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Richard III discovery to feature in ‘Great British Railway Journeys’

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Richard III discovery to feature in ‘Great British Railway Journeys’

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Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Education and also in Communities, Environment

Richard Buckley, Michael Portillo and Mathew Morris Richard Buckley, Michael Portillo and Mathew Morris

A University of Leicester graduate has directed an episode of BBC Two’s popular programme ‘Great British Railway Journeys’, which details the rich history of Leicester, from Richard III to Victorian lifestyles in the city.

The episode, filmed in April last year and scheduled to air on Thursday 16 January at 6:30pm on BBC2, was directed by University of Leicester Economics and Social History graduate Tom Richardson.

‘Great British Railway Journeys’ is presented by Michael Portillo, who travels the UK rail network following Bradshaw’s Railway Guide.  George Bradshaw created one of the most detailed anthologies of British railways, making his guide an effective travel companion to this day.

During the episode, Professor Gail Marshall, Director of the Victorian Studies Centre at the University of Leicester and Professor of Victorian Literature in the School of English, is interviewed about the significance of Victorian railway networks and Bradshaw’s guide, and the relationship between William Shakespeare’s Richard III and the real historical figure.

Professor Marshall said: “’Great British Railway Journeys’ shows us how railways enabled connectivity throughout Victorian Britain in ways that had not been dreamt of by previous generations. Effectively, they helped to build modern Britain into a more unified nation.

“The railway guides Bradshaw published were crucial sources of reference for travellers in Britain and overseas. In quoting Shakespeare’s assertion that Richard III spent his last night before the Battle of Bosworth at the Blue Boar Inn in Leicester, Bradshaw shows how the writer, recognised in the Victorian age as a truly national playwright, was also part of that nation-building process, and how he gave a character to Leicester as a historically important city that is recognised even more fully today.”

In the spirit of Richard III, the filming team visited the Grey Friars site, where Richard Buckley and Mathew Morris, who were instrumental in the discovery of the last Plantagenet king, talked about their work. 

The episode concluded with a visit to the Adrian building at the University of Leicester, where genetic fingerprinting was discovered by Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys.

Tom directed four other episodes in the series, following Michael Portillo’s travels from London to Leeds, with the five episodes together comprising a single ‘journey’. He directed two ‘journeys’ in 2012 in Ireland and Scotland respectively, and has also written and directed two Spanish and Italian one-hour episodes of Great Continental Railway Journeys.

Tom Richardson’s career in television started when he was working as a landscape gardener while spending time in the USA. He got the opportunity to work as an assistant producer on a lifestyle programme and the research, analysis and writing skills he learned at the University of Leicester helped him to establish himself in the role. 

On moving back to the UK, Tom concentrated on his TV career and he has been working as a director since 2004.

Tom said: “I was really excited about being back in Leicester. I was looking forward to returning to a place where I had three of the best years of my life. 

“I was pleased to have the opportunity to bring our presenter, Michael Portillo, to Leicester. He was genuinely very impressed and in particular loved the fact Richard's grave was discovered conveniently close to the home of DNA fingerprinting!”

Great British Railway Journeys, produced by Boundless Productions, returns for its fifth series, starting at 6:30pm on Monday 6 January on BBC2. Tom’s Leicester episode will be broadcast on Thursday 16 January at 6:30pm on BBC2.

  • The Dig for Richard III was led by the University of Leicester, working with Leicester City Council and in association with the Richard III Society.  The originator of the Search project was Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society.

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