Your first show

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If you have not yet been to your first show then you may be slightly apprehensive about what to expect! This guide is intended to make sure you know to expect and are prepared. To find out information about the next show there will be details in the Runestaff, or in the Events Calendar.

Top Tips: Preparing for your first show

  • Don't rush your kit making, if there is an item of clothing you don't have, ask members of your group if you can borrow it.
  • Don't make any purchases without checking that what you are buying meets our authenticity standards and weapons specifications. There are a lot of pretty items out there that aren't allowed in our society. If in doubt, ask an authenticity officer or your group leader.
  • Think about how you will avoid doing modern things in front of the public. Remove nail varnish, don't eat or cook modern food in front the of public.
  • If you need any medications, make sure you prepare in advance and pack what you need.

The kit that you need to take part in a show falls into two main categories:

Top Tips: Camping equipment

Some members camp in modern tents with four season sleeping bags, airbeds, petrol/gas stoves etc. Some will member go onto a period tent, fur for a bed and a real fire by the door. If you have never camped before spend as much as you can afford on your camping equipment – it gets a hammering and cheap stuff designed for Glastonbury is not value for money. There is nothing worse than a bad night's sleep in a leaky tent.

  • Prepare carefully before you go. You will need warm bedding, something to sit on, a torch/lamp, a water container and you might need your food and drink (check that with your group leader).
  • Pack a change of clothes. Summer nights can be cold.
  • When you first arrive, find your group, or check with the show organiser where you should pitch up.
  • Find out where the wood, water and toilets are. Find out where your vehicle should be parked.
  • Always take sunscreen, waterproofs and an emergency toilet roll.
  • When you make your bed, put plenty of layers underneath your bed, as well as on top. You'll stay warmer.

Top Tips: Period kit

Clothing and footwear is your first priority, followed by any fighting kit or LHE equipment you need. Do not buy high status equipment such as swords and jewellery until the rest of your costume is of a similar economic status.

You also need to bring your sense of humour, and are welcome to bring a lack of singing ability, your family, the dog (show organisers permitting) and the ability to function on very little sleep!

What do I do when I get there?

Shows are broken down into several recognisable sections:

First of all the geography of an event – there will always be at a major event a Living History Encampment (LHE)/Village, a modern campsite (Plasticamp) and a battlefield (usually referred to as the arena by the organisers).

Top Tips: Living History Encampment

People live in this encampment all day and night so it is usually the first thing to appear on site. To sleep in the LHE you must have a period shelter and booking into the Village at an event is essential [1]. Anyone can take part in the activities within this area – even if it’s just walking through and looking, however to be left in charge of a tent and/or fire, you must first have passed the Basic LHE Skills assessment, to prove your competence.

  • If a member of the public asks you a questions and you don't know the answer, don't blag it, direct them to someone else who might be able to help.
  • Don't feel you have to stay with your group all day. Have a wander around and ask other members to talk to you about what they are doing. We are all happy to share our knowledge with new members.
  • Our safety and the public's is everyone's responsibility in the LHE. Watch for trip hazards, sharps knives left unattended and fire hazards. Don't stay quiet if you see something you are worried or unsure about. Speak to someone in your group.
  • Don't let the public touch or taste the food being prepared in the LHE.
  • If you see anyone getting to close to the fire, warn them. If a fire has got out of control shout 'Fire' and use the fire fighting equipment.

Top Tips: First Vikings Show with kids

  • Your children are your responsibility at all times. Make sure you know where they are and have appropriate supervision in pace if you are taking part in an activity.
  • Make sure you have completed an Activity Consent form and handed it to your group leader.
  • Bring plenty of snacks which are or look authentic.
  • If your children are small make them an authentic cuddly or some authentic toys and play with them at home before you come to your first show.
  • It can be really difficult for small children to understand about authentic and in authentic items to start with. Help them by making it fun.
  • With little children there are several situations where authenticity rules are relaxed such as very wet weather, very cold weather etc. Ask your group leader if you're not sure. Generally, we follow a 'three metre' rule for these occasions - if it looks okay from three metres away, it will be probably be an acceptable compromise.

Arena Events

You must be qualified in at least one Basic weapon skill to take part in an arena event as a warrior.

  • Weapons Display - bring every weapon you are qualified to use. Listen to the P.A. and come forward to fight when a demonstration of a weapon you can use is announced.
  • Archery display - you must have at least the Basic Display Archery assessment to participate.
  • Skirmish - small scripted battle. Join a unit and obey the Unit Commander (Hersir).
  • Main battle - the big event. Again the first of these is always heavily scripted and you will be directed when to advance/retreat/fight. There is usually a refight - again, obey the Hersirs and they will direct the action.
  • Kiddyvike – not somewhere to dump your kids, but what is believed to be the most terrifying test of any warrior’s nerves. Members’ children can take part in a display of fighting on the battlefield. They are joined by public children who then all turn on the adults taking part, and usually (always)win. See Kiddie Vike Notes and Guidance
  • Hrothgar’s Saga – a well-known period story is told with the help/hindrance of members on the battlefield. All played for laughs and expect to get wet.
  • Acting - Theatre in the round - occasionally serious portrayal of social events in LHE.

The show

Generally we go ‘authentic’ at about 10am and are on show until 5pm, although the times will vary from show to show.

If you are in the living history encampment then everything must be as authentic as possible. If you see something inauthentic, do something or tell someone. We are proud of our authenticity and we try to make sure that we keep our good reputation. After the show has closed, that is a different matter! If you must smoke, or use your phone, please go to the modern campsite

There are three main ways that you can take part in a show – combatant, living history or both!

If you are in a living history encampment it is expected that everyone pulls their weight around the camp and helps set up, keeps the camp tidy etc, but most importantly helps pack away at the end of the weekend!

After the public have gone home then we all generally relax. Some groups cook their evening meal; others traipse off to the local pub or chippy. What you can guarantee is that there will be lots of camp fires and singing. If you have young children or need lots of sleep there is generally a ‘quiet’ area. Ask the show co-ordinator or your group leader where to camp.

Although you will want to stay with your own group at first, after a few shows it is worth making the effort to try to get to know other groups as well. Due to the size of the Society and the fact that we are spread out over the whole country it is often a few years before you feel that you know most people.

Top Tips: Expected behaviour at a show

A number of things will be expected of you at a show.

  • Stay authentic throughout – if you cannot survive 8 hours without wearing glasses, having a cigarette or a can of coke, wearing 21st century shoes etc. please return to the plastic camp or change into fully modern clothing.
  • Obey the Society officers at all times – if you disagree with what they say, say so once the show is over or on the plastic camp. In public, maintain the high reputation of our Society for good manners and behaviour.
  • Obey the Countryside Code and keep both plastic camp and the LHE tidy at all times.
  • You are responsible for the behaviour of both your children and your pets. If they cause problems, either they or in extreme circumstances, yourselves will be banned from future events.
  • As the night wears on, try to let people who have gone to bed get to sleep. There is often a “Quiet” area of the camp designated – if you want to party all night, please do not camp near to it.
  • When pitching your tent, please try to maintain at least 6 feet (2m approx.) between yourselves and your neighbours. This is a legal requirement but may also save your life should anyone have an accident with a camping stove after you have gone to bed.
  • Do not put your tent or car where it will block emergency entrance or exit to a site. If in doubt ask before the tent goes up – it’ll be easier than having to move it afterwards.
  • Consumption or supply of illegal substances is strictly forbidden and will result in immediate dismissal from the Society.

Thanks to the RTTVs who helped revise this list at the LHE Training Weekend 2022.