Coronavirus: How does a jousting team cope with lockdown?

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

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Image source, Phoenix Photography Scotland
Image caption,
Les Amis d'Onno take part in events across the UK

This should have been the start of the busiest time of the year for Les Amis d’Onno.

The professional jousters – based at a farm near Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders – are regulars at events recreating the spirit of medieval times across the country.

Although, with its long lances, it might seem like a pursuit made for these days of social-distancing, the team have been badly affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

“Our summer season of events usually starts around the end of March with a local event in Hawick," said Sue Zacharias, who runs the family business.

Image source, Phoenix Photography Scotland

The number of bookings usually increases over the following months. Sue says the alarm bells started ringing when the first event of the year was cancelled.

After that, she started to receive calls every couple of days, calling off various events across the UK.

Sue is now stuck on the farm with four other members of the jousting team and 22 horses.

"Everything has been put on hold," she said.

“We have to keep our horses fit and our team fit and ready to go. If they lift the ban for us, we have to be ready to do that.

“At the moment the team that are here – the core team – can exercise the horses, which is good."

Image source, Phoenix Photography Scotland

The team has been involved in horse stunt events for the past 10 years – initially in France, before returning to the family farm in the south of Scotland.

Sue said the lockdown happened at the worst time for their business.

“For us, this is a disaster – we make all our money to last us for the year in the summer season,” she explained.

“It is really, really bleak. If we don’t get some kind of help or funding it’s the type of thing that would make our business fold.

“We have 22 horses to look after and some of them are retired horses which need special care.”

Image source, Les Amis d'Onno

Despite the difficulties they face, they are hopeful that the backing of their fans might be enough to see them through.

Les Amis d’Onno have made some mini-films for their followers, and may try to hold a "virtual tournament” on their own land if it could be arranged safely.

"We are a resilient group, we have had a lot of support from our fans,” said Sue.

“We will try and make it through and see what we can do.”

She said the only option was to try to survive the lockdown and be ready to lift up their lances and return to action when restrictions are lifted.

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