Ann Featherstone

Location: Ilkeston Derbyshire
About Dr Ann Featherstone

I am a retired university lecturer and teacher as well as a writer. I write non-fiction books and articles and I’m a historical novelist with two novels to my name. My particular interest is the 19th century: popular entertainment, theatre, music hall, circus and literature. I have appeared on The One Show, The World’s Oldest Joke (with Sir Michael Grade) and in documentaries about fairs and circuses on BBC4. I’ve been a guest expert on Who Do You Think You Are twice, once with Sheridan Smith and in the new 2016 series – the identity of that celebrity I’m not at liberty to reveal! My talks are informative, well-researched and well-presented. Someone said to me recently, “I could have listened to you for another hour!” Praise indeed.

About her talks...

All my talks are illustrated with good quality Powerpoint slides. Although I can bring my own projector, I will need either a screen or a blank wall.

I can offer all of my talks as virtual presentations (zoom).


£50 plus modest travelling expenses if more than 10 miles from my base in Ilkeston, Derbyshire.

I will travel in to the following areas: Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, East Midlands, West Midlands, South Yorkshire as far as South Manchester.

My Contact Details:

0115 8770797


First bite: the earliest stage performances of Bram Stoker's Dracula

1924. The year that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was transformed into a stage play and had its premiere, not at a glitzy West End theatre,  but in Derby, at the Grand Theatre, Babington Lane. Here, Dracula’s trademark long black cape was first seen and a nurse patrolled the aisles to aid terror-stricken members of the audience!

'Fearfully and wonderfully made': the extraordinary life of Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man

Films, TV programmes and books have been written about Joseph Merrick. But who was he? What do we really know about this remarkable man and the people who claimed to befriend him?



'I'll polish him off!': the curious history of Sweeney Todd

Pies and cannibalism, barbering and butchering, myths and truths. Why is the story of this 18th murderer so fascinating?


'Here we are again!': a (very) brief history of pantomime

A peculiarly British tradition, pantomime burst upon the London stage more than 250 years ago. With its grotesque Dame and breathtaking scenery, it is still going strong. In this talk, I talk about interesting moments in its history from the Regency period to the present day.

Season's Greetings: a Christmas Miscellany

To get you in the festive mood, here are seasonal poems, snippets of Yuletide traditions, a dose of Stanley Holloway, and childhood memories of a 1960s Christmas.

1. Fools and horses: the Victorian circus

The history of the Victorian is one of high success and dreadful failure, of fires, falls and fabulous feats. Of horses, equilibrists, aerial acts and clowns, and the men (and women) who rode, tumbled, swung and gagged. Of ‘Lord’ George Sanger whose circus was pitched at Windsor Castle to perform for Queen Victoria. And Charlie Keith who invented the first iron circus. This talk provides a fascinating insight into this little known aspect of Victorian entertainment.

2. Music hall: the singers and the songs

Music hall programmes included many acts, from comedians to jugglers and performing dogs, but the stars of the halls were almost always singers: Marie Lloyd, Gus Elen, Vesta Victoria, Albert Chevalier. This talk is about those singers (and many others) and the songs they sang, from anti-war ditties to those about marriage, holidays and working life. I illustrate the talk, too, by singing some of the songs myself.

4. Sydney Race's Nottingham nights: Goose Fair, shop shows and theatres

Sydney Race, from his early teens, kept an irregular journal in which he wrote about his fascination with the amusements Nottingham had to offer – the annual Goose Fair where Race first saw moving pictures, visits from tenting circuses and portable theatres, freak shows which established themselves briefly in empty shops, and the Theatre Royal, where he saw Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. This talk explores these fascinating glimpses into Edwardian entertainment, using Race’s journals and a large collection of contemporary images.

6. The Victorian fair: freaks and fisticuffs

Think of freak shows and boxing booths, primitive roundabouts and gingerbread, noise, mayhem and crime – the Victorian statute fair, wakes or mop. This talk looks at the history of the fair and explores some of the fascinating shows and showmen that emerged from the 19th century fairground.

7. Music Hall: a few more singers and songs

For those who enjoyed the first round of Music Hall and want more, here is my follow-up talk, featuring more singers, songs and their history.


8. Maidens, murderers and monsters: Victorian melodrama revealed

A fascinating exploration of the dark and dreadful world of Victorian melodrama, with handsome heroes, winning heroines and dastardly villains. And a brief detour into soap operas from Crossroads to The Archers.

10. Extraordinary Eaters: from giant feasts to stones, cannons and frogs

A light-hearted look at the people who ate and starved for a living. What they consumed – or didn’t. How they performed and where. And what the views of the church, the medical profession and their audiences tells us about the changing attitudes to food.

12. A Storm in a Teashop: the Waitresses' Strike of 1908

At lunch time, 8th April 1908, all the waitresses at the Cabin Restaurant, Piccadilly Circus, came out on strike. Under the leadership of waitress Miss ‘Ken’ Ware, their action closed the restaurant and they were dismissed. Their response was to open their own co-operative restaurant, Ken’s Kabin, on Brompton Road, rejecting overtures from the Women’s Freedom League and distancing themselves from the suffrage movement in general. They were radical women who chose to ‘go it alone.’

14. The Baby-killer and the Thief: Two Victorian Crimes and Punishments

Harriet Turner and James Foster – two young people who made terrible decisions which changed their lives irrevocably. One killed her baby, the other stole a watch. One narrowly avoided hanging, the other was transported to Australia. In this talk I examine not only the crimes and the punishments, but also their contexts. Why was the baby killed? Why was the watch stolen? What were conditions like on the convict hulks and in local prisons?


Ann Featherstone Contact Details:

0115 8770797


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