MEET South Yorkshire’s new queen of Egypt, Dr Joann Fletcher - the Barnsley-born historian who is on the brink of becoming a TV household name, writes Graham Walker
With her shock red hair, trademark oversized black suit, sunglasses and brolly, to shade her from the searing desert sun, she has an unforgettable look.
It’s not made up for the cameras. It’s who she is.
Add her award-winning communication skills and an encyclopedic knowledge of Egyptology - she is a leading world expert - and you have a TV icon in the wings.
And she doesn’t have long to wait. A two part BBC2 documentary, Ancient Egypt: Life & Death In The Valley Of The Kings, starts tonight, Friday, March 22, at 9pm.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch Graham Walker’s video chat with Dr Fletcher.
Not that Dr Fletcher is a stranger to TV. She’s been making documentaries for years and recently beat David Attenborough and Brian Cox to win a Royal Television Society Award for her part in the Channel 4 documentary Mummifying Alan: Egypt’s Last Secret.
She also made headlines as part of an expedition which made the claim of finding the mummy of Queen Nefertiti.
But now, for the first time, she takes centre stage on her own show.
Dr Fletcher, aged 47, an honorary research fellow at York University, will shed light on the real lives of two ordinary Egyptians, a husband and wife from the tomb-builder’s town of Deir el-Medina who lived to serve their royal masters.
By walking in their footsteps of chief architect Kha and his wife, Meryt, who lived around 1400 BC, she vividly brings back to life colours, sounds and smells. She reads Egyptian love poems, discovers how they travelled to work, looks at how tombs were built and even gets an insight into Egyptian interior design. She also gains access to the rarely seen final resting place of Amenhotep III in the Valley of the Kings, which brings a tear to her eye.
After the world premier screening back in her home town at Barnsley Town Hall, she told The Star: “What you see on the screen and the way I dress, this is me - how I always look.
“My students recognise me at the University of York as the woman in black.
“I always wear black. I have to carry an umbrella, because otherwise I suffer in the sun because I’m really pasty.
“I was very keen to tell the story of real people in ancient Egypt, who have all the same concerns as we do. To tell their story and get under their skin was the real attraction for me.
“It was far more than a job. It was a passion to tell the story of this real married couple, how they lived and loved.”