CategoriesRe-enactment

A year in the Life of a Viking Reenactor: March

Welcome readers and all-round wonderful people to the amazing and fun hobby that is being a Viking reenactor. Thank you for returning to read the next instalment of A Year in the Life of a Viking Reenactor for our group Vikings of Middle England. In case you have forgotten since February’s Edition, we are a Viking re-enactment, living history and combat group based in Leicester, UK!

The time is March, the spring flowers are starting to bloom, and you join us at an exciting time of year! With our first two shows of the season coming up, preparations for them are well underway.

If you have not yet managed to join us in person to see what we are all about, coming to one of our events is a great introduction. Wander around our living history camp. Strike a coin or two. Head over to the merchants table to examine the riches before you. Watch the intricacies of material fibre being woven before your eyes. Perhaps enjoy the glint from our silversmith stall. Or even just wander around and perhaps discover something new.

Join us on the battlefield for weapons demonstrations and examples of combat techniques. Smell the wood of the shields as they take a hammering and hear the clang of our weapons clashing in hopefully the bright sunshine. (Real fire not guaranteed).

A busy merchants stall at our event in Boston Lincolnshire, 2018.

In the background there is a lot that needs to be done to pull off a successful Viking reenactment event. It starts months back to plan the events calendar, reaching out to contacts within historical circles to find out if a mutual collaboration can be arranged. For some, these organically fall into place, others often need an element of negotiation be it as to expenses, date and the expectation of both parties as to what type of event to put on. Especially if it is a new booking and the organisers want to hire us as their event entertainment. (By the way if you are reading this and you would like us to play a part in your event please send your enquiry to info@vikingsof.me)

When these events have been fixed in place a site visit is organised. This looks at suitability of the area allocated to us for both the living history camp and the combat arena if required. If it is an outside venue, water availability for consumption is a consideration as well as the delicate matter of (ahem) latrines.

On confirming the event our committee (group leaders for membership, events, authenticity, combat and treasury) need to communicate to the group all the details through social media postings and our weekly training and meetup sessions, giving members all the info needed to maximise attendance on the day.

Calligraphy practise by Viking re-enactors at Leicester Guildhall, March 2024

Another essential task for this time of year is the annual van check! I would be remiss to speak about life as a Viking reenacter without dedicating some time to an unsung member of our group. That is to say our van, that carries all the clubs equipment to and from the events and, you might say is as well travelled as any recorded Viking.

The stages for this are:

  • Check no birds or animals are currently nesting in the engine – it has happened believe it or not.
  • Take said van for its MOT and service.
  • On successfully passing the latter, start loading up for the events season ahead of us.

The loading usually is quite a social event with many hands making the job easier. We all go through the club’s kit assessing its suitability for the season ahead. Setting aside items that are in need of repairs, checking to see if anything has gotten miss placed. At a show, if the gods were displeased with our performance and rained down on us as we were packing away, that can very easily happen!

In instances like this it is quite literally a race against time to get everything packed down and stored in the dry. 1) so that the van is not overloaded weight-wise and, 2) our tents are likely to survive until the next show without the fabric weakening and going into holes.

Carrying out this annual check means our kit lasts longer and problem areas are identified before becoming major issues: come rain or shine we are well prepared for a successful event season.

After the show itself, a well-earned trip to a on route home takeaway is in order. Followed by arriving at home unpacking and for most of us a long hot shower. You may think that would be the end of it but the actuality is some of our events are paid events. This means that we need to follow up to ensure we will be paid in a timely manner which is where our treasurer comes into his own. Then repeat all over again at the next show.

a day in the life of a viking reenactors - stopping at services on the way home for a well earned burger!

Thank you once again readers for joining us for this March edition see you on Saturday 20th April at the St George’s Day Festival Leicester.

CategoriesRe-enactment

A Year in the Life of a Viking Reenactor: January

Welcome readers and all-round wonderful people to the amazing and fun hobby that is being a reenactor. I’d like to share with you tales from a year in the life of a Viking reenactor. The group I am part of, as you probably gathered if you have navigated to this webpage, is Vikings of Middle England (VME). A Viking period living history and combat group.

