Vikings in streets of Harrogate tonight

Vikings.

Vikings.

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By Graham Chalmers

A troupe of Vikings will lead a torch-lit procession tonight, Thursday, through the middle of Harrogate to open the second Harrogate History Festival.

Kicking off at 7pm outside the offices of organisers, Harrogate International Festivals’ office on Cheltenham Parade, the parade marks the start of this year’s Harrogate History Festival.

The major literary event, in association with the Historical Writers’ Association, will open in dramatic style with the burly Vikings courtesy of the Ormsheim Dark Age Re-enactment.

The Vikings will lead the parade from the Festival offices to the Old Swan Hotel in time for historical fiction’s most hotly-contended and prestigious literary awards – the Historical Fiction Awards at 8pm, followed by the Festival’s opening party.

Giants of the genre include Peter Snow, Sandi Toksvig and Bernard Cornwell. Audiences are invited to explore with leading literary minds on some of the most gripping conflicts, personalities and epic tales in history.

Bernard Cornwell, author of the Sharpe series, adapted to TV with Sean Bean, is travelling from the States for his UK appearance.

Other special guests include James Naughtie, Elizabeth Chadwick, Elizabeth Fremantle, broadcaster and former presenter of the Late Show Sarah Dunant, Guardian writer Charlotte Higgins, and the author and journalist Stephanie Merritt writing as S.J. Parris.

Dr Irving Finkel, the Assistant Keeper of the Ancient Mesopotamian script at the British Museum, will discuss his quest to reveal a radical interpretation of the Noah’s Ark myth. Former adventurer and English teacher, Conn Iggulden, whose worldwide smash, Dangerous Book for Boys, was a publishing phenomenon also headlines with his War of the Roses series.

The event builds on Harrogate’s pedigree for world-class literature festivals, brought by Harrogate International Festivals – the team behind the world-famous Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival.

Panels include ‘New Blood’ showcasing the best new historical writers, the role of the supernatural, and an exploration of Vikings in an age of blood and poetry.

Panel authors include Toby Clements, Robert Goddard and Michael Ridpath.

’50 Shades of Grail’ debunks the myths and legends that dominate history, and for Downton fans there is a fascinating discussion on social history in ‘If Walls Could Talk’ through the eyes of those who served, featuring Dr Pamela Cox, author and TV presenter of the BBC’s Shopgirls: The True Story of Life Behind the Counter.

Tickets are available at the box office on 01423 562303 or onlien at www.harrogateinternationalfestivals.com