This year our Blackfriars Talks offer a free virtual programme featuring the country’s top historians, writers and broadcasters 

Every year the Blackfriars Talks programme at the Gloucester History Festival brings the country’s top historians, authors, comedians, actors and politicians together to share their love of history under the ancient beams of Gloucester’s Blackfriars Priory.

This year’s Blackfriars Talks programme is going virtual with a series of intriguing history talks and compelling conversations brought straight to your home from Saturday 12th – 19th September.

Our speakers include Mary Beard, Britain’s best known classicist and leading BBC broadcaster; Neil Gaiman, creator of Coraline and co-author of Good Omens; David Olusoga, author of Black and British: A Forgotten History; Samira Ahmed, BBC Radio 4 Front Row presenter; Michael Wood, broadcaster and historian; Bettany Hughes, broadcaster and writer; Michael Scott, star of BBC1’s Italy’s Invisible Cities and more.

Our festival makes history of its own this year, with our first ever programme of digital online events.

Following the most recent Covid-19 Government advice, a large amount of the festival will take place online including City Voices, celebrating the people that make up Gloucester.

City Voices online programme highlights include:


Take it to the Cleaners by artist Hannah Thomson; celebrating the unsung heroes of heritage and ensuring they are recognised for the invaluable work they do. At this online event, audiences will hear about their favourite objects or parts of the heritage sites they clean as well as their own experiences and stories. 


Gloucester Firsts by Rider Shafique and Tarsier Films; who present two short documentaries which explore Black History through telling the stories of firsts. The first Mosque and first Black Business. The films will include interviews with key community members and will look at the importance and influence of heritage and how people connected to these venues and businesses have continued to support the BAME community today.


BSL tour of Gloucester by Deaf artist Olivier Jamin and Christina Wheeler; who present a unique and engaging response to 2-3 sites across the city in BSL with subtitles for hearing audiences.


We See Gloucester (Do you see me?) – Working Title : The city through the lens of black photographers; Rider Shafique poignantly explores identity, culture and heritage through face coverings in a series of photographs of Gloucester people taken during lockdown. The exhibition also features photographers Elle-Bry Thomas and Phil Campbell.


“We believe with careful planning we will achieve same level of professionalism expected of the Festival with our online content. We are putting together an extraordinary programme of events which will not only encompass the City Voices programmes, but the Blackfriars talks too, with some elements of the Heritage Open Days programme also being available online.” 

– Janina Ramirez 

Gloucester History Festival Celebrates
a double birthday year…

… and plans to still deliver some elements of a live public programme.

This year marks a double celebration for Gloucester History Festival – the 10 th year of theFestival itself and the 25 th year of Heritage Open Days in the city.

Gloucester History Festival is doing everything it can to deliver some elements of a live programme across the 2 week festival which runs from Saturday September 5 to Sunday September 20 this year, but inevitably, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will be much changed with significant online and digital contributions for the first time. All the elements which have made the event so successful in the past will still be there this year.

Starting with the traditional Gloucester Day procession followed by City Voices events and Blackfriars Talks, then the Civic Trust organised Heritage Open Days (from Friday September 11 to Monday September 14).

Gloucester History Festival Talks.

Talks are planned to take place in front of a live audience at Blackfriars Priory, adhering to the latest Government recommendations for holding live events. The live events will be filmed, and broadcast-quality films will be available to view on the festival website the following day.

Speakers will include:


Leading historian and broadcaster Michael Wood who will explore the Story of China


Michael Scott, star of BBC’s Ancient Invisible Cities 


Festival President, Janina Ramirez who will present an item on medieval women.

“You can imagine how important it is for the Festival to celebrate its 10th year and we’re thrilled to be able to plan a live programme, albeit carefully and within guidelines. 

With every challenge there comes an opportunity and whilst we’re keen to welcome as many regular festival visitors as possible; we see this year as an opportunity to welcome new audiences to enjoy the Festival for the first time.” 

– Janina Ramirez 

City Voices Element

As part of the City Voices element of the festival, Historic England has made a grant to the city to inspire a citywide heritage response to COVID-19.

Entitled ‘Gloucester Looking Up’ it will encourage communities to look up at the buildings, look up online, look up their heritage and ensure that Gloucester’s built and lived heritage is part of a shared recovery.

As usual all Heritage Open Day events will be free of charge, and although the range of activities will be curtailed this year, the organiser Paul Drinkwater said: ‘‘At present we are planning guided walks limited to five guests per walk and access to venues, talks and music events in limited numbers with social distancing.’

Other ideas being considered are:- a display of Blue Plaque photos at St Nicholas; geocaching on Alney Island to pursue the national theme of ‘Hidden Nature’; developing talks on video and a self-guide booklet for Gloucester pubs and churches.


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