

If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

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