Astrolabe workshop at IMC 2017

Updated: Tuesday 24 March

It is with great sadness that we have decided to cancel this year’s International Medieval Congress, 6-9 July 2020, as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes the cancellation of all events and excursions. Read our full statement.

Workshops give you the opportunity to try a new skill – and often to take home a handmade memento of your time in Leeds. This year’s programme includes a variety of medieval and medieval-inspired techniques, professional development sessions and new ways to communicate medieval research.

Each workshop can only accommodate a limited number of participants, so early booking is recommended. If you will not be able to attend a workshop you have booked, please let us know as soon as possible so we can offer your place to another delegate.

‘Draw thy sword in right’: Combat

Directed by Dean Davidson and Stuart Ivinson, Kunst des Fechtens (KDF) International
Sunday 05 July, 13.30-16.00
Price: £15.00

Have you ever had a desire to learn how to fight like our historical forbears or study the highly effective fighting style that was taught throughout the medieval period? Back by popular demand, Kunst des Fechtens (KDF) International bring a workshop in the use of medieval longswords to Congress participants.

KDF workshops bring a dynamic approach to training, with a martial application of this historical art, through practical drills combined with interpretations from historical treatises. Our professional and experienced instructors will be on hand to provide tuition in this noble fighting style.

KDF International is an association of like-minded clubs from across Europe, whose aim is to promote the study, development, and practice of the martial arts traditions of medieval and Renaissance Germany, in particular those of the Master Johannes Liechtenauer. These martial arts have been preserved in numerous treatises and have been unearthed, transcribed, translated, and interpreted into a modern understanding of a subtle, dynamic, and effective martial arts system that looks at the use of a number of weapons and unarmed combat of the time. Founded in 2006, KDF was born from a desire to focus attention on Liechtenauer’s works, as well as to bring a dynamic approach to training, adding the use of protection as well as free play exercises and bouts to drill and practice as a part of trying to triangulate a truth within their interpretations.

Dean has over 20 years of experience in martial arts and training in historical weapons. He is the KDF International Senior Instructor and European Historical Combat Guild Chapter Master at the Royal Armouries, Leeds. He is an active member of the Society for Combat Archaeology, an international organisation committed to the promulgation of systematic knowledge related to combat and warfare in the past. Dean is passionate about sharing knowledge on this subject and regularly presents at renowned international conferences and seminars, providing a unique insight into the arms and armour used throughout medieval warfare. He is also a founding member of the Towton Battlefield Frei Compagnie and 3 Swords, a prestigious medieval historical and armed combat interpretation group. Dean holds a Masters in Health Informatics from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Leeds.

Stuart Ivinson has been involved with historical combat for 19 years, joining the European Historical Combat Guild in 2000 and KDF upon its inception in 2006. He is currently an Assistant Instructor at the Leeds Chapter of both organisations. Stuart is also a member of the Society for Combat Archaeology and a founder member of both the Towton Battlefield Society Frei Compagnie and 3 Swords. He has made presentations regarding the display of arms and armour for organisations such as the National Archives at Kew, English Heritage, and numerous British museums. Stuart has an MA in Librarianship, an MA in Medieval History and a PgDip in Heritage Management. When he is not being Dean’s sidekick, he is the Librarian at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.

All weapons are provided by KDF. Participants should wear indoor training shoes and appropriate and comfortable gym training gear that will allow freedom of movement (i.e. t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms). Please make the instructors aware of any prior medical conditions.

This workshop can only accommodate a limited number of participants. Early booking is recommended.

‘All thy best parts bound together’: Coptic Bookbinding

Directed by Linette Withers
Leeds University Union: Room 6
Sunday 05 July, 14.00-17.00
Price: £29.50

In 1945, a collection of early Christian and Gnostic texts was discovered near the Egyptian town of Nag Hammadi. These leather-bound codices, dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries, were sealed within a jar which was found by a local farmer. These volumes were written in the Coptic language and bound in a single-section Coptic-style binding, with covers of soft leather that were stiffened by sheets of waste papyrus. The first true form of the codex, the Coptic style of binding continued to be used until the 11th century.

Participants in the workshop will recreate one of the types of Coptic bindings used in the Nag Hammadi finds with goat leather and papyrus covers and linen thread. The internal pages of the book will be blank sketch paper. All materials will be provided.
Linette Withers completed an MA in Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds before joining the IMC team as Senior Congress Officer. She has been binding books since 2005 and since 2012 has worked as a professional book binder, producing codices that are inspired by historical books. One of her works was shortlisted for display at the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford as part of their ‘Redesigning the Medieval Book’ competition and exhibition. She also regularly works with library conservation projects and teaches binding techniques in her studio in Leeds.

