Home-made trebuchet is all set to make a hit at Northumberland festival

Musician "inventor" Paul Mason has created a new take on an ancient siege instrument

 

For most people, a DIY job would see them knocking up a new set of shelves for the house or bit of decking in the garden.

However Paul Mason has taken it to the extreme by constructing a ‘trebuchet’ - a gigantic mechanical catapult of the kind used to lay siege to castles in the Middle Ages.

The 50-something self-confessed “big kid” has spent months constructing it in his garage and it will be the showpiece of the all-acoustic music festival Baafest which he’s organising in Northumberland next month.

Paul can’t wait to try it out, although health and safety requirements might scupper any ideas of it hurling the kind of missiles its ancient predecessor would have aimed over castle walls.

He said: “From a health and safety point of view it will probably have to be a water balloon or a football or rugby ball.”

When he’s not busy building contraptions in the garage of his Northumberland home, Paul is a full-time musician, one half of folk-jazz duo Landermason with his partner, and Baafest co-organiser, Fiona Lander.

The pair set up their first small “boutique festival” in 2010 to showcase the work of little-known bands and, with its mix of folk and blues, it’s become hugely popular.

This year it moves to a new site at Brownrigg in Northumberland National Park and Paul wanted an attention-grabbing centrepiece to go with it.

“I wanted a bit of a showpiece for the festival, something of a visitor attraction,” he says and he’s designed it to fit in with Baafest’s green credentials.

“It’s constructed entirely from recycled materials: pallets supplied by local builders’ merchants, scrap, other bits of steel.”

Growing up in Sunderland, where a pre-Eurythmics Dave Stewart gave him guitar lessons, Paul says: “My dad was very keen model-maker and I think some of it has rubbed off on me.

“He was making models in the seventies - boats and steam engines - and he would take them to Roker park where they’d catch fire. He was quite well known.”

He adds: “I make these pieces in my spare time in the garage - when I can get inside it!

“This is the biggest piece to date without a doubt. The scale is enormous.”

His early apprenticeship as an engineer and a job as an installation fitter in the Sunderland shipyards has stood him in good stead when it comes to the practical side of his big ambitions.

“As the trebuchet is quite a size, when we were getting the pieces of it together there were four of us big strong lads and we couldn’t lift it in place.

“So I had to build a gantry and use a block and tackle - it took me back to the shipyards as that was the first time I’d used one.

“I’ve been working 14 hours a day to get this finished before September.

“It’s 95% complete but we haven’t actually got to the stage of trying to fire anything from it yet.”

Festival-goers will get to see the trebuchet’s throwing skills first-hand when Baafest returns from September 11-14 but Paul suggests they might have to stand at a distance once it swings into action.

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