Nottingham's iconic outlaw, Robin Hood, has been a beloved character for tourists and locals alike for many years. This year marks a special milestone, as actor and historian Ade Andrews celebrates 30 years of donning the famous green tights and feathered cap, embodying the legendary hero of Nottinghamshire.

To mark the occasion, we sat down with the man behind the bow Ade Andrews, to find out more about his time as Robin Hood, how he got started, and what the future holds for Robin Hood...

Q: Can you tell us about your journey as a Robin Hood tour guide in Nottinghamshire? What inspired you to take on this role?

A: I came to Nottingham in the early 1990’s after Uni in London, Robin Hood and the Trip to Jerusalem being the reasons I came here. I believed I had the tools of the trade to get work as an outlaw – long hair, sword experience from Viking re-enactment when I was in my youth and a degree in History. When I had spent a few months in Nottingham, it was apparent the medieval scene was little more than pantomime. I determined to do better, especially as there were gaps in the market and I felt Nottingham had a lot more to offer.

June 1993 saw me start working with Kiss My Axe on the festival circuit honing my battle skills at the Edinburgh and Glastonbury Festivals. Meanwhile, in Nottingham, I busked on the streets as Robin Hood having photos with visitors, drinking beers and collecting silver coin in the sun by the Trip to Jerusalem. I talked my way into doing some free banquets at the Sheriff’s Lodge, once on Canal Street. Two nights there as Guy Gisborne and then I was quickly ponced by 'Maid Marian' at The Tales of Robin Hood to host banquets there. 10 years of medieval madness followed.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, I dug deeper into the legend of Robin Hood and the deeper I dug, I also started discovering the amazing history of Nottingham and realised that Robin Hood was too limited to tell the wider story of Nottingham. So, as I went about my business becoming Robin Hood, in the back of my mind Ezekial Bone was being born… but that is another story.

By 2005 new horizons beckoned. Robin Hood helped me attain employment as the Heritage Ranger for The Sherwood Forest Trust. I was empowering ex-mining communities to produce - to resurrect or initiate - customs of old in the modern day as a focal point for the community’s celebration. May Day and inclusive St George’s Day celebrations were once again seen in the Notts countryside. I gifted my Robin Hood character to these occasions for increased media potential. I saw these projects rallying the community spirit that created the legend of Robin Hood over the centuries, into the modern day.

Forest knowledge was another string to my bow. New green threads were being woven into my developing character and presentation. My character became a spokesperson for Sherwood Forest resulting in increasing media work via Notts County Council. The value of a credible character to promote the City was evident. This became the new dream. Nottingham needed something regular on the streets for locals and for visitors.

I had been preparing the way for the next stage of my journey by doing small City tours for a variety of occasions, private parties, corporate guests and for the precursors of Visit Notts. Nottingham needed a good Robin Hood presence on the streets so when I left the Trust I got my act together. In 2012 the Robin Hood Town Tour, based on my experience thus far, was launched - becoming one of Nottingham’s main attractions and winning many awards along the way. It proved that people want to believe and that they will come if there was more here for them.

Q: How has the character of Robin Hood evolved in your portrayal over the past 30 years?

A: From being a dreamer with a sword and big ideas at boisterous banquets to becoming a spokesperson for Sherwood Forest and onto becoming an Ambassador for Nottingham on the international stage, there has been a natural evolution of my character over time. As I have become more aware of the current state of affairs (ie environmental and civic matters etc), it has become more important to have good language and ideas to be able to relay what is relevant to different audiences. Words and ideas are my weapons in the modern day.

Q: Can you share some memorable moments or stories from your years of portraying Robin Hood?

A: In 2007 I worked with Brian Blessed on ITV’s ‘People’s £50m Lottery Contest’. We worked together to garner the public vote for Sherwood Forest. Part of the work entailed going to various 'Robin Hood' schools across the country gifting oak saplings to be planted in their grounds. 

A similar national vote was for the ITV / Daily Mail ‘Tourism Superstar’ in 2014. To garner support, Visit Notts has arranged for me to go onto the City Ground at half time in front of 25k people when Nottingham Forest F.C. were playing Doncaster and speak to the assembled masses. Despite being rivals, the idea was to get them all to vote for the son of England to bring the Tourism Superstar crown to the north. Robin Hood eventually came second winning Silver, losing out to some guy from Butlins. Not to worry, my Town Tour went on to win that year Bronze in the more important Visit England ‘Tourism Experience of the Year’ category which was chosen by the industry experts.

