Earlier this year, the Making History events team set themselves a challenge: to create a spectacle for children, all about Tudor life. Specifically, those elements of Tudor life which encite a 'yeeeeeuurgh' from children - and a raised eyebrow from grown-ups. And thus, the concept for Mayday Misrule! was born.
Children's history isn't always easy to interpret, especially since kids are always disproportionately affected by social inequality. Child labour, lack of education or sanitation, are all very tricky subjects which might crop up when we look at the world of the child in the past.
It is, however, an important field to explore, as it addresses human rights, family dynamics, comfort, identity and much more. They are sometimes things which we might think difficult to explain to a young, enquiring mind. But, as Learning Department fave, Teacher Tom says, "Viewing disaster at a distance gives [us] an opportunity to calmly lay down a little philosophical groundwork to prepare for when tragedy strikes closer to home.".
It would be very easy to tell our young visitors that they've "never had it so good" and leave it at that, but we wanted to engage and delight, not make them feel guilty for having Xboxes.
And that is the slightly wordy explanation of why, this week, I find myself phoning up abattoirs looking for pigs' bladders.
During 'Misrule!', there'll be Tudors to be found all over the museum: from surgeons, archers and pipers to cooks, skinners and wise women. I will become Sara the servant: not a massive stretch, but it will involve wearing the wooden corset again, joy of joys! My job will be to show the Tudor sporting life - confirming, as my purple face did after my first-ever 'jog' on Saturday, that I like my sports a little rough, but mostly extinct.
As part of my talk, I will be demonstrating how to make a football using a bladder. It's a traditional skill which outlived the Tudors, as there are plenty of staff here at the Museum who remember playing with a bladder ball. Unfortunately, none of them remember making one: It was a skill that their grandparents had, but did not pass on. When the time came to learn, mass-produced plastic footballs were cheap and readily available, and there was really no need to learn how best to wrap your lips round a dead pig's urethra.
All of which leads on smoothly to the next bit: Health and Safety! The implications are weighing on my mind a bit - not only because the public will be there, but because I don't want to come down with some sort of horrible disease and end up like a porcine version of Jeff Goldblum in The Fly. The Re-enactors I've spoken to swear by salt water to kill any bacteria, but written information is very thin on the ground. Before I decide on my method for this expermient, then, I'm going to cast my net a bit wider... Dear reader(s): have you any tips at all on procuring, and safely handling, a pig's bladder? Please post them in the comments box!
I will be posting updates as I go about learning these techniques, so I hope you'll look forward to the next installment of Bladderblog!