LADIES across Somerset are bringing a slice of Game of Thrones into their real lives after a sudden rise in the number of women taking up medieval sword fighting.

At the centre of the boom in historical sword fighting is the Taunton Longsword Association, which has seen packed out halls following a successful social media campaign.

The group’s community liaison, Chantal Bannister, inspired the rest of the association to join the international campaign to ‘Give a Girl a Sword’.

The campaign hopes to improve women’s representation in Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) events in a sport dominated by men.

Chantal said: “I wanted to get involved with this because women are really underrepresented in HEMA. The estimate is that 20 per cent of participants are women, but I think that is optimistic.

“There was this international Give a Girl a Sword initiative which a few clubs in the UK have backed. We had very few women and we wanted to remedy that.”

The Longwords association’s original post has gone on to have more than 50,000 impressions, with multiple session being totally packed out, mostly with women.

Chantal added: “When we started this idea, we never thought footfall would be this amazing.

“We had to put on an extra night on Monday and by Tuesday it was full.

“We do pass around sharp swords but it is not what we actually train with, but it is good to give people an idea of what they are like to hold.”

Helen Ridler first joined the Taunton Longswords Association seven years ago. She has since stopped taking part in competitive events due to injury, but is still involved with the club as an ambassador.

She said: “This initiative has just gone so well. I am stunned, and so pleased. It is an excellent sport and there are a lot of women out there.

“It is just amazing to see the women of Somerset decide they want to get involved.

“You can be older or heavier, but if your technique gets developed then you will beat all comers.

“The history of it is so interesting. This is genuine historical martial arts, but instead of Asian martial arts, this is the genuine historical European way of fighting. It is as technical and it is as long-standing.

“We are now having people rediscover it through old Italian or German manuals. These were written before paper. They were very expensive fighting manuals from the time.

“There is a huge resurgence in people finding out how we fought. Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings have definitely had a big impact with people going ‘I want to find out what it really feels like to be in battle’.”

For more information, including how to get involved with the Longswords Association, visit, or email