Visiting Viking Attractions: An Idea Swap, ‘First Draft’.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is tdb-samples.jpgVisiting Viking Attractions: An Idea Swap, ‘First Draft’.

(Book mark it or save the URL now for you will want to come back and back.)

So, here I am back in Blighty. Bit of a rest-stop before it all starts again.

This isn’t a travelogue,

mountain by kris
The journey there by Christof

I have a feel for something a little more intellectual; an idea swap. There are ‘transferable models’ out there and we are the experiencees.

I have called this the ‘first draft’ because I just know you all have ideas to share.

When I say all, I mean Viking related peeps; if you are coming from other directions or none Viking ‘attractions’ OK well we would like to chat with you too you poor little things.

Think of this as a Birth-Product for we know there are ticket buyers out there and we want them in – and besides, gosh, we are engulphed by our own enthusiasm.

You hobbyists you.

Er, sorry, Vikings. x

Right.

tindefossen
Tindefossen by Christof

While I was at Njardarheimr my good friend Christof took me to the

Voss Folkemusuem

carved name

(link below).

It was a wonderful experience.

Gaius Cornelius Tacitus wrote of the concept of farms as a commune, Karl the guide in Njardarheimr says so, and so does my friend Susan who lives on er, well a farm.fm overhead

An expanded community almost in the same way as villages in Britain etc.

The farmhouse gets longer as we add people on. The square of the building becomes, er, squarer. The farm.fm 01

A Viking-age cultural development still relevant today.

Voss Folkemuseum came from such a community development.

We had a lovely time there. It wasn’t ‘populated’ like Gudvangen is, but on the other hand it felt good to be free to roam. We shared the experience and did so in our own time and in our own space.

Not all of the things we spotted and liked on the farm would have been used in the Viking age, yet share them I shall. You may know otherwise, or ideas may come from them.

from stalheim
The Journey back by Christof

One such thing which I loved was the work-stool; a stool yes, but with an extra bit to slot tools in, be it crafting or carving.stool

Another item of furniture I loved to see, but they were probably 18th or even 19th century, were the giant cradles or cribs which were for adults; sort of like box beds and wonderfully decorated.beds

They were free standing but reminded me of the fitted double-bed bunk (with the cute foot-hole ladders) you find in your typical ‘Viking Hus’.steps

Skipping over to the Njardarheimr town for a tick, I am reminded of the words of a visitor, (from Hungary). He was very moved by the sight of the bedroom in the chieftain’s hall as he recalled that he had slept in one just like it as a child. Except that he said it was higher because the potatoes were stored under it.no sword

Back to the farm:

Containers:- In Viking areas we tend to have buckets and bowls aplenty but I was struck by the widespread selections of larger containers. Huge amounts of water would be required on a daily basis. There’s a lot of sauerkraut. Liquids would need storage. Drinks would be fermented.bowls barrels and cauldrons

Ale or wine, mead, all would need barrels, big bowls, large kettles, massive buckets, (massive).

In medieval times they fermented lighter ales as a way of purifying water.

All that water would need transportation too.

farm view
Veiw from the farm by Christof

We enjoyed going upstairs, exploring different levels, down into the dark. Such activities may be less practical in Viking age constructions although, surely, they had barns and other farm buildings.path

I will talk further on this in the Viking section as this idea of exploration can be developed for children’s activities.

The big one for us was saddles, they had almost too many! I believe they were circa 1750 and onwards but they reminded us of Norwegian saddles of an older period. Viking-age saddles and tack would be a great addition for Njardarheimr.cradle

Another feature I noticed was the rounded edge planks which retain some of the shape of the tree trunk; walls made of such were very atmospheric.

They had chickens.chickens We got chickens. Although I note ours are more free range. That I guess is to do with the fact our place is populated (and cockerels wake people up). More on the widespread songs of the cockerels when you get to the Njardarheimr section below.

We loved the photos; grainy old atmospheric images full of folks of such character. These often are sent in, copies offered, bequeathed. They are of the age of course, plus they didn’t have cameras in the Viking period that I know of. Vikingesque areas could have displays. All the attractions we are looking at have distinctive areas which are more modern; cafes, galleries, ‘meerkats’, lots of methods.screen

There could be scrolling big screens in cafes and dining areas.

People like to send in photos and footage.dried fish

They like to do art too. People, artists, kids. Send us that stuff.

Why not even an international arts display.

beth viking 07
Bethany aged 7

More scope on this below.

This is an area which not only would benefit from a touch of research to see what there is out there; it also could be a good cooperative venture with ‘sister’ places.

Talking of display areas; the farm had a separate children’s area, well, it was one of the actual buildings and it was set aside for activities (not actually moved aside of course).

beth viking boat 07
Bethany aged 7

One thing that struck me as being a great idea in there were the benches and tables. They were lower. How empowering. You go in, there are things on the tables, the kids sit down. No having to be lifted up or being supervised climbing on. They sit straight down. They weren’t so terribly low that it was too uncomfortable for the adults but were low enough for most children.

great feast
Sadly I only have an image of higher benches

On the tables were a couple of sets of cut outs. One set was historic figures to dress up. I was reminded of the dollies I used to cut out for my sister from her Bunty comic. And the others were buildings to cut out, colour and glue.bunty cut out

Great for those underused Vikingesque areas.

The Jorvik Centre in York has a great selection of activity sheets; colouring in, quizzes, games, which also might be useful as a transferable model.colour ship builder

Fight-of-Vikings-coloring-pageSome of the photos of the farm depict children in period costumes. So there must be dressing up opportunities and presumably re-enactment days too.

The management for the farm museum expressed interest in working more closely with Njardarheimr.

stone base
Note stone bases and grass rooves

This could only be a good thing. Co-promoting comes to mind, perhaps forming sister sites. Certainly visits and sharing ideas and issues would be useful and could also be used as reason for media coverage.

 

Norsk Høstfest,hostfest banner in North Dakota was an amazing experience. It is a gigantic festival with 1100-plus stalls / display areas and many stages. The whole thing has a Scandinavian theme, and I am going to concentrate on the one area – The Viking Encampment of course.

There are three areas within one; to the right as you enter from along the covered walkway there is the stage, café and activities, to the left of this is the village, (again all indoors), this area has around a hundred stalls and tents all providing activities, sales or displays, there is an outside area too.stage

(Tim has kindly corrected me here, as my perception doesn’t reflect the accuracy of the way it is all organised – “The building we use is two different areas, the Viking Village and the other is the Tromsø Cultural Village, where the stage is, but we share the performers and presenters on that stage,” thanks Tim.)

I understand there were fight re-enactments outside but I didn’t see any of that myself, I did see tug of war.

There were two forges demonstrating bead making which was captivating to watch,

host beads
Alyssa Harron and freind beadmaking at Hostfest Viking Village

and a food area. I was fascinated by the different foods being made although I didn’t get to try any. The blacksmith display area showing different stages of the process of working with metal was intriguing and the blacksmith kindly let me share images with you all.bs 03 him

bs 02 bladesbs 04bs 05bs 06bs 07bs 08bs 09bs 010bs 011bs 012flint(Tim has kindly reminded me that the blacksmith with the ore display is Daniel Kretchmar (Danr) and the other Minnesotan blacksmith is Doug Swenson.)

People visiting were certainly interested, the crafters indoors were all kept busy demonstrating and interacting.

christopher heth
Sorry not got Chris in his outfit

lathechest makerThe friendly Norwegian Forest Cat was very popular.nf cats

I had a small area in this section for storytelling to small groups when I was not on the big stage and True Thomas had an area in the children’s activity space, (“He paints images directly into the mind.”).true th

The stage itself had a big screen and had a constant flow of acts and films. I was delighted to see the film on the Stamford Bridge tapestry which I had recommended.stage There were moving presentations on the Sami culture and concerts by Sami singer Stina.

There were samples of foods to try, I would have liked to have seen a more café-bar style with a menu widely available so visitors could drink, dine and watch shows.

I loved the alternative pallet seating.more seats

Felt making was very popular, as were all the activities in the children’s space, (might it be better to say ‘family space’? I enjoyed being a kid again).felt lady

felt 01

Troll Island was a highlight for me,island one and a very transferable concept. I love models and this was a model of an island, intended as a display base, but I enjoyed it in its own right.island 02 Perhaps if Gudvangen were to take up such an idea we could have a model of a fjord settlement.harbour darkened

I found all the trolls delightful and so did everyone. If this was to be utilised in our settlement in Norway there would need to be some adaption. IE eyes made of natural materials or beads. Imagine what could be done with beads. Another way to adapt this would be to have kids create buildings, fences, structures; clay, sticks, natural materials. Possibly populate this village with little clay people and animals.box seat

Folklore and troll would be great to talk about at such an attraction and would influence the model making.

