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Chalke Valley History Festival 2023

Save the Date: Chalke Valley History Festival 2023

With so much uncertainty in the world, history has never been more relevant.

The Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival, one of the UK’s most successful and popular summer events, returns this year from 26 June to 2 July. This unique festival, which takes place in Wiltshire, looks set to attract huge crowds of all ages, with every visitor keen to soak up the sights, sounds and smells of the past, and eager to learn more about the history of years gone by, whilst improving their understanding of what is happening in the world today.

For the first time this year, the entire programme will be themed, enabling visitors to find the talks and events they are interested in more easily, and to also encourage a little curiosity too. The six distinct themes are: Environment, Conflict, Politics, Science and Exploration, Sport, and Society and Culture.

Over the course of a week, the festival will host over 200 talks and panel discussions on leading issues of the past, present and future. These will take place across five fabulous venues: the 750-seater main tent, the 350-seater second tent, the Outdoor Stage, Speaker’s Corner - where speakers can talk in a more informal setting - and new for 2023, the Stove Tent, an intimate 100-seater in the round, with a central wood-burning stove - just perfect for cosy later-night events, a little live music and some atmospheric story-telling.

Dr Vanien Schuch-des-Forges
Dr Vanian Schuch-des-Forges returns to delight young and old with weird and wonderful tales of epic adventures © Martin Cook.

Visitors to the Chalke Valley History Festival will, as always, be spoilt for choice. Household names such as Simon Sebag Montefiore and Antonia Fraser will be taking to the stage in the speaker tents, whilst some of the most talented and vivacious historians, raconteurs and actors will be entertaining the crowds with a blend of inclusive hands-on activities and demonstrations. Just one of the big draws in the programme will be former Prime Minister John Major who will be talking about politics, both past and present. The BBC’s International Editor, Jeremy Bowen, will also be making his festival debut when he discusses the making of the modern Middle East, and Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee is bound to fuel debate as she examines the true state of class in Britain.

James Holland, Chair of the festival, said: 'This is a more integrated programme than ever before, and one that reflects the extraordinary times in which we’re living. We want everyone who comes here to have a brilliant time, and to enjoy themselves, because there’s such an incredible range of things to see and do. But we also hope they’ll be able to learn a great deal as well, and that our events will help people to contextualise what’s happening in the world right now.'

Each day around the festival site, throughout the day and evening, performance artists will be sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge about their chosen subjects. Back-to-back entertainment, for all the family, will include Edwardian Adventurer Adam Schuch-des-Forges who will be regaling the crowds with his alter ego’s hilarious (mis)adventures from the Golden Age of Exploration. Dr Kate Vigurs, who became a huge festival-favourite last year, will be capturing the audience’s imagination again, this time with some astonishing women’s stories from history. Meanwhile, over in the speaker tent, ground-breaking writer Peter Frankopan will