Queen Anne Boleyn Historical Writers is thrilled to highlight for members and browsers an exciting new interactive online community catering to the passions and interests of enthusiasts of the English Tudor and Wars of the Roses historical eras. Have you ever dreamed of speaking directly to your favorite historian or historical fiction writer to ask questions of shared interest? Do you want to research the English Tudor Era history, but do not know where to get started? Do you enjoy articles written by the “experts” about topics that interest you? Do you want to meet people from throughout the world who share your interests in English history? Well, look no further than the “brain children” of Claire Ridgway, the new and fantastic membership interactive website The Tudor Society and online magazine Tudor Life. QAB caught up with Claire recently to learn more about these amazing new initiatives. Grab a goblet of wine and enjoy our fascinating interview with Claire…
1. Claire, how did you first conceptualize your vision for The Tudor Society and Tudor Life magazine?
The Tudor Society had two main inspirations – 1) The fact that whenever I post about a guest talk or event on Facebook I always have people disappointed that they can’t attend because they live in a different country; and 2) I ran an Anne Boleyn society, The Anne Boleyn Fellowship, a few years ago and I really enjoyed running it. The problem was that I did most of it myself (I did the talks and most of the articles), so it was unsustainable and limiting for members, although they all enjoyed it.
I really wanted to make use of today’s technology to bring the experts to the people, instead of people having to travel thousands of miles for a talk. With our monthly talks, experts can share their knowledge with a large amount of people and members can learn from them in the comfort of their own home.
With the magazine, I wanted to produce a magazine for Tudor history lovers, a magazine that focuses purely on the Tudor era and the Wars of the Roses. We have regular contributors – historians, art historians, anthropologists, book reviewers, Tudor re-enactors etc. – and then each magazine features guest articles by Tudor history experts. I’m already planning a Richard III special edition for March 2015 to commemorate the re-interment of his remains.
2. The Tudor Society is a highly interactive website. I know that your husband Tim Ridgway designed the website in partnership with your vision for how it would all work. Did you and Tim seek consultation from other web designers on how to insure the website’s ease in navigation and readability was optimized?
We spoke to past members of The Anne Boleyn Fellowship so that we knew what aspects of the Fellowship people had liked the most and then prioritised those for the website design. Tim is a WordPress website designer, so he could turn my vision into reality. He used an existing WordPress theme but then customised it and wrote “plug-ins” for it to enable members to navigate the site easily. We have added SSL security to the website so that it’s secure, and Tim customised plug-ins for video, the monthly magazine and the quizzes. We didn’t seek advice from other designers. It’s what Tim did for a living, and I knew what the site needed to have. Tim’s amazing at turning the ideas floating round my head into something real.
3. The features of the website members can access are just outstanding and include live chats with historians and other experts of Tudor history, a easy navigating forum for people to discuss common interests, monthly expert talks, weekly “Claire Chats”, a comprehensive listing of source research material of all Tudor monarchs, and a host of other features of great interest of Tudor enthusiasts. How did you come to determine exactly what the website would have to offer members?
Our main aim was to give members access to Tudor history experts wherever they were in the world, that was the main “drive”. It was therefore essential for the site to be able to feature audio recordings, videos, live chats etc. We were very aware that members and speakers have varying abilities with technology, so we wanted to make using the site as easy as possible for everyone. It’s an ongoing process of improvement as we listen to members and speakers about what they want from the site.
4. It is very exciting to see the experts, such as Karen Bowman, Conor Byrnes, Leanda de Lisle, and Jessie Childs “lining up” to participate in this outstanding initiative in a variety of ways. Do you find that the assortment of opportunities, such as live chats, submission of magazine articles, interviews, etc. creates an attractive forum for historians and history writers to get the word out on subjects of importance to them?
I hope so! I’ve been overwhelmed by the response from historians and authors, they have all been very positive and want to be involved. They’re all so giving of their knowledge, and I think they all realise that people learn in different ways and that books and “physical” talks at historical events and properties are not the only way to reach readers. We hope that by giving them this dynamic platform with which to share their research and theories that we can support their invaluable work in some way.
We have just done a live chat with Conor Byrne, following his talk on Katherine Howard, and he said afterwards how much he enjoyed it, and members felt the same way too. He had so many questions in the hour he chatted and people really enjoyed the live interaction with him. It was a great event.
5. The successful implementation of The Tudor Society and Tudor Life takes the joint efforts of several committed people I am sure. Can you introduce QAB members and browsers to the other people working in partnership with you to make this all happen?
