Yorkshire ‘queen of Egypt’ Joann Fletcher set for Hapy talk

YORKSHIRE’S ‘queen of Egypt' TV historian Prof Joann Fletcher is set for a Barnsley homecoming talk to promote a new Hapy Egyptology Society, writes Graham Walker.

Prof Joann Fletcher

Named after the Egyptian god Hapy, featured as a baboon on jars storing the lungs of mummies, the new Society aims to promote the study, knowledge and appreciation of Ancient Egyptian culture, primarily in South and West Yorkshire.

Barnsley born patron Joann, aged 55, now living in Scarborough, is a world-renowned Egyptologist, a University of York professor who became an instant hit with millions of TV viewers as the presenter of programmes including Ancient Egypt: Life & Death In The Valley Of The Kings and The Real Origins Of Ancient Egypt.

BUY TICKETS: Joann’s talk, Ancient Egypt: New Stories, is at the Cooper Gallery, Barnsley, on Saturday, September 11, 2021, 4.30pm. Tickets are £15, or £14 for members, to include drinks and a light buffet after the lecture, from the Cooper Gallery – contact [email protected]. For more info visit www.hapysoc.org.uk.

MEMBERSHIP: Annual membership of The Hapy Egyptology Society is just £15, with a discounted rate for couples of £20 – CLICK HERE.

The new Society follows the success of the Wigan-based Horus Egyptological Society, where Joann also has strong links.

Andrew Ward, chair of the new Hapy society, said: “Working with Joann has been an inspiration to the members of the society. Her breadth and depth of knowledge adding hugely to the events held so far.

“She has been enormously supportive of this venture giving advice and her time freely to ensure that we move forward successfully.

“As well as holding hieroglyph study groups for all levels of experience, the society will also be holding a series of talks and activities to inform members of some of the basic background ideas encountered in the study of Ancient Egypt.

"The Horus Society, which is a very successful Egyptology Society in Wigan, provided ideas, inspiration and early support for the venture.

"In ancient Egypt Hapy had strong associations with the North, another feature which we found attractive. Of course, his name suggests an approach to study which we aim to adopt; Hapy by name and Happy by nature!”

Joann, with her distinctive shock red hair and attire, including oversized black suits, brolly and sun-glasses, to shade her from the searing desert sun, has become a much-loved telly star.

Egyptian baboon god Hapy

With her partner, archaeological chemist and mummification expert Dr Stephen Buckley, from the University of York’s BioArCh facility, the couple were part of a team of scientists who won a BAFTA for the 2011 Channel 4 documentary Mummifying Alan: Egypt’s Last Secret – which involved mummifying taxi driver Alan Billis, to replicate rediscovered secrets of the complex ancient process, at Sheffield’s Medico-Legal Centre.

She also made headlines as part of an expedition which claimed to have found the mummy of Queen Nefertiti.

Joann was educated at Barnsley College, a sixth form and further education college in Barnsley. She studied ancient history and Egyptology at University College London, specialising in the Ptolemaic dynasty and Cleopatra, and also in ancient Egyptian hair, wigs, and forms of adornment.

She completed a PhD at Manchester University and has since written several books including The Story of Egypt, Cleopatra the Great and The Search for Nefertiti, together with guidebooks, journal articles, and academic papers.

But her fascination with the ancient world began when she was just six years old.

She recalls: “A Tutankhamun exhibition came to the British Museum and that was it. I had posters of Tutankhamun all over my room, I was totally obsessed. I got5 a book about ancient Egypt from Barnsley library and that was it. When my mother said you could actually be an Egyptologist, I didn’t want to be anything else.

“I hope we can inspire others to say, ‘I could do that’ and it shows that this is open to everyone – even people from Barnsley.”