Dan Snow talks The History Guy as the show comes to The Assembly Hall

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On Monday, popular TV presenter Dan Snow brings his new show The History Guy to the Assembly Hall. The Times finds out what made him decide to do his first live tour, and why history isn’t just all about ‘dead kings, old libraries and dust’

Can you please talk us through the motivation behind The History Guy?
When you’re making television and podcasts, it’s very lonely. You sit by yourself and think: ‘Is anyone watching?’ That’s why TV presenters take to Facebook Live. That gives you the number of viewers at the bottom of the screen. It might be only five people, but at least you know someone is there!

Can you tell us more about the show?
Doing live events at book festivals and book launches is a huge treat because you get to meet people. It’s an enormous boost to the confidence to know there are people out there following what you do! The tour is the first time I’ve done this in an organised way where we’ve been able to build a proper show. It’s a great chance to meet people and say thank you to those on whom my career
depends. I’m really looking forward to it.

What will you be talking about in the show?
A large chunk of it will be about local history. It will have direct relevance to the place we’re in. That’s not difficult to write. As well as Tunbridge Wells, I’m going to St Albans: That was an incredible Roman settlement that was destroyed by Boudicca. I’m also visiting Shrewsbury: That was the site of the Battle of Shrewsbury, where Henry IV defeated a rebel army led by Henry ‘Harry Hotspur’ Percy. I’m going to Newark, too, which has really unusual fortifications.

Do members of the public help you with your research?

Yes they do. I get lots of messages on my Facebook page. There is so much history out there it’s ridiculous, and I find the stories that people send me fascinating. Also, it’s easier to become knowledgeable in an aspect of history.
It’s not like physics where you need a $300billion particle accelerator in the house to become an expert. I am really looking forward to interaction
with the audiences at my shows.

Do people want to recount their personal histories, too?

Yes they often want to tell me all about their family history or the part their family played in history, like a soldier in the First World War. A huge number of people tell me stories about their ancestors. They will say something like: ‘My
father was the first black RAF pilot.’

Listening to them, you realise how many firsts there are. Is your hope that you can captivate audiences with your infectious enthusiasm for your subject?
Yes! History is not all about dead kings, old libraries and dust. It’s everything. It’s your parents’ eyes meeting across a crowded room, and why we are who we are, and why we are speaking English, and why it’s acceptable for women and men to mingle together. I hope people walk out of the theatre saying
that they had a really good time. I also hope they leave having thought deeply about the past of their town, their country and their world.

History’s become fashionable again, hasn’t it?
Yes. In the 1990s history was very unfashionable. People thought that history was ‘finished’. But 9/11 changed all that. It was a huge wake-up call. It reminded everyone that many people around the world felt that history was not finished. They felt enormous resentment about the fact that some people
thought that the hands of history had stopped.

Dan Snow: An Evening with ‘The History Guy’ is on Monday, July 9 at 7.30pm. Tickets
start from £25 and can be booked via www.assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk. For more on Dan Snow, visit his online TV channel, History Hit TV www.tv.historyhit.com

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