Imagine the films and photo shoots that could come of this.troll 01

left island 03troll 02troll 03troll 04That’s my kingpin idea that is.

It is worth noting that the Vikings got very well looked after, drinks constantly available and hot food turning up a couple of times a day; this was none Viking and in an area not open to the public. It was quite nice to sit and mix away from the hubbub; lots of networking going on.

I got biscuits and gravy with creamed potatoes and beans. There at times was such as pizzas, fried chicken, hotdogs, lots of salads.

They had set aside time to be available, to check on how we were all doing. Yes we were very well looked after, lifts to and from, including to go shopping.

The main reason they were free to support participants was because all the work was done. What I am saying here is that they were very well organised and had been working ahead for a long time. I got a distinct impression they were very good at learning from the past, “Ah yes that situation….”

This all gave time to laugh.tim

UW-Green Bay Viking House

I was excited to get to see the grindbyggning, (built and then later donated by Elspeth and Owen Christianson) and there it was in the grounds of a very large beautifully rambling university.skaldic poster

It is a phenomenon. It is a marvellous piece of work. It is more than this. It is a concept. It is a hope. It is a symbol. It is a way of being.

It is real atmospheric inside.langhus

I am quite staggered by it. Yes it is wonderful, but it means so, so, much more than itself to everyone involved.cloak

When I say involved, gosh, I don’t just mean the local Uni community, I don’t just mean the local community who want to make mead, I don’t just mean the myriad of groups and funders, I don’t just mean us crafters, I don’t mean historians, I don’t just mean the head of history, I don’t just mean the original gifters, nor the whole host of internet observers, I mean…lh dark me

Oh, I don’t know what I mean, because the future hasn’t happened yet. I do know you will all be in it, and I do know there is a future, I know in the depth of my heart that it will be even more wonderful than it is now, even more magical, even more participatory, even more… (OK you get the idea). I do know I want to be there.

Here.

Want me to tell you an individual story of involvement to get you all wound up? There’s loads of those.

Mariah the Jarldriss in Waiting. She does so much. She does so much with her car. She does so much with her cauldron.hus lantern

Do you know, I think I might want to suggest that everyone steps back at this point because she is bubbling.

Who knows what is coming next. I am not even sure that Mariah knows. It is all going to happen, and you are all going to be drawn in.

Historic joinery is not what it is about. Mariah is. No calm down Adrian, people are. All the people. The enthusiasm. The village in the mind.

It is happening.

Skaldic skills are growing fast too. As well as doing shows in the house, er, hus, we had a ‘Share’. A story circle. Adrian’s Alþingi.

We created our death poem for Bragi to recite when we head to Valhalla (or the Viking-age afterlife of your choice).

Then everyone told tales, all sorts of topics were covered and different periods in history. It was fascinating.

deer
Pig

One of our friends, who came to everything we did and is now a regular participant, made notes throughout each telling. She had gone away armed with ideas. I am sure what is coming out of her at ongoing gatherings is totally different from the source (me) as all our minds work in inimitable ways, and she is a wonderful, unique individual. I was thrilled to hear Professor Sherman describe her recently as Erica the Viking House Skald.

There are people who should be thanked for this amazing experience, (See I still can’t quite bring myself to say it is a building, because it has grown beyond). Elspeth and Owen Christianson, two people who have a farm and they had a building and it came here, simple yes – wonderful too. There was a lot more to it than that. Their marvellous creative genius and generosity propelled a sense of Vikingness into thousands to come.

There is a wonderful guy to thank, he generously funded the process, making the establishment here possible.

There is a university to consider.

There is Professor H Sherman. She is what did it, made it what it is; it happened.

These are no sticks in mud. There is Heidi.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is heidi-and-me.jpg

If you happen to walk by Green Bay in your travels of the world make sure you go by Heidi. Go explore the very concept of Viking heritage. There is a concept of Vikingness and it is called Heidi Sherman. No sorry I got a bit carried away and ended up that I have got it a little muddled.

There is a historic building. There is a complex of structures (three to date), there is a community. There is an invitation. (It is Heidi who makes it all happen.)

Wander by and discover.

Go meet the Jarldriss (Apparently students named her – Jarldriss Flaxblood Soul-breaker, but at least we can be thankful we are not students)hobb class

When I talk later about the way ‘Chieftainness’ has developed in Gudvangen; the way respect has played such a great part. When I talk of such, I will be talking of here.

Georg once received a letter through the post addressed to The Viking, Norway, he got it.

When I talk of such I am also talking of here – UW Green Bay.

For there is the same concept of love, respect and power developing for a pure and good soul here as there was twenty three years ago when my chieftain stepped onto the ground which got to became the Viking Valley of Norway.

A community of love and giving developed around my Chieftain. He became such a chieftain because of them.

And so will Heidi.heidi solo

There is a Viking community growing, building by building, concept by concept, artefact by artefact, in the grasp of her delicate fingers.house through fire

I can see it.

Go now while it grows.

Go again once it has grown.

Vikings.

When we shape from wood we become.

Go see the amazing building and area now for there is far more to come.

Join us.

For we are Vikings.

And that is not just wattle.wattle

There were amazing responses to my activities and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, plus the company was smashing, I think perhaps the most valuable aspect was utilisation. My skills were studied, my background researched, my energy levels considered and then I was utilised. Often places have an idea of what they want and they get you in to do it. They will probably have seen my work and think, ‘We want that’.

Here though more diverse aspects of my persona were delicately cherry-picked. I ended up doing all sorts of things.train cooker

It was a brilliant experience to do the National Railroad Museum;AdrianSpendlow_Ghosts-Trains and it was a sell-out – over capacity.full theatre I actually performed stories of my late father’s on what would have been his birthday. I was thrilled that my niece and her husband were able to come over from Rockford to be there as an enjoyable sort of remembrance.ron 2

Out there in the world of blogs and internetting Heidi saw that I was the son of a steam engine driver (who had written his memoires),dad uniform and that I was also the son of York’s first ghost walker (my mum). So she teamed these aspects up to have me create a show. It was so fulfilling.

I mention blogs; they can perform an extra service. I wrote a twelve-blog series on how to be a storyteller (link below).to guy This was there beforehand for anyone to see, it was there for preplanning and it is there as a development area for the future.

Footage of my performances is to be shared. The ones from the jobs for Heidi have had great responses and the films of my show on trains and ghosts is to become part of a web feature on the high-profile Railroad Museum site. There is also talk that this will lead to requests for shows at other railroad museums and attraction across America.

800px-LNER_Class_A4_4496_Dwight_D_Eisenhower_at_NRM
800px-LNER_Class_A4_4496_Dwight_D_Eisenhower_at_NRM

Think of the publicity such coverage brings in for the relevant attractions. Anything of this nature is worth considering for your attraction, word spreads and any diverse opportunities are, well, new opportunities which give the media the newness and fresh angles they thirst for.

We need to ask – What skills and experiences do our workforce or potential workforce have to offer?stage phone

I am reminded of the theatre group I work for – We Are Theatre, they too can see beyond what you are, bringing you opportunities to reach a greater potential. Something challenging and new to you that as you start doing it you realise it is a just right thing for you.carpe-jugulum-poster-wat-1_3_orig

This is one of those transferable models I keep banging on about.

There were of course the classes. There were classes mixed together.poem to class There were suggestions of themes. There were adaptions. There were interactive activities. Half a group listened to a story and then the other half came back in and listened to me; they then had to tell each other the tales they had heard.

While each group was out they had to jot down aspects of the Volsung Saga which went in a hat and then I improvised a story around a character.

We had discussions and skills and techniques which could be utilised after I had gone.

We will adapt further in the future.

I also did a show in the library theatre, thus bringing in different parties and individuals. This allowed me to cover different themes.dragon poster

Something we would like to expand for future visits is interaction with Native American parties. The comparative work between different cultures and different perceptions was enriching and enlightening. There is loads of space for a similar interaction between Vikings and Sami people.Indigenous Sami

Another thing which will come from this is a coach trip to Finlandia (I didn’t know that was a place, I thought it was a vodka you see in duty free.) The very first Finnish Viking festival in the US. I am thrilled to be joining a coach to go and perform there.

A lot of the people who visit Gudvangen are exploring roots, and connections, or links to past life experiences, and many other inspirations. Here so too. In Green Bay though there seems to be more of a feel of organised groups, societies. For example, the fascinating group the Sons of Norway, (more women than men I noticed).a960b1c536e2a1960b64c978eedf95a

Other attractions could foster this sort of visit. Events put on especially for certain societies. Research needed.

I am very grateful to good friend Rob Wildwood of jelldragon.com for introducing me to Tim of Norsk Høstfest in North Dakota and Heidi of UW-Green Bay Viking House it has all lead to so much, especially great relationships.

