Time Team’s new presenter is a leading museum director and diversity champion, producers have revealed, as the archaeology series stages a comeback
Sir Tony Robinson hosted the Channel 4 programme from 1994 through to specials in 2014 before its eventual cancellation, but the cult show has been revived by fans with a 21st century format.
Gus Casely-Hayford, inaugural director of the V&A East in Stratford, east London and former director of the Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington, has been named as the programme’s new presenter for episodes set to air online later this year.
Sir Tony Robinson, far left, in Time Team
Britain’s most senior black museum director penned the foreword for a National Trust report on links between colonialism and stately homes, including that of Winston Churchill, arguing that work exploring UK history should be “ever more inclusive”
As a former National Trust Trustee and executive at Arts Council England he has pushed for greater diversity in the heritage sector. He chaired an English Heritage committee to make its Blue Plaque scheme less dominated by white historical figures.
The experienced presenter has aimed to raise the profile of African art and history in the UK, including in the BBC series Lost Kingdoms of Africa, and has hosted The Culture Show
It is understood that Time Team’s producers have welcomed Mr Casely-Hayford’s expertise in reaching more diverse audiences, which forms part of his remit at the V&A East.
Mr Casely-Hayford will share hosting duties with Radio 4 presenter Natalie Haynes
The historian said it was an “utter privilege to join the timelessly enjoyable and ever informative Time Team”, which has retained a large following with the help of an online archive of classic episodes.
The show, which followed frantic and occasionally fruitless three-day archaeological digs, was revived with the help of this fanbase through a crowdfunding campaign.
Mr Casely-Hayford will share hosting duties with author and Radio 4 presenter Natalie Haynes, a classicist and comedian who is best-known for her popular history programme Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics.
The team dig in
Tim Taylor,Time Team creator and series producer, said the pair are ideal to lead the programme into a “new chapter” and that they share his passion for sharing history “with a wider audience”
Original presenter and “honorary patron” Sir Tony has also backed the new presenting duo for the show, which has a following of 150,000 on Youtube.
Inaugural digs have been filmed at a Roman villa in Oxfordshire – on the land of Martin Fiennes, cousin of Ralph Fiennes who starred in archaeological drama The Dig – and an Iron Age settlement in Cornwall.
The latter was suggested by fans themselves, as producers aim to include viewers as both contributors and patrons, with continued funding dependent on their donations.
Time Team’s original run was known for its spats between archaeologists with competing theories, including Francis Pryor and the late Mick Aston, and technology largely limited to trowels and “geo-phys”.
New episodes will have a greater range of technological tricks, producers have said, with drone-mounted photogrammetry able to render sites in accurate 3-D models, and X-ray fluorescence that reveals the chemical make-up of different materials.
Fans will be able to access virtual reality tours through sites and will be treated to 3-D fly-throughs during episodes.
Time Team will also be taking a broader view of site history with forgotten heritage and a broader range of social stories brought to the fore.
A new behind-the-scenes feature called Dig Watch will be available to paying fans through the crowdsourcing site Patreon, but new episodes of the programme will be free on Youtube.
Producers have said that despite the advances in technology and the new format, the show will primarily remain about the thrill of making archaeological finds.