AROUND 60,000 Viking enthusiasts are expected to descend on York city centre this half-term.

The Jorvik Viking Festival got underway yesterday, with an extended living history encampment on Parliament Street and a Viking longship in St Sampson’s Square.

The festival is organised by York Archaeological Trust, the charity behind the Jorvik Viking Centre, and extends the story of the city’s Norse heritage with family-friendly events, shows and combat displays. The dates of the festival, which runs until next Wednesday, recognise the different half-term holidays of nearby counties.

Gareth Henry, festival event manager, said: “We’re hoping this milder weather will encourage more people than ever before to venture out and explore our Viking encampment in Parliament Street, watch the entertainment on the stage in St Sampson’s Square, or even have a go at sword-fighting in our workshops at Spark:York.”

Tickets have sold out for a number of events, including Freya’s Banquet on Friday and the son-et-lumière Battle Spectacular at Folkvangr Fields’, but tickets will be available daily for have-a-go activities.

“The encampment has free admission and, of course, everyone is welcome to come and see the awesome March to Coppergate on Saturday, when over 200 Vikings will once again fill the city streets,” Gareth added.

Places are filling up for other events, but places remain at the Richard Hall Symposium, featuring academics discussing women and power in the Viking world at York St John University on Sunday, from 9am. Symposium attendees will also enjoy a talk by Dr Steve Ashby, of the University of York, at York Explore Library on Monday from 10.30am, celebrating the launch of his latest history title, Pocket Museum: Vikings. Creators of the Histronauts series of historical adventures, author Frances Furkin and illustrator Grace Cooke, will be at 2pm at York Explore on Monday.