VIDEO: Sheffield visit unlocked my family secret, says soap star

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Ex-Eastenders star Larry Lamb has described how a visit to Sheffield proved to be part of a “quite extraordinary” experience - in which he discovered he was from a family of lion tamers!

The actor, who also made his name in Gavin and Stacey, was the subject of a hit TV show Who Do You Think You Are?

Actor Larry Lamb was the guest celebrity for a Who Do You Think You Are behind-the-scenes session, chaired by The Star's Graham Walker, at Sheffield DocFest.

Actor Larry Lamb was the guest celebrity for a Who Do You Think You Are behind-the-scenes session, chaired by The Star's Graham Walker, at Sheffield DocFest.

And the journey brought him to Professor Vanessa Toulmin, who runs the National Fairground Archive at Sheffield University.

There the 65-year-old, best known as villain Archie Mitchell in EastEnders, was told how his long-lost birth-grandfather was part of one of the country’s most famous travelling fairgrounds, which displayed exotic animals, including lions, in the early 20th century.

The TV’s researchers also discovered his birth-grandmother, who gave up his mum when she was just three-months old, went on to re-marry and converted to Judaism.

“My friends are now saying I’m a Jewish lion-tamer,” he joked, in conversation with The Star’s Graham Walker, who earlier hosted a Sheffield Doc/Fest event at the Crucible Theatre.

It took a behind-the-scenes look at Who Do You Think You Are?, with Larry and some of its executive film-makers.

VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our video chat with Larry and find out more.

He said of making his episode: “I found the whole thing quite extraordinary. I didn’t figure too much what might come out.

“But on my mother’s side, we knew she had been adopted. But nobody knew anything about her real birth parents.

“And that proved to be the root down which the programme went.

“The significant thing about Sheffield is the University houses the archive for showmen and the entertainment business, and the circus. I came here to meet Professor Vanessa Toulmin, who runs the archive and she gave me the low-down on that side of my family.

“It turned out that his birth grandfather’s family were travelling showmen, including lion tamers, and his grandmother went on to re-marry, converting to Judaism.”

Joining him on stage, to celebrate ten years of the classic, award-winning genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?, was the show’s creator and executive producer, Alex Graham, director Leo Burnley and producer, Maxine Ostwald

Born in Glasgow, Alex Graham has been a leading figure in UK independent television production sector for almost 30 years. He started in TV in 1979 setting up Wall to Wall in 1987.

Alex has created a wide-range of innovative documentary formats including The 1900 House and Who Do You Think You Are?

* Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013, celebrating 20-years, continues until late on Sunday. For full details of all talks and film shows, plus much more, visit the official web site at sheffdocfest.com

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