Chalke Valley History Festival with Literary Festival


Chalke Valley co-chairs, James Heneage and James HollandChalke Valley History Festival with Literary Festival

eagerly anticipated by Ilona Coryndon Pichler

The word ‘festival’ usually brings to mind thoughts of sun, music, crowded campsites and questionable personal hygiene. The Chalke Valley History Festival is however, totally unique within the festival circuit. A self-confessed history nerd, I investigated further and discovered an event that will take you back through time, entrance, entertain and have you putting it in the diary as a must for next year. 

The Chalke Valley is a particularly picturesque corner of the English countryside, which puts one in mind of Ye Olde England, where knights on white horses vied for the favour of maidens fair. It is situated ten miles west of Salisbury in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty. What a fitting backdrop for this festival, host to prestigious historians and authors who between them will cover a comprehensive programme of talks from the medieval period to modern history. Author Dan Snow commented that ‘…our history is celebrated at Chalke Valley, it educates, shocks, amuses and inspires.’

chalke valley history festival napoleonics


Attending Chalke Valley will give you the opportunity to experience lively debate, informative talks and the very best re-enactors bringing to life Roman Legionnaires and Prussian Infantrymen. Back by popular demand are Have a Go Archery (Maid Marian anyone?) and the Sword School alongside tailor-made entertainment for children. For those interested in the First World War there will be a new immersive experience, the First World War Trench. Drills, skirmishes and firing demonstrations will take place in the new battle arena in addition to a re-enactment of the Battle of Victoria. Quite a spectacle wouldn’t you say?

This year the festival runs from Monday 24th – Sunday 30th June with the inaugural Daily Mail Air Show on Sunday set against the backdrop of the valley. For those interested in Air Force history you will be treated to historic aircraft including the Messerschmitt, Spitfires, Hurricanes and Mustangs. The programme includes something for every historical taste, from John Suchet on Beethoven to Alison Weir on Tudor life. You may have seen the recent documentary on the discovery of King Richard III’s body – the team involved in the dig will be holding talks on their discoveries, was he tyrant or saviour? How about a performance of the Horrible Histories ‘Barmy Britain’ to entertain the younger members of the family while us history buffs head over to Festival Partner Waterstones’ book signings. Warning: you will feel the need to book every event!

The festival was created three years ago is a unique blend of Literary Festival and Living History, this year with sponsorship from the Daily Mail and including a new Schools Festival. In addition, the festival also awards the Daily Mail History Prize for the second time this year in partnership with Penguin Books. It is a fantastic opportunity for teenage historians to compete for a national prize, which not only encourages good writing but also a passion for our history. The new judging panel for the competition includes author Sebastian Faulks, Charlie Higson, historian and author, and Joanna Lumley, actress and author, among other well-known historians and public figures. All profits from the festival go to the Chalke Valley History Trust which aims to further the education of history in the school environment.

Chalke Valley History Festival Dan Snow and James Holland

Dan Snow and James Holland

The 2013 programme includes an array of the most prestigious British household names: Boris Johnson, John Suchet, Rupert Everett, Ian Hislop, Tom Stoppard, Dan Snow, Sebastian Faulks, Neil Oliver, Antonia Fraser, Conn Iggulden, Paddy Ashdown, Antony Beevor, Simon Sebag-Montefiore, Amanda Vickery, Tom Holland, Alison Weir and Max Hastings, to name a few. Full programme and booking details can be found on the website as well as all the extras anyone could wish for including fabulous food. When I look at a festival I have to admit that I do investigate the food on offer and I can assure my fellow foodies that you will not be disappointed. Catering is provided in the Dining Tent by one of my favourites – Nadder Food and Events. You will also find The Anonymous Travelling Market and Ministry of Food; do make sure to have a sneaky peek at the website for more mouth-watering details!

All in all I would say to anyone who has an interest in history, culture and the beautiful English countryside, this is the festival to put in your diary. I would highly recommend a trip into the history books in the safe hands of co-chairs James Heneage and James Holland.

The festival runs from 24th to Sunday 30th June. The complete programme and contact details can be found at the Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival website: Events are priced individually and can be booked through the website. You can keep up with the festival on Twitter: @CVHISTORYFEST and Facebook.


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