The Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival, the largest celebration of history in the UK, has announced its upcoming programme for 2021.

Starting the very week that coronavirus restrictions are due to be lifted by the government, and one of the very first ‘live’ events of the summer, the festival is set to welcome back families and history enthusiasts from around the country to its stunning site in Broad Chalke, just outside Salisbury, Wiltshire, from Wednesday 23rd to Sunday 27th June.  The programme is now online and can be found at www.cvhf.org.uk.

This year the events will be spread across two big marquees, with socially-distanced seating, and two brand new amphitheatre-style outdoor stages.  An impressive list of eminent historians, writers and well-known personalities head up the wide-ranging and star-studded programme, which includes: our greatest living playwright Tom Stoppard discussing his incredible life with his biographer Hermione Lee; award-winning historian Antonia Fraser in conversation with Lucy Moore about the dazzling 19th century heroine Caroline Norton; former commander of the Desert Rats Patrick Cordingley explaining how the two Gulf Wars have shaped the modern world; acclaimed international bestselling author Kate Mosse examining The St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre; and one of the world’s most acclaimed war historians Max Hastings recounting the gripping story of Operation Pedestal.

Festival Director, Jane Pleydell-Bouverie, said: “We are so looking forward to welcoming the speakers and our loyal supporters back to the festival. We are hugely grateful to the Arts Council Culture Recovery Fund and for the incredible support from our patrons and sponsors. Great credit is due to the team and volunteers who have been working tirelessly to put on the programme in the most challenging of circumstances. I am delighted we have such a glittering line-up, from Niall Ferguson flying in from the US for the opening evening, to Juliet Nicolson on the last day of the festival with Charles Spencer, Mary Ann Sieghart, Richard Dearlove and Ben Macintyre in between.”

Visitors can also look forward to hearing distinguished writer and commentator Rana Mitter considering how WW2 is shaping a new nationalism in China; the top-selling historian of our era Antony Beevor and Professor and international human rights lawyer Philippe Sands discussing the German trauma in 1945; festival favourite Tracy Borman telling the real history behind her latest novel; and the Head of the Armed Forces and Chief of Defence Staff Nick Carter comparing the strategic situation at the end of the war with that facing us in 2021.

Guest speakers heading to the festival for the first time include: former MP and columnist Matthew Parris; bioarchaeologist and expert on the Viking Age Cat Jarman; the world’s bestselling wine author Hugh Johnson; economist and politician Vince Cable; former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams; maritime historian David Abulafia; and the editor of History Today Paul Lay.

Appearances by centenarian Christian Lamb, who worked on secret D-Day invasion maps with Winston Churchill, and by Patricia and Jean Owtram – now 97 and 95 – who are possibly the only living sisters to have signed the wartime Official Secrets Act – promise to be particular special events, along with a fascinating talk by Anne Glenconner, Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting.

Acclaimed television presenters and bestselling historians Neil Oliver and Michael Wood return to the Chalke Valley History Festival line-up again this year, as does Dan Snow who is appearing not only to talk about The Seven Years’ War, but also with his History Hit team who will be orchestrating a number of dramatic re-enactments, and other events, in the outdoor area.  In addition, Al Murray and James Holland will be staging a ‘live’ episode of their hugely popular and much followed podcast ‘We Have Ways of Making You Talk’.

There will be a vast amount to see, do and participate in at this year’s festival.  With all the necessary health and safety measures in place, the living history programme will be packed full of activities for visitors of all ages, including some events especially for children. The oldest travelling Big Wheel in the UK (built in 1922) and a vintage fairground, with traditional funfair attractions, will provide a striking backdrop to the vast historical encampment that will time travel through the ages along a ‘street of time’, from the Stone Age right the way through to the Second World War. There will be a new Speaker’s Corner for shorter talks, late evening story-telling by the fire, live music every day, a chance to view the country’s only working Soviet T-34 tank and, for the first time, Second World War Soldier School where instructors will take young recruits from the parade ground to handling weapons. In addition, food, hygiene and the home will be themes alongside Roman road-building, the age of chivalry, medicine and treating casualties in the trenches, and body snatching in the early 19th century.

As in previous years, there will be a dining tent with delicious meals provided by Victoria Blashford-Snell.  This time, however, there will be two separate sittings in the evening. There will also be a range of outdoor stalls and historic fast food.  The usual Big Top bar will be situated at the heart of the festival site, offering table service, with a mobile ordering service to enable people to purchase drinks via their mobile phones.

Due to government guidelines, there may be restrictions on the number of tickets for sale at the festival this year. The festival strongly advises those wishing to attend to book tickets early to avoid disappointment. All of the Outdoor Programme will be available on a single daily ticket (with add-ons for Sword School and fairground rides), while tented events will require an individual ticket, as was the case in the past. Tented ticket prices will, however, also include access to the Outdoor Programme.

Tickets go on sale to the general public on Wednesday 19th May and will be released two days earlier on Monday 17thMay to the Friends membership.

Talks given by incredible historians, taken from the past ten years of the festival, can now be heard on the Chalke Valley History Festival podcast.  Entitled #ChalkeTalk, the podcasts are released three times a week.

For further information, please contact Alex Hippisley-Cox on mobile 07921 127077 or email her at [email protected]

The Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival will take place at Church Bottom,
Broad Chalke, Salisbury, Wiltshire,
SP5 5DS. 

For more details about the Festival, please visit www.cvhf.org.uk  Follow all the news on Twitter at @CVHISTORYFEST and on Facebook and Instagram.