A travelling blacksmith is coming to Baldricks Big Day Out.

James Vissers will be working from his mobile foundry during the event this Saturday. James lives in a mobile home and travels the country, visiting various fairs and market days where people gather around to watch him at work forging metal.

Blacksmiths work by heating pieces of wrought iron or steel until the metal becomes soft enough for shaping with hand tools, such as hammers and chisels.

James was a fitter and turner by trade and built his first housetrucks when going through his apprenticeship.

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He is self taught and wanted to work in a blacksmith workshop as part of his apprenticeship, but was laughed at and told he was born in the wrong era which made him more determined.

"I just wanted to take my iron work to a different level which meant going backwards with technology rather than forwards."

James has become passionate about the craft, having stuck with it for the last 22 years.

"You put a piece of steel in a fire and work out what to do with it — it's just practice really and like any handcraft you do your own work — it's like being an artist — every artist does their own style of work.

"Some would say it's not the easy way but I do enjoy it and look forward to going to work.
"It's real. It's using fire and heat and it's all handmade and natural. It's about skill rather than using a machine. I just enjoy the traditional way of making something out of nothing."

James visits New Plymouth a few times each year and last weekend spent time at the Medieval Market in Levin. During fairs and markets, he sets up a traditional blacksmith shop of the side of his housetruck to make hardware like hooks, handles and fire pokers.

James also makes a lot of medieval campfire equipment like cloak-pins and tripods.

He says children enjoy standing around watching and it is often hard for their parents to get them to go home. "People love it — I have kids just come and stand around for hours."

The tug-of-war is always hotly contested and this year features a schools challenge.
The tug-of-war is always hotly contested and this year features a schools challenge.

A medieval day out

Baldrick's Big Day Out takes place this Saturday, and this year it's not just knights in armour who will be competing for glory.

The organising committee has extended a challenge to all primary schools in the district to enter a team of 10 pupils to compete in a tug-of-war challenge at the event.

Teams can register at 1.30pm on the day.

The tug-of-war isn't the only thing to entertain children on the day, with a kidz zone running with activities throughout the day as well as sack races, pony rides and the popular shoot the knight stall.

As well as knights in full armour battling for glory, there will also be skill at arms displays and living history displays where visitors can see a range of craftsmen and women at work.

Rick Coplestone and Janet Muggeridge will be keeping the crowds entertained with live music at noon, with displays by Morris and belly dancers also scheduled to take place during the day.

Baldrick's Big Day Out: Victoria Park Stratford, Saturday, 10.30am-4pm. Free entry.