A big feather in my cap was in 2010 when CBS News came over from the USA when the Russell Crowe film was being launched. Looking for signs of English tradition, they filmed our May Day Celebration in Edwinstowe. As Robin, I was interviewed, and Nottingham and Sherwood Forest were beamed into people’s living rooms across America with a good news stories from the heart of England.

Q: Nottinghamshire has a rich history associated with Robin Hood. What aspects of this history do you find most fascinating or important to share with your tour guests?

A: Part of my self-imposed remit is to seek the wider regeneration of Notts through a celebration of tradition. On all my tours I always recommend other places to go in Notts, depending on their interests and length of stay etc, and orientate folks out. Less obvious places are given a shout out like the D.H. Lawrence Museum in Eastwood, the William Booth Museum in Sneinton and the Framework Knitters Museum in Ruddington. All these places help to build the bigger picture of this remarkable county and give an authentic sense of place.

In order to help facilitate this cultural and economic regeneration, Ezekial Bone offers ‘Outlaw Escapes’ linking places together into day packages. For example, just recently 18 Belgian business people improving their English took a Robin Hood Town Tour, lunch at the Trip and then a jaunt over to Newstead Abbey. Soon, 7 ladies from the U.S. are having ‘A Day Out in Notts with Robin Hood’ ie the Town Tour, lunch at the Trip then embarking on my Sherwood Forest Tour.

Personally, I find St Mary’s Church and its locale most fascinating. It is the only building in Nottingham truly associated with Robin Hood being the setting of the medieval ballad ‘Robin Hood & The Monk’. Beyond that, the wider Lace Market area has to be one of the most fascinating areas of the Midlands with an incredible textile story to tell which Ezekial Bone will be telling on his new Lace Market Tour coming in Spring 2024.

Q: Over the years what are the highlights you have encountered on the Robin Hood Town Tours?

A: Using the City as the theatrical backdrop for the tour means the universe sometimes conspires with you to maximise a specific moment of the tour. For example, when Little John in the Council House tolls the hours as I’m talking about the final moments of an execution at St Mary’s or at the County Gaol. It electrifies the moment, everyone can sense it. It’s like different dimensions converging, a perfect synchronicity falling into place every few years. Another time, in St Mary’s Church yard, a 2ft blanket of snow fell as dusk did. I lead a huge group of 50 French kids through the silent silvery world of virgin snow past the ancient porch. It was like something off ‘Game of Thrones’ and the kids were in state of awe.     

I was doing a tour with an audience of twenty folks once. We were in Exchange Arcade beneath the Little John bell tower. There was a little lad proudly strutting down towards us in his Spider Man outfit with his Ma. He had the mask down and was in full Superhero mode. I saw him coming and I turned to him as he passed and exclaimed ‘Huh!! Are you a Superhero?!’ He clocked me and went ‘Errr… No! I’m just a little boy!’ as he lifted up his mask to reveal he was actually a little boy. The audience saw the whole exchange and laughter sprang forth. It was joyful moment and this is the sort of magic that can emerge on the tours.

The Robin Hood Town Tour has won many awards over the years. In 2020 it won Silver in Visit England’s ‘Tourism Experience of the Year’ beating £ million attraction finalists like London Zoo. One man on the streets of Nottingham against world famous attractions. A real 'David and Goliath' story.  

Seeing folks reactions when they hear about the evolution of St Mary’s Church, see the stain glass windows in the P&P and go into the caves beneath the Salutation Inn are regular lovely moments on the tours. One of the biggest highlights for all is finishing at the Trip to Jerusalem for its fine, frothing ales. Punters stay supping the landlord’s finest as we chew the fat and the good times continue into the evening.

Q: Are there any personal connections or experiences that have deepened your passion for Robin Hood and Nottinghamshire's history?

A: My work is about reconnecting people to the land and sense of place. I’ve made a few personal connections with folk I work with who are passionate about Notts history and who are on a similar quest ie pro-active about educating others. There’s a real camaraderie and we are like the Merry Men of the modern day.

