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Roz Benson’s Self-Expression and Leadership program project got her involved in her community in an unusual way–The project was to start the Balingup medieval festival in Western Australia. What was at first a project supported solely by the local community has become a destination event in Australia. The Donnybrook Bridgetown Mail has recently run a number of feature stories about Benson and the festival.
Chivalry, honour the focus of the festival
Chivalry and honour are what is lacking in the world today, according to Roz Benson. Roz is the woman who started the Balingup Medieval Festival.
Born in Brisbane in 1937, Roz went to 13 different primary schools in Queensland, WA and Victoria, because it was wartime and her father was in the army.
“I became a total misfit,” Roz said.
Roz got married and had six children in Sydney before moving to WA.
“One weekend the family went camping in the country,” she said. “We fell in love with Balingup and the next day I had bought a farm.
“My then-partner moved in straight away, and six months later I moved down with my youngest child.”
Roz is a children’s book illustrator by trade.
“I was working for America, so it didn’t matter where I was living,” she said.
The Medieval Festival came about through a Landmark Education course in which Roz participated.
“In the third program you create a community project that brings a certain possibility into being,” she said.
Roz’s project was to involve 20 to 200 people in celebrating the vitality and creativity of Balingup.
“At that point, 12 years ago, there were 230 people living in town and 180 people participated,” she said.
“The kids at school made lanterns, people did washing up and it was all totally voluntary.”
According to Roz, the project stayed voluntary. She made the bulk of the costumes.
“After five years we realised that if we wanted to take it any further, we’d have to charge admission,” she said.
“I think that was the second year the Grey Company got involved and the participation from other medieval groups has been growing ever since.”
According to Roz, the event is part of a greater vision for the community of Balingup.
“We’re looking to have a medieval chapter headquartered in Balingup,” she said. “I’m hoping is that we’ll be able to set up teaching swordsmanship to the kids with chivalry, honour and all the knightly qualities. I can see it’s going to happen.”
According to Roz, communities can achieve just about anything.
“If you work as a group, you can get things done,” she said. “If you really want to make a difference you’ve got to get everyone else with it; you can change the dynamic of a community if you get everyone working together.”
Roz said she was going to have the workspace open every Sunday to make props and costumes.
“We welcome the visiting public to come in and participate,” she said. “We’ll give them right of safe passage through the kingdom.”
She also said they would be improving and extending the grounds.
“It’ll just get bigger as more and more people get involved. The appeal is that it creates the ideal of chivalry and honour, which is what is lacking in the world today.”
Inspect the The Donnybrook Bridgetown Mail website to see this story in its original form. Visit the Balingup Medieval Carnivale website to see more pictures or get information about next year’s event.