This is the 12th year since I had the mad idea of creating a Gloucester History Festival, and it’s going to be – as every year should be – slightly different, and I hope great fun: with overall themes of Families and Innovations.
Our new Festival Co-ordinator is Vicki Hopson, well known to many from her great work at the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, is working closely with Gloucester City Council and trustees (who’ve given much unpaid help) to make it all happen, and we’re all grateful for the kind patrons and generous sponsors who enable the small Gloucester History Trust charity to create the Festival.
Some key elements are unchanged:
First and foremost is our President Dr Janina Ramirez, irrepressible historian, teacher author and broadcaster – with her own new book Femina: A new history of the Middle Ages by the women written out of it (12 noon 17 Sep). The unsung Lionesses of their time?
Gloucester Day (Sat 3rd Sep) again opens this fortnight of fun, with Alan Myatt in charge of the mock Mayor of Barton making, and a formal parade with veterans, Councillors, cadets and possibly Venus: and a service back in St Mary de Crypt that reminds us that however bad things might seem they have been worse – and particularly 369 years ago in August 1643. But there will be new elements to the day as well – more of that closer the time.
Heritage Open weekend (9-11 Sep) likewise sees so many great normally closed to the public buildings opened for free: with guides to explain more, and walks and music recitals as well. Many are conveniently close to, pubs. Some events need to be booked via www.civictrust.org.
Our Blackfriars Talks (16-18 Sep) are still in Gloucester’s great Dominican priory setting, unrivalled by any Hist Fest elsewhere. We’ve condensed the number to a dozen star events over three days, put together by curator Sarah Smyth. So there’s less danger of exhaustion if (like some fans) you want to join them all. That also means booking early to avoid disappointment (see below for booking links and some comments on the Talks).
There’s a modest change of name for what was our City Voices programme to Voices Gloucester, to avoid confusion with another organisation of the same name. The 14 Voices Gloucester events will be spread in different venues as before – several in the Gloucestershire Heritage Hub (ex Glos Archives), only 10 mins walk from the city centre: but also the newly restored Llanthony Secunda, with its lovely loosely Tudor garden in this green lung beside the canal. More on the events below.
The four King’s Talks (9-14 Sep) are new this year and I hope the beginning of an exciting partnership. King’s School has been going for nearly 500 years, as well as being part of Hogwarts, serious History Festival credentials. The talks will all be in the Ivor Gurney Hall (named after the World War 1 poet and composer, also commemorated in gorgeous, thought provoking stained glass in the Lady Chapel), on the north side of the Cathedral.
City archaeologist Andrew Armstrong is giving two of them, broadly based on his book with Phil Moss, ‘Gloucester Recreating the Past’. Both are entirely free: one for primary school pupils and the other for secondary school pupils and students. Anyone who might have a child or grandchild interested in coming do read the details on the link below and be in touch with us via e mail on firstname.lastname@example.org or through our website www.gloucesterhistoryfestival.co.uk
The other two talks at King’s are the most recent biography by Mark Turnbull on King Charles 1, our only monarch literally to lose his head, and a topical talk/discussion panel with Iain Dale, author and editor of The Prime Ministers, with myself and students: what does history teach us about a role you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy? There will be some free tickets for students at both events and some for sale to a wider audience. For parents / grandparents of the former again do contact us below.
So what should I highlight for you?
I like the mix of the Voices Gloucester programme. If you’re a Gloucester resident especially the story of arguably our city’s oldest company, Nick’s Timber (Glos Heritage Hub 11.00 3 Sep) is interesting, although it clashes with the Mock Mayor making on Southgate St: and the film on our muslim community Gloucester’s Glory 14.00—16.00 5 Sep in The Friendship Café (easily accessed off Eastern Avenue down Barton St) gives a new perspective on our earliest Gujarati immigrants. Then there’s Slavery & Abolitionism in Gloucestershire (a display in Shire Hall 10-4 Mon-Fri throughout the festival), and talks on our Engineering Heritage, an LGBT community documentary, practical tips on handling family photographs and a Kindertransport exhibition that follows the recent plaque opened in Alexandra St. Great variety.
In the Blackfriars Talks by the great names – Michael Wood (an updated version of his first much loved book on the Dark Ages: 18.00 16 Sep), Alice Roberts (on Buried, the stories of the dead 14.00 17 Sep) and Robert Harris (best known as the novelist author of Enigma, Fatherland and Munich, but here on The 1660 Act of Oblivion: 12.00 18 Sep) as well as Janina herself (above) will all rightly sell fast.
I’m fascinated by the timing of former Foreign Secretary David Owen’s book on Riddle Mystery & Enigma: 200 years of British-Russian relations. What did David forsee (20.15 16 Sep)? And what lessons does former Cold War Moscow based journalist Martin Sixsmith have for us? (Inside the Cold War mind: 16.15 17 Sep)
Then there is Gloriana (Elizabeth) whom we think we know (Siobhan Clarke 20.00 17 Sep), and others we know less well – The Red Prince: John of Gaunt (‘brought swashbuckingly to life’ Helen Carr 18.00 17 Sep), Harold Wilson (16.00 18 Sep) by his biographer and my historian Labour colleague Nick Thomas-Symonds: and two takes on Partition (Prof Yasmin Khan and journalist Kavita Puri: 18.00 18 Sep).
If this wasn’t a rich enough menu of history around the world, then we have two joys from very close by: the defence of England from the Vikings in Fortress of God (14.00 18 Sep) by our own Andrew Armstrong, drawing on the great heroine of Mercia, Aethelflaed (buried somewhere here in Gloucester) and Andy again with fellow Gloucester author Phil Moss on the Secrets of Westgate Street (16.00 16 Sep). These too, I predict, will sell like hotcakes.
I hope this leaves you feeling hungry for more – because one option we’re looking at is to have a weekend in the Spring and even one in the Winter when we host other talks, and make the Festival more of an all year experience.
Meanwhile the booking system opened yesterday via www.gloucesterhistoryfestival.co.uk so please do go on and give yourself, family and friends a treat at one of our events. See you there!
PS Let me know your thoughts on another Spring Weekend, like the one where we reburied Aetheflaed a few years ago, or even a Winter Weekend special