The Historical Producer from the highly-popular ‘Horrible Histories’ TV shows brought the past to life when he shared his fascinating experiences on the series with 95 History students at Richmond School and Sixth Form College.
Thanks to funding from North Yorkshire County Council’s Stronger Communities Team, 75 Year 11 GCSE students were enthralled by Henri’s stories from Horrible Histories. In addition, 20 Year 12 A-level students were invited to the Georgian Theatre to hear Henri in conversation with Philip Wicks, as part of the Richmond Walking and Book Festival. Both events were organised by volunteer and book lover, Carol Watson, who did a brilliant job in pulling everything together for the students.
Henri spoke about his career path and how he got into television – first of all as a runner making terrible cups of coffee, before doing research on Horrible Histories and then becoming the Historical Producer for the show. He explained his job, which is to think of interesting and different parts of History and research them in detail which are then explained to the comic-writing team who devise the sketches, before Henri fact-checks what has been written. Henry is on set throughout all the filming – he sometimes even has a cameo. The whole process from idea to TV show can take up to a year and a half. Henri showed the students clips of sketches and songs that he has written and explained where he has got the ideas from. He stressed the need for accuracy, or ‘good History’, as he called it and how sometimes it was easy to make mistakes – such as having the Union Jack flag the wrong way up or having Henry VIII talking about Britain when it was England during his reign, or the confusion with the two US Presidents called Roosevelt! He had loads of great stories!
Jack Riddlestone, in Year 10, said: “I most definitely enjoyed how Henri painted a behind-the-scenes picture of how Horrible Histories (one of my favourite childhood TV shows) was and is made, edited and produced. Whilst also speaking about History, Henri told us how his job came to be and all the fact checking and that actually entails this rather hard job. It was fun and enjoyable to hear all the funny stories about how he and his team actually stumbled upon stories to make them into the show we all enjoy today.”
Henri is working on other TV programmes, including filming for Channel 4 in Belgium about the battles of Dunkirk and Waterloo. He also mentioned an idea which he has pitched about our current Queen when she was younger and her girl guide troop that was created specially at Buckingham Palace. The students really enjoyed an animated Q and A, with Henri giving excellent answers with lots of examples. Both talks were excellent and it was a really brilliant opportunity for our students to meet someone who is using History in their everyday job.
Henri said: “It was a delight to speak with students at Richmond School as they are considering the next steps in their education. They asked some wonderfully inquisitive questions – a great skill for any future historian.”
The Georgian Theatre was a fantastic venue and created an intimate and friendly ambience encouraging the Sixth Form students to ask questions, such as cultural diversity in Horrible Histories and how people from different ethnic groups are portrayed.
Amelia Brown, Megan Cooper and Ross Wheatley, in Year 12, said: “Henri was not only very knowledgeable about History and extremely funny as well. He was very engaging and entertaining and his talk was really lively with jokes. He dispelled some of the myths in History, such as the apple falling on Newton’s head to find gravity. Henri had gone back to the original documents and found that he has used it as an example to explain gravity – it didn’t happen as the History books say! It was fascinating how Henri showed us links between History and other subjects, such as Science.”
Sophia Mawer, Lead Teacher for History, concluded: “Henri’s talks were a brilliant opportunity for the students to see the practical application of studying History and also for them to hear someone who was so animated and passionate about his work and History. All the students and staff gained a real insight into how Horrible Histories was made and it was a real honour to have someone so knowledgeable and enthusiastic talking to us. We are very proud that Richmond School has a strong connection with Horrible Histories as Simon Farnaby, alumnus, stars in the TV series.”