I invite you to join me on a journey through a year of re-enactment with our group. Along the way I’ll share our highs and lows, we’ll encounter some of the group’s characters, and feel like part of the kindred.

So with a high energy introduction to kick start 2024 lets jump into action! Anybody already feeling a little bored with the new year promises made around fitness or doing something new like joining a new social group etc., etc? Then read on.

Viking warriors charge! A Vikings of Middle England demonstration at Elvaston Castle Country Park in 2022

Where Vikings meet

Vikings of Middle England meet on a weekly basis, Wednesday nights 7:45-10.15pm at the Braunstone West Social Centre a great venue for our activities, the added benefit of being close to 3 bus routes, as well as free on site car parking, a rarity in Leicester!

This weekly session is our regular catch up with members who contribute to the living history part of our group as well as those who participate in our unique theatrical style of combat. I should probably say here – yes our weapons may be blunted but they are still very real, made of wood and steel. It’s quite a treat to hear the clash of swords in person and watch our skilled warriors practicing their techniques.

Combat sessions start with a brief warm up which helps us avoid injuries, and we can nicely warm up the vocal chords if we are so inclined. Particular focus is given to the shoulder muscles given when we fight we use a combination of weapons and a shield. This can be Seax, Axe, Sword or 1-handed spear (Javelin). The exception to this is those who use a longer spear, which is used as a 2 handed weapon, so no shield.

Combat Training

In our group the first weapon you start with is the Seax or small knife. We can train in all of the weapons but we have to master the basics first to use them safely – another reason for a weekly session.

After the warm up are a series of group activities where we recap previously taught skills. How to survive a 2 person verses 1 person fight, activities to target endurance and general confidence, etc. As well as the physical focus, these exercises teach tactical thinking, evasive manoeuvres, situational awareness and builds the ability to work together. This all enables us, year after year, to put on breathtaking shows which make our audiences laugh, cheer AND when a real battlefield villain makes an appearance, boo and hiss as well. Look out for these tales in the July edition of a year in the life of a re-enactor.

Leading the first combat session of the year on 17-1-24 is Throst our Stallari (You may also be familiar with more modern terms used for this role: leader, captain, sensei etc., etc.). Throst was kind enough to share some thoughts with me about combat for 2024.

“Some members are in the middle of training with a new weapon and several have discussed starting training in something different. Our combatants have a personal training guide which showcases a variety of areas to try out. Working through weapons is usually a solid starting point but there are also resources to lead a new game or try something you may not get the chance to do elsewhere. Our combatants work towards combined goals and have a shared knowledge ethos. Questions are always being asked so we can always help each other develop and improve.”

Throst, our Chief Training Officer

At the end of the 2 hour session, we have worked on our cardio, muscle strength, and incorporated footwork and balance, ensuring our fights don’t start or finish in a dangerous position. As well as a generous use of our voices as we cheer and encourage our fighters. Guaranteed, buckets of sweat have been shed and we have had a wonderfully fun workout we will feel the next day but still be talking about weeks later.

Next time in A Year in the Life of a Viking Re-Enactor

If you are still reading this my thanks to you. In February’s edition of A Year in the Life of a Viking Reenactor: you will be meeting some of our members and finding out about particular living history projects they will be undertaking over the course of the year. How they developed the idea from a research and personal point of interest. Do you have a passion project that you want to make this year?

~ Kori

CategoriesRe-enactment

Repton Festival Review

A little reel of our living history activity at Repton Festival last weekend!

We presented a load of crafts at the weekend and made use of the fantastic clear skies! Our carpenters Beigan and Bjarni made planks and wood-nails for clinker-construction, while our blacksmith Yngvar made ships nails and roves to rivet them together. Solveig the Viking (aka Lucy the Tudor), Hrefna and Ðorunn spun and weaved, and did nalbinding.

