Specialist in Viking and Roman School Visits for Key Stage Two of the National Curriculum.
Award winning living history services and presentations for classroom education.
School Presentations and Covid-19
The new term is now upon us and schools are starting to open up again, although it may be some time before any real sense of normality returns.
We are ready to take bookings for the terms ahead and although there will inevitably be some modifications to our working practices in line with the current advice, we are confident that we can still deliver the high standards of presentation that our regular customers have come to expect.
I look forward to seeing you all again in the upcoming school year.
September 2022. A visit to Moorforge.
Moorfoge is a project I’ve had an eye on for a while. Up in the NW of Cumbria, David Watson has built a forge and a longhouse in the Viking style. Construction is ongoing for a larger hall too. I was invited to demonstrate my craft work at an “Eastern style” Viking event held at the site and it gave me the opportunity to work with the public once again.
Conversations held at the event have also let to the creation of a Craft Co-operative planning to run live craft events there in the future. More on that subject later.
The Beowulf Codex is finally finished. Much of the work done in the making the cover of this literary treasure was done at various living history events, with authentic tools and conditions while demonstrating the craftwork to the public. That was inevitably slowed down by the pandemic and the subsequent lock-downs.
Nice to get it finished at last though and I can start looking at my next project now.
Summer term 2022
Bookings have returned to a fairly steady three or four a week now, slightly down from the four to five I was doing before the pandemic but it does leave me some time to work on a few craft projects which is always nice.
Work continues on the Beowulf Codex and as it nears completion I have made a Casket to store and transport it in. Other than that there has been a new drinking horn and the myriad of small repair and maintenance jobs required to keep my education kit in good order. It’s a good job I am able to turn my hands to a variety of crafts really.
As the C-19 Lockdown restrictions ease a little, much thought is being put into how we can work safely in schools from September onwards.
Apart from that, I have been able to use the time to do some much needed maintenance on some of the costume and equipment we use. This is often one of the jobs done over the summer break but this year I have been able to get a bit ahead on things.
Because I’ve been asked so often about them I decided to post up a little blog about the making of a new pair of Viking shoes.
If you have been with us for a few years, you might notice is this shiny new format website with it’s brand new “Viking Dragon” logo.
Our venerable old web site was built around about the turn of the Century when the internet was a very different beast to what we are all used to now. Most people that had access used desktop computers and modems that were incredibly slow compared to modern broadband.
Pictures needed to be small and quite low quality so they would load quickly and the idea of accessing it on the move with a hand held device were just a pipe dream for most people.
The reality now is that more people access the internet with a mobile phone than a computer and the old site was not really fit for purpose any more. It was looking tired and creaky. It was difficult to maintain and it was high time to retire it.
That doesn’t mean that it has been taken behind the barn and shot. Oh no.
Like a faithful old horse it has simply been put out to grass and will see out the rest of it’s days on it’s original domain: www.Lore-and-Saga.co.uk.
You will still be able to stroll down memory lane and access the information or pictures built up over two decades there, but this new site will be leaner and fitter for the work it needs to do now.
This new format website will now reside on the newer domains:
The end of an era and the beginning of a new one.
Beowulf Codex, A new treasure.
2018 - 2020 ( Ongoing )
Britain is now in the grip of the Corona Virus and my bookings have all vanished at the stroke of a minister’s pen. The schools have all closed, probably for the rest of the academic year. For me the timing could not have been worse, this is exactly the time of year that I need to make enough reserve funds to see us over the long summer break.
It does however give me some time to catch up on some of the craft projects I have had on the back boiler for a while though.
The first to be completed was the Hrafn Casket and now this treasure cover for a new Codex of Beowulf is sitting on my bench again.
You can read more about this project here.
2019 - 2020
When I am not out working in schools, I like to have at least one project on the go to keep me busy. This year I seem to be spoilt for choice.
Design work is continuing on the The Norse Cloak of Myth which is mainly Debbie’s project of course and when working on living history displays I have the Beowulf Manuscript to work on.
Neither of these take up much of my time at home so it leaves me time for another, the Hrafn Casket, a carved chest similar to but less ambitious than the Wayland Kista.
You can read more about this project here.
2014 - 2020 ( Ongoing )
Updates on an extraordinary ten year project under-way.
Heysham Viking Festival
The Heysham Viking Festival is in my opinion one of the best ”Viking Age“ shows in Britain. It is community led, unlike many of the identikit shows run by the big heritage organisations and the support from the locals brings the very best out in the groups that provide the living history and battle re-enactments.
Working with independent groups as well as the big re-enactment societies gives them a flexible, progressive approach that allows me to demonstrate fine craft work while wearing my glasses which is a bonus.
It is therefore a matter of some personal pride that I was awarded “Best individual living history exhibit of 2018”, which was judged by a secret family group over the weekend.
Since I was wearing my glasses for most of that weekend I can only assume they were not considered an issue and in fact only one member of the public commented about them all weekend to say, ”I hadn’t noticed you were wearing glasses” when I took them off for a photograph to be taken.
Over the weekend, I was working on a treasure cover for a new manuscript of Beowulf which is a project that has been long in the planning. You can read more about that here.
It is a sad but unavoidable fact that we all grow older. Someone once said to me ”At least it’s better than the alternative.” Well, I am now of an age that it is very unlikely that many Vikings ever lived to see. As a craftsman that also means I now require visual support in the form of glasses when doing close work such as silver work.
