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Heysham Viking Festival 2019

Of All the events I regularly attend, the Heysham Viking Festival is one of my firm favourites

It's not just the tremendous amount of local support it receives, or the massive opportunity for Public Engagement, or the talks delivered by respected experts in the field of Viking Studies, or even that it's where I met my partner-in-crime - Adam Parsons - back in 2016 which was instrumental in setting my on my current course. Like all good things, it's a mixture of all the above,

As with previous years, #HFV19 featured stalls, Living History Displays, Re-enactment battles. Once again I had to give the fighting a miss, because despite all the interest in combat displays, Cumbraland Living History was inundated with people wanting to know more about the Viking Age!

Is there a Berserker Doctor in the house?

After a busy day on Saturday I headed up to St Peter's Church where the evening's two lectures were taking place. The first was delivered by Dr Ruarigh Dale whose chosen speciality is Berserkers!

Ruarigh took us through the different treatments scholars & popular culture have given us over the years, peeling away many of the misconceptions to reveal some very human and interesting characters.

My favourite takeaway was his reinterpretation of Berserkgangr, often thought of as a frenzied rage, as a ritual dance similar to New Zealand's Haka.

Luke Murphy takes to the pulpit

The second talk, Viking Religion: Beyond the Myth, was given by Dr Luke Murphy, whose research shows that far from the traditional view of a well ordered & structured pantheon of gods, Viking Age belief was subject to variations in time, place and status.

Several gods like Ullr have abundant archaeological and place name evidence suggesting they were very important, but are only passingly mentioned in the Eddas. On the other hand, some characters with big roles in the Eddas don't appear in place name or archaeological evidence. In addition, some gods feature strongly in certain parts of Scandinavia: Tyr is fairly common in Denmark and Ullr in Sweden, but are rare elsewhere. I personally think awesome when I find out how much more there is to learn!

If you'd like to hear from the man himself, I came across this video today on the Past Preservers YouTube Channel: [Click!]

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the event is the extent to which re-enactment and professional academics share the same stage. In recent years there has been a big increase in Public Engagement from certain figures within Academic community and a steady increase within re-enactment to engage with it.

A Selfie with Howard gets photo-bombed

Professor Howard Williams is a particularly vocal advocate of Public Engagement, particularly through his blog Archaeodeath.

Howard spent much of the weekend in the Cumbraland Living History area, where he and Adam Parsons delivered some great interactive talks on Viking Age Burials, with me standing in for one of the bodies. I found this particularly enjoyable, partly because they are both experts in the field, and partly because I got a break from talking and a nice lie down!

Over the course of the weekend Howard interviewed both Adam and I for a forthcoming project on Public Engagement, which at time of writing is close to completion so watch this space!

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