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A Robin Hood in Notts

27 July 21 illustrations: Kasia Kozakiewicz

Donning the famous feathered hat and snug green tights of the city’s most famous legend is a unique experience. One Robin Hood discusses their time as the leader of the Merry Men…

It was because of Robin Hood that I came to Nottingham in the early nineties. I had long hair, a degree in History and could fight with a broadsword, so I was looking for work on the medieval scene. But when I got here, I found that scene was like a panto, and I was determined to become Robin Hood to see what I could do with the character. I spent ten years hosting banquets at the Tales of Robin Hood, then started doing deeper research of Robin Hood, and discovering more about the city. And in 1997, Ezekial Bone was born to tell the other stories of Nottingham where Robin was not appropriate, like at the Theatre Royal and in the Lace Market. 

A typical day consists of working in some way to pursue or build the dream. If there are no gigs then it is either practical nuts and bolts type work at the home office or more creative stuff, like crafting ideas and scripts or looking for future opportunities. Day-dreaming is when a lot of ideas crystalise and previously unnoticed connections become apparent, so I’m always scribbling notes in pubs and coffee shops, which then get processed into my laptop as raw material. 

My Robin Hood provides a great service to the city by making people understand it. If they understand it they appreciate it more. To be able to facilitate the public's enjoyment of Nottingham is important work. It is quite a pioneering game I am playing, as no other town or city has a historical or folklore figure who is flying the flag of their place in the way Robin Hood has been utilised in Nottingham.  

In my work, there is the skeleton of historical fact, which I then flesh out with my words and performance to bring history to life. The nature of this ‘flesh’ depends on the differing requirements of different groups. So, no two tours are the same. All are open to interactions from the public, which help create and shape the experience.

As well as being the face of Robin Hood in the city I am involved in environmental and heritage regeneration projects in Sherwood Forest. After banquets I was the Heritage Ranger for the Sherwood Forest Trust and Sherwood is very close to my heart. As Robin Hood I have a duty to try and use my position to help heal the land. A new project - Sherwood People’s Forest - is rallying folks to plant a spiral of native greenery from Nottingham Castle to the Major Oak. Nottingham Castle has already sponsored eighty oak saplings in city schools and there are many partners getting involved so it is gaining momentum. 

As a kid I vowed one day I would be Robin Hood and he is the reason I came to Nottingham. Now, I am Robin Hood and am an Ambassador for the City and Sherwood Forest. The dream has come true

Robin Hood appeals to everyone, so I come across folks of all ages from all over the world. I have been to trade shows in England, Germany and France flying the flag for Nottingham. I host primary school kids, education groups, stag and hen parties, big businesses and everything else in between. Everyone comes with a good attitude wanting to know more about Robin Hood and Nottingham. Occasional idiots make themselves known and try to hassle the group, but they are dealt with quickly and end up making fools of themselves in front of the audience (which in itself becomes another bit of the entertainment). And short thrift is always given to naysayers. 

The strangest thing that ever happened at work was an incident with a bloke who had mental health issues. I was with a large group of French kids in St. Mary’s Churchyard, when I noticed their eyes wander from me to someone standing behind me. I turned and saw this very tall, skeletal guy in tatty, long, black coat and long black hair flapping in the wind. In that instant it seemed dark storm clouds gathered and this guy pointed a long bony finger at them and started shouting, “You’re going to die” and “You’re going to burn in Hell”. I turned to look at the kids, who were all goggle-eyed at the scene unfolding in front of them. Only a few feet away and dressed as Robin Hood, I turned back to the demonic being who was framed by the outline of St. Mary’s against a raging sky, and sought to engage him in conversation, to control the situation. He looked into my eyes. I looked into a black abyss. There was no reasoning here. I turned to the group, gave the marching orders and we swiftly moved to a quieter corner of town. A few weeks later, I was in my local Sainsbury’s in disguise as a normal person. The same guy came in in a more lucid state, recognised me and apologised. I accepted and we went our separate ways. 

I like to wind down by drinking fine ales in Nottingham’s great watering holes, which is a favourite pastime. In the relaxed state the ideas flow, so I have to capture them before they disappear into the ether. Ezekial Bone is part of the tradition of writers and artists haunting pubs, watching the city and crafting their art. Hanging out in the town's parks and watching quality films helps feed the imagination while relaxing at other times. 

Opening the Castle as the Official Outlaw after its £30m renovation was cool, as previously closed doors and glass walls had been removed and the new team at the Castle came seeking my services. The most memorable event was winning Silver in VisitEngland’s ‘Experience of the Year’ awards 2020. Robin Hood - one man on the streets of Nottingham - was up against £2 million attractions, and came second in England. Not bad for something that started off as a dream. 

Now that I’m getting too old for the green tights, Robin Hood will segue more into Ezekial Bone and I’ll be working on other heritage entertainment projects. As long as the adventure keeps going and pays, then the way ahead will be clear.  

It’s a feather in my cap that the Robin Hood Town Tour has won so many awards and is a main Nottingham attraction. But so far this is only part of the journey, and another chapter will be opening soon - but what I’ll be doing there remains to be seen. As a kid I vowed one day I would be Robin Hood and he is the reason I came to Nottingham. Now, I am Robin Hood and am an Ambassador for the City and Sherwood Forest. The dream has come true.

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