Selling Archery with Showmanship

In the last few days I have looked at ways to sell archery as part of a campaign to make it cool. In keeping with improving archery’s image I can convince the Commonwealth Games Federation to upgrade it to a core sport. So far we have looked at the cult of TV and film fandom which has celebrated archery and helped to fuel the massive interest in getting people to try it. But there is another side to the entertainment world that celebrates archery, which doesn’t involve action adventure shows. That type is the theatrical uses of archery for shows like stunt displays, theatrical attractions, variety shows and You Tube personalities.

In March 2015 Lars Andersen became an internet sensation from a viral video in which showed him performing some very impressive archery. I am a fan of his video myself and I have watched it several times over. What Lars’ video showed was the potential for archery as an entertainment attraction using old style trick shots from traditional archery combined with modern techniques. According to the video Lars was trying to reinvent the techniques and methods of master archers from a time when the bow and arrow was the pinnacle of weapons technology. Those archers had some very amazing skills that make their modern counterparts look like fairground attractions.  What this goes to show is that the archery in Hollywood films is not historical archery.

Lars’s type of shooting is based on historical manuscripts that come from ancient Arabian textbooks. When I was a blogger for Legend Archery I wrote about these archers and their archery culture. They were absolutely fascinating and they showed me the world of medieval European archery was feudal and inferior by comparison. They were way ahead of their European counterparts. Genghis Khan’s army developed such amazing techniques that they were the most fierce and progressive bowmen that gave them the power to conquer most of Asia. It is possible to see examples of these archers at recreational fairs with people dressed up in period costume performing these as part of the show.

Take a look at this one in China. It’s performed as a market show in a central town. It’s a small humble centrepiece that demonstrates the ability to use archery as a piece of theatre. It captivates the audience without putting them in harm’s way. Imagine bringing this kind of archery as a piece in Covent Garden, Lower Manhattan or a Parisian district. It could also be an interesting way to amaze people with the different styles of archery in the Commonwealth.

The performing arts would have an opportunity to expand archery as part of the repertoire of the theatre. I believe that actors and theatre directors can make a show out of bows and arrows somehow. My belief is based on my experience in the theatre. In 2003 I became a patron of a local theatre called the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch, Essex. The venue produces some really good dramas and comedies and serves as a community hub for business and private use. My theatre friends, which include actors, musicians, writers, artists and directors are extremely fond of hearing stories about my archery adventures and I have given them an offer of my services to help teach archery to them for potential theatre.

This connection can be useful in combining the arts with sports. As it happens I am not just an archer, I’m a creative writer, a former youth theatre performer, a music lover,  a self published novelist and an avid reader of literary fiction. Recently I have taken up ventriloquism and I have used my friendly puppets to help me with creative ideas for archery in an artistic way. One thing that I would like to write and perform in would be an archery piece combining my stage talents with my bow and arrows. It is possible to safely make a shooting zone on stage. If you can coordinate a sword fight for Romeo and Juliet, surely you can also recreate a scene from Henry V with bows and arrows.

robin_archery

One piece of theatre that can be a boon to archery is from recreationists. They dress up at fairs in period costume and act out archery battles with imitation weapons. Some of them even have try outs with classic weaponry like longbows and crossbows. In these events archery can be shown as it would have been played centuries ago giving people plenty of opportunities to enjoy it as a spectator’s sport in a world before modern target archery. Recreationists are a great way for people to enjoy archery with a touch of nostalgia and entertainment. I went to a historical fair in Colchester in June 2016 where I got to try out traditional archery with reproduction longbows.

I even discovered some little known bits of trivia about Robin Hood. Did you know that his trademark triangular hat is known as a bycocket hat? It was a popular fashionable item worn in the 14th – 15th century by merchants and noble lords for hunting, riding and hawking. It looks like Robin would not have stood out if you saw him in Nottingham Forest back in the day.

Right now lets take a look at the selling strategy to get new archery accessible in this way.

  • Place ads for archery clubs and your national archery society’s website in comment sections on You Tube videos for fans of viral videos featuring archers. If Lars Anderson gets their attention then we can offer them an opportunity to try it out for themselves.
  • Amateur Dramatics groups. Take you archery skills to drama schools and theatre groups. Show them how to handle a bow and arrow and encourage them to create artistic ways of celebrating archery. Some of them are likely to have some kind of stunt like skills that they can put into their technique. It can be a circus act whereby you shoot at a distance using your feet to hold and draw the bow, or some kind of synchronised dance routine between the target and the shooting line.
  • Outdoor theatre. This is something for people working in the arts at the moment. I would suggest a performance of an archery show where the actors use real bows and arrows. Script a story about famous archery legend and stories like Robin Hood, William Tell, Agincourt, Henry V, etc. Stage it as an outdoor play with the enemy as cardboard targets on a frame.
  • Advertise clubs at recreational fairs. Don’t just let the people who go to try out with wooden bows think that is all there is all year round. Get your clubs noticed at the fairs and give the organisers an incentive of some kind. Suggestions like letting the fair organisers have your sponsorship to provide the bows and instructing at the fairs.

And now it is up to you. Once again another idea for selling archery. It is great fun to watch a show, but it is magical when you are taken out of reality. Show them how it’s actually done and what the actors and recreationists needed to learn in order to bring life to the theatre.

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