This workshop can only accommodate a limited number of participants. Early booking is recommended.

‘Yonder Venus in her glimmering sphere’: A Workshop on the Astrolabe

Directed by Kristine Larsen
Maurice Keyworth Building: 1.06
Monday 06 July, 19.00-20.30
This event is free of charge

While it is relatively straightforward to use an astrolabe to calculate the positions of the sun or stars for any date and time for the latitude of its plate(s), calculating the positions of the moon or planets (the ‘wandering stars’) is a more complex matter. In particular, astronomical tables are required to factor in the predictable cyclical motions of the moon and planets relative to the ecliptic – the path the sun appears to take through the sky – which runs along the middle of the zodiac.

This hands-on workshop will begin with a brief introduction to the astrolabe and apparent lunar and planetary motions, before walking the participants through a series of computations of lunar and planetary positions in the night sky (for example, whether Venus appears as a ‘morning’ or ‘evening’ star). No prior knowledge is expected, and all materials will be provided, including an instruction guide and cardboard astrolabe to take home. This workshop is limited to 80 attendees on a first come, first served basis.

This workshop is presented by Central Connecticut State University astronomy professor Kristine Larsen, who has made similar presentations at the IMC for several years.

‘A ring wound round with silver’: Jewellery-Making

Directed by Tanya Bentham
Michael Sadler Building: Room LG.19
Monday 06 July, 19.00-21.00
Price: £30.50

Famous archaeological finds, such as the Staffordshire Hoard, reveal the love of jewellery and other forms of personal adornment in early medieval England, whether in gold, silver, or even pewter. Intricate pieces could be made of gold and encrusted with garnets and minute filigree patterns, but simpler pieces could be made by twisting or plaiting silver wire.

The aim of the workshop is to produce a twisted wire ring of common Saxon type. Participants will be able to choose one of two designs – either a spiral or interlacing loops. The workshop will begin with an introduction by the tutor, including an explanation of metalworking practice. Participants will then have a chance to familiarise themselves with the techniques, using first pipe cleaners and then copper wire, before making a final version in silver.

The workshop fee includes both copper wire and enough silver to make one ring. If participants wish to make additional rings, more silver wire will be available for purchase.

Tanya Bentham has been a re-enactor for years, working the last 20 as a professional living historian. Her main focus has always been on textiles, especially embroidery, but also making detours into costume, natural dyeing, weaving, millinery, and silversmithing. She has delivered workshops for numerous museums, schools, and community organisations throughout Yorkshire.

The workshop can only accommodate a limited number of participants. Early booking is recommended.

#BreakingBad Then, Breaking #Borders Now: Teaching Transgression in the Middle Ages by the Twelve Tweet Method - A Workshop and Demonstration

Moderated by Dana Cushing
Michael Sadler Building: Room LG.16
Monday 06 July, 19.00-21.00
This event is free of charge

Twelve-Tweet #teaching is an online presentation format which seeks to remove barriers to participation in large, international conferences like the IMC. We are delighted to be welcoming this novel format to the IMC for the first time.
Presentations will be via Twitter, with a moderated discussion led by Dana Cushing, including the opportunity to engage in dialogue with presenters delivering Twelve-Tweet presentations. The format is simple – each speaker will deliver their presentation via a standard number of tweets (8-12) and images. This format encourages presenters to condense their work, organise their argument, and find creative approaches to get their message across.

This workshop will provide a demonstration of the Twelve-Tweet teaching method, with presentations covering military history, espionage, and transgression. If you would like to be involved in the presentations, please contact Dana Cushing (

To follow this session on twitter, use #imc2020tw.

‘The ambassador of the mind’: Classical Arabic Calligraphy

Directed by Razwan Ul-Haq
School of Music: Conference Room
Tuesday 07 July, 19.00-21.00
Price: £18.50

The calligraphy pen is the ambassador of the mind – its messenger, its furthest reaching tongue, and its best interpreter. (Attributed to Ibn Abi Dawud by Ibn Al-Nadeem, c. 10th century).

Arabic writing is not simply a tool for communication, it is also used decoratively on tiles, ceramics, carpets, and in architecture. Traditional Arabic calligraphers worked with a qalam – a pen usually made of a reed or bamboo. The masters of this highly developed art were often remarkable polymaths who infused much of their learning into their work.

