VIDEO: Why history is hot in Gloucester
By Mark Owen and David Wood | 11th September 2023
The Gloucester History Festival talks got off to a blistering start with record crowds, sell-out events and brilliant sunshine.
As weekend temperatures reached 30C (86F), the first two days of the autumn Blackfriars Talks exceeded all expectations.
Big crowds of festival-goers from as far away as Leeds, London and Liverpool flocked to the mediaeval priory in the city centre for a series of events featuring some of Britain's top authors and broadcasters including Countdown wordsmith Susie Dent, A House Through Time presenter David Olusoga, actor Stephen McGann and screenwriter Heidi Thomas from Call the Midwife, and the 'rockstar mythologist' Natalie Haynes.
Former Foreign Secretary David Owen brought a personal perspective to the history of UK-Russian relations with tales of his meetings with leading Soviet figures such as Leonid Brezhnev and Andrei Gromyko.
Gloucester History Festival curator Sarah Smyth was delighted with the response: She said: "This has been a tremendous start to what promises to be an extraordinary week. Our audiences are proving just what an appetite there is for compelling stories of the past."
During the Blackfriars Talks, Punchline editor Mark Owen caught up with Dr Janina Ramirez, author, TV presenter and president of Gloucester History Festival.
She told him: "I've been involved with Gloucester History Festival for eight years and in that we've had a vision and a dream that we would turn it into an eclectic, desirable exploration of the past.
"I'm over-excited this year. When I received my copy of the brochure this year I cried because I was so happy that we're reaching our potential and now it's more exciting than ever."
Asked who her favourite festival guest ever was, Janina had no hesitation in naming David Olusoga, saying:. "I shouldn't have a favourite but he's been one of my dearest friends for years and he has stood by this festival since the beginning."
She also revealed that she had accepted the lifetime presidency of the Gloucester History Festival, having been asked by Richard Graham MP, chairman of Gloucester History Trust
She added: "I cannot tell you how much this festival means to me. Gloucester History Festival is a vehicle for empowering the people of Gloucester to appreciate what's around them and to find pride in themselves and pride in their city. The regeneration of Gloucester is staggering."
"I want to shout it from the rooftops - Gloucester is a hidden gem. Come here and understand our history and that's why the history festival needs to be here."
The festival continues until Sunday 17th September with appearances to come from former Prime Minister Theresa May, rock music legend Robert Plant, the BBC's veteran Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen and Radio 4 broadcaster James Naughtie among others.
The true story of the most famous woman in Victorian Britain is revealed on Thursday (14th September) by Sunday Times best-selling author Helen Rappaport. She will separate fact from fiction in the life of Mary Seacole, best-known for her work to aid suffering servicemen during the Crimean War.
On Saturday (16th September), Tracy Borman will be discussing a topic which is close to her heart. The Tudor historian, Channel 5 presenter and joint chief curator of the historic royal palaces will tell the extraordinary tale of the mother and daughter who changed history; Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I.
Blackfriars Talks take place at Blackfriars Priory, Ladybellegate Street, Gloucester.
Gloucester History Festival is run by the Gloucester History Trust charity.
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