Jorvik Viking Festival really is the Thing this year as York event goes online for six days

Einar Selvik: Live-streamed concert and Q&A session at That Jorvik Viking Thing.  Picture: Arne Beck

YORK is hosting the world’s largest online Viking festival, That Jorvik Viking Thing, from today (15/2/2021) until Saturday.

The digital diary in Lockdown 3 will be filled with chart-topping music, live-streamed events for all ages, virtual tours and the first-ever 360-degree immersive video of Jorvik Viking Centre’s celebrated ride through Viking-age York.

Against the backdrop of the Jorvik Viking Festival – the largest Viking festival in Europe – being unable to take place in the pandemic, organisers from York Archaeological Trust have created an online festival based on the concept of the “Thing” – a Viking public assembly.

Six days of exclusive new online content and live broadcasts will culminate with an evening with Nordic folk composer Einar Selvik, whose band Wardruna’s latest album, Kvitran, hit the top of the iTunes album chart in January.

Members of the Jorvik team prepare for That JORVIK Viking Thing. Picture: Charlotte Graham

At 7.30pm on Saturday, Einar will discuss his Nordic music, demonstrate instruments and perform a selection of his latest compositions. Ticket holders will be invited to send their questions for a live Q&A session hosted by music journalist and film-maker Alexander Milas.

Gareth Henry, events manager for York Archaeological Trust, has been tasked with putting together the online festival. “For many people, the February half-term is synonymous with Vikings as we’ve been hosting a festival for more than 35 years,” he says.

“Whether that be families drawn by the thrilling combat displays and spectacle of hundreds of Vikings marching through the city, or academics here for our annual symposium, where the latest research from all over the world is presented by leaders in the field of Viking studies.

“We can’t replace the crowds, but we can offer several hours of Norse-themed fun, including our most ambitious live-streamed series of events, live from Jorvik Viking Centre, on the final day of the Thing (20/2/2021): perfect preparation for the evening with Einar Selvik.”

Cressida Cowell: Author will read online from her Norse-themed children’s books

The transition of many elements of the festival to online events has been “fairly straightforward”, according to Gareth.  “Our family favourite events, like Poo Day, when children can recreate their own version of the Lloyds Bank Coprolite – the world’ most famous fossilised poo, which is on display within Jorvik Viking Centre – will be broadcast online,” he says.

“So will craft workshops, learning spinning and leather working – with packs posted out before the event – and our lecture programme.  In many ways, these can reach a far wider audience than we can usually accommodate in our York venues, and we’re already seeing tickets for the symposium being bought by people all over the world.”

Reaching new audiences has been a key focus for That Jorvik Viking Thing, particularly the use of technology to help deliver the festival programme, with funding from Innovate UK and Arts Council England helping the Jorvik team to explore new opportunities, including the virtual visit. 

“When most museums talk about virtual visits, they use static 360-degree cameras at set locations for visitors to jump from place to place to view the collection from fixed perspectives,” says Gareth. 

Hapless VIking Arnor, whose adventures feature in a new short film at That Jorvik Viking Thing

“We’ve been working with a local company, Vidaveo, to create a completely immersive version of our ride through Viking-age York.  Using a smart phone, tablet or even a VR [virtual reality] headset, you can ‘ride’ in one of our time capsules with our resident Viking guide, Fastulf, for the sounds and sights of 10th century Coppergate. The only thing we can’t include are the smells.”

Best-selling children’s authors are giving their support to That Jorvik Viking Thing, in the form of Cressida Cowell, Francesca Simon, Hilary Robinson, David MacPhail, Robert J Harris and Paul Tillery IV all recording extracts from their Norse-themed children’s books. 

The Jorvikanory videos will be available throughout the week, as will a series of podcasts, one featuring Horrible Histories author Terry Deary.

In light of York Archaeological Trust’s attractions being closed, ticket sales from premium events will provide an important source of income.  “Our two main fundraisers are the Evening with Einar Selvik, which has created quite a stir around the globe, and a special Mead Tasting Evening with the Lancashire Mead Company,” says Gareth.

Jorvik Viking Centre’s resident Skald retells The Saga Of Refr The Sly

“Participants in that evening will receive a box of mead samples, delivered to their home, and then receive expert tutelage on the mead-brewing process and flavours created.  Our original allocation of tickets sold out very quickly, so we have doubled capacity for this event, and only have a small handful of tickets left.” 

A virtual tour of Jorvik Viking Centre by Dr Chris Tuckley is proving “incredibly popular”. He will leave the time capsules behind to walk visitors around the attraction, pointing out detail – based on real archaeological evidence – that went into reconstructing the past. 

Other online content available for the first time will includes a series of Meet The Vikings films, exploring crafts, weapons, food and many other aspects of Viking life; an adventure with the hapless Arnor, as he hunts around his village for a lost ring, and two live Twitch sessions where experts review Norse-themed computer games from 1984’s Viking Raiders to 2020’s Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla to test authenticity and fun. 

A chapter from a traditional Viking saga, The Saga Of Refr The Sly, will be released each day to encourage visitors to return.

Jorvik Viking Festival normally takes place during the school holidays, so the York Archaeological Trust education team took the opportunity to create a special preview event, That Jorvik Viking Thing: School’s Week, that ran from February 8 to 12, offering free content, such as twice-daily live-streamed presentations for schools and home educators across the world. 

Much of the pre-recorded content of That Jorvik Viking Thing went live at 10am today and will remain accessible until midnight on Sunday, February 21 at jorvikthing.com, where tickets for paid-for events can be booked. Visitors to That Jorvik Viking Thing can donate to York Archaeological Trust online.

For full details of the That Jorvik Viking Thing programme, go to: jorvikthing.com

Terry Deary: Podcast for That Jorvik Viking Thing

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