With his vast array of talents, you could say Dan Swann is a Renaissance Man, but you’d be a few hundred years off the mark. He’s a bodhran player, singer of sea shanties, craftsman, archer, and axe throwing teacher and he often dresses as a Viking, a Medieval Warrior, or a pirate. (Fortunately, these outfits are basically similar – I think the difference is all about accessorizing). Dan also has a great talent for comedy – particularly of the absurd, slapstick, embarrassing variety and tends to greet friends in one of two ways – by licking their faces or flashing his bum. This is exactly the kind of thing I find hilariously funny, which may explain why we have been friends ever since he arrived in Glastonbury about 20 years ago.
Along with his musician and songwriter partner Dora Darling Swann (who merits a blog post all on her own) they make a very accomplished team. Add in Dan hitting 40 years of age, their many great friends, a beautiful spot on the Mendip Hills, the sunniest weekend so far this year, about 148 bottles of mead and lots of venison and sausages and you have all the ingredients for a great party.
The invite read: “Hail!!!! bring your Beowulf persona, your Sigurd Style! wrap up in furs and leather, linen and fine traded silks. I am inviting you for a weekend of Viking revelry mead-fuelled malarkey!!!! we will have fire and axe throwing, Viking tents and pagan games. Bring some food to share and mead to drink…. I invite you to don your best Viking attire or medieval garb, and come celebrate my fortieth birthday. There will be space to camp. there will be music and dancing and medieval dj’ing.”
Dan was of course dressed in Viking gear, as were many of the guests. With a gold plastic crown on his head and his impressive belly and beard, he slipped very naturally into the role of ‘King Dan’. Dan loves to cook, especially over an open fire, so everyone had chipped in for his birthday presents – lots of big iron pots and pans and a new-fangled (in the 1400’s) iron barbecue set.
Here’s a video of the weekend, mainly of the blindfold piggyback jousting, which features lots of falling over and me laughing so much I can hardly hold the camera still. Then there’s some blindfold pillow fighting, I gather this is a Viking game and apparently there were rules. I hope the video is fun to watch even if you weren’t there, if you enjoy it there are loads more, unedited ones of the day on my Normal For Glastonbury YouTube channel. Mark did a fantastic job of compering the games, he’s from Essex so he does get quite sweary.
Dan is one of many people in Glastonbury at the forefront of a revival of interest in Medieval Living History, traditional craft skills, folk music, wilderness survival skills, folklore, and mythology. He, and several other people who appear in the video, are part of Avalon Axes, who teach axe throwing at reenactment events and festivals.
Dora and Dan are wonderful folk musicians, Dora’s current work is showcased on her website Doradarlingswann.com together they play in the band O’r Tir. Dan is a craftsman who uses natural materials – leather, wood and bone mostly, to create bags, pendants and magical objects, check out his website Ancestors Artisans.
If you fancy some Medieval style shenanigans yourself do come to the Glastonbury Medieval Fayre on the 15th and 16th of April 2017 in the Abbey, Dan and the crew will be there with Avalon Axes.
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Would you like to commission me to write an article about what you do, for Normal For Glastonbury? You’d be reaching thousands of readers who love the Town. Please click here for more information. This post wasn’t commissioned, I just like going to parties. All photographs and text copyright Vicki Steward.