Join calligrapher Razwan Ul-Haq for a practical workshop using traditional hand-crafted bamboo pens and hand-mixed ink. Whilst enjoying doing the art of the lettering itself, participants may find the sayings of the masters rather enlightening as well!
No prior experience or knowledge of Arabic calligraphy is required. All materials provided, but participants are advised to bring along a note book for their own notes.
Razwan Ul-Haq is an artist and author whose prime vehicle is Arabic calligraphy, particularly the Nasta‘līq script, which was developed in Iran in the 14th and 15th centuries. A former headteacher, Razwan has gone on to pioneer artistic forms that draw from the minimalist tradition in Islamic art. Whilst he has received training in calligraphy from different masters of Arabic, his work is influenced also by Chinese and Japanese thought and contemporary art.

As a writer, two of his art novels are in print, Black Taj Mahal and Sultan vs. Dracula.  According to Hollywood actor and director, Sean Stone (son of Oliver Stone), ‘Sultan vs. Dracula is an important re-imagination of the encounter between Islam and the West around the fall of the Byzantine Empire’. He is a widely exhibited artist whose work has been displayed in many galleries and museums. His commissions include work for Queen Elizabeth as well as Land Art for the inaugural Tour de France of Britain. His work has appeared on various platforms including Channel 4, BBC Radio 4, The Times, ITV, and USA Today.

As a theorist in Islamic art, he has presented his views at various universities. He is a three times recipient of an Arts Council Award. Razwan is currently working on a project looking at man versus machine with regards to Arabic calligraphy. Here he is exploring what sets the human apart from artificial intelligence, and why, in an age of technology, his workshops of traditional calligraphy remain popular.

The workshop can only accommodate a limited number of participants. Early booking is recommended.

Crossing the Borders into Reading Langland and Chaucer Aloud

Directed by Paul Thomas
Leeds University Union: Room 2
Wednesday 08 July, 19.00-20.30
This event is free of charge

Many students today are unprepared to read Middle English texts aloud and, as a result, are unaware of the way proper pronunciation and awareness of metre can facilitate their understanding of the text. Often both students and teachers fear to read aloud as if Middle English were a daunting foreign tongue. This workshop provides an opportunity for medievalists to thrive a little better in the Middle English poetry of the 14th century.
The goal of this session is for participants to improve their pronunciation and fluency in reading Middle English aloud. This workshop will focus upon the Prologue and Passus 18 of William Langland’s Piers Plowman as well as the ‘General Prologue’ and ‘Franklin’s Tale’ of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Participants should prepare a short selection of one of these texts (10-20 lines) and come to the workshop prepared to read this passage aloud.

This session is open to readers of all levels but can only accommodate 20 participants (although additional observers are welcome to attend). Anyone wishing to participate in the reading circle should contact Paul Thomas ( so that they can be sent preparatory material in advance. This workshop will try to include as many passages or problems in reading aloud Chaucer or Langland as are feasible given the constraints of time.

Paul Thomas is the director of the Chaucer Studio and its press and Professor Emeritus at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. His writing and research have all been enhanced by his training in prosody, interpretation, and the oral sense of poetry that have been the bedrock of most of his teaching of the literature of the Middle Ages and the English Renaissance, although he has a special love for Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Donne. He, along with Alan Gaylord, has run many Reading Chaucer Aloud Sessions sponsored by the Chaucer Studio for years at Kalamazoo and at Leeds.

Bridging the Borders: Fifty Shades of Black (Ink)

Directed by Claudia Colini and Olivier Bonnerot
Michael Sadler Building: Room LG.19
Wednesday 08 July, 19.30-21.30
Price: £10.00

Medieval manuscripts are written with different black and brown ink types, which usually vary between the scribes. Analysing different scribal hands is a basic tool in the study of medieval texts. It is, however, strongly limited by what the human eye can see. This workshop provides a hands-on introduction to how scholars can benefit from a more profound understanding of inks. Technical developments in the medieval production of such inks were rarely constrained by borders or cultural divisions. Therefore, the content and formal characteristics of ink recipes are mostly independent of the culture that created them and can be used to explore how knowledge and techniques are transmitted, both within the same cultural environments and from one culture to another.

This workshop aims to bring participants across another border which is often improperly considered intimidating: the divide between the sciences and humanities. Experimentation is crucial in order to truly understand textual recipes from different manuscript cultures, to fully appreciate which ingredients are needed and in which proportions, to assess feasibility, and even to spot errors in the transmission process. Moreover, analytical techniques are needed to identify the materials employed in inks and see how inks used in manuscripts compare with their recipes. Scientific methods can support scholars to differentiate hands or stages of production within the same manuscript, or to compare and identify copies from the same scribe or scriptorium, by discriminating among diverse ink typologies.

