Career steeped in history

Tony Robinson is on his way to Belfast
Tony Robinson is on his way to Belfast

Veteran TV star Tony Robinson is coming to Northern Ireland this week ... and the good news is he won’t mind if you shout ‘Baldrick’ at him.

The 71-year-old presenter spoke to the News Letter ahead of two events in Belfast this coming Thursday.

Tony Robinson with the team from Britain's Ancient Tracks

Tony Robinson with the team from Britain's Ancient Tracks

In the afternoon he will be ‘In Conversation’ with Brian Henry Martin – the NI director who worked with him on Britain’s Ancient Tracks – to discuss Mr Robinson’s rich and varied career as a presenter, actor and writer.

The same evening the London-born presenter will be in the QFT to talk about his autobiography – No Cunning Plan.

The TV icon, whose most famous role was Baldrick in the iconic Blackadder series, commented: “I get Baldrick every day and that’s cool. I know some people do a series and feel forever after weighed down by it. I don’t.

“Firstly because I was lucky enough to have a lot of successful series after that. And secondly because it didn’t happen until I was 38 by which time I’d been in showbusiness for a quarter of a century so I was only too grateful.”

Presenter Tony Robinson on St Bees beach

Presenter Tony Robinson on St Bees beach

He said: “My kids say they will never watch any of my shows with me because I get so grumpy. I’m a perfectionist. I feel I’ve never got any television programme right that I’ve been in.

“If I thought I got it right maybe that would be the time to retire so there’s a good side to it as well.

“I should say I’d like to erase a good 30% of the programmes I’ve been in. Hopefully they’ve all disappeared into the dustbin of television history. I’m not going to repeat any names in case I attract more attention to them.”

He added: “I was terribly proud of (kids’ sitcom) Maid Marion. I had been in TV comedy for about six years and I was a dad and I wanted to put what I had learned into a children’s comedy because I didn’t think anything like that had been done up to then. In many ways it was the pre-cursor to Horrible Histories.

Rowan Atkinson as Captain Edmund Blackadder (left) with Tony Robinson as Private Baldrick. (Photo: Martin Keene)

Rowan Atkinson as Captain Edmund Blackadder (left) with Tony Robinson as Private Baldrick. (Photo: Martin Keene)

“I’m also deeply proud that Time Team has been able to epitomise a discipline.”

Of his career Tony Robinson said: “Isn’t it incredible as a freelance that so much of what I have done should have a colour of history about it. I have always been interested in hsitory and that comes from my dad being in the RAF during the Second World War and my mum being in the WAF.

“From as long as I can remember they were telling me stories about their adventures. I’m deeply grateful to my parents for giving that to me and helping me to understand a time when I wasn’t around. I’m very passionate about relatives talking to children about what things were like when they were young.”

Mr Robinson is seen as a fountain of knowledge, however he points out: “I didn’t go to university. I’m the only person I know with more honorary degrees than O-levels.”

Of his visits to the Province he said: “I haven’t spent as much time in Northern Ireland as I’d like to. I’ve been fortunate to travel extensively with my TV work, but that also means you don’t get to stay in places for as long as you’d like.”

He recalled Time Team’s first visit to NI when the show came to Downpatrick in 1998. The team’s last programme in NI was filmed at Dundrum Castle in 2013.

Mr Robinson, who is a member of the Labour Party, was asked for a comment on the political stalemate in the Province. He said: “When I say the current situation in Northern Ireland – where a government is absent – is the same as England and the United States, I’m only being half flippant.”

He added: “State control and status quo have almost been interchangeable politically (in Northern Ireland) – that is simply not the case any longer.

“Whether this is just a short term hiccup that can be resolved quickly by Sinn Fein, the DUP, the British Government, whoever, or whether it’s part of a long term illness within democracy, none of us knows.”