This July, a horde of Vikings is preparing to descend on the island of Sandoy in the Faroe Islands. Their goal? To give locals and international visitors a taste of Viking Age living in one of the most picturesque settings in Europe. 

The Viking Herald speaks to the founder and organizer of Festívalhöll, Durita Dahl Djurhuus, about Bayeux Tapestry embroidery, stealing children from Faroese classrooms, and how to start your own festival. 

Doing it yourself 

"I'm no Viking expert," Durita admits. "I'm a biochemist. But I have been a reenactor since 1996, and when I moved back here to the Faroe Islands in 2009, I really missed all the Viking festivals." 

"I couldn't afford to travel to them at that time, so I thought, well, I'll just have to make one myself!" 

Durita's initial set of festivals took place on the ancient battlefield of Mannafelsdalur, close to Tórshavn, the capital of the Faroe Islands. 

"I organized the first festival, Berserk, in 2013," explains Durita. "But they started another one in Sandoy at the same time." 

"We did both places three years in a row, but I thought it would be better to cooperate and make one festival together. Unfortunately, it didn't work out." 

After a short hiatus, Durita put on two festivals in Tórshavn in 2021 and 2022, together with her co-organizers Tóra Hansen, Robert Lang, and Amalie Jonnasdatter. 

In 2023, the team decided to move the festival to Sandoy, in part so they could help raise money to build a Viking village

Near the village of Sandur on Sandoy Island, Festívalhöll will welcome 1,500-2,000 visitors from July 5-7 to a beach famous for its sand dunes. Photo: Heri Eystberg

Hands-on history in a stunning setting 

Today, Festívalhöll enjoys a truly spectacular location, situated close to the village of Sandur on Sandoy Island, which lies just south of the northern group of Faroe Islands and has a permanent population of just over 1,000 people. 

"We hold the festival at a beach with the only sand dunes in the Faroe Islands," Durita tells us. "It's only a five to ten-minute walk from the village itself, but it's still remote." 

The festival, which is free of charge, will welcome around 1,500-2,000 visitors during the day from July 5-7. The Viking reenactors, on the other hand, begin arriving on June 30 and stay in an encampment overnight. 

"We want to provide activities for both children and adults to try themselves," Durita tells us. 

"When I started visiting Viking markets, I realized I don't want people to come and see a sales booth and nothing else – they're great too, of course, but I don't want them to be the only thing." 

"We have Viking schools for kids and games where our fighters make a circle and give demonstrations, then people can try it out," Durita says. 

"We also have combat shows, either two groups clashing or holmgang – Viking single combat. We have wool that you can spin at the festival, you can make bracelets, and there's even a treasure hunt." 

The association Felagið Føroysk Ross, which was established to preserve the Faroese indigenous horse, will also take part in this year's festival. 

Durita and her team are fundraising to build a Viking village that reflects the rich history of the Faroe Islands, with architectural designs already in place. Photo: Bina Ólavsdóttir

Stealing children 

The interactive elements of the festival are the fruits of an organization Durita established with some close friends. 

"We started a company called Viking Events that works with schools and companies," Durita informs us. 

"There are different kinds of games, usually with a story connected to them. The funniest one was when we went to a school, and another Viking and I were looking for a slave who had run away." 

"We went into the children's classroom, looking for this kid, and asked them if they had seen him, but they said no, so we just took a kid from the classroom instead," Durita laughs. 

"The child we took was prepared, of course, but the rest of the class had no idea! My friend took the kid over his shoulder and walked away, and the whole class followed toward the beach." 

"After playing lots of games, the two female teachers eventually had to fight each other to get the kid back. Naturally, the other children loved it!" 

Festívalhöll collaborates with the Icelandic reenactment group Rimmugýgur and attracts Viking enthusiasts from various countries. Photo: Bina Ólavsdóttir

A Viking horde and Norman embroidery 

In addition to Viking Events, which helps run the festival, Durita started a Faroese reenactment group, Berserk, which is part of the event's organization. 

Berserk works in close cooperation with Rimmugýgur, the Icelandic reenactment group that runs the Hafnafjörður Viking Festival. Indeed, the festival is already beginning to develop an international feel, with ninety-six Vikings signed up for this year's event. 

"We have two Danish guys who come to prepare food, who make sandwiches for sale and food for the Vikings in the evenings," Durita tells us. 

"We have Vikings from Denmark and Iceland, one from England, another from Finland, and we also have a Scot and an American in the Faroe Islands group." 

One particular highlight is the embroidery course held two days before the start of the festival, where Freja Lindahl Pederson will teach people how to do the type of embroidery used in making the Bayeux Tapestry

"Freja has been to our festival several times and educated herself in embroidery," Durita says. "She's Finnish and she's a great teacher – she has a really wonderful way of speaking." 

"We will also have another course in spinning wool with a drop spindle, held by a Danish woman, Mette Wikkelsø." 

This year's festival will feature the association Felagið Føroysk Ross, which works to conserve the Faroese indigenous horse. Photo: Zach Ellison / Felagið Føroysk Ross 

An authentic Faroese experience 

The team hopes to once again raise money toward the Viking village, which will reflect the rich Viking history of the Faroe Islands. 

"So far, we have enough money for the architect's designs," Durita tells us. "Now we are talking to people in Sandoy about finding the right location." 

"We really want the village to be Faroese," Durita continues. "Of course, we have to look to our neighbors too, but if something has been found in the Faroes, then that's what we go for." 

As the reenactment group goes from strength to strength and the festival continues to develop, Durita hopes to enjoy further success in the coming years and become a permanent fixture on the Viking festival circuit. 

"If the festival grows, we will need more hands, so I hope that as attendance increases, more reenactors will join us as well." 

"Of course, as organizers, we are still learning as well. But we are aiming for bigger and better. We already have some visitors from abroad who come every year. We don't want to compete, but we do want to be on the map!"

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