Friday, June 2, 2017

7 Questions with Kevin Hicks of History Squad

Kevin Hicks is a veteran soldier and policeman.  Kevin set up the History Squad over 20 years ago to deliver live history workshops in schools and costumed guided castle tours and has now set up Squaducation in order to create 60 second histories.  This new online history resource delivers hundreds of bite size history films with ready made lesson plans and a clever sharing function so teachers can safely share films with students.  Spanning Ancient History right through to World War One, 60 second histories is a resource well worth exploring. The History Squad Website is

1.      How and/or when did you get you hooked on history?
I first became hooked on history as a young boy around ten years of age.  I had listened to the stories of both my grandfathers who had fought in the second world war and also to the experiences of my mother and father who lived through the Blitz in Birmingham, England.  So playing at ‘war' was what we kids did until I discovered Robin Hood!  My father took me to Sherwood Forest to see Robin Hood’s tree which is known as the Major Oak.  Well that was it, at the tender age of 6, I was to be Robin Hood and with a subsequent visit to Warwick Castle I was well and truly hooked on history and still only a boy of around ten years of age. Within two years I had my first real long bow and quickly realized that I could shoot, I think it must be in my blood.

2. What role does history play or has it played in your personal life?
It is fair to say that history is the single most important part of my life outside of my family; any trips we make always have a history angle bur fortunately my wife is very tolerant and my son follows in my footsteps.

3.      How is history part of your professional career?
If it wasn’t for history I wouldn’t have the career I have today.  I was injured as a soldier in the British Army by a bomb blast and injured again as a serving Police Officer which meant that I was medically discharged.  After a period of convalescence I was invited to give a talk and display about our English Civil War at a local school.  I had been involved with a re-enactment society and therefore had the musket and uniform of a 17th Century musketeer.  After this first successful display I was invited to another school after which a teacher made a simple throw away comment that it was a shame that it was the musket I fired and not the longbow.  I asked her why and she told me that they would love to find someone to shoot a longbow at a local castle for her school group.  Within three weeks I had taken her school group around Chepstow Castle and it was so successful I still take school groups to Chepstow to this day, over twenty years later.  During this period, History Squad was born as I created a series of history workshops and delivered them in the classroom.  As an historical interpreter and educator, I now deliver workshops that span from Ancient Egypt right up to my own experiences during the Cold War in Berlin. I have around 150 schools on my books, and as well as the live school visits I make, I have also set up a company called Squaducation and created an online history film resource for schools called 60 Second Histories, so my professional career for the past 23 years has been nothing but history.

4.      Why is studying/knowing history important?
I have a great belief that we as people should know who we are and where we are from, if you know and understand your own past and heritage then perhaps you find your place in the future

5.      What is your favorite period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
I have several favorite periods of history, Medieval, WWI, The rise of the Nazis and the Holocaust.  With regard to the Medieval period, I have shot the longbow for over fifty years and have been fortunate to have worked at some of the finest Castles in England and Wales as well as Sherwood Forest so Medieval history really is part of my life.  The study of WWI came about because of the loss my family suffered, my great grandfather was killed in 1918, he died as he charged over the top during the second Battle of the Somme.  In studying the action he was killed in I was drawn into the study of the whole period and occasionally travel over to France and Belgium with school groups to study the Battlefields.

6.      What is the History Squad and how did it come about?
History Squad came about due to demand from schools, if a teacher asked if I could cover a new period I carried out the research and created a character to fit the role.  At first I called my little business Through the Eyes of a Soldier as all of our characters were military but as I expanded the range of characters, many of which were civilian and we became more professional, History Squad was born.

7.      What are the keys to creating engaging historical presentations?
For me, I believe that the story is the hook.  Whether it is a class of children or hundreds of adults in an audience, it is always the story that engages people and then making it real is very important too.  I am very lucky having fought as a soldier as I can use my own experiences of combat to tell the story of others. Also researching every aspect of a subject, what the people ate and why, where did they go to the toilet, it’s these personal and sometimes intimate details that count and help to keep students hooked.