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12 April 10 interview: Alison Emm
photos: Dom Henry

“It’s time to reclaim him from shoddy tourist attractions and stupid fancy dress costumes and put him on the pedestal he deserves”

Ade Andrews is an artist of many parts, creating, organising and performing in a wide range of roles. He’s Ezekial Bone on the Guts and Gore Tour, the ghost of ‘Everyman’ who haunts the Theatre Royal, a fight choreographer and a storyteller par excellence. He’s also the official Robin Hood of the Shire – a responsibility he takes very seriously…

How did you come to be Robin Hood? 
I was born in Glasgow, and came here after university, because of Robin Hood. I had long hair and a sword and thought I could get work as a medieval character. I’d get togged up and stand by the Trip and The Castle, have photos with tourists, get tipped, and go home with money in my pocket and a skinful of beer. I’ve played Robin Hood since 1992. With the new film coming out, Experience Nottinghamshire have brought me in as an ambassador - I give journalists tours of the city, show them the sights and give them the essence of the legend.
 
Do you think that Nottingham does enough with him?
Every city in the world would kill to have a character like Robin Hood, but no-one has had the imagination here to do the job properly. They don’t realise his potential, which is just ridiculous - Robin Hood is a symbol of truth, justice and freedom, which are ideals that everybody around the world wants. It’s time to reclaim him from the mediocrity of shoddy tourist attractions and stupid fancy dress costumes and put him on the pedestal he deserves. The time is right for a reinterpretation of the legend, because environmental degeneration and climate change issues are the preoccupations of the age. Robin Hood is the perfect character to showcase the importance of looking after the land which gives us food, shelter and ultimately life. 
 
But wasn’t he a criminal who didn’t actually exist?
There’s no doubt that in the 12th & 13th Century the people who lived outside the law in the forest were outlaws and they were cut-throat, But Robin Hood robbing from the rich and giving to the poor was a construct of the 15th and 16th Century. People looking for historical fact are barking up the wrong tree. Robin Hood was a composite hero made up of the tales of many different outlaws of the day. In my mind the legend is the reality, not necessarily the historical character. 
 
What makes Robin Hood such a versatile character?
Folklore is always in a state of flux: different ages interpret folklore to express their preoccupations. At first, Robin Hood was an outlaw, sticking a finger up at an unjust authority. By the 1600s he’d become a displaced Saxon Earl. By the industrial age, the land was being lost to industry, so he was interpreted as one version of the Green Man, a symbol of man’s relationship with nature. Nowadays, it’s about the importance of this land, and how its future lies within our hands. 
 
How important is Sherwood Forest?
We owe a huge debt to Sherwood Forest. It’s one of the best places for ancient oak trees in the world, and home to our rarest plants and wildlife. It’s a vital part of our natural heritage. I’m using Robin Hood to get people to appreciate the national treasure that’s on their doorstep.

Do you think that Hollywood’s interpretations are a help or a hindrance to what you’re doing?
The story has been told for centuries. That’s good: it’s brings the story to new generations. Even though the new film casts him as a dark character he’s still fighting for good; it’ll capture children’s imaginations. Hopefully, when they grow older, that seed will have germinated, along with the seed I’m planting of greener living.
 
Who’s your favourite Robin?
Russell Crowe is the Man. Him working with Ridley Scott has got to be a winner, as they brought us Gladiator. Kevin Costner was a travesty! Michael Praed in the eighties - that was very much a New Age Robin Hood and really served its purpose. But the man you’ve got to take your hat off to is Errol Flynn - there aren’t many men that can carry this character off in green tights… 
 
What do you say to other places that claim him as their own?
In the early ballads, it was the King’s deer that Robin Hood was poaching: only Sherwood Forest was a royal hunting forest. The ballads mention Barnsdale Forest south of Doncaster, but it was just a weedy little forest of no great renown - it wasn’t royal hunting forest. It was the Sheriff of Nottingham who was Robin’s arch-enemy, and he had jurisdiction over Derbyshire and Notts, which excludes Yorkshire yet again. It may be a case of two outlaw legends - one from Barnsdale and one from Sherwood - that over time have become interwoven. It’s about time Yorkshire stopped throwing their toys out of their pram.
 
Do you think that the legend will ever die out?
Never. Robin Hood is immortal. We’re talking about the second greatest story ever told. He’s evolved into semi-mythical person who’ll live forever in people’s imaginations. He’s a fantastic symbol of man’s relationship to nature - and that is why he’ll live forever. 
 
If Ridley Scott had come to you and said you can be whoever you want in the new film, would you choose Robin?
One of the first characters I played at the Sheriff’s Lodge was Guy of Gisbourne, so him, actually. I’d rather play the baddie - darker characters are more fun…

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