You can scarcely turn on the television these days without seeing Professor Alice Roberts uncovering Viking remains, dusting off bones in the desert or explaining how our organs work.

Encompassing science, nature, travel, discovery, history, archaeology, anthropology and so much more, her net seems to be cast further and further afield.

But what of the woman herself, a bone specialist from Bristol who was picked for Time Team back in 2001, which she undertook alongside her archaeologist husband with her baby strapped to her front.

Now commanding huge audiences, both on TV and off, she is about to embark on a lecture tour around the country which takes in Oxford’s Sheldonian tomorrow, as well as having just completed the prestigious Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, with a new series of Channel 4’s Britain’s Most Historic Towns coming in the spring.

And yet here we are talking about her chances of being in 2019’s Strictly Come Dancing. “I love the show. I’ve been short-listed twice so I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed to see if I’ve been picked this year,” she says wistfully.”

In the meantime, she is excited about coming to Oxford, one of the cities chosen for her new TV series, which focuses on the Civil War.

“We had such a wonderful time filming there. I spent a long time lying on the floor at The Sheldonian and staring at the ceiling at that amazing allegory, with the cameraman standing over me. It is such an amazing piece of art.”

As for public speaking, Alice is a pro these days. Presumably her post as Professor of the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham helps? “Absolutely”. And the secret to keeping an audience happy? “Look them in the eyes,” she laughs, “which is tricky on TV.”

But that’s the thing about Prof Roberts, whether she’s talking to me, the millions who watch her programmes, the endless fans who read her books or the thousands crowding to see her on stage, her need to educate and inform, perhaps outweigh everything else.

Oxford Mail:

“What I like to do is to bring the strands of science and history together. And while there are moments when I’d give anything to be dusting bones in a small dark room, these days academics are much more inclined to share their research and engage with the public.


“We are after all public servants so should share the fruits of our labours by having conversations with each other.

“But they don’t all have numerous TV series to their names,” I persevere. “It’s not just about one individual. It’s a conversation going on between all the sciences, it’s a collaboration,” Prof Roberts says firmly. “ I know nothing about astrophysics, but Brian Cox does, so we all have our place.

“And Oxford is such a good example. You were the first university to have a professor and you have everyone from Richard Dawkins and Marcus Du Sautoy to Peter Frankopan and Janina Ramirez.”

There’s no ego here then. “Well I’m not an actor. I’m just me.”

So what have been Alice’s big challenges recently? “The Christmas Lectures were a big deal because they are broadcast on TV, and directed at young people and teenagers.

“And the right work/life balance because I love being at home with my family but I also like going off on adventures, otherwise I get itchy feet.


“So while it’s easy to say no to the things I’m not interested in, when I’m already working on something and an amazing project comes up, that I really want to do, I have to find the space for it.

“The Christmas Lectures were a bit like that because I was already flat out when they approached me, but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity so I had to find the time.

As for her upcoming talk what can we expect? “It’s a romp through thousands of years of history and archaeology, so it’s been great fun looking back over my career and remembering some of the stories.”

Maybe come the end of the year you might see Alice in a different guise, fake tanned up to the eye-balls while attempting the rumba. “It would be so much fun, even though I’m not very good. I told my mum I’d been short-listed and she said “You! You can’t dance.”

One thing’s for sure – the Prof has got our vote already.

Alice Roberts is at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford tomorrow