Throst made a “Traveller’s Porridge” based on “An Early Meal” by Daniel Serra, while Loðinn talked brewing. Members of the public worked hard grinding barley into flour.

Steinar, Kenelm and Snorri showed off arms and armour, Hrothgar talked about trade and showed off goods from around the Viking world. Kael cast jewellery, Hermish helped members of the public strike their own Viking coin, and Lofthaena made paint from red ochre and egg yolk. And there’s probably more we’ve forgotten!

Also at Repton Festival we did 5 combat displays (check out one on Facebook here), including weapons demonstrations, historical and for entertainment! We talked about the phases of a battle, how men were organised, our thoughts on “shield walls” and how dane axes could be used in a battle.

It was a fantastic weekend, and only a small portion of what we can do. Check out our upcoming events, and follow us on Facebook to keep up to date. If you’re local to the East Midlands, feel free to come to our weekly meeting and see what we do.

CategoriesRe-enactment

How I started in Viking re-enactment

History is something most people read in books or watch on TV. But there is another way to experience history. Viking Re-enactment, or in a more general sense “living history,” is a unique pastime that gives us the opportunity to recreate parts of history. It could be using copies of ancient tools to craft goods or to create art, or the thrill of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with your team in a mock battle.

Warriors of Vikings of Middle England line up next to each other, preparing for battle
Re-enactment battles are a lot of fun, but not the only way to recreate history!

I had to be dragged along to a weekly training session for ‘the Viking group.’ I had no idea what I was in for. To be honest, it sounded pretty lame: people dressing up as Vikings and pretending to hit each other with blunt swords. That was 20 years ago.

At first, I enjoyed the fighting. It’s a system of combat that is designed to entertain a crowd. A mixture of historical European martial arts principles, with performing arts. The first time I had a crowd cheering me on by name is indelibly marked on my brain. Sadly, I was cut down soon after. It was awesome. It’s a lot of fun, and training scales remarkably well for different levels of fitness and body type. Axes, spears, swords and huge two-handed ‘Dane axes’ are used as you progress as a warrior.

But fighting is only a small part of the experience. I didn’t know anything about the Vikings when I joined – except that they wore horned helmets and sailed in longships. Turns out, one of those things was wrong! At my first Viking re-enactment event I dressed up as an Anglo-Saxon peasant – the shame – but playing a plucky underdog definitely appealed. Other members helped me learn all about the different crafts and displays, filling in my knowledge as I went on.

Image shows 4 Viking warriors from Vikings of Middle England re-enactment group
Me, on the right. Could be about to drop the Dark-Ages biggest Folk Album.

The aim of the group is to put on public displays to educate and entertain. In doing it, I was also being educated and entertained, and I didn’t even know it. As well as history, I learned how to make things, how to chop wood and cook over an open fire. Being part of a group, working together for a shared goal and sharing stories around the campfire gave me valuable life experience.

The Vikings became my extended family over the years. In fact, many would bring their children who’d have the run of beautiful historic venues: castles and woods and country parks. A giant playground. Sometimes the kids would know more about the Vikings than me, and they are always better at archery! Years later, I’m bringing my own son to events with his ‘aunts and uncles’ and friends. I’m going to enjoy watching him grow up and earn those life skills and have those experiences.

The years have passed, I’m a bit slower, a bit (a lot) fatter and as interested in researching Viking-age life and crafts as I am hitting people with swords, but my enthusiasm hasn’t diminished. I’ve since started a family with someone I met through the group and I have a massive extended family of awesome people. I haven’t ever regretted it.

I can’t imagine what my life would have been like If I hadn’t joined a Viking re-enactment society. It’s a fantastic activity, and a great place to meet people. You don’t need to know anything (I didn’t) or be TV-Vikings fit (I wasn’t) to get started. Why not try it out?

~ Alan ‘Kael’ Ball, Deputy Leader, Vikings of Middle England. To find out more, visit vikingsof.me or contact enquiries@vikingsof.me