In 2015 I wrote about how Debs and I had rejoined ”The Vikings” society after a break of a few years. Well, my failing eyesight is now forcing us to leave again because, unlike most of the European and Scandinavian groups, the two largest Viking Age re-enactment groups in the UK refuse to allow their older members to wear glasses when required.
Their argument is that the Vikings did not wear glasses so we should not wear them when recreating their lifestyle. I would have some sympathy with that point of view if they were actually accurate about every other thing they did but that is far from the truth.
For a start, most clients require a battle to attract the public and a living history display to keep them on the premises long enough to eat in the cafe and visit the shop to spend lots of their money.
A battle requires a huge amount of compromises to authenticity of course to reduce the risks of injury. This includes an amount of armour and helmets that is completely unrealistic. Armour was expensive and fairly rare in the Viking Age, certainly not worn by the majority of warriors on the battlefield as we see in typical re-enactment battles.
Armoured gloves are a complete fabrication that there is no evidence for at all and yet they are worn by every warrior in “The Vikings” for health and safety reasons.
I would argue that not being able to see properly while moving around a camp or working with sharp tools is also a health and safety issue.
As for the Living History display. This is normally set up in a tented encampment next to the arena. That requires dozens of cotton canvas tents filled with people cooking on raised fires, demonstrating crafts and acting out little scenarios as if they were either Vikings or Saxons living on the edge of a battlefield.
How many things can you see wrong with that? For a start they did not use cotton but it’s cheap and the attitude is that public will never know. The fires are raised so that they will not damage the clients grass and people lived in houses and ran away from battles.
Demonstrating crafts is great of course but make sure it is something you can do without glasses on. That is why you will often only see leather work, woodwork or static displays where very little is actually happening.
Re-enactment is a relatively new pastime. It started to become popular in the 1970s and most of the founders are either old now or they have embraced the alternative.
People like me that started in the 80s are now of an age where they want to share the experience and skills they have developed over those years but are hindered by visual or hearing difficulties that are easily overcome with modern aids. For some people contact lenses are a solution but they do not suit everyone and I am one of those that cannot use them.
Unfortunately this is leading to a ”brain drain“, where experienced craftspeople are moving from early re-enactment groups and joining later ones that allow glasses or leaving living history altogether which is a great shame.
As for myself, I am fortunately able to be independent. I have my own insurance through my business and I can work as a guest with other, smaller groups who take the more progressive continental approach that interesting displays presented by experienced craftspeople are far more important than inflexible authenticity standards that are unevenly applied at best.
There are a few UK groups out there and many on the continent, that are keen for me to bring the skills I have to their shows so for the foreseeable future those will be the types of event that I support.
The school work carries on very successfully of course, I don’t require glasses for the work I am doing there, but I have come now to a parting of the way from “The Vikings” which is sad because it serves nobody well really.
It’s not very often that I get enough free time to learn and develop a major new skill these days but a quiet school summer holiday was a great opportunity this year to tackle a challenging new craft project.
Read more about the making of the Wayland Kista here.
A return to the past.
After a long absence due to concentrating on the schools education business, We have decided to rejoin ”The Vikings” re-enactment society.
This encouraged us to dig out some of the larger living history equipment that doesn’t get used much in schools and get back into doing a bit of craft work for a show at Whitby Abbey.
In many ways, it was the craft work that got us interested in living history in the first place. I learned to work leather first followed by bone and then silver with the help of good friends that taught me ancient skills that were almost forgotten. Debs developed her interests in the decorative textile crafts of the period and this helped us to make our own equipment and improve some of the gear we traded for along the way.
I spent most of the show working on a recreation of a brooch from the British Museum. I say recreation because the original was a little crude in it’s execution and I wanted to make one as if the original craftsman had made a second one having learned from the mistakes of his first. The original is known as the Sutton Brooch after where it was found or sometimes Aedwyn’s Brooch after it’s original owner. I now call this one ”The Whitby Brooch” after the location where it was created.
Now that the education work is running almost at full capacity we thought it was time to get back to these root skills that were so vital for life in the past.
Sadly Debs was unable to attend the Whitby show due to other commitments but it was a great chance to meet up with old friends and make new ones too.
We hope to make it to a couple more shows this year and many more in the future.
About the original web site.
The original Lore & Saga web site was developed over twenty years ago and it evolved a great deal over those decades but computer technology has evolved faster. I was contacted in 2013 by a teacher, concerned that the website had not been updated for a few years and that was certainly true at the time.
The fact of the matter is that the software originally used to build the site no longer worked on my latest computer and the new version seems to have ”lost” all of the pictures and much of the text. The result of that is that if I wished to update the site I would have to go back and rebuild all 60 odd pages from scratch. Just reconstructing the single ”What’’s New” page that a notice like this was first posted on took an hour and a half, so you can tell it was no small job.
I fixed and patched it when I had available time but with the growing success of my education work that was intermittent at best. In the mean time it continued to work as it has before. It wasn’t being regularly updated but I didn’t want to lose the content that was already there, it was far too popular for that.
The Black Bart Pirate Visits have been a great success and both the Viking and Roman school talks and workshops services continue to grow year on year. A huge thank you to the 350+ schools that regularly use the service over a one, two or occasionally three year rotation. It’s a huge privilege to work with such great pupils and teachers.
The booking information on this site is kept up to date and will continue to be but on the old site it will be re-directed to here in the future. You can also find information on my Viking Visits site should you have any difficulty reaching this site.
For information on my other sites there are also gateway portals at:
www.Wayland.me.uk and www.Waidson.uk