The Tudor Society team consists of me (Claire Ridgway), Tim Ridgway and Gill Bowman. I’m the founder and creative force behind it, plus I have built up relationships with historians and experts due to running my blog, reviewing books and running our tours in the past. Tim is the techy genius who keeps the website going and who does the layout for the magazine. Gill is our new project manager and she’s going to be handling the admin side of things, as well as making sure that members are happy and that they have everything they need. Gill is an art historian by training, is a real people person and loves Tudor history, so it’s a perfect position for her.
We also have some wonderful regular contributors for our monthly magazine: historian Gareth Russell, anthropologist and author Kyra Kramer, art historian Melanie V. Taylor, Tudor re-enactors Darren Wilkins and Emma Fuery (The Tudor Roses) and book reviewer/blogger/author Charlie Fenton. We couldn’t produce the magazine without their enthusiasm, commitment and knowledge.
Our members have also been invaluable at providing us with feedback. Tim and I see the site as a community effort and want it to evolve around members’ wants and needs, so it’s great to have feedback and to be able to act on it.
6. I am asking this question on behalf of several members who are interested. Will you be continuing on with your outstanding website The Anne Boleyn Files?
Yes! The Anne Boleyn Files is my baby, and I don’t see myself ever stopping writing for it. The Tudor Society is about more than me. It’s a community and a collaboration with other experts so it means I can run both sites side by side.
7. Besides rolling out the new interactive website and Tudor Life magazine, do you have any other exciting projects on the fire?
Of course! I’m one of those people who sees sleep as over-rated and who is never happy unless she’s overly busy and stressed! Seriously, my head is always full of ideas and I always have a huge list of projects. My next book is “Illustrated Kings and Queens of England”, which is due out before Christmas — and I’ve also been researching for my “The Fall of Catherine Howard: A Countdown”, although that had to go on the back burner with starting The Tudor Society. Clare Cherry and I are also planning on writing a joint book on the Seymour brothers. I’d also love to organise a meet-up in London next year for Tudor Society members who can make it. It would be wonderful to meet members and explore the Tower of London together.
8. Is there anything else you would like to share with members and browsers?
That we have exciting plans for The Tudor Society. As I said, I’m already planning ahead to our March 2015 magazine issue which is a special on Richard III, and there are some wonderful historians/authors who are eager to share their expertise with members in the coming months – Elizabeth Norton, Leanda de Lisle, Amy Licence, Karen Bowman, Kyra Kramer, Sandra Vasoli, Toni Mount, John Ashdown-Hill, Roland Hui, Livi Michael, Mickey Mayhew, Kristie Davis-Dean and Gareth Russell are just some of those who have said a definite“yes”, and also Julia Fox and John Guy are eager to get involved after John has finished his current book project. There are many others considering how they can become involved too. I am so thankful for the support and enthusiasm of these experts. I think we are very lucky in the Tudor community that people are so willing to share their expertise. A big thank you to all those who are so supportive of the Society.
I am also grateful to QAB – Beth’s article on Cranmer is going to be in our November magazine and it’s a great article – and bloggers and writers like Olga Hughes and Jamie Adair for their support and eagerness to share their knowledge with members.
The feedback from members has been overwhelmingly positive and I’m thrilled by how it’s going. We’re only a few weeks into the project and it’s all really exciting. I’m particularly enjoying my weekly Claire Chats videos, which are informal talks on Tudor topics which I hope will lead to discussion and debate in the forum, and the weekly Tudor history quizzes. Sitting down and making the quiz is definitely a weekly highlight for me.
We also have a charity aspect with the site. Tim and I believe strongly in using our work to help others less fortunate than ourselves, so a portion of the revenue earned from The Tudor Society goes to our favourite charity, Rope. The project we are supporting at the moment is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The project there is endeavouring to train young women, who have come from very difficult family circumstances and have been sex workers from a very young age. The project trains them in tailoring and sewing and provides pastoral care and support for them. Once they have graduated, they receive their own sewing machine and many have gone on to start up small successful businesses in their local communities. It’s a very worthwhile project and we are honoured to be involved in it. It’s our way of giving back. To learn more about Rope, visit their website at Rope, Taking Action, Changing Lives.
Thank you so much to Beth and QAB team for posing these questions and for spreading the word about the Tudor Society.
Claire Ridgway is a highly respected author of Tudor Era history books, most focusing on the life of Queen Anne Boleyn. Creator of the exceptionally popular history website The Anne Boleyn Files, Claire is a full-time history researcher, blogger and writer. The Anne Boleyn Files is highly respected for it’s outstanding presentation, ease of navigation, and historical accuracy. Claire’s ultimate mission is to get to the truth behind Anne Boleyn’s story specifically and related Tudor history in general. For more information about Claire, her projects and her research, visit The Anne Boleyn Files or visit her very popular facebook page at The Anne Boleyn Files on Facebook.
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