On Wednesday night I went to see Neil Oliver's "History in the Making" presentation at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. I have enjoyed this renowned TV presenter, historian and archaeologist's documentary series for years - grown up alongside them you could say, since Two Men in a Trench in 2002. I have also enjoyed A History of Scotland, A History of Ancient Britain, Celtic Britain, Vikings and Coast (UK). On the the first of December Coast Australia will premiere on the History Channel.Being a bit of a fan I was glad to have the opportunity to see him present in person.
I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation, a sort of coffee chat like interview, backed with big screen video links to parts of the series, with a an artificial starlight back drop and some stage prop rocks and a little wooden boat on the stage. Neil read a portion of the poem Call of the Wild before coming out on stage. And those things sort of give you an indication of what the talk was like and how Neil came across: a mixture of romanticism, passion for the past, realism when dealing with complex issues (especially those where we may never have a single solid complete answer), and a very casual and down to earth attitude. His style has a self-confessed reporting quality, perhaps because he was a journalist for many years, so whether something happened 10 years ago or 10,000 years ago, he feels that he is reporting that information to the audience as news. Not merely a bulletin, or a set of facts, but a human interest story, one that reflects something about people's lives and in turn, is part of a much bigger human story.
This quote has been floating around on a number of websites in publicity for the event:
"For me - the characters and events of the past are every bit as exciting as breaking news today. I want everyone to feel the same excitement about these stories as I do - even a sense of personal connection to them - so I am very much looking forward to presenting History in the Making live on stage in Sydney and Melbourne," said Neil Oliver. "We'll be evoking some of the most exciting periods of history and bringing them to life. If you'll excuse the pun this will be a ground breaking experience!"
Neil expressed the same sentiment in different stories, experiences and anecdotes throughout the night. I am not sure whether it is nurture via Neil's indirect influence through those documentaries over the years, or by my own education, or simply just my own natural disposition.But I certainly found myself reflecting with similar sentiments.