Greg Jenner describes himself as a public historian. As historical consultant to the Horrible Histories TV series, he was responsible for the factual accuracy of 1,600 sketches and 100 comedy songs. Greg’s been consultant to TV dramas such as Versailles, as well as a panellist and a stand-up comedian. He’s on TV, radio and Twitter (where he is hilarious – sample below), constantly doing all he can to make history popular and accessible. So you can expect a very entertaining hour with him on Sunday 30 April at 11:00 when he discusses his book A Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Ordinary Life, From Stone Age to Phone Age. It’s a brilliantly entertaining romp through the evolution of our daily routines, answering important questions such as: When did we start cleaning our teeth? Who came up with the idea of beds? Which came first: wine or beer? His history of our everyday life has something for everyone. Highly recommended for teens – but be warned, history can be contagious!
For over a century, writers and poets have attempted to capture the devastation and the poignancy of the First World War. John Lewis-Stempel’s Where Poppies Blow covers fresh ground. A farmer, naturalist and military historian, John describes the relationship between soldiers and the natural world during the fighting. Using first-hand diaries and accounts, he brings a new perspective to this much-covered conflict. Soldiers who found solace in birdwatching and in hearing skylarks ringing out above the bombardment. Fighters who sought distraction through growing vegetables and flowers in the trenches – apparently celery did very well. Animal-lovers who drew strength from the stoicism of their horses. The natural world offered a glimpse of peace and harmony even in the most hellish conditions. Find out more on Friday 28 April at 18:00.
“To care about a place, you must know its story,” writes Nicholas Crane. He’s an explorer, a geographer, and a presenter on TV’s Coast. In The Making of the British Landscape he starts our island story when Britain was still part of mainland Europe and leads us through Roman times to industrialisation, with writers, historians and commentators as his guides. We learn about extreme climate change, from little ice ages to tsunamis, and about the waves of immigrants who drained, shaped and built the landscape we now know. Hear Nicholas on Sunday 30 April at 11:00. He will be in conversation with broadcaster and anthropologist Mary-Ann Ochota, a very popular author at last year’s festival who enjoyed it so much she asked to come back as an interviewer!
Beatrix Potter was born in 1866 and died in 1943. Matthew Dennison’s biography leads us through a fascinating period of British history; from her genteel upbringing in Kensington to her final years at Hill Top Farm in Lancashire, via the turning point in 1893 when she wrote a story about four little rabbits to amuse a little boy who was ill. Matthew shows us the Beatrix Potter we don’t always see – a woman struggling for artistic freedom and independence. Hear Matthew on Over the Hills and Far Away, the Life of Beatrix Potter, Sunday 30 April 13:00-14:00.
There are only a few tickets left for Jenni Murray’s Saturday session on A History of Britain in 21 Women. But you’ll be able to buy her book about the women who revolutionised our world at Jaffé & Neale’s pop-up bookshops or at their main store in town.
And, finally, to history in the making, and 2017. Ian Dunt, editor-in-chief of politics.co.uk and columnist for the Guardian and the Times, asks a very good question: Brexit: What the Hell Happens Now? The book of the same title was serialised in the Independent, has won glowing reviews in a variety of magazines and was sent to every MP in the country. Join him at the Festival’s closing debate in the Town Hall on Sunday 30 April at 15:00 and see if you can help provide an answer.
Greg Jenner on Twitter
“Of all the superheroes, Ombudsman is the most disappointing.”
"Fly me to the Moon, let me play among the stars" - Frank Sinatra. "I need to borrow your shuttle, I can't say why..." - Evasive Sinatra.
In medieval English, Benedict Cumberbatch literally meant "newly-blessed husband who destroys cakes and buns"