Njardarheimr Viking Town, Gudvangen, Norway

This is our Chieftain’s dream, alright so it has been massively supported from the outset years and years ago, and it is a marvellous cooperation of local businesses and investors. This place isn’t funded by Government, Unesco, the council, charities. This is the Chieftain’s dream made real by the spirit of those who bought into the idea with their hearts.

grethes house
Grethe-Iren’s house

What is it. There has been a market (or festival if you like) for at least fifteen years, there have been events, there have been visitors.krauka Now. It is a Viking town. In an amazingly short time a town has been built. A small few people have found the way to make this happen. It was a massive battle to get permission and atone opposition, but it has happened.pots and weave

If you go visit (and politely ignore the hidden half-built entrance way part) you will think you are seeing a full town. No there is as much again to come.

It will double.

Winter and summer our chieftain has watched every step,cheif (and the hotelier has watched every digger and crane – he won’t thank me for that).

Why is Georg Chieftain? Well, a long time ago he decided that if he was going to be making this thing happen then he had better declare himself Chieftain.georg

Why is he still Chieftain?

He is not Chieftain because he is strong.

He is not Chieftain because he is tough.

He is Chieftain because he is loved.

That love is strong.

He will tell you himself that it is all about love. He feels it strong yes.

There is another factor. Thousands of people love him.light on stage

So it works.

It is wholeheartedly, overwhelmingly, undeniable.

The aspects of Chieftainness which I have alluded to in earlier sections. Those of you who do so very marvellous at running festivals and attractions do not always realise, or admit to your selves, that it is love which is the lynch pin.monika marcin einar

You care and people care about you.

This is lesson to be learned Numero Uno.

This brings us to; please have this sword syndrome. “I have made this sword, please will you have it” Georg’s home is filled with gifts and collections. An accumulation of respect and service.skaldic corner

Carpets, ceremonial bowls, gods and horses.

I mainly mention this because I foresee how this can develop elsewhere.

Let us see some of the items to help us see how that other hall across the pond might become adorned.

One thing I have found to have far reaching effects is our incense burner. Coming from Poland for a pre-visit to bring Georg the gift of this beautiful piece of brass work, the lovely couple brought him the very first one from the mould. Modelled on one found in a boat burial in Norway it will have been used by Asatru (or Pagan) Vikings and then later in Christian ceremonies, it had originally come from a middle east area so will have then been Islamic. So this ceremonial device has been used by three main belief systems.left table

When it was the big market I went around to each tent or stall and explained that my Chieftain had instructed me to utilise the pine, charcoal and myrrh fumes to bless each area. As I swung the burner upon its chains everyone was visably moved and emotionally effected by the experience.

We parade. Each morning we parade with drums, chants and horns around the tents and buildings to the stage for the opening speeches. Incense wafted along as the burner was carried by Christian, Asatru and Islamic people in turns.

tdb emb gold dragon 02
Toni DB’s work

I have even told this story via video link to an Islamic leader upon the request of his cousin.

People are finding their roots here in all sorts of ways, here at the home provided for us by Njord; the fjord is dedicated to him and this is thought of as his land. He oversees us from the seashore and every year his statue is blessed with mead and recited to.njord gud

This is the longest, the deepest, and in one place, the narrowest fjord and a tall runic stone is planned to dedicate these facts. We plan to proclaim.

serpent stone
A smaller sone

Njardarheimr is populated. People actually live in the houses (and some other onsite accommodation btw). This is a living village.corner

I am telling you about all this to help each other get fresh ideas so all attractions can develop. I am not telling you all of this because I am any sort of expert, and certainly not as any type of official spokesperson. Indeed I ask now that you all react. Send me ideas, further info, news and developments. Let us all help each other.

When it is the market it fills up even more with several hundred Vikings in tents.einar

You can come.

There are those of us who are employed here. Working in reception or retail, delivering historic walks and in the case of Georg and myself, presenting the great hall and telling stories.

There are also people living here for periods of times for various reasons. These are the Freemen.tablet lady Robin for example comes over from Californian for a week or two at a time, lives as a Viking, crafts as a Viking and generally chats to people.

robin witch
Striking a dramatic pose at an event in California

Ravn runs Ravnstova (link below)ravnstove as a more of a professional service; outfit commissions, textile salesravntove – as well as demonstrating dying and candle making.dye spiral dyingConner and Audhild create jewellery and other metal-works on site and have a stall to enable them to ‘thrive, survive and live Viking life live’. Jenne weaves and supplies food.cockerel close cockerel loomKarin comes with her kids to live and share.dying pale

madderThere is also the Viking group with many members Njardarlag, they come and live and work and entertain – and all as volunteers.

Freemen.

Get that concept into your head.

(Well, in a gender-neutral way)

As well as many wonderful activities and offerings Karin and her two also bring the cats. A wonderful addition to our extended family. (More on animals later.)

Another category of visitors of course is the tourists – the mainstay, the raison d’être.

throne
The Chieftain’s hall all ready for stories

They are what brings in the money. When I say the place is all about the people, it also includes the tourists – you get some amazing people. Folks can be massively affected by visiting us.

When a Mexican teenager sits back down and says, “You are the best thing about my whole summer in Norway,” you know you are doing something right.

“We are going back to Minnesota and going to have a long hard think about how we can make our lives as fulfilling as yours.”

Another wing is what we call VIPs – this mainly just means that they have arranged for a private dining. There are other aspects to it, they might want to come after 6 when there is just them. They might even want Einar of Wardruna, or stories from me, or Krouka playing. They might want a big party. Torill is willing to be open minded, enthusiastic and adaptable.viking girl

There is another type of visitor lined up. Residential parties. Part of the new building program (it might be all done for all I know) is what is being referred to as Warrior Halls. Two great big halls where groups can come and stay. These could be organisations, reenactors or school parties – as long as they will live like Vikings, (during opening hours at least). There can be whole programs of activities for them.half temple

Oh I am so excited about them because there are whole groups out there which deserve our contact and there are whole groups out there who wish for us to go and reach out to them.

Community is a timeless prospect.

While I am on new structures, I hear there is also going to be a stone round-house with a central fire-pit, I think it is being referred to as ‘the men’s place’, referred to, in a historic way. Is it possible that only men will use it? – Oh yeah like totally.

There will be developments in the arena of ceremonies, in the field of drama and the terrain of performance. I’ve seen plans for a more permanent stage facing the open playing area (see pics of the amazing Einar and uplifting Krauka) and many concerts will happen there, as well as in the huge Heidrun hall. I plan to do interactive dramas from that stage, where the audience act out according to my story points.

(We also do stories in many languages and this is linked to below.)multi pre A

There is going to be a temple.

That was a statement which deserved its own line if ever there was one.

Now I know I have already stated that I am not in charge of anything. I have no power or valid opinion, beyond the fact that I signed myself up for a blog, but I will speak now: There is going to be a temple and everyone will be tolerant of each other.

There is going to be a temple and everyone will be tolerant of each other.temple

It will be a place of celebration, so I understand. We often have weddings, blessings, naming days, funerals; moments of life. Well bless Gudvangen, it is going to continue happening.

It is going from a holy hill with a couple or three statues, and me announcing spiritual Galda; i.e. from the runic inspiration of Lars Magnar, to having a temple for him to call you into.

galda 01
My attempt at a simple Galda

There will be drama, there will be inspiration, there will be re-enactment, there will be the deeply moved, the past life, the happy to act, the incense swinger, there will be wonders to behold.

The entrance way complex will be completed real soon; with a café/bar, shop, display area and reception.

There will be other new buildings.

One day, one day, we will have a harbour.

I did say this blog is all about opinion from a verbose storyteller who has no power but just you stop and listen to what I say now.

One day, one day, we will have a harbour.ships painting

The Skald he has spake.

Or was that spaken?

People travel from one market to one market to another; this itinerant lifestyle goes on in Scandinavia from spring to autumn (fall) with crafting-up going on in the winter, (I think it is addictive), I have a vision about this, (in my optimistic way); this will happen in America.

aldas bonfire cropped
Njardarheimr is open all year

Gosh for a powerless upstart I do keep wanting to proclaim about how I have spoken and therefore it will be. I guess that is the theme of this blog if you boil it down to ego. No, if you boil it down to Utopianism.

I have spoken.

Here I go again, carrying on…

Some of the stuff that works so so well at Gudvangen…

This is a blog about a writer / storyteller / personality (me) – who is funny: it is not a photo blog, there is text and it isn’t to supplement the art or photos, there are photos etc, they are not there to accompany the text, it is almost like they are separated ingredients ready to fry – but here for a first, and for a very, very, important reason, I am referring to a photo:- Write your name in runes.

A quiet stroke of genius. Write your own name in runes.

‘Now look I want to take credit for this because I bought the charcoal sticks.’ ‘No I brought the plank of wood – and the string.’ ‘I got the huge gift from the tannery we used some of for people to write on (with my charcoal sticks actually BTW).’

