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The Story Of The British Isles In 100 Places with Neil Oliver

by Emily Healey-Lynham

From much-loved historian Neil Oliver, comes this beautifully written, kaleidoscopic history of a place with a story like no other: The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places, this book is currently being toured by Neil till November.

I was lucky enough to see Neil at the Assembly Hall Theatre, in Tunbridge Wells to see the famous TV historian discuss his new book to a warm reception from a crowd of fans awaiting his every word.

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. Whilst filming Coast, Neil says 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 Two’s Two Men in a Trench which featured Oliver and his close friend Tony Pollard visiting historic British battlefields. Since that time he has been a regular on our screens.

Wearing his TV outfit of the beloved scarf and chinos Neil came on stage to speak in front of a large screen, panicking it was going to be a “death by PowerPoint presentation” I was pleasantly surprised by the humour and warmth Neil brought to the room. The map behind showed the 100 places that feature in the book and Neil explained about his decisions for choosing the places.

The British Isles, this archipelago of islands, is to Neil Oliver the best place in the world. From north to south, east to west it cradles astonishing beauty. The human story here is a million years old, and counting. But the tolerant, easy-going peace we enjoy has been hard won. We have made and known the best and worst of times. We have been hero and villain and all else in between, and we have learned some lessons.The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places is Neil’s very personal account of what makes these islands so special, told through the places that have witnessed the unfolding of our history. Beginning with footprints made in the sand by humankind’s earliest ancestors, he takes us via Romans and Vikings, the flowering of religion, through civil war, industrial revolution and two world wars. From windswept headlands to battlefields, ancient trees to magnificent cathedrals, each of his destinations is a place where, somehow, the spirit of the past seems to linger.

My only fault would be that some of the places did not have photos – Neil did describe them well but it would be great to have a visual. I also thought it would be interesting at the end for the map to zoom out so we could see where all 100 places were.

Neil took time out after the show to sign copies of his book so if you are a fan stick around!Leaving the show I thought this would make a fabulous TV series and how I want to visit every place in the book! Neil is very compelling and a great story teller, he really made the 2 hours fly by and I left feeling how every move and breath I take is a part of history and we should all enjoy the British Isles for the broad sweep of history and landscape we have on our doorstep.

The show is touring till November 20th 2018 and more information can be found on Neil’s website: http://www.neiloliver.com/

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