In 2001, King Edward VI School fencing club registered their name "Shakespeare's Swords" with the British Fencing Association, finally absorbing all the fencers they had trained over the years into the family of K.E.S.. But it had begun a little before that.
Fencing has been part of the sporting life of King Edward VI School for nearly 30 years. One of the present coaches, David Kirby, began training the school fencers once a week for games for the upper school in 1987. In those days fencing was in the TA Drill Hall in Old Town. There were foilists and two particular sabreurs, Dhugal and Adrian Bedford. They encouraged a group of youngsters which included Adam Reece, who was the first to be selected for the England youth sabre team in 1989.
The club grew, and an after-school club was added. This opened the sport to the junior school. Following Adam, were three musketeers, one foilist (Sam Stockley), one épéeist (Simon Reading) and one sabreur (Ambrose Cole). Ambrose had a very mixed fencing career. He started, as they all did, fencing foil. He was successful there making a National Age Group final (the precursor of the British Youth Championships). He was a member of the Stratford swimming club and a good rider, hated running, and was a mean shot with a pistol. So he took up Modern Pentathlon (MP) and trained with the Evesham based MP youngsters on a Tuesday. He was a member of the team that took every single prize on the table in the British Junior Championships in the early 90s. Later Ambrose saw the light and took up sabre. He was pretty good there, too. At 16, he was the youngest winner of the Welsh Open and won his national cap as a member of the British cadet sabre team in the Denver, USA, World Championships in 1993.
Many K.E.S. fencers were now training a second night at the Evesham club. Being sabre fencers, they took up quite a lot of room and the foil and épée crowd felt a little at risk - at least their fighting did not take out fencers in the adjacent pistes! So after a lot of planning, the sabreurs took themselves off to K.E.S., leaving the foil and épée at Evesham under Nick Chapman. Nick is still fêted as the coach who first put a sabre in the hand of Louise Bond-Williams, Shakespeare's Swords' famed double Olympian (Athens 2004 and London 2012).
The three musketeers with Adam mentored the next generation of sabre fencing stars in Aiden Jewell, Scott Jessop, Martyn Joynes and Alaistair Beaven. Those four formed the England U16 team in 1998, being joined by four others from K.E.S. to make up the U18 team as well. That year K.E.S. (qualifying population just over 400 boys) made up the entire England Youth team at both ages - a feat never achieved by another school before or since. Not only that, but the U16 boys fought the national teams of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in relay matches, and lost less than 45 points in total to all of them. You had to be good to make the K.E.S. sabre team that year!
Over the 21 years from 1992 to 2012, at least one Shakespeare's fencer has competed at the World Championships in 18 of those years. The trend started again in 2015, when Caspian Watt fought in the Cadet Worlds that year, followed by four fencers in the European and World Championships in 2016. Not a bad record. Not to be outdone the school teams went out to become the ones to beat. Notable school match victories included Eton College, Birmingham and Warwick Universities, and Warwick school. K.E.S. were school team champions many times locally and across several weapons too.
In 2015 K.E.S. teams became the British School Team Champions at U13, U15 and U18 in the same year, something done by no other school. K.E.S. repeated that in 2016, building on their justifiable reputation from 1998 when the club won the BYC across the board at U14, U16 and U18. Again, something never achieved afterwards by another club at all age groups simultaneously.
Not everyone is a superstar, though with good coaching everyone can have a shot at it. Shakespeare's Swords provides a training ground for all sorts of supporting training like coach qualifications, referee awards and general leadership practice and development. The club's philosophy is much more about having fun and learning life skills than it is about beating the world. The numbers involved seem to demonstrate this with some 100 children actively involved in the sport each year.
We now have another group of young stars aged from 12 upwards: who knows what they will achieve. But it is certainly interesting to watch their progress!
Shakespeare's Swords meet on primarily on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during term time in the Levi Fox Hall at King Edward VI School. The Levi Fox Hall is a contemporary re-interpretation of an English Great Hall of medieval tradition. The main sports floor, with national standard sprung floor provides space for eight fencing pistes with galleries to both sides of the Hall which allow viewing and coaching from above. It has a 15m run of 2m high mirror to practice techniques and skills and the hall itself is nearly 30mx20m. For competitive events, there are additional pistes in the adjoining gymnasium. On occasion, the Hall is required for school events and we move to the gym or the drama studio.
We have a range of ages and a range of experience (starting with absolute beginner onwards). Teaching is provided by British Fencing registered coaches.
4.00-6.00pm Club - Yr 9 and up, invited Yr 7/8
First half of Michaelmas term
4.00-5.45pm Yr 7 introductory course
5.45-7.00/8.00pm Club - Yr 8 and above
Rest of the year
4.00-5.45pm Club - Yr 7/8, Primary school age fencers
5.45-7.00/8.00pm Club - Yr 9 and above, invited Yr 7/8
4.00-5.45pm Club - Yr7/8, Primary school age fencers
5.45-8.00pm Squad Training - by invitation only
Individual private lessons can be arranged with any of the coaches.
Master in Charge
Director of Fencing
Mr Richard Mahony, Director of Sport, King Edward VI School
Maître David Kirby
Mr Robert Cawdron
Mr Calum Wilson
Mr Adrian Bedford
Mrs Ronnie Potter