A NORTHWICH-BORN TV broadcaster and author will be returning to her hometown to present a new archaeology show.

Mary-Ann Ochota, who attended Sir John Deane's Sixth Form College, will be coming to the Lion Salt Works next weekend as part of the Chester Heritage Festival.

The 43-year-old former Wincham Primary and St Nicholas RC High School student is known for presenting cult archaeology show Time Team with Tony Robinson, as well as hosting documentaries for the BBC and National Geographic.

And, on June 22, Mary-Ann will be teaming up with internationally-acclaimed storyteller Jason Buck for a one-hour live show at the Marston museum exploring stories behind archaeological artefacts.

She said: "I can’t wait to bring our unique flavour of archaeology and storytelling back to my hometown.

"This is where my interest in heritage began – learning about brine and the canals, the flashes and why the buildings are timber-framed.

"If we can inspire some more people – young and old – to feed their curiosity about the past, then I’m very happy.

"Jason and I have taken finds discovered by members of the public – from an Iron Age helmet discovered by a metal detectorist, to a ‘witch bottle’ found in someone’s kitchen floor.

"We share the real historical details, and then tell a story that did – or could – have happened to that precious item. It’s a fun show – upbeat and entertaining. No dull lectures about dusty history.

"People sometimes think that storytelling is just for children – but actually it’s one of our oldest forms of cultural heritage.

"For thousands of years humans have told each other stories – to share information, to celebrate, to inspire new ideas… and to make each other laugh. 

"Our stories all take real archaeological artefacts, and from there we explain what we know about them – historically and scientifically.

"Then we take a leap of imagination – and tell a story about the person who might have used it, where they were, how the item got lost, what happened next…

"From fortune-telling spoons and grand battles, to ancient Viking myths, and tales of witchcraft and mystery, there’s hopefully something for everyone – from eight to 80.

"The show isn’t scripted as such – we have a ‘set list’ but each telling of a tale is slightly different. It’s a bit like live music – every performance has its own unique vibe."

Following her passion for heritage, Mary-Ann left Northwich to study archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge University.

On graduating, she did work experience in TV production companies before eventually getting her first presenting job – co-hosting a BBC documentary about Silbury Hill, a prehistoric mound in Wiltshire, situated 20 miles from Stonehenge.

From there, Mary-Ann's career has gone from strength to strength with Time Team and hosting Smithsonian and Discovery documentaries, as well as co-hosting Channel 5's Mystic Britain with Clive Anderson.

“I love presenting documentaries," Mary-Ann added. "It’s a fun challenge to work out how to bring ancient sites and cultures to life for modern audiences.

"I’ve been lucky to explore places around the world, and been given access to places the public aren’t usually allowed. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realise that this is my actual job. I’m very lucky."

Mary-Ann and Jason will be performing their storytelling show, Rings Wings and Spindle Whorls, twice – from 11am at the Lion Salt Works on Saturday, June 22, and the from 10am at Chester Castle on Sunday, June 23.

Also an author, Mary-Ann has written a number of books on British archaeology and she will be giving a solo talk about her latest work – Secret Britain – from 2pm at the Grosvenor Museum on June 23. She will be on hand to sign books afterwards.

Jason will also be performing a solo storytelling show, Midsummer’s Tales, at the Grosvenor Museum from 4pm on June 22, with tales of giants, fairies, folklore and quintessentially English dragons.

To book tickets for the storytelling session at Lion Salt Works: https://events.westcheshiremuseums.co.uk/event/rings-wings-and-spindle-whorls

For more on the festival and to book tickets to the Chester events, visit chesterheritagefestival.co.uk/festival-2024