Mick Aston, who died in June 2013, was a popular archaeologist loved by many for his informal manner, colourful jumpers and for making his subject both easily understandable and hugely enjoyable to millions of Time Team watchers around the world.
Five years on, Tony Robinson is teaming up with DigVentures to host a crowdfunded archaeology festival in his honour. Inspired by Mick’s lifelong mission to increase public understanding of archaeology and enable wider participation in the field, the festival intends to pick up where he left off: it’s a celebration of his legacy, and the start of something new too.
‘Mick was passionate about archaeology and in getting new audiences hooked on the excitement of a dig, whether by getting their hands dirty in a trench or watching discoveries unfold from the comfort of their own sofa’ says Tony Robinson.
‘DigNation will allow audiences from around the world to be part of the action in ways that wouldn’t have been possible even a few years ago, and Mick would have loved that’ he says.
Taking place on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in Northumberland, the festival will also be available to watch online, and will feature two days of live excavations, talks by high profile archaeologists and other ‘Fringe’ activities that can be enjoyed by crowdfunders around the world.
The festival is being organised by DigVentures, and talks will celebrate Mick’s four main areas of expertise – Monastic Archaeology, Medieval Settlements, Landscape Archaeology, and Public Archaeology and Science.
‘Mick understood more than anyone that uncovering the past was something that everyone could get involved with, and enjoy. Like Mick, we’re always trying to find new ways to bring archaeology to as wide a field as possible, and we can’t wait to see how livestreaming the festival is going to help us to do this even better’ Lisa Westcott-Wilkins, co-founder of DigVentures, has said.
In addition to the talks and dig, there will be ‘Fringe’ events, and a Saturday evening keynote lecture by Tony Robinson. The virtual festival allows participants of all ages and levels of experience to be part of the excitement and fulfils Mick’s aim of widening access to archaeological discovery.
People who pledge £25 and crowdfund the festival in return for a Virtual Ticket ‘Virtual Festival’ programme will be invited to take part through live streaming and specially curated podcasts and video footage from the weekend, with the support of festival media partner Dan Snow and the History Hit channel.
Those able make it in person will also enjoy the island’s rich history. Just opposite Bamburgh Castle (or Bebbanburg as fans of the Vikings will know it), Lindisfarne is one of the most iconic sites in England’s early Medieval history. Renowned as the place where King Oswald of Northumbria founded an ill-fated monastery in AD635. Wealthy, vibrant and sat at the heart of the Northumbrian power, the monastery was eventually abandoned after a series of Viking raids. Its exact location remained unknown for over 1,000 years until 2016 when DigVentures discovered new evidence of its whereabouts.
DigNation will take place 22nd-23rd September 2018, alongside the last two days of this year’s excavation at Lindisfarne. Crowdfunders will be able to choose a range of rewards, from t-shirts and tickets, to dig experiences and finds handling.
Any funding received over the target will be allocated to dig scholarships, archaeological charities supported by Mick, and further work to make archaeology more accessible to everyone.
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