‘Now look will you two stop bickering in the Chieftain’s hut, it is like hearing some old couple.’

Oh alright – I admit – Georg was right.rune board

It was a stroke of genius quietly put together and agelessly displayed, subtly offered.

Not only can you take part on the spot.

Not only is it done in a none modern way.

You can take a photo and take it away with you.

Think of it as a travel activity.

People love it when I suggest that.

Yes, Georg, it is a really great idea.

You can play Hnefetaflr.

The Viking Game.

tafl and oil
Note the hanging oil lamps – glass and iron

You can listen to me or Georg telling you how it is played.

Many just love to hear about it.

“I am duty bound to inform you that there are sets for sale in the shop as you leave,“ usually makes them laugh.

Some want to play.

Georg is very good at being the opponent to singles.

Some will sit down opposite each other and play and play and play.

It is a very good job that we allow people to stay overnight!

Just discussing and looking at the runes is a great thing, people are fascinated.

There is so much to say.

I am so glad we just have the time to talk – and to listen.

We also offer a game, or just talk about it, that I only know from the medieval attraction in York; Barley Hall (You must go there – link below) so my name for it is of the wrong age, but, Nine Men’s Morris.to the kitchen

Folks like that.

There is a piece of leather on a table. ‘I got the leather and the charcoal to mark it up.’ ‘They are my precious playing pieces.’ – ‘Alright you two shush now.’

rune corner
See the iron candelabra

OK it draws attention – it is tic tac toe – it is noughts and crosses. It isn’t, it is earlier. You get three pieces each. The chances are you won’t get a line in three placements. Then you start moving the pieces one space at a time. It is really cookie.

We have the Lewis chess set (I am just randomly talking at this point so don’t think I am any sort of expert or even anything), I understand this is thought of as post Viking-age, but isn’t Lewis in Scotland, didn’t they have Viking kings till 1250ish. Way later.

to the kitchen
(Some interesting lantern set ups)

The Vikings knew chess OK.

And anyway, it is probably from India or China, or wherever it was Snorri says Odin and the rest of the Aesir arrived from (cough).

Anyhow – chess is very popular. You pop out, you come back, there are two people playing chess. You start stories. They never notice you.

They go on for absolute hours.

Tacitus the aforementioned diarist spoke of runes from when he visited Germanic tribes. The Father of the farm chopped a branch and marked it with his own signs for the gods, (so we are sounding kind of pre-rune here), then he divined. So I have a bag of my own signs for the gods and I draw you one out.mixed media impro

I also offer rune readings, (Elder Futhark), and where people are happy for me to, I add in the crystal ball – scrying was of the period. The Jorvik Viking Centre have employed me to do readings for children, that was very interesting.

The runes could be compared to Ancient Egyptian symbolism; each has a meaning as well as a sound; Water, Birch, Riding etc.

The Jorvik Centre I believe still use the Elder Futhark, as do I, whereas in Njardarheimr the smaller set, the Viking runes are favoured. So one needs to decide. Runes are planned to be used for signage, so I will discuss this in that section.

More of an ornament or artefact than an activity but I just love Georg’s scales; especially crafted for him, and people love to see the engraved weights, they are a real talking point.outdoor table

My chieftain has the aim, (and passion), that he will make some improvement every day, (perhaps that might be the main lesson of this blog?), and he had the blacksmiths create him an inverted L-shaped hook-stand to bang into his log-shaped table. On sunny days when we choose to bring all the activities outside this really allows the scales to look at their best.

Peter the highly-gifted bone-carver across the path has described us as a Viking-age theme park.

There are weavings hung down the walls, I would love to see them adorned with a couple of embroideries each. Such as the wonderful silks ones made by Nine Worlds Clothing, the best I have ever seen, (link below).

tdb emb better lady one
By Toni DB

No I cannot talk of how great our coin minting activity is without tipping a ginormous hat to the Jorvik Centre. You have paid to come in, so extra revenue is a bonus, and we want activities don’t we, so you don’t charge a fortune. Having a path to follow helps too as so often you see people roaming, no dashing, straight past things.coin

Georg’s coin-making equipment is very popular. He even offers silver ones.

I cannot refer to the Jorvik Centre without talking about the flood. So we shall take a brief interlude from discussing the activities at Njardarheimr and visit York. I must tell you of what I heard. Now I am no news hound or anything, but if what I was told is on the button there are staff at the centre who deserve a medal. The reason it took so long to rebuild and reopen is that it wasn’t just floodwater that came up into the place it was something far fouler. The lower section flooded and I was told that a group risked their lives by going back down the stairs into the slightly higher section where the genuine artefacts were. Engineers took off a fire door and actually gaffer-taped it across the open doorway to hold it all back! It could have burst at any moment! The atmosphere must have been quite toxic too. Staff then saved all of the precious items.

I think we should tell the queen.

(BTW If I haven’t got all the details here I would be glad to hear more.)

One or two ideas come to mind from my experiences there. One activity I’ve been employed for is queue busting; from me that is fun characterful chat, others demonstrate their kit, and archaeology students demonstrate finds.

I frequently enjoyed borrowing interesting jewellery from stalls and telling a story related to it. People would often go over and buy jewellery as a result.dragon_brooch_pin

All this ideas swap business suggests to me that there could be exhibitions of regional finds on loan from other establishments.

Representatives from Viking attractions I am sure would be welcome in Njardarheimr, not just as ‘Freemen’, also to demonstrate skills and share information.boast-218x198

Back to the chieftain’s Home in Njardarheimr, Gudvangen, Norway and how it came about. It is real with objects in a home not in cabinets, with people in the beds!

It has a kitchen. We are especially grateful to the volunteer joiners who created this area. When you train in your craft in Switzerland or Germany you pledge that once you are qualified you will travel away and work for food and lodging (I think for two years). These wonderful people created many great things including the kitchen and the Hnefetaflr table.kitchen

Oh and the skittle castle. That has gone down great. Georg carved wooden figures to stand on it and folks love it.

We plan a larger castle for next year, to go in, and I am hoping to be able to paint it.

Other games include Kubb, Knutlegg and tug of war. I am not going to mention the Loki run.

tactic-kubb-utomhusspel
Kubb

Oh yes and axe throwing, (not hatchet catching) and archery.

Then there is fighting. There is competitive fighting, (in twos), there are battle enactments and there are choreographed shows. There is also Glima the wrestling of course.

That leads to dressing up. There is an area with mail and helms and weapons where you can don them for a photo. There is also an area with play weapons; wooden swords, shields axes etc.

dolls
Or dolly dressing

Georg made me a three-metre spear and I started doing shield wall re-enactments with kids. They would line up against an imaginary enemy with me behind holding the spear between them. That was great fun and made for great photos of us stabbing warriors and horses.

Dressing up could be massively expanded. I would like to see more wooden weapons, a couple of saddles to sit on and lots of clothes for people to borrow. Fun for all ages and lots of memories to be made.

I also wondered about having a photographer. Perhaps a photo wall offering pics as you are leaving (like the ones when you come off a roller coaster).

Having a blacksmith’s shop on site is a marvellous thing. A great team of smiths too. We can all work and develop together.

All the kitchen fittings were created here. Hooks, nails, hanging oil lamps and bowl candle holders are all transferable ideas. Nails, it’s all about nails.

There is a great display of wares hung in the blacksmiths; fish hooks, knives, dozens of objects – nails! I love nails.

The annual market brings in hundreds of Vikings and of course many more visitors. Huge arrays of skills and crafts and goods come to us.

A whole series of events are programmed, worthy of far more attention and publicity. Entertainments, demonstrations, dramas. We also have always had a series of courses available. These can be a way to make it more financially viable for visiting experts and add massive value to the visit; needle-binding, storytelling, fight skills, many skills are on offer.

Story circles come fondly to mind, something we could bring back in the stone roundhouse perhaps. These tend to draw in teenagers and young adults too.

A new development for me at the 2018 festival was improvised storytelling, or perhaps more like poetry. Great musicians and percussionist joined me while I pulled one of my signs of the gods out of a bag and then we made up a piece with music and word and song. Wonderful experience.mixed media impro

This year I noticed that lectures were added to the repertoire. Women’s lives, Women at war, Viking-age music, and the Viking year were on offer.si

As promotion improves and these activities are planned well ahead the amount of people who come especially for a certain course, show or lecture will greatly increase.

The historic walks are a brilliant feature, they are actually referred to as guided walks but I appreciate the history side the most; you come away from these historic walks with a greater understanding of the concept of Vikings.