Andy Gaunt of Mercian Archaeology is ‘Mr Sherwood Forest’. His knowledge knows no bounds and he uses Archaeology to engage and educate people with community workshops in the forest area as well as doing historical tours.

David John is a volunteer at Nottingham Castle. You’ll see this old gent in the grounds during the day speaking to folk. His knowledge again, is unsurpassed and his tangents will entertain you no end. He’s a real trump card for the Castle and he’ll add a lot of colour to anyone’s visit there.

Sadly, a big shout out must go to a fellow outlaw who passed away a few years ago but who did so much for Sherwood Forest. Ian ‘Taff’ Major was the Landscape Officer and a key player for The Sherwood Forest Trust. He restored the land while I restored folks relationship to the land with the Customs. He later joined my outlaw troupe as 'Friar Tuck'. A big, bombastic Welshman complete with belly and tonsure, a natural poet and performer, the forest sang when we worked together as outlaws and he spoke his words of green wisdom. His premature death due to cancer was a cruel loss to Notts.

Knocking around the streets and alleys of Nottingham town and exploring the green paths of Sherwood at different times of the year, in different weather, has been inspirational. It helps conjure ideas and images, connections, tangents and parallels. All these experiences are fuel to the fire. Back in the good old days I used to do occasional medieval camps at the Major Oak as we entertained folks over the weekends. Staying overnight in the heart of the ancient forest of giant oaks was remarkable.

Q: How do you engage with tourists of all ages and backgrounds while portraying Robin Hood? Are there specific challenges such as a language barrier with overseas tourists?

A: The great thing about Robin Hood is he is evergreen, timeless and universal. This creates a problem for general, public tours as the audience is a wide range of people - different cultures, ages, languages etc - all with different abilities and expectations. I have to find the middle way through my knowledge at make it as accessible as possible to all. Where language is a barrier, acting, humour and comedy and theatrics all make for an entertaining experience. Folks with English as a second language might struggle with some of the language and archaic information but they will see that my intent to be inclusive is good and all will get something out of the performance.  

Q: As you reflect on your 30-year journey, what changes have you seen in the tourism industry and the way people perceive and engage with history?

A: The rise of the digital age, mobile phones, virtual and augmented reality has given rise to many gadgets and gimmicks for consuming heritage in the modern day. Whilst this has made the heritage world accessible for many, which is great, it is not the only way forward. Parents take their kids to historical places to get them out in the fresh air and away from screens and digital games. To get exercise and have adventure. Kids want a hands-on archery experience with a proper oak longbows. They need to listen to decent storytellers, not watch talking heads on video screens. They need to escape the modern day to times and places past, to get their hands on history.    

Q: How do you balance the historical aspects of the character with the more legendary and mythical elements of the Robin Hood story in your tours?

A: The Robin Hood Town Tour is an exploration of the legend of Robin Hood set against the back-drop of the evolution of the City. My storytelling device allows me to weave together all info on Robin Hood, whether fact or fiction, to create a compelling commentary. So, with the audience, I embark on a journey and we eek out the threads of truth from the tapestry of myth and history. Information about the city’s other stories are woven around this as well. There’s a lot of information and it is a higher brow tour but it draws the right people who are prepared to do the work.  

Robin Hood is a construct. He is a composite character ie not one but many and this gives artistic licence with the costume. My outfit is not historically accurate because what is accurate for Robin Hood? Mine is an assimilation inspired by different films. Pieces of kit come and go so the outfit evolves over time and has a life of its own. The leather pants I wear were made by One B.C, local fashionistas in Sneinton Market, around 25 years ago. They are so battered now they look medieval and give the outfit a feel of authenticity, not specific medieval authenticity but an authenticity that pertains to an underworld, timeless character in the modern day.

Q: Nottinghamshire has a strong Robin Hood heritage. How do you collaborate with local communities and organisations to promote this cultural legacy?

A: I was involved in the creation of Customs in Sherwood Forest. With community groups in Wellow we created traditional ‘Wellow Jack’ and ‘Bogies’ for the lads at the Wellow May Day celebrations. This has become part of the ongoing tradition since 2009. The May Day Celebrations in ‘Robin Hood’s Village’ of Edwinstowe 2007 – 2011 involved 20 community groups, a procession from the village to the Forest, choirs and May-pole Dancing at the Major Oak and folk making a ‘Jack-in-the-Green’.

