The Chalke Valley History Festival began in 2011 on a small scale and as a fundraiser for the local cricket club. Club stalwart and historian James Holland had the idea for a festival but it was James Heneage, founder and former CEO of Ottakar’s bookshops and now historical novelist, who suggested a festival dedicated to history.
It began with the help of a number of local volunteers, among whom Peter Bell and Rachel Holland played a big part in that first year and continue to do so today. Jane Pleydell-Bouverie came on board in 2012 and has been at the heart of the festival ever since. The Daily Mail became the festival’s principle sponsor in 2013, and it now consists of a week of talks, discussions, debates, as well as extensive and immersive living history and historic air displays.
From 2012 – 2016, the festival was located on the edge of Ebbesbourne Wake in the historic Challke Valley. This year, 2017, sees the festival move to a new site three miles away in Broad Chalke, but still in the heart of the beautiful Wiltshire Chalke Valley.
The aim is to excite, enthral and entertain about the past. All proceeds from the festival have, since 2012, been directed to the Chalke Valley History Trust, which promotes the understanding of history to all ages, but especially children. Since 2013, the festival has also incorporated the History Festival for Schools. ‘An understanding of the past is essential,’ says Co-Founder James Heneage., ‘without that, it is impossible to make sense of the present or prepare for the future.’