Join 60+ Volunteers to Recreate History
There are many and varied ways of experiencing history. In Vikings of Middle England, our volunteer Viking re-enactors share their passion for history by recreating aspects of the Viking age: at reenactment events through traditional crafts, martial arts, experimental archeology and dramatic performance. There is no other hobby or activity that offers so many options!
The primary goal of our viking reenactment group is to Educate and Entertain at events around the UK. As with any voluntary organisation, there's a certain level of commitment necessary for this to happen, for safety and for the quality of the end product. This means engaging in various displays and attending weekly club meetings in Leicester where there is combat training and living history workshops. In addition, we have training for applying special effects, using the professional sound equipment, first aid certification, bush & camp craft and more.
But that's the business end. After the site is emptied of the paying audience, our extended family of Vikings of Middle England enjoys a break; eating and drinking together, playing silly games and getting ready for the next day of activities.
To be a re-enactor is to share and protect our heritage, and at the end of the day fool around with a bunch of good mates. It's an eccentric, electric, entertaining and often absurd hobby — in one word — fun. Please don't hesitate to contact us to find out more!
You can join from the age of 16 (with parental permission) and no activity carried out at events is discriminated against on the grounds of age, gender, race or disability (where practical). However, all members must do what they can to abide by the group rules and authenticity policies.
We have a meeting every Wednesday at 7.30pm at Braunstone West Social Centre, St Mary's Avenue, Braunstone, Leicester LE3 3FT. It's usually combat training, but every 5th week we have a dedicated Living History and Crafts session to work on our skills and knowledge. The meeting costs £3 per session or £10 per month. The first session is free. We have a session each month for new members to join us, and only accept pre-registered attendees, so check out our Eventbrite for details about sessions coming up! See also our Discord server for chats and updates.
All public events are family friendly. In fact, several spectators mentioned that the children running around the camp and taking part in scenarios completed the atmosphere!
Viking re-enactment is one of the cheapest to get started in, with the 'peasant-look' costing around £100 altogether. All of our members start off with basic tunics and accouterments, so if they find they don't like the hobby, then they haven't spent too much money. To help even further, the group has a wide variety of kit to lend out so new members can get a taste of events before investing money and time into making new clothes. We also have the services of incredible craftsmen and women that can make clothing and equipment for members for a small fee.
For those who wish to participate in combat displays, the group provides shields for free, eliminating another expensive purchase.
Of course, members who stay may wish to invest more heavily in their outfits, and perhaps into Viking-age crafts and Living History. To this end, we have a great list of trusted suppliers, and an on-line handbook to help make the right purchasing and crafting decisions.
How we Work
If you visit a museum, you'll often see the extraordinary treasure of the Viking-age — silver hoards, jewels and other precious artefacts. Just like museums we have produced or bought precious replicas, but for us, Viking re-enactment should show how ordinary people lived too. To this end, our re-enactment group is structured so we can provide a cross-section of the Viking-age people: peasant farmers and labourers, urban merchants and artisans, and landed nobles are all included is our presentation.
All new members that join us start off representing lowly peasants and the Anglo-Saxon Fyrd who would be conscripted into service in times of need. They represent the vast majority of people in the Viking-Age. This also acts as a sort of probationary period, where you can get used to the group, the way we work and to see if we are right for you. It also helps to keep cost of the hobby down while you are finding your feet.
Our weekly training mainly covers practice for our un-choreographed combat displays, a mix of competitive fighting rooted in historical martial-arts and performing arts skills needed to engage an audience. We also run talks (sometimes with guest speakers) on Viking history and 'how-to' sessions for crafts such as sewing your first kit.
Public events are where we put everything we've learnt together for the enjoyment of the audience. Over a weekend, or even a single day, we unload our van, set up our camp, perform for the audience, and pack away and go home — mucking in together!
Having attended training and participated in events, there will be a special ceremony where you will be awarded a new rank, and the ability to work on developing your own impression of Viking-age life. What this means is that you are ready to take the next steps in Viking re-enactment by choosing a particular Viking-age persona and then accumulating clothing and equipment above the basic peasant outfit (though this will still serve you going forward).
