Interview: Historian Neil Oliver coming to Harrogate

Rock star looks - Popular TV historian and archaeologist Neil Oliver who is coming to Harrogate Theatre..
Rock star looks - Popular TV historian and archaeologist Neil Oliver who is coming to Harrogate Theatre..

Popular historian and archaeologist Neil Oliver may have appeared in a million episodes of BBC documentary series Coast - well, it seems that way at least - but he’s never done a live tour before.

As it happens, the plain-speaking but humorous TV presenter will take to the stage for the first time in his life as a ‘solo star’ at Harrogate Theatre on Monday, October 1.

The occasion is the opening night tour of his latest book – The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places which will be published by Bantam Press on September 20 .

He said: “I’m not nervous but I’d say I’m approaching it with some trepidation.

“I have done a lot of publicity jaunts before but nothing as sustained as this.”

The ‘pull’ may have been coming across some amazing places on his trips by acccident round the British Isles while researching previous books and TV shows but the ‘push’ is more mundane.

Neil, who is president of the National Trust in Scotland, said: “TV is always evolving and, to some extent, there’s not so many long-form TV documentaries getting made as when I did The Story of Scotland or Vikings. They’re not so fashionable at the moment.

“Rather than waiting around for a new series to be commissioned, I could see there was an audience out there for a talking tour.

“There’s a renewed interest in live events. More and more people like myself as doing it these days.”

With his long black hair, I tell him he looks a bit like a guitarist from a metal band but, for his first tour, Neil says there will be no entourage and no gimmicks.

Only a couple of stage tech guys will accompany on his jaunt round the theatres of Great Britain.

With the aid of some slides, a lot of knowledge and his soft Scottish burr the show – and the book – the man, who is also president of the National Trust in Scotland, will give a potted history of Britain from the earliest hunter-gatherers to the present day by talking about 100 places he has visited in person.

The expected mix with the surprising, the famous with the little known but it all adds up to making Britain the special place it is.

The journey sees Neil travelling from Staithes in North Yorkshire to Saint Nectan’s Glen in Cornwall, the Millennnium Dome in London to the White Cliffs of Dover.

His viewpoint is headspinningly vast but always very personal and personable.

He said: “The places are a real mix; one goes as far back at 900,000 years.

I’ve been travelling round for a long time now.

“The idea is to remind people of the great depth of history and landscape Britain has.

“It’s not a definitive history but it does make sense.

I chose them to give a unique picture of Britain."

Neil Oliver - The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places comes to Harrogate Theatre on Monday, October 1.

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