Dear Mummy, you were lucky enough to visit Oxford recently for a special TV screening and book signing of A Discovery of Witches. It is a brand new supernatural drama that’s due to start on Sky One this autumn (14.09.18 at 9pm) and based on a trilogy of novels called All Souls by American author Deborah Harkness.
Comparisons of the book have been made between other popular fantasy series, namely Twilight and Harry Potter and my mummy couldn’t wait to meet the author, Deborah Harkness and the lead actress, Teresa Palmer of the new TV adaptation, to find out more.
The plot of A Discovery of Witches
Without giving too much away A Discovery of Witches follows a historian and reluctant witch whose life is changed when she discovers a magical manuscript in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. The lost manuscript causes a magical reaction in herself and attracts the attention of others who have long been searching for the book, the Ashmole 782. She finds that for her own safety, and for the well-being of all magical creatures, she must re-think her avoidance of magic and embrace it.
The official synopsis from Sky One reads: “A Discovery of Witches is a contemporary love story set against the backdrop of Oxford academic life, but in a world where a handful of witches, vampires and daemons live and work unseen amongst humans, hiding in plain sight.” Yes, it is a love story based on forbidden love. Very similar to Twilight but just more grown-up, perfect for my mummy.
Filming locations of A Discovery of Witches
My mummy visited the city and can see why it was a perfect fit for the novel and the show. It certainly is a creepy place, full of history and mystery. Walking around Oxford before the book signing at Waterstones was eye-opening and the city is full of cobbled streets, large imposing wooden doors which lead to courtyards and gothic architecture.
My mummy is just starting to read A Discovery of Witches and is really enjoying it, so can’t wait for the show on Sky One this Autumn. Now that she’s more familiar with Oxford, she found this YouTube video (A walking tour of Oxford for A Discovery of Witches) really interesting now that she can place the locations. You can find more information about the book and the show on the Deborah Harkness’ website.
Rain was looming as she explored the filming locations of the show and really added to the drama of her photographs. She found Waterstones by following the large queue of avid book readers waiting with umbrellas to get their books signed.
Meeting the author of A Discovery of Witches
Meeting Deborah Harkness was a real highlight for my mummy. Harkness has studied magic and the occult, which provided much of the inspiration for the novel and as a family we have a great interest in the subject. She was warm and friendly and made everyone feel at ease in her presence. She’s clearly passionate about her book and it comes across when she talks to her fans.
The DNA LAB at Waterstones Oxford
While the book signing was on at Waterstones, fans where also queuing up to get ‘tested’, not on their knowledge of the book but to see whether they were human or not! Highly trained geneticists tested my mummy’s DNA in their special
#ADOWlab as part of promotion for the show. It was a great activity and my mummy had it confirmed (what we knew all along) that she was a VAMPIRE! She was given her results in a folder and book bag along with some information about the show from some very animated professionals in white lab coats!
Check out our video to see highlights of the event.
The cast of A Discovery of Witches
My mummy had the pleasure of meeting Australian actress Teresa Palmer who plays the main character of the show, Diana Bishop. We’ve seen her before in the supernatural movie Warm Bodies and loved that film.
Sadly we missed actor Matthew Goode who plays Matthew Clairmont, the mysterious vampire in the story but loved his performance in the first episode. Other cast members include Game of Thrones actor Owen Teale as Peter Knox and Sherlock’s Louise Brealey as Gillian Chamberlain.
Spellbound Exhibition at The Ashmolean Museum
After the book signing my mummy and a handful of VIPs headed to the Ashmolean museum to explore Spellbound, a magical exhibition which traces the history of magic, from medieval to modern times, in 180 objects. It couldn’t be a better location for the Sky One screening of A Discovery of Witches. There were props from the show laid out for visitors to look at before heading into the halls.
She studied intriguing objects by browsing cabinets of curiosities showing how our ancestors used magical thinking to cope with the unpredictable world around them. The exhibition contained a number of talismans fashioned from precious stones and coral that were spellbinding and my mummy’s eyes lit up seeing the witches bottles and unicorn horns. The show spans 1,000 years of European history, with the oldest artefact being a 12th century ivory casket.
My mummy was most intrigued by the first exhibit, a silver bottle which was donated in 1915 to the Pitt Rivers Museum by an old woman in Sussex, but it was handed over with a warning: “They do say there be a witch in this and if you’re let un out there be a peck o’ trouble.”
My mummy even saw the original book of The Discovery of Witches (1647) by Matthew Hopkins, an English witch-hunter. Who was believed to have been responsible for the deaths of 300 women accused of being witches between the years 1644 and 1646. Shocking really and sad that many artefacts showcase the trails and tribulations during the hight of witch hunting.
Special thanks to this lovely gang! – @CardiffMummy @dear_mummy @dearbearandbean @fivelittledove5 @musingstiredmum 🧙♀️🔮 #ADiscoveryOfWitches #SpellboundExhibition #APremiereOfWitches pic.twitter.com/ORYtH0G5SS
— Ashmolean Museum (@AshmoleanMuseum) September 7, 2018
A 17th-century “witch balance” a black iron chair incorporating a balance holding a 2-volume bible for weighing suspected witches against the scriptures. Those heavier were deemed innocent, lighter than the gravitas of the scriptures and a nasty fate awaited you. It really was an enchanting show. Spellbound is on until 6 January at The Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2PH. Tickets cost £12.25 (£11.25 concessions)
Magical screening of the first episode of A Discovery of Witches
After getting stuck in the gift shop, yes she could have bought everything there, she was led to a drinks reception and a special screening of the first episode of A Discovery of Witches. After a lovely intro into the series from Deborah Harkness and Teresa Palmer everyone remained still as the lights dimmed for the screening in the museum. Laughter and gasps with a rip-roaring applause after an hour confirmed that it was well received by the audience.
My mummy left wanting to see more. The Sky Original production A Discovery of Witches will premiere on Friday, September 14 at 9pm make sure you stay tuned for the eight episodes. I feel this is going to be our new TV crush this autumn.
Love Bella x
Disclosure: Sponsored post. My mummy was invited to the Sky One A Discovery of Witches special screening in Oxford held at Waterstones and the Ashmolean museum. All magical DNA, photos and opinions are her own.