Take a closer look at our Impressions...
Men of the Fýrd
Some members prefer looking at history through the lens of the Angelcynn, the Anglo-Saxons during the early days of Viking raids on what was to become England, until the end of Alfred the Great's reign in 899.
Members have banded together to portray Saxons entering a turbulent time in English history, where great Viking war-bands roamed the country, sacking towns and monasteries, looting gold and silver, and taking countless slaves. Alfred of Wessex stepped up to take them on, winning decisive battles and building defensive towns called Burhs to keep the Vikings at bay. It is a time of political opportunism, where men and women can rise to prominence through alliances and oaths, and of burgeoning wealth as burhs become important trading towns in their own right.
Within this theme there is scope to portray a member of a royal court, or to work on a craft that would give you a good living in one of the burgeoning towns that sprung up from the burhs.
The Fair and Dark Foreigners
Another small group are focused on the "Vikings" that formed the market Kingdom of Dublin In the mid to late 9th Century, after years of raiding, Vikings from Norway and Denmark led by Ivar and Olaf the White invaded and settled in Ireland. They set up "longphorts" to use as bases for raiding inland, and across the Irish Sea into Wales, North West Britain and the Isles. One such settlement was Dublin — the Black Pool.
Dublin would become an important town, and the capital of the European slave trade. Ivar and Olaf would reign as co-kings, and their successors would at times also become kings of the Isles, and of Jorvik (York) in English Northumbria. Ivar and his descendants would become know in Ireland as the "Uí Ímair," the Dynasty of Ivar.
Members interested in this impression imagine life under Ivar's Grandson Ragnall, who in the Irish Annals was called the "King of the Fair Foreigners and the Dark Foreigners." It is believed that the "Fair Foreigners" denotes Norwegian Vikings and "Dark Foreigners" refers to Danish Vikings, but it could also be clans or rival factions of Scandinavians. Either way, Ragnall had them all under his thumb. After the Battle of Corbridge in 918AD, where he defeated Constantín mac Áeda, King of Scotland and Ealdred Earl of Northumbria, he became the King of Jorvik (modern day York).
The period tht this represents is one of reckless expansion and new but risky opportunities for powerful households to exploit. If they can rise and cement their power, they can found a lasting legacy worthy of the Sagas. Their impressions explore the world of wealth and power, relationships between the landed and their hirðmen, gift-giving and oath-making, and how the Viking raiders adjusted to becoming overlords in strange new lands. Their duty to Ragnall would be to work the land, give tribute, and to go to war with him. In return, getting the prestige of status, treasure, and new trade opportunities.
But just as Vikings look outwards, they also start to adapt to their environments. The Vikings who settled in Ireland became increasingly Gaelicised, taking on the dress, customs and religions of the land they occupy, reaping the benefits of trade and community.
The Southern-Danish Elite
Some members portray warriors, traders and settlers originating from Denmark and venturing out into the wider world. While originating from Denmark, through trade and settlement, their impression draws upon a rich world spanning through what would become the Netherlands, Normandy, England and the Danish-German border.
Their impression focuses on the period between the landing of the Great Heathen Army in 865 to the fall of Hedeby at the hands of the Holy Roman Empire in 974. In this evocative age we see the rise of the Danelaw in England, the settlement of Normandy and the growth of Christianity in Denmark. Members are swept up in this age of change which brings, violence, opportunity and enterprise.
Given the scope of change happening in this period and the geographic diversity the Danes encountered, members can pursue a wide range of impressions. Historically interested in this age of Danish expansion and exploration we explore the everyday lives of people shaping the new world around them. They also explore how trade and ideas flowed both ways with the way trade changed the Danes and how the settlers adapted to their new worlds.
And these are just ideas — we welcome any impression that centres around a Scandinavian-centric portrayal. We have guides and a comprehensive online-handbook to help get you started. Whether you want to be a fisherman from the coast of Northumbria, or a Warrior from Skane, we can help you find and develop your impression of early-medieval history. Join us to see what you can do!