In the first part of this workshop, the tutors will investigate the nature of ink recipes produced during medieval times from China to Europe, by different cultures and written in different languages (Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German, Italian), to observe similarities and differences and bring attention to the issues and challenges that those texts pose to the practical replication of their recipes. In the second part, the participants will receive a practical demonstration of ink production and will look at the raw ingredients used. Then, everyone will be invited to test ink samples on a variety of supports (papyrus, parchment, and papers) with various writing implements (brush, reed pen, feather). Finally, a practical introduction to reflectography and the hands-on use of the Dino Lite microscope will allow participants to try out their own ink-detection by analysing known and unknown ink samples with the supplied equipment. Participants are invited to bring examples from their own manuscripts.

Claudia Colini and Olivier Bonnerot are post-doctoral researchers at the Bundesanstalt für Materialsforschung und -prüfung (BAM), Berlin and associated to the Cluster of Excellence Understanding Written Artefacts, University of Hamburg. Claudia’s work deals mainly with the materiality of Arabic and Persian manuscripts, especially concerning writing supports and inks; Olivier focuses on the history of ink, and particularly on the transition between carbon and iron gall inks.

The workshop is organised by the Cluster of Excellence ‘Understanding Written Artefacts’ that follows a comparative approach for studying how the production of written artefacts has shaped human societies and cultures, and how these in turn have adapted written artefacts to their needs.

The workshop can only accommodate a limited number of participants. Early booking is recommended.

Discover Cyrillic Calligraphy: A Workshop on the Art of Medieval Slavic Writing

Directed by Edgar Rops and Anastasija Ropa
Thursday 09 July, 16.00-18.00
Price: £10.50

Cyrillic calligraphy flourished throughout the Middle Ages and well into the early modern period; today, it is experiencing a revival among Slavic practitioners, even though it largely remains a mystery in the western world. This workshop will introduce the historical and modern practice of Cyrillic calligraphy, not only presenting the alphabet in the uncial and the semi-uncial scripts, but also presenting the numerical symbols and the most common abbreviations. We will also show some traditional decorative patterns using pen and ink.

The workshop will be interesting also for those familiar with other calligraphy traditions, but no prior calligraphy experience or knowledge of Old Church Slavonic is necessary.

During the workshop, the participants will learn how to write their Christian name in Cyrillic orthography and will produce a card or, upon their choice, copy a fragment of a medieval document.

Materials (calligraphic pen, ink, and paper) will be provided at the workshop, though participants are welcome to bring their own calligraphy pen, if they have one. Please bring a ruler and a soft pencil.

Edgar and Anastasija study the medieval and early modern documents produced in Livonia, at the crossroads of eastern and western traditions of writing, and the artistic practices that went into the decoration of historical documents, presenting their research at international venues, with peer-reviewed publications to their credit. Edgar is a lawyer and legal historian by education, with a passion for historical calligraphy. He has also organised calligraphy workshops for general audiences, both with and without experience in calligraphy, and calligraphy-based team-building activities. Anastasija holds a PhD for a study of romance, with a long-standing interest in manuscripts and charters produced and circulated in medieval and Renaissance Livonia.

The workshop can only accommodate a limited number of participants. Early booking is recommended.

Medieval Records and the National Archives

Directed by Sean Cunningham, Paul R. Dryburgh, Roger Euan and Marianne Wilson

Friday 10 July, 09:00-13:00

Price: £7.50

For all medievalists the ability to locate, read, and understand archival sources is fundamental to their research, whatever their discipline and stage in their career. The National Archives of the United Kingdom (TNA) holds one of the world’s largest and most important collections of medieval records. The vast archive of English royal government informs almost every aspect of medieval life from the royal court to the peasantry, land ownership and tenure, the law, warfare and diplomacy, trade and manufacture, transport, credit and debt, death and memory, material culture, literature, art, and music. However, finding, using, and interpreting the rich diversity of material is not always entirely straightforward and its potential for a wide range of research uses is often unclear.

This workshop will offer an introduction to TNA, show you how to begin your research into its collections, and access research support. A coursepack with facsimiles of original documents will be used to illustrate the range of disciplines and topics TNA records can inform and illuminate.

Short, themed sessions will also introduce attendees to the Mechanics of Medieval Government, Law and Justice, and Church, State, and Commemoration.

