Jousting knights plan tournament behind closed doors to raise funds

A team of professional jousting knights are raising funds to hold a tournament behind closed doors after their summer shows were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Les Amis d’Onno, based on a farm in the Borders, normally spend summer weekends entertaining crowds with their spectacular jousting and horsemanship skills at places such as Linlithgow Palace, Caerlaverock Castle, and Traquair House in Scotland and other venues around the UK.

The money they make over the summer season usually tides them over through the winter months, but with events cancelled due to the pandemic they are facing “bleak” times.

The equine stunt team is planning to raise funds to film a “tournament behind closed doors” to provide entertainment for fans disappointed at missing the shows and to raise awareness of the group’s difficulties.

Coronavirus – Wed May 27, 2020
Les Amis d’Onno have 22 horses to care for (Jane Barlow/PA)

They are in lockdown on their farm near Jedburgh with 22 horses to care for, five adults and two children under the age of four.

Sue Zacharias, partner in the family business, said: “At the end of March lockdown happened, and over the course of a week or so our shows for the entire season were cancelled, we just saw everything disappearing in front of our eyes.

“It was a massive blow but we’re a resilient team and we have to keep exercising the horses and doing what we’re doing.

“We knew a lot of our fans were going to be really disappointed that the shows are cancelled and we wanted to do a fundraiser to help us survive the season.

“As the summer rolls on we will hopefully film a tournament here at our farm because we have the facilities, with all the live action and all the stunts and thrills that we normally do.”

Jousting a Linlithgow Palace
The knights normally spend summer weekends jousting at places such as Linlithgow Palace (Jane Barlow/PA)

The team, which also provides horses and riders for movies, have been making tongue-in-cheek mini films about the knights’ experience of lockdown and preparations for the tournament, which have been posted on the group’s GoFundMe page and the Jousting Scotland Facebook site.

They hope to raise £3,000 to film the tournament, and any other money raised will go towards supporting the horses and team.

The GoFundMe appeal says the group needs more than £20,000 to tide get through the season of cancelled shows and says there are “hard times ahead for your fierce and brave jousters and their trusty steeds”.

This year they were also due to perform at events such as the Royal Lancashire Show and an event at Shanes Castle in Northern Ireland in August, which may still take place.

Coronavirus – Wed May 27, 2020
Jacob Martin plays the knight Sir Checkmate at the jousting events (Jane Barlow/PA)

Mrs Zacharias said things look “bleak” for Les Amis d’Onno financially and they seem to fall through the net for grants and support, but they are determined to survive and raise their lances again.

She said: “The live horse performance shows are our life. We’ve done it for about 20 years – 10 years in France before we moved to our farm in the Borders, where we’ve been for 10 or 11 years. It’s our life.

“We will survive and we will carry on, though we don’t quite know how. It is our life, we will survive, we just have to be very resilient.

“We just have to get through a very, very lean time.”

The GoFundMe page is at gofundme.com/f/medieval-covid19-a-tournament-behind-closed-doors?utm_source=widget&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet

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