I do wonder if these will change in the future, as the place becomes busier, (it is going to get packed out), that there will be members of the village stationed here and there strategically around all the different features and sites with visitors going from one to another. That is just a thought I am throwing in the pot and would develop on from what is already offered.steamy cauldron

Visitors are international so guided walks aim to be so too; currently there are tours in Norwegian, English, Spanish, French, German, Latvian and Russian available most days throughout the busy season and I believe this will increase. I guess the majority of people who visit are able to speak and understand English so it tends to be more common.

Should there be Meercats? – Meercat is the nickname for freestanding information boards. I like the idea and think people will appreciate them and not think of them being out of place and out of time because they are expected and useful. I know Georg prefers the idea of only signs in runes to be more in keeping with the timelessness of living Viking style in the nowadays.

That thinking has led to the ideas of a treasure hunt, spotting runic inscriptions, plus a printed guide which tells you which runes to find for which feature.received_2080291925573466

The place has become more popular due to people developing an understanding of the place and getting the idea of how long they could visit for. As tour operators start to offer longer schedules and as publicity gets out to the people who may plan to come more and more effectively, people are able to stay for longer.

It is a genuine experience coming to Njardarheimr. It changes people. One thing you hear sometimes is, “Is that a real fire?” Many people have never seen one before and now suddenly they are being invited to sit by one. They can make bread to eat. They can mix with Vikings.real fire

People take photos. People can be encouraged to share their photos and footage with the online presence. This is an area which could be greatly increased.

More could be done with art work, exhibitions, there could be art competitions, poetry competitions. All with galleries displaying them, both on line and in the reception area. Folks could pop in and out of the café/bar and end up watching for hours.

Just some of the ideas which have been bandied about.

The walls of the Heidrun hall could be filled.

tdb emb blue creature
By Toni DB

This could even be tied in with the problem of guided tours in bad weather. Do you know when you go out for a meal, in a Greek restaurant, or a Thai place, right, and they have like 3D artwork on the walls – this makes me think that there could be relief images of the areas of the town along a wall so talks can be done inside. IE of the god statues., and the weapons

Highlights of activities must be the pottery and weaving via Marcin and Monika. People love their time there learning and they love the things they get to take away with them.basket half

I am just doing some math – hang on – I am, nearly there with a new idea – just before going to hit publish – hang on – I am thinking – 3D displays – experts on pottery and weaving – put them together – what have you got!

Moving along…marcins pots

I understand there is someone in the Green Bay area who does wattle and daub and I was thinking that might be something to be developed ‘ower ere’. Living sculptures, archways, and fences from something like willow are also exciting.

We’ve talked of large containers for storage, preserving and brewing etc, I also was wondering about the idea of buried food; fish and venison. (Get your muslin and your spade and then discuss.)

We have all already made a start on gardening. A great start. Collecting or buying plants of the period and of the area. So the outside areas are ‘growing’, becoming more real.ramslork

A thing that needs looking into is that it has been established that composting was done in the Viking-age and we might want to look into this. Of course this is a modern age and people living in the village will be concerned about the environment so will want to compost for the earth’s sake.

I love the peat walls which flourish with wild growth and greenery as do the rooves.

Ravn and others have demonstrated candle making and Holger has utilised old wax with moss to make candle bowls; wonderfully atmospheric.candle bowls

Talking of composting leads to the topic of poo. We got chickens we have. In the future there may be more poo available as the range of livestock grows.

It is lovely when chicks are hatched, but a shock when they turn out to be male. I understand that currently there are plans to set up a second hutch in a different area. Residents will definitely be woken early, wherever their hut.

As I’ve said these chickens are free to roam and can be seen all over the town. This I hear, there is also a possibility of a different animal, I heard talk of there being a small friendly breed of Norwegian pig and two or three could roam around.

Cows would always be a no no because basically there would be far too much poo.

Cats we also have and as I mentioned above there is a breed of Norwegian Forest cat which might settle to roaming the town.

I wonder if sheep or goats might be a possibility in the future, or even deer.

We almost got rabbits, but at the last minute someone said that the Vikings only had hares. Personally I think no one would mind if we had rabbits, but would also like to know if hares might be a possibility, IE would they settle to wandering here?

(NB rabbits dont ever dig upwards, they dig down and along, so would proberbly stay.)

mini butter
I am running out of suitable photos; aren’t American little butter packs really cute

We do have horses visiting at times and this is something that would be popular as a more frequent occurrence.

Someone suggested pet polecats or ferrets in a hutch with a run, but that would have to be quite secure.

These are all things that need to develop along with the gradual increase in visitors to be sure of adequate staffing levels.ships

Any other suggestions?

You may recall how I had enjoyed clambering up and about at the farm museum, it gave me the idea for a feature for kids. Children like up, under, in and over. A Viking style equivalent of a climbing frame or adventure park. A forest. Buildings. A fort.

mini outfit
Mini dressing up

Talking of dark places, I have always really liked the idea of a sweat lodge. The building of it and the idea. A hole with seated sides and a pit in the bottom. A bender cover of leather over saplings. A nearby fire pit where stones are heated which then can be rolled in using big sticks. Very exciting.

There is much scope for a program of online activities and all events would benefit by lots of advance planning; this would also help fill time on the rolling displays in the entrance or café/bar. Attractions could run features on each other. IE wouldn’t a film on Njardarheimr go down brilliantly at Norsk Høstfest (or film and talk).

An online feature on how to be a Viking would be brilliant.

Examples of stories also, so Vikings can learn, skills too. People pre-armed and able to contribute.

workshops
Workshops are always populat and could be prebooked

I am very pleased to say that the great tour guide Mal Dickson, (some will know him best as Malcolm McAlister), has arranged to create a follow up to this guide. He has gathered ideas from others to compile a list of suggestions.

Many thanks to all who have supplied photos, especially my chieftain Georg who very kindly took images of many of the items I wished to talk about.no sword

Gudvangen has a great set on how to fit in as a Viking. (“Everyone is welcome here except those who don’t make others welcome” Georg Hansen.) Policies have been developed on etiquette and authenticity of atmosphere so I am hoping to feature info on these in the future.

Thank you for reading all this way. I hope some of this is an inspiration for you and do enjoy the links below.

Adrian

All my own mistakes, I mean work.

 

Links

Adrian at UW Green Bay Viking House

https://www.uwgb.edu/viking-house/viking-storytelling/

University Wisconsin; Green Bay Viking House

https://www.uwgb.edu/viking-house/

And UWGB Viking House on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/UWGBVikingHouse/

Adrian’s Guide to Re-enactment

National Railroad Museum – Green Bay, Wisconsin

https://nationalrrmuseum.org/

Norsk Høstfest Viking Village

http://hostfest.com/experience/viking-village/

Voss Folke Museum

https://www.visitnorway.com/listings/voss-folkemuseum/4832/

Aurland Photography (Mal Dickson)

Nine Worlds Clothing

tdb samples

Ravn Design

Back In The Day Reenactment Furniture

The Viking dream-life stories I

Sweat lodges in the Viking dream life blog string

The Viking dream-life stories latest edition

The Virtual Ghost Walk of York

We Are Theatre

Prose poems of the Gods and Goddesses

Adrian’s online tutorial – Storytelling is…

Multi-national Storytelling in a Nutshell

Barley Hall, York

Sons of Norway…

Jelling Dragon – Viking Crafts & Living History Supplies

Storyteller True Thomas

SigRun Viking Art & Design

Guntis Jakubovskis; Jeweller

Viking Comics Inc. featuring images from the Stamford Bridge tapestry.

Battle of Stamford Bridge Tapestry Project

Njardarheimr, Gudvangen Viking Valley, Norway

Adrian the Skald

Daniel Kretchmar – Blacksmith

Fjordtell, Gudvangen, Norway

Adrian’s Guide to Re-enactment

 

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Storytelling is… #1 The Introduction

Storytelling is… #1 The Introduction

Storytelling is… #12 The Skald

Storytelling is… #11 The Poem

Storytelling is… #10 The Links

Storytelling is… #9 In A Circle

Storytelling is… #8 The Techniques

Storytelling is… #7 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Being Skaldic

Storytelling is… #6 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Chanters Stool

Storytelling is… #5 The Spendlow Lectures Part 1 The Chosen

Storytelling is… #4 An introduction to Adrian Spendlow (me)

Storytelling is… #3 The Bio

Storytelling is… #2 The Show

Storytelling is… #1 Show intro

stunning

Storytelling is… #1 The Introduction 

I suppose it must be admitted that there is not a great deal of humility involved in the creation of this set of guidelines for storytellers. The main motivator for me was showing off at how thrilled I am to have been booked to go work and perform in America.

I say America rather than The United States of America because I am secretly hoping someone else in The Americas will see this and invite me to the Amazon as well.

As you can see even at this early stage I am already digressing and I will be making this piece far too long for its original purpose which was to write a proposal for my visit, I suppose the longer it is, the more use it is to you the developing storyteller.