This workshop is aimed at all medievalists, from masters students through to experienced academics in any discipline, who wish to discover more about the rich archive collections at TNA and how they might use them in their research. There are no prerequisites for attending the workshop, although a basic knowledge of Latin is recommended. The workshop is delivered in collaboration with the AHRC-funded research project The Northern Way: Archbishops of York and Northern Identity, 1304-1405. This research project is a collaboration between the University of York, The National Archives and York Minster. Sean Cunningham is Head of Medieval & Early Modern and specialises in 15th- and 16th-century records of English royal government. Euan Roger is a Principal Medieval Records Specialist: his research has focussed on church, government, and law in the late Middle Ages. Paul Dryburgh is a Principal Medieval Records Specialist with interests in government, politics, and warfare in the British Isles in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Marianne Wilson, Research Associate on The Northern Way, is an expert in late medieval religious communities and pious culture.

This workshop can only accommodate a limited number of participants. Early booking is recommended.

Seven Ways a Medievalist Can Earn Income Outside of Academia

Led by Danièle Cybulskie and Peter Konieczny

Friday 10 July, 09:30 – 12:30

Price: £7.50

Are you exploring a career in medieval studies, but wondering what opportunities exist outside of working in a university? This three-hour seminar will take a look at how medievalists can earn money, perhaps find a career, using their knowledge about the Middle Ages. Specifically, we take a look at following these possible paths:

1) Books – writing for publishers and self-publishing
2) Magazines – writing for history magazines and non-history magazines
3) Websites – creating your own website or digital content
4) Youtube and Podcasting – finding ways to create your own media brand
5) Publishing – working for a publisher or creating your own business
6) Travel and Tourism – using your knowledge of local history
7) Fairs and festivals – spending your weekends with thousands of other medieval lovers

Leading the discussion is Peter Konieczny, the founder of, the largest website devoted to the Middle Ages. He is also the editor of Medieval Warfare magazine. Joining him will be Danièle Cybulskie, author of The Five-Minute Medievalist.

Peter Konieczny was a librarian at the University of Toronto before becoming part-owner of He has been developing websites for 15 years and is based in Toronto. Peter has extensive experience in web design, blogging, social media, and the use of digital media to support the dissemination of scholarship to wide-ranging audiences. In 2016, he also became the editor of Medieval Warfare magazine.

Danièle Cybulskie, also known as The Five-Minute Medievalist, is a lifelong lover of Arthurian stories and bold Robin Hood. She studied Cultural Studies and English Literature at Trent University, earning her Master’s degree in English Literature at the University of Toronto, where she specialized in medieval literature and Renaissance drama. Currently, she teaches an online course on medievalism through OntarioLearn, and writes weekly articles for and The Medieval Magazine. Recently she published Life in Medieval Europe: Fact and Fiction. When she is not reading or writing, Danièle can be found drinking tea, practicing archery, or sometimes building a backyard trebuchet.

Since 2008, has billed itself as the media site for the Middle Ages, offering news, articles, and videos about medieval studies. It is one of the largest online resources about the Middle Ages, receiving over three-quarters of a million page views per month and with a large social media following of over 75,000 followers on Twitter alone.

This workshop can only accommodate a limited number of participants. Early booking is recommended.

'Monsters in the Margins' - Embroidery

Directed by Tanya Bentham

Friday 10 July, 10.30-16:30

Price: £32.50

‘What is the meaning of those ridiculous monsters, of that deformed beauty, that beautiful deformity, before the very eyes of the brethren when reading? What are disgusting monkeys there for, or satyrs, or ferocious lions, or monstrous centaurs, or spotted tigers, or fighting soldiers, or huntsmen sounding the bugle? You may see there one head with many bodies, or one body with numerous heads. Here is a quadruped with a serpent’s tail; there is a fish with a beast’s head; there a creature, in front a horse, behind a goat; another has horns at one end, and a horse’s tail at the other.’

St Bernard of Clairvaux’s description of monstrous images in the cloisters of Cluny could also serve as a description of the strange images that lie in the margins of manuscripts such as the Luttrell Psalter. In these works, hybrid creatures gambol at the edges of the page, mingling with images of daily life.

Join Tanya Bentham for a workshop focusing on the bizarre world of medieval marginalia, brought to life using historical needlework techniques. Using the Lutrell Psalter as a springboard, participants will choose a marginal creature to recreate. A selection of designs will be provided, but participants may also design their own image.

All materials including naturally dyed wools and silks are included. Throughout the day, there will be several detailed demonstrations of different techniques and stitches, as well as individual tuition where needed.

Tanya Bentham has been a re-enactor for years, working the last 20 as a professional living historian. Her main focus has always been on textiles, especially embroidery, but also making detours into costume, natural dyeing, weaving, millinery, and silversmithing. She has delivered workshops for numerous museums, schools, and community organisations throughout Yorkshire.

The workshop can only accommodate a limited number of participants.
Early booking is recommended. Lunch is not included.