Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Shepparton botanic gardens site of medieval clashes

A live action role play club has created a new 'realm' at Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton and use it to play out weekly epic battles.

ESTELLE GRIEPINK April 1, 2014 4:54am

Mesaea LARP Club members Eva James, Ethan Rowley, Luke Jones, Alex Bull, Luke Hocking and Sebastian Nicolson.

The next time you are at Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton, keep an ear out for the clanging of swords and the battle-cries of war.

A flash of colour between the gum trees might just be the glint of armour or the fluttering of a warrior’s cloak as they run from their enemy.

On Sundays, Kialla’s old tip turns into the ‘‘realm’’ of the Mesaea LARP Club.

LARP stands for live-action role-play and to an outsider the quirky pastime comes across as a re-enactment of Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones.

‘‘I think the simplest way to explain it is that you role play a table top (board) game or computer game like Skyrim in real life, with your real body,’’ founding member Luke Hocking, 20, said.

‘‘We meet up and generally have one or two story characters for the day that drive the stories and give out quests, and then we have story characters who complete the quests,

‘‘One of our favourites is ‘bandits in the fort’ where we send everyone up the hill to clear the forts, and then the bandits fight with the powerful heroes — the bandits rarely ever win.’’

Using their imaginations to bring rich narratives to life is easier when the participants are kitted out in medieval garb, such as fur-trimmed cloaks, executioners’ hoods and bronze armour.

They also bear an impressive collection of safe yet convincing weapons.

‘‘We used to go out into the bush and just hit each other with wooden weapons, but since them we’ve got a lot more professional about it all,’’ Mr Hocking said.

‘‘Now we’ve got latex weapons — everyone gives $10 when they play so we can continue to buy more club gear.’’

Mr Hocking said the group expanded from half-a-dozen members to nearly 30 after it relocated the playing grounds to the Botanic Gardens.

It is a more central location for people who travel from Mooroopna, Arcadia, Toolamba and even Melbourne.

‘‘We used to go to Moira Park ... but it doesn’t quite have the magic that this place does,’’ Mr Hocking said.

Intrinsic to the success of the group is its close relationship with the Friends of the Botanic Gardens.

Laughter erupted when the group was asked whether the gardeners had always been so accepting of the unusual hobby.

‘‘We came here one day and they were working on their gardens and they looked down the hill and saw about 12 kids hitting each other with swords, and at the end of the day they came up and said ‘So, um, what’s going on?’’’ Mr Hocking said.

‘‘But we got to talking and it turns out a lot are interested in re-enactments — one man told us he loves Tolkien and he loves re-enactments and if he was just a bit younger and didn’t have a trick hip he’d be out here with us.’’

Mr Hocking said the group was always open to new members and insisted being a nerd was not a prerequisite.

He said most of the group were aspiring playwrights or actors looking to sharpen their improvisation skills.

‘‘(Larping) is definitely seen as something that’s just for nerds, or just for guys, which I don’t like,’’ he said.

‘‘Anyone can come along and first-timers larp free — so there’s nothing you can lose apart from a couple of hours of time.’’

Mesaea LARP Club meets at noon every Sunday at the Australian Botanic Gardens Shepparton on Kialla Tip Rd. People can contact them via Facebook at

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