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Prepare for Hemsby Viking invasion

PUBLISHED: 09:39 22 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:59 03 July 2010

Picture Hemsby and it is difficult to get away from benign summer images of its golden sands and a throng of happy families at holiday parks.

It is a long stretch to imagine those same beaches packed with ferocious Viking invaders, but this week's snow has given the coastal village a heaven-sent opportunity to promote plans for its first Scandinavian festival.

Picture Hemsby and it is difficult to get away from benign summer images of its golden sands and a throng of happy families at holiday parks.

It is a long stretch to imagine those same beaches packed with ferocious Viking invaders, but this week's snow has given the coastal village a heaven-sent opportunity to promote plans for its first Scandinavian festival.

Traders hope that next year's festival, building on Hemsby's possible historical links with the Vikings, will bring a much-needed economic lift following the devastating closure of Pontins a year ago.

A host of events has already been planned for the weekend of June 18-20, ranging from schools activities on the Friday to an Abba tribute bands contest on the Saturday and a Scandinavian market with crafts, food and clothes on the Sunday.

Organisers are currently negotiating with Viking re-enactment groups to set up a camp throughout the festival and take part in mock battles.

Designs have already been agreed for logos, including one of a Viking holding an ice cream cone over the slogan 1,200 years of seaside fun, which aim to make Hemsby synonymous with Vikings throughout the year.

Hemsby's Viking recreation has been the inspiration of Simon Middleton, a brand strategy consultant based in Norwich, who has worked on such high-profile brands as Adnams and Pret A Manger.

Mr Middleton, who will be joining traders in a trip to York's Jorvik festival in February, said: “The whole concept has been inspired by Pontins pulling out at the end of 2008.

“Traders running the cafes and attractions along Beach Road were concerned at the loss of 1,300 holiday beds and approached me because they realised they had a brand problem and needed to raise Hemsby's profile.”

Mr Middleton, who was so impressed by the traders he is giving his services free, “dreamed up a new story” based on Hemsby being a Viking name - the suffix 'by' indicating a town or settlement in Danish.

He said: “It is certainly the case that Norwich, Ipswich and Thetford were Viking towns and it is my contention that they had to land somewhere.

“Vikings travelled light and they did not leave a lot of stuff behind so it is hard to prove Hemsby's Viking connection but it seems likely. A lack of proof has not stopped Cornwall cashing in on King Arthur and Nottingham on Robin Hood.”

James Gray, who runs Lost World Adventure Golf, in Beach Road, described the Viking reinvention as a “brilliant idea”.

As a small resort, their ambition was to gradually build up the festival year on year, he said.

T-shirts, mugs and other souvenirs would be printed with the new logo and it was hoped all traders would help in cementing the new brand.

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