The St George’s Day Celebration, Ollerton, 2006 to 2019 was made sustainable by a committee being set up but Covid has seen the current end of it. It was in 2011 produced by 30 community groups, locals dressed as knights, a huge dragon created by the schools, and a procession from the New to Old Village. It was the largest community produced celebration the Midlands that, gaining national interest.  

Many smaller projects took place with youth clubs and community groups, all celebrating the distinctiveness of their local area of Sherwood Forest.

After leaving the Trust in 2011 to concentrate on the Town Tour I was still attending events in Sherwood, providing medieval entertainment and speaking at many local events. In 2020, in conjunction with local entrepreneur Sarah Manton of local business ‘Curious’ in Sneinton, a community enterprise was launched: ‘Sherwood: The People’s Forest’ which looks to empower locals across Notts to ‘green the grey’ and replant suitable areas with native flora, as places where nature survives and wildlife thrives.

In the past, I have done events in Sherwood Forest working with the Y.H.A. doing tours for school kids with 'shelter building' activities. International groups also have had archery laid on for them at the Major Oak. I have a Nottingham Primary School which comes to me every year for the ‘Sherwood Forest Adventure’. It’s great fun working with the kids, stimulating their imaginations and getting some lateral, cross- curricular thinking going on.

I have been called to do Merry Outlaws shows with minstrels and jesters at Southwell Minster and Newark Castle. Presently, I am in talks with a prestigious venue near Newark about doing Medieval Banquets. Not like they used be at the Tales, mind! Higher brow, theatrical experiences in a great venue with top notch food and great music. This is a new dream.

Q: What message or feeling do you hope visitors take away from your tours, especially on your 30th anniversary celebration?

A: There’s a few things I hope folks take away from the Robin Hood Town Tour.

Nottingham is a vibrant cosmopolitan city, and with the wider county, has an amazing history. It is a brilliant place for a staycation or city break. Many folks who come here, want to come back to explore further. Nottingham is the unsung hero of England and one day, the underdog will have its day.

The second is on the human level. For kids, it’s about realising that history is one of the best subjects there is because it engages your imagination (becomes an endless quest) and imagination leads to knowledge. Between the lines of the history and the performance for them, it’s about Citizenship and Green Living or, to be more poetic, sowing the seeds of a better, greener, fairer future for all.

The feeling of goodwill the tours generate is priceless. People from all walks of life have been entertained and have learnt a lot and been inspired by the human story of endeavour in Nottingham. The legend is about the dream of a better world and those who would fight the good fight to make it so. Robin Hood is a reminder if all good people stand together, then the future will be ours.

Q: Finally, what’s next for you and Robin Hood?

A: Well, there’s three in this story. Myself, Robin Hood and Ezekial Bone. When I’m finally too old for the green tights, Ezekial Bone will take up the mantle of the ‘Hooded Man’ in some way so my Robin Hood work will continue. I’ll put more emphasis on other aspects of Nottingham history and Mr Bone will pick up the duties on the Lace Market and Guts & Gore Tours and other projects that might arise.

I am looking into the possibility of getting a soundscape produced with local musicians for my narrative. This may lead to a one man show on the story of Robin Hood by Ezekial Bone. But, over the last 30 years many day-dreams have come and gone. Some have stayed and been made manifest, others evaporated into the ether. The world is a rapidly changing place so I’ll sit back, enjoy the ride and see what the universe decrees for the future.

These questions were put to Ade Andrews by Anna Scott of Visit Nottinghamshire.


Ezekial Bone's Limelight Backstage Tour
Guided Walk
Ezekial Bone's Limelight Backstage Tour

Discover the world behind the curtain and learn about the amazing story of the Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall on our Limelight Backstage Tour!

Robin Hood Town Tour
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Robin Hood Town Tour Ezekial Bone | Visit Nottinghamshire

Now is your chance to see the sights, hear the stories and explore this cultural capital with Robin Hood as your tour guide to Nottingham.

Ezekial Bone: Guts & Gore Tour
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Ezekial Bone: Guts & Gore Tour

Bored to death with the usual guided tours? Join Nottingham's resident ghost as he haunts the Lace Market and tells frightful tales of Guts & Gore.



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