Today – I attend the Spellbound Exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford for a preview of Sky’s new series A Discovery of Witches
As well as being a keen traveller I’m also an avid reader. In fact, I think the two really go hand in hand. Many of my trips have been inspired by a location in a book that has really appealed to me. I also find that when a book has a great sense of place I enjoy it all the more.
Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy, the basis for Sky One’s new series A Discovery Of Witches, is a case in point. The backdrop of the beautiful, historic university city of Oxford brings so much to the books and the series. This made Oxford the perfect place for an early screening of the first episode which I was invited to attend last week.
Deborah Harkness started by meeting lots of fans at Oxford Waterstones. It’s clear she has a great passion for the city as well as her characters. Check out this little video where she introduces you to some of the parts of Oxford found in A Discovery Of Witches:
Spellbound Exhibition – Ashmolean Museum
Before the screening itself, which was to be held in the impressive surroundings of the Ashmolean Museum, we had the chance to visit their Spellbound exhibition. This explores the history of magic over eight centuries. It showcases a range of objects and documents that demonstrate how magic was a significant part of our ancestors’ lives.
It also raises the question of how much magical thinking actually still happens in our modern skeptical world. Making wishes, avoiding ladders, it’s more common than you’d imagine when you actually stop to think about it. Perhaps that’s why books and programmes based around these themes continue to be so popular.
This unnerving contraption is a witch scale. It’s designed to test out whether a woman was a witch by weighing her against a bible. If you’d like to see it up close, along with a bottle that reputedly still holds a witch and lots of other interesting items you can visit this special exhibition until 6th January 2019. You can get tickets from the Ashmolean website.
A Discovery Of Witches
Now I don’t want to spoil it for those of you haven’t read the books but essentially Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy is a supernatural romance focused around a reluctant but powerful witch and a mysterious vampire. In modern day Oxford, where our central character Diana Bishop is an academic, humans are unaware of the witches, vampires and daemons living amongst them and of the power struggles between them.
Diana is living her life without magic until the discovery of an ancient manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library throws her into the heart of a dangerous mystery – and into the path of enigmatic geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont. As Diana and Matthew start to unravel the secrets of the manuscript, events threaten to unravel the fragile peace existing between the creatures. Check out the trailer below:
Looks great, right? And do you see what I mean about its sense of place really adding to the story? All those shots of Oxford and Venice suck you straight in, don’t they? Getting to see the first episode in the glorious surroundings of the Ashmolean was just perfect. Having said that, I think you’ll enjoy it just as much on your sofa at home.
The First Episode
With so much content and ‘backstory’ in the books, it would be easy for the series to try to cram in too much exposition at the beginning. Also, there’s always the potential to try and appeal just to the book’s original fans with lots of ‘insider’ references. Luckily, the series opener does neither. It introduces you to the main characters and their world with just enough information to leave you wanting more.
I can’t wait for the rest of the series. It will be starting on Sky One or Now TV on Friday 14th September at 9pm. Don’t miss it!
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I was invited to this event as a guest of Sky One. All opinions are, as ever, my own.