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BBC Coast presenter Neil Oliver coming to Southend for new tour

PUBLISHED: 11:20 18 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:27 18 September 2018

Neil Oliver

Neil Oliver

Archant

Neil Oliver is perhaps best known for his role as the presenter of the BBC’s Coast series, but he is about to embark on a quite different tour of the UK, calling in at Southend. Kate Everett found out more

Archaeologist, historian, author and presenter of the TV series Coast, Neil Oliver will be sharing his love of Great Britain at the Palace Theatre in Southend this autumn in his first ever UK theatre tour. The tour, The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places, is also the title of his forthcoming book that will be published by Bantam Press on September 20.

Neil, who was appointed as president of The National Trust in Scotland in 2017, is also known for his television series A History of Scotland and Vikings. While filming Coast, Neil commented that he, “fell in love all over again with the British Isles. From north to south, east to west it cradles astonishing beauty. The human story here is a million years old and counting.”

Born in Renfrewshire in Scotland, Neil Oliver studied archaeology at the University of Glasgow and freelanced as an archaeologist before training as a journalist. In 2002 he made his television debut with BBC 2’s Two Men in a Trench which featured Neil and his close friend Tony Pollard visiting historic British battlefields. Since that time,

he has been a regular on our screens.

The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places will give audiences the opportunity to share Neil’s enthusiasm and unique perspective of British history. In his amusing and entertaining way, Neil will explain what it all means to him and why we need to cherish and celebrate our wonderful countries. Essex Life’s Kate Everett spoke to Neil about his tour and his upcoming visit to Southend.

Southend Pier

What inspired you to go on tour?

I saw a flyer for Ray Mears’ show. He was going to be playing at the Albert Halls near us in Stirling and my wife said to me, “Why don’t you do a show like that?” I’ve done lots of book tours and festivals before, and I began to think how the book that had been commissioned from me, The Story of The British Isles in 100 Places, would lend itself particularly well to a tour of Britain.

So, I decided to do it and now I’m really excited about it.

How did you go about selecting those 100 places?

Writing is 50% of what I do, and I’m always thinking about the next book. Over the last 20 years, TV has taken me on a very unusual tour of Britain. As well as iconic places such as the White Cliffs of Dover, Edinburgh and Cardiff, I’ve gone to unexpected, remote places that take quite a lot of getting to.

They are places that people have never heard of, but I’d become aware that an idiosyncratic chronology of the British Isles had formed in my head.

Can you expand on that?

I had seen everything from very early human settlements around Happisburgh, where there are footprints from 800,000 years ago, through the stone and metal ages to sites connected to great moments from a more modern era.

I thought I could easily choose 100 places – in fact, I could have chosen 500. I realised there was a story to be told from very early to modern times by introducing people to these places.

Do you relish the prospect of meeting your fans face to face?

Definitely. People always ask me really interesting questions. They ask me, What’s your favourite place? What period of history would you go back to if you had a time machine? And who would you invite to a dinner party?

But the great thing is, the questions can be about literally anything. I’m not a specialist – I’m not just talking about the six wives of Henry VIII. In the show, I’ll be talking about anything that has happened in the last million years – that’s quite a big subject!

Are you looking forward to performing live?

Yes, although I am nervous about it. People assume that if you’re on television, you’re used to being looked at. I don’t deal with an audience in my TV work. I’m just with a cameraman, a soundman and a director. So the prospect of public speaking always makes me nervous – just as you’d be nervous about making a best man’s speech.

The tour is exciting, but nerve-racking. It’s the agony of anticipation, but I know it will ultimately be really enjoyable. I take great pleasure in telling stories, and I can’t wait to share them with people.

What do you hope that audiences will take away from The Story of The British Isles in 100 Places?

I hope people will go away with the same passion for history that I have. History can sometimes feel like a dry and dusty subject you studied at school, but I find it is as thrilling as any Marvel movie!

Find out more

See Neil Oliver The Story of The British Isles in 100 Places at the Southend Palace Theatre on Sunday, October 21. Tickets are available from the theatre box office at southendtheatres.org.uk or at www.neiloliver.com

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