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Viking festival to bring ‘spectacle’ to isles

Helen Smith of the Follow the Vikings project.

A FESTIVAL and roadshow celebrating Viking heritage will visit Shetland next year as part of a new Europe-wide project. 

The EU-funded Follow the Vikings initiative will head to Unst and Lerwick for two weekends in September, with performances and re-enactments on offer alongside other hands-on activities and workshops.

The festival will visit Unst on 2-3 September and it will centre around the viking longhouse project near Haroldswick, which is due to be completed in time for the event.

Members of the Ardglass Vikings from Ireland and the Valhalla Vikings from Poland will head to Unst to put on a show for locals and visitors, with replica longships being brought over too.

There will be battle recreations, a family-friendly encampment and a Viking feast complete with entertainment and storytelling.

A roadshow, which will tour across Europe over the next few years, will head to Lerwick on 8-9 September.

It is set to look at Viking culture in a more contemporary way, with striking visuals coming through projections on buildings which have been designed by artist director Craig Morrison.

There will also be a performance at Hay’s Dock featuring local drummers and dancers, with workshops due to be held closer to the time to get participants up to speed.

The Shetland leg of the £3 million project has just been awarded an extra £16,500 from Visit Scotland to put towards the Unst event.

The Follow the Vikings project is being led by Shetland Amenity Trust in conjunction with 14 other European partners in countries such as Iceland, Norway, Ireland and Spain.

The roadshows are due to travel across the continent over four years, with the funding coming from the EU’s Creative Europe Culture sub-programme.

Former BBC Radio Shetland presenter Helen Smith was appointed last year to oversee the project and she said the events would showcase Viking heritage in Shetland in a new way.

“It’s going to be a really big spectacle,” she said. “Our artist director looks at everything with completely fresh eyes. It’s a big production that will come here and it will be something that nobody has seen before.

“We also want to have outreach programmes with school bairns and involve the local community.”

The local jarl squads have not yet been asked to participate in the events, but Smith said the project does hope to involve them in some way.

“We’re still trying to find out how we can use them when it comes to Shetland,” she said.

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