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  • Writer's pictureOwaine ApDyfnwal

Heysham Viking Festival 2019

The Heysham Viking Festival has always been a very special event for us, not least because the first event, in 2016, is where some of our founder members met and were set on their current path.

Unlike many other re-enactment events it is very much a product of the local community, who work tirelessly behind-the-scenes to make it a success each year, giving the village a literal festival-feel!

With most of our events this year being indoors, this was the first time we brought most of our camp, with 5 tents and 3 awnings!

Mike laboured throughout the day feeding us a selection of Viking Age nibbles (the firm favourite his dried beef strips flavoured with cider vinegar, salt, pepper, honey and juniper berries), and a delicious chicken and beer soup.

We didn't manage to get any pictures of Mike, but his new soapstone cauldron, Oseberg tripod, and Cumwhitton chain received a lot of attention!

As ever, the weekend featured craft demonstrations and handling sessions, where visitors were encouraged the explore and discover our ever-growing collections of reproduction artefacts, including dress items, tools and even weaponry.

One such visitor was Dr Clare Downham, a leading expert on Vikings in Britain & Ireland. As well as writing numerous articles which are free to read on her Academia Profile (for which we are indebted) Clare is behind the recently released "Viking Age in the North West" App!

It currently focuses on the Wirral, but if it's popular it could well expand to cover a wider area. It's FREE to download and is available from Google Play and App Store

Throughout the weekend we ran several interactive Viking Funerals, where children chose objects to be buried with some of our members. The sessions were run by our very own Adam Parsons of Oxford Archaeology North & Blue Axe Reproductions and commented on by by Professor Howard Williams from the University of Chester.

For more on these presentations, check out Howard's Blog at ArchaeoDeath!

A feature of the Heysham Viking Festival for the last three years has been the brilliant Talks in St Peter's Church, organised by Adam, and this year we were in for a real treat!

The first was Dr Ruarigh Dale, Berserkr: Monster, Myth and Man, where Ruarigh summed up history of Berserker Scholarship and highlighted the importance of going back to the sources and viewing them in their literary contexts. We particularly enjoyed the reinterpretation of Berserkgangr as the Berserker Strut! Ruarigh's PhD on Beserkers can be found on his Website here.

To finish off Dr Luke Murphy took to the pulpit (literally) with Viking Religion: Beyond the Myth. Luke gave us an excellent insight in to how complex, and often how contradictory, our sources on Viking Age religion are. The Viking Gods are often presented as a well ordered pantheon, but the reality seems to show a lot of regional, chronological and social differences evidenced through close analysis of Eddas, Sagas, Place Name studies and Archaeology. To find out more about Luke's research & publications, check out his website!

One thing that really struck us about this weekend was how well Living History and Academia can work together symbiotically, engaging with the public and reaching wider audiences. Bridging the gap between these two worlds is one of the core principals of Cumbraland and we look forward to more events like this in the future!

A Sigurd Selfie with Howard Williams gets photo-bombed
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