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! Although some of us look rather scary, we are, as a whole, a friendly bunch so don’t worry about us! To find out information about the next show there will be details in the Runestaff, or in the Events Calendar.

What you need to take part

For your first event, it is best to borrow as much as possible, rather than spending large amounts of money on things which experienced members might have been able to provide, or which they would have advised against. If in doubt, always ask first – either your Group Leader will be able to help out or will know someone who can.

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

Camping equipment

Initially most members camp in modern tents with four season sleeping bags, airbeds, petrol/gas stoves etc. Some will 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 this equipment – it gets a hammering and cheap stuff designed for Glastonbury does not work. There is nothing worse than a bad nights sleep in a leaky tent.

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, 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).

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.

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.


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 – no car keys lying around, no wearing of trainers and glasses or bright blue groundsheets poking out of the bottom of the tent! We are proud of our authenticity and we try to make sure that we keep our good reputation. Do not talk about last nights TV or sit around the fire smoking a cigarette. After the show has closed, that is a different matter! If you must smoke, or use your phone, please go to the modern campsite

The public often talk and ask questions of our living history re-enactors and please try not to laugh out loud when you get asked some of the more stupid questions such as ‘Vikings did not have metal, did they’ and ‘how does chopping wood differ between then and now’. Those have really been asked! You won’t need to answer any questions, let the rest of your group do that, however it is advised to listen in – it’s amazing how quickly you will learn about period life. Don’t forget you are allowed to ask questions too!

You will often be able to borrow clothing and eating utensils for your first couple of shows from your group. However it is advisable to start getting your own kit as soon as you can. Although you can get basic kit quite cheaply, over the years people spend a lot of time and money building up their equipment and the same person always borrowing items quickly becomes tiresome. It is also worth talking to your group about their experiences making clothing and kit. They will often be able to tell you about the local source for wool and linen, as well as the mistakes that they have made. Before you start it is worth checking all that what you want to make or buy is authentic and in keeping with your character. There is nothing more demoralising that spending hours making, or spending all of your cash on something that is not right!

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, 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.

Expected behaviour at a show

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

  • Stay in character 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 – its no good doing a marvellous show if we loose a repeat booking because the organisers had to pay a small fortune to tidy up after us.
  • 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. This is in your own best interests – early to bed usually means early to rise and if you kept them awake half the night they may decide to return the favour at 7am!
  • 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 of banned substances is strictly forbidden and will result in immediate dismissal from the Society.