Primarily I shall be showing you details of my courses and performances at a Scandinavian Festival in North Dakota and in a longhouse in Wisconsin, (further details are in Links), so there is a Viking theme going on here; I shall try throughout however to have all this be helpful for ‘telling’ in any genre.

Basically, this blog will consist of a breakdown into headers for this tour.

Each of which will help you deepen your abilities as a storyteller.

There will be a description of the tour, details of a planned storytelling session (of an eclectic nature), an introduction to my work and motivation, details of my lectures, roles of a Skald / storyteller, suggestions of techniques, the benefits of following on with a story circle, group working through feedback, presenting outcomes and useful links to give you a background understanding of the projects involved.

I am hoping for responses and feedback to add to future editions in the series.

Indeed this whole thing has been put together as a fluid thing destined to develop through your input.

There will also be a link to my Bio (or CV).

Oh yes and a poem or two.

If I am totally honest I am a little scared of writing proposals and would rather write a scrolling long blog for kind people like Heidi and Tim to draw upon; so, it is not lack of humility that prompts the creation of this blog after all, it is fear.

Right let’s try this. An online show to represent what I will be performing, (though probably nothing like the actual show when the day comes) when I am at Norsk Høstfest, North Dakota and University of Wisconsin Green Bay in their Viking house.

Welcome ladies and gentlemen…

 

 

 

Storytelling is… #11 The Poem

Storytelling is… #10 The Links

Storytelling is… #9 In A Circle

Storytelling is… #8 The Techniques

Storytelling is… #7 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Being Skaldic

Storytelling is… #6 The Spendlow Lectures Part 2 Chanters Stool

Storytelling is… #5 The Spendlow Lectures Part 1 The Chosen

Storytelling is… #4 An introduction to Adrian Spendlow (me)

Storytelling is… #3 The Bio

Storytelling is… #2 The Show

Storytelling is… #1 Show intro

 

 

 

LH – Living History characterisation tips for re-enactors

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LH – Living History characterisation tips for re-enactors

Living History is fun, it is exciting, it is valuable, the more we do it the more we want to be involved; to deepen the experience.

As a member of Vanaheim, the University of York Medieval Society Viking group, within the Great Britain-wide group The Vikings, I have gathered together ideas, particularly for Viking encampments. shoppingEncampments which in British groups and in UK attraction / museum work are generally referred to as Living History, and I guess, without properly realising this, I have written this for my mates! Not consciously, but with them in mind.

They say write about what you know, so hopefully I know enough to be of help.

There should be helpful ideas here for anybody making some sort of history come alive for any period, (anywhere and anywhen), so not just Vikings.

To keep everyone else reading this then I guess it will be a lot of fun.

Beside many of the followers of this blog read it cos they want to know the details of my complex life (again mainly for the fun of it).

There is a lot in here, but it breaks down into two or possibly three basic concepts – get a grip of them and you are on your way to being dynamic.

There is also a Golden Rule, well actually there are about six Golden Rules, each of which is the most important one!intent

As for what Living History is…

Well it’s a tent innit.

The front is open and we are in ‘fancy dress’ looking out being hopeful.

Fancy dress is actually a terrible insult and bodily coverings and adornments are generally referred to as KIT.

Bumper stickers are known to exist stating, re-enactors do it with their kit on.

I prefer to think of it as ‘becoming’.

In Norway they have the expression, ‘Naked’ (in Norwegian). Being a Viking in Scandinavia leans more towards being a life-style choice. There is a whole lot more living in their living history in my experience. To the degree that if they agree to meet up without their ‘kit’ they say they will be naked.

For me, if I am caught leaving anywhere in modern day clothing I say I am dressed up as a person.

Anyway…

That tent.

If you are setting up a Viking encampment at a generic festival or a museum event type thing, you tend to be there sort of nine to five. There are artefacts and they are discussed and interacted with. There can also be reconstructions of life-style, often with drama involved.

If you are away for a weekend at such as the Battle of Hastings you will be living in the tent and some will be life-style, some will be presentations of interesting stuff, some will demonstrate skills and some will be selling from a stall. A combination of the lot is also good.

Ah, the other thing one is often doing, is preparing for the battle or for a show.

All good.

Oooo I forgot one, making things. That happens too.staring

I do feeling that we do better at these things if we get there early. If there are a few days to set up and live there before the public come in their proper numbers we settle into it more. This, in fact, is my first proper bit of advice, the longer you have been settled in and striving to live as a Viking where others can see, the happier you feel. There is a feel for visitors when they arrive that this is ‘real’ and you are living there.

If you are living for a week at a time or even for a couple of weeks at one event, or even if you are doing the whole season and travelling from one thing to another, spring to late summer, then you are probably in Scandinavia.

There they have markets, not battles or festivals, but markets.

People live in tents, they run courses, they sell items, they foretell, they hang out, they trade, they cook, they serve, they tell, they train, they watch or take part in entertainments, shows, battles, skirmishes. They wrestle and they scream out Galda.

Ah, perhaps more importantly, they sleep.

I am more accustomed to this environment, as you probably know. Spending a week or two at a time mixing between my shows and activities. I cook for a dozen, I do readings, I mix and I laugh. We learn from each other as we go.

As an honorary member of Njardar Vikinglag (But not Njardar Vikingslag) and as a privileged accompaniment of Bjorgvin Marknad I have lived. But that is all history. Always. History I shall live again and again and again. We are our experiences and we echo through time.broth

I guess the more one can experience this, the better, the settling into it. Once you have been around a bit you can do that anywhere, for any length of time; with a cape and a hat or with an enclave of enticement.

We all learn from our experiences and our repeated experiences. As Skald to the Chieftain at Gudvangen Vikingby in Norway I find ideas can take a year to develop into a reality. I do the activities I did the time before but with subtle additions, adapting to the needs of the environment. Then when we are relaxing over mead new ideas spring from our sharing and the next year they come into being.

That happens to all of us. It happens from listening and chatting with visitors too.

There will of course be environments and activities which I have missed out, do please let me know of these.

leahAs with the ideas and suggestions below. You will no doubt bounce off and adapt – I want to know.

Now here is Golden Rule no. 1 the most important one: be brief.

The first major concept: They are going to want to ask a question.

Golden rule no. 2 the most vital of all: There will be a point to it.

The other major concept: The vast majority of things you are doing, thinking and chatty about are appropriate.

There is going to be a whole lot more on these below and no doubt I will think up a few more concepts and golden rules as I go along in my erratic way. For instance Golden Rule no. 3 the only one you need to know: People don’t buy anything until they have bought something.

Right let’s start with that one, but don’t let it put you off; because I got this idea at a car boot sale (so don’t talk about it loudly in camp!).  There are lots of things of interest, there are lots of things we would like, we are not sure we have enough money, there is a whole weekend ahead. We might come back on Sunday. Then we spot something that we really want and it is cheaper than we expected. The excitement of that purchase means that in the next ten minutes we are far more susceptible to purchases. There will be a bag full, and we will need to buy a proper bag.

Well that was a really bad start because it was digression for the proper topic, before we have even got started too and to make matters worse here is another one. There are a few things on your stall they like the look of but don’t really want. There is one thing they find out the price of and it is far cheaper than they expected. Suddenly all the things on that stall are wanted and we want to grab them. This is a bargain stall, grab stuff.

Right back to Vikings

And tents.

That Golden Rule no. 1 – yes this is numero uno. Be brief.

Yes there are lots of tents and events and loudspeakers. presenter-for-the-rockfestPeople are roaming and trying to get a taste of it all or just trying to find their pal. As well as moving on shortly they have something to say. They are wanting to chat. They are unlikely to join in with the characterisation.

If you say, “You look like the son of royalty, will you marry me?” They will laugh as they approach but they are unlikely to bend to one knee for you. They are more likely to ask about your pommel. (I am not sure what one of those is so I hope it makes sense.)

And that main concept; asking a question. They have one; mark my words. They are an early-retired professional who reads the Independent And they have been thinking long and hard about their question. They brought it with them – on the tip of the tongue. Some might have a few, but mainly they have one that is so good that everyone is going to want to be asked. So that’s where this dialogue is going. Swiftly away from drama. Swiftly away from the many things you want to talk about. Nowhere near all the things you are desperate to show. This is moving directly to The Question. They, of course, did a degree in history or the arts or something and never got to use it in their career so they are trying to make up for lost time by impressing you. So hence The Question.

And now look at you. You are trying to answer that question aren’t you. You are giving it a very good stab. You are honestly thinking that they want the benefit of your knowledge and are intrigued to hear. They are hardly listening. As soon as you finish, they have another question to fire at you – but this time it is a rhetorical question. “So how come they didn’t pick their berries with a…” “So why haven’t you converted to Christianity?” “Have you ever thought that they would have known each other well?” “You do realise they must have buried more in the area too don’t you?” Those sorts of things.

tradeThis is because. They have A Point. Yes the Golden Rule of pointed golden rules; they have a point. Point. And they are going to make it, At every tent.

This is clearly something that is definitely right, (‘It must be’), but nobody in the history of historical researchiness has ever thought of it. (I know this to be true because I do it all the time.)

They will point downwards towards you in a jiggerly way, ‘Ah ha hah hah hah hah hah, ah ha hah har har har.’ They will do this with a knowing look until you nod in forced agreement. You may even have to smile in admiration of their wisdom before they will move on.

So yes, when it comes to the being in character bit, be prepared to be brief.

Take that as a warning, before we move on to the bits that are actually useful at last. Well hopefully they will be.

That other major concept: you are appropriate.

You are there and you are doing it. I’ve been there I’ve seen you.

I was inspired by my pals in their pre battle mode. There was all the when will we meet, where, where are they. Look you can see the smoke from their encampment. It doesn’t take much. Do you see, do you see.

You are the timeless entity that is history and are living it.

Just a little switch.

I saw the sweat and the tension. To be really honest the battle parts of it are not really my thing. But I felt part of it especially the prep. They were tense.table-01

Then they were gone. We don’t know if they will come back. We don’t know if we will be safe. The children watch them go. No one looks back.

Well this is LH let’s not get too carried away.  We got to chatting and living and forgot about them. We were in a summer village in our ship-tent long away from the farm or the winter dwelling.

There was earlier we talked about that. We were calm and not worrying. Purposefully. There had been the panicers and the gossipers and the worriers. “What are we going to do about the wounded?” ”There will be prisoners?” “Who among us will be prisoners?” ”Some will be dragged out in front of the lines of enemy in tearful chains!” that sort of thing. Actually this was the planners an coordinators who make it all happen and look for volunteers. But it doesn’t take much. Does it.

We looked back in that way and busied ourselves. We cooked.

Reality was we are playing. They real cooking would be afterwards, when the dead returned. There would be slices of cured pig which we would grill on the fire, small loafs cut and filled with fat from milk another farmer had churned far far away from battle (hopefully). Right now we played.

The small celeriac we had procured were perfect for roasting, they were hunter – gather size. There was garlic, there were onions, there was Viking Rice. Sorry that is a modernism; it was pearl barley. It was cloggy, I nearly put the fire out by tipping the pan badly, and I needed much supervision. It was nearly ready. There was bread awaiting cutting. The fighters came back.

They were alive. No battle. They had mustered. They hadn’t skirmished or raided. But they were ready. They were tense. They didn’t have long.

They didn’t talk or acknowledge us. They ate. The fervour of battle was upon them and I will never forget. We were providing, fulfilling a timeless wild need. Then. They were gone.

And that. Is why. I am writing this.

It was real. We can take that reality and spread it across what we do. 90% . Maybe 95%, yes 95% of what we do is living history. You just have to realise that. Talk aloud, slightly louder than you normally. Bit of feeling there. And it is alive (until we die).

End of blog.

Ah no sorry, I got carried away, that moment lead to all sorts of ideas and, at last, we are there and I am just about to write a blog on how to bring more characterisation into your Living History experience.

It has started.pan

Well, I digress a little, for instance, what was the other 5% about? Metal.

So.

Moving on to section c, d or is it five, I forget how many there’s been.

These are the bits, the bits section. A breakdown.

The Overheard – The what we are doing part

You are being in yourself. Like what we just said about 95%. We are just doing it a little bit more louder. It only needs to be of short duration and occasional. A bit like throw away humour I suppose. We know they are there and we were going to say this any way so we might as well make it into a bit. (See Lenny Bruce below.)

These are the things that you do turned into statements and vocal displays slipped between things which are real any way if we choose to look at this way.

Start that way.

“I worry about you in your pink leather hat. With this helm I am far safer.”

Then build.

They arrived gleaming and now they are dead and a new foe arrives.

That bishop of St Albans started this, just because we are clean and popular with the women. He stirred them up to kill. Women in pits with dogs upon them, children in the gate hinge. We have to kill and we are here and ready.

Talk about the season, the ritual, the moment of the year.

Preparing for death.

Act drunk, or use other emotions or attitudes.

Be overheard.

Then turn round and smile and welcome them.

“When are we changing into our Berserker outfits?”simen

Activity – The things you are practicing or working on.

You will be training, so do a dialogue. (I hate the word but…) simples.

While cooking ask, “Have you got anything salty?”

Have you any honey from Manuka? No maybe not.

Turn things you do into drama in an understated way. “We shall try this again my son, if you do not react properly and yet again I have to hold back my blow I shall disown you.”

“Watch the way my grip changes as I move.”

“Be careful with those onion skins they don’t grow in the ground you know! Every little bit needs to go in that pot of pee.”

Calling out – just moments that can sometimes lead to an afternoon (or a life together)

Try introducing each other ie have back story.

If we talk about our back story we sound like ourselves.

If we introduce another it sounds more real.

Be sure to have something to say in response mind.

“Let me introduce our greatest fighter, you can tell by the cut of his ‘thingy’ he has travelled far. This bead here; Icelandic.”

Build them, back stories. Try and have items upon you support this. Or the way you do things. Me? I am Hiberno-Norse settled in Jorvik after much travelling as a teller.

“He says there are little people in the mountains” “No in the woods, the ones in the mountains are big.”eric-socks

You probably have one of these built in your imagination, imagine more and build. Then of course ‘share’, so your team know you. Pretty soon the passers-by will know you too.

Get them to sit down. A wonderful Viking woman in Gudvangen Market does this. It should perhaps be a golden rule for it is a very powerful tool if done right. Not as a big thing, almost throws away that invitation. She sits there as part of the scene she is living and being, (because she is enjoying it), she looks around slowly and smiles, for a little too long. Then she pats the stool. “Sit a while.” Thats it, she doesn’t say anything.

They do. They belong.

Try using a reason to get them to sit down, “We will have reason enough to stand against another soon enough.”

“Join us or be against us.”

Act as if passers-by are real! Ask them questions. “Who do you fight for today.”

“Are you the Glima wrestlers we are expecting?”

“We want to make a new hat how should we do it?”

“Come here and settle an argument…”

“What do you know of the situation in Norway?”ritual

Comment as they pass.

“Much strength to your arm.”

“Do you know any good Galda?”

We will take one of your children. You shall take one of ours. The peace and understanding will come from the way they learn. Bring them back though, when they are grown.

If they speak badly of you they will know all the ways into your home.

(They did it then, it was still happening (as a one way only trade) to Roma in the eighties in Norway.)

Quote lines. This is a trick. Think of a line from a movie, a book, a game, a wise person, a saga, one of the clichés you all repeat. Rework them. Vikingize them.

Betrothals. Seeking such agreements from those walking along.

“Today is a good day to die.”

Skol!

Prepare lines in other languages (not Klingon).

Complain about the next tents philosophy.

Set up dialogues with opposite encampments.

Have you got any salt?

Would your daughter be interested in my son?

Insult the person next to you to the passer by.

stage-01Where are you camped?

You have come on the wrong day, talk of what will happen tomorrow or yesterday.

We haven’t got a storyteller, do you know the one about the…. ?????

It is my matrimonial day tomorrow, (pause for congratulations) I just need a partner.

The witch told me that…….

What We Do – The 95%

Talking about what has happened; just slightly louder. You will get in the habit of it. Setting the scene, as if living life live, and remember that is real.

Be there longer than the battle come before. Feel you are living.

Yes Keep it brief, and as they are passing is a good time.

Just be a little louder and be over heard.

Mainly just be because you are actually living it.

And remember they really are only wanting to ask questions so that you will get to listen to their valuable point!

Demonstrate your skills – yes – but also try training a fellow in your skills in a slightly louder way and dramatise. “No! you will be banished if you fail to learn this time my son.”

Props in your pocket: walk forwards from the group as if it is a secret and show them something so only they see.

Remember, your authentics pouch doesn’t have to be fastened (unless there are sharps).

Conversational impressions; doing the other voice,

“I heard the bishop say…”simen-02

“It is lavely to have you all here, I know your king said you would be beheaded if you didn’t join us, and I know all your places of worship have been burnt down but it is still laverly that you decided to cam, laverly.” (The vicar out of Postman Pat gave me an idea for a voice.)

Describing what you are doing, ‘I am bringing forward the sack of gathered barley’. ‘I am cupping my hands into the barl…’

‘Do not invoke the old ways, do not speak in the old style. These are new and different times.’

Research – Go look at stuff. Go look at the stuff in your head.

Many of you will have seen my Hobb character; he is Hobb the Pigman and yet he has all sorts of adventures (see links below), he has done battle and had historic encounters but from his point of view, the view of an ordinary person, never forget it is a lot different than the important person’s record of events, a totally original perspective. You can view ‘your’ world that way.

I had an interesting insight into perspectives recently; German medieval societies mainly drink and fight, but because that is historically accurate. I am not suggesting you adapt this into early medieval living history, but it gives us ideas of ways to be from the known values and behaviour

Gift. Give a gift. This is an onerous responsibility for the recipient, for they must find a way to gift, a gift to you of equal value. If you give then a horse they will be trying to pay you back forever.

So rune readers say. Look at the runes generally for ideas of values.leah-left

Draw runes. Defence; “I give you this sign but I fear it will do you no good”.

Get thinking on this. Contemplation of the runes will bring you many inspirations. (or the bible.)

Magnar I hear spoken of; Far better to have ridden on the dark-side and then decided to ride into the light than to simple have been good all your life. Far better.

Not sure the four horsemen give the same sort of message.

Death, birth, blessings, belief, what are you going to next? – or would have been going if you hadn’t died?

Talk about your death and what will be said of you when you are gone.

Where are you going?

How do such topics of contemplation effect the way you live generally.

(These are the sort of powers which make me the storyteller I am btw.)

There are snippets you know that you can bring alive, like that thing about eating garlic and onion porridge so if you are stabbed it will leak out and smell…. (fill in the rest of the story yourselves.)

Talk about the past. Your forefathers gave you wisdom. They shared stories. Taught you.

Like a bird building a nest you have those inbuilt skills of you past.

Your journey here, give us details. Share and ask.

Look stuff up, traditions, customs, use them. They are the stuff of life which shapes the skull.

Ooooo make cards to hand out secretly to fellow members so it is a game…

Acts against Humanity, barrels of doom.

Talk to larp people and dnd people.

Think of lines from films, books, sagas, change them a little and quote them.

Stones. The power of stones. The Hiberno-Norse came here to Yorkshire and they brought a huge leap in creativity with them. They had mixed and shared and in the mix was the stone carving vision of the pasts that came through the Irish contingent. All that they had learnt they shared with their off spring; the Hiberno-Norse. They came here.

Jelling holds beautiful carving upon a stone, the stone carving these later visitors brought here shared the actual stone. The Kirklevington cross stones share stories and images. They are story Use images to ‘convert’ onlookers.

Think of ways belief, ritual, folklore may have affected the way people act and talk. Note that this bit is not specific; it could fit anywhere, anywhen.

So yes, talk about the season, the ritual, the moment of the year.

Think on them too.

Bits – Like what you have bubbling around inside too

Aim for half a dozen times a day you are doing characterisation.

Draw on your own experiences larp drama etc.

For me happenings in DnD spring to mind: They hated each other but the witch poured a love potion over his sword. He grabbed the sword to kill, he swung it over his head, he fell in love, he dropped the sword behind him, he leant forward to kiss his once enemy, the sword was no long in his hand, he hated him, he grabbed the sword, he swung it over hi… You get the idea.

A bit silly I know, but there are transferable models in everything, everywhere.

Hey, relax and have a laugh, much will spring from it, as ideas burst out of your gob.

I suppose I was a bit glib and critical when I desperately sought to drag humour out of all this and went on about visitors and the points they have to make. They are not all like that. Not by a long way. Many are totally different. They are complete idiots!!!!

Sorry no, the term for them is tourists.

They have very vivid imaginations.

That Viking woman in Norway I talked about. She went for a walk. Not far. Just out the gate of the camp and sat in the sun by the Fjord waters. You can see all the camp but there is a fence around it, this is to keep out the non-payer. Not all visitors realise this though, one of these walked up to her and asked in a concerned voice, “Do they treat you well?”

If visitors can believe you are encamped in a reservation then they can believe anything.

Play on that sense of imagination.enjoying-the-show-with-friends

If I can have ideas so can you. Sorry to sound pompous and patronising, of course you can, all you have to do is let them free. They roam around and pop about in thought and conversation, now there is a place for them.

I mention back story. Mine is Hiberno-Norse, and travelling storyteller, so my kit is eclectic.

I was inspired deep within my heart, (and in my roots?), by the idea of Norse venturing into Ireland, mixing, consorting, (finding and raiding monasteries together), planning, trading goods and power. They came here! (York that is, I live in York.)

They settled.

The other bit: by the gods I am a great storyteller so that is reflected in my back story and in my ‘kit’. – The pinks would have been very expensive, so obviously I told stories to Queens. Either they loved my tales and gave me a gift or they hated them and as I ran I stole them.

My back story was further empowered by a purchase from Swanhildas Sweets (on Ebay). Viking trade route jewellery. A total inspiration. A necklace of stones that reflected my life path.

I have since demonstrated this jewellery in Scandinavia with amazing results.

It makes people who they really are.

I told a Canadian guy that currently he felt he was a Canadian who dressed up to be in the company of his partner who was a ‘real’ Viking as a Norwegian. I pointed out that jasper had been found in digs off the coast of Canada and had proven to be the equivalent of flint and had been used by Vikings. If he bought the necklace he would become a Canadian Viking!!! He bought it and bought it.

A Norwegian lady whose father had been adopted from Thailand when tiny had become a Viking and was interested in materials from the silk routes to help her draw in her real heritage. She looked at the stuff and changed her mind, “I am going to be Irish.”

Real stuff comes out too, a guy told me how he hadn’t told anybody else, even his girlfriend yet, but he had been adopted at birth and given to a Christian family. He hadn’t discovered this till he was forty, when his real mother, (a Roma, found him and told him of the abduction policy of the Norwegian government. They were actively Christianising in this way right up to the late 90’s.)

Real stories come out when you inspire people.

So.

Go out and buy stuff.

Back story stuff.

Being in character may be a way to deal with awkward or critical people. Plan an All Ting.

“We are putting holes in the ground like they do in Iceland to get the same space next year.”

Grapes? Think routes for conversations.

Have you had quirky thoughts lately use them.

Open your mind to the idea of interaction bearing in mind your own interests and deeper thoughts.

There is something you can say that has great challenging depth.

My quirky thinking, I like to come up with possible new understandings of how things were from piecing things together. Recently I found myself wondering what Thor’s second name would be? Thor Odinsson!!!!steak.jpg

Developing Drama – chunks of this stuff could go together

Perhaps there can be plays come of this or a mini drama by piecing bits together.

The highly controversial comedian Lenny Bruce talked of putting bits together. His act would be different every time, as he made his mind up all along. Sometimes though all the old bits would come rolling out in a new order and people would say what a great new set, all highly original. I really identify with this idea of bits from my own stuff (even though I am not funny). Ho wofeyen hbv eyou heard me say, “And now you have an opportunity to see my great acting ability when I say they were…”

You already have snippets and bits like this. They will slot in anywhere. They will bolt to new ideas. They will intersect with another. They will join with the bits of others (“Steady now at the back!”), and they will become something bigger (“I said steady!”). The next thing you know -You have a piece to perform with (I said stop it at the back).

He also talked of the room, less useful here maybe, but interesting. Everywhere he performed was a ‘room’, TV studios (well they never asked him back), stadiums, anywhere. It is the room. The room shapes your material, the room has a personality. You have to know the room. You have to know where to put yourself in the room. The room –wait for it – wait for it – is a field with tents in it.

Be ready to sense and to adapt.

It could be simple – That thing what you do. A great guy I know told me of going to a Wild West ~Weekend. There was a guy booked, (and paid), to entertain and all he did was sit in a hut. A shack, the door was open and you could see him there sitting sipping Bourbon straight from a bottle. Bottle after bottle. All he wore was dark pink dirty all-in-ones, with one button missing at the back so you could see half his bum. He had something laid across his knee. My pal was curious and stepped forward to go towards him. The thing on his knee was a shot gun, it was up in my mates face and his life was being threatened, loudly! My pal ran. He ran to the others. They all came over, and then ran.

That man was a star, and here we are still talking about him.

Allting. Spell it how you like. There seems to be plenty of variants. From land to land. This is governance. We gather. We sit. We hold parliament. Hold one now.

From an unobtrusive circle around the gap between your tent and the one opposite, with a couple of seats missing at each ‘end’. When people walk through pull in stools. They are part of the circle which suddenly comes into being. Announce the topic of debate and let them know they are most important and are invited to join the discussion.

Land and folks will die upon you decision.

Golden rules – I missed a few out

Don’t enjoy it that much you turn clique I am sure you have in jokes.

It is not about costumes and fight skills – or points.

Almost everything you think and say and hear is a role play statement, it just needs reworking a little.

Make your friend laugh by turning things you know into a role play

Ie think about what you and your mates say, and make it of the time.

Hey, we are living it already.

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Living the Viking Way

My Performances at Gudvangen

The Battle of Hastings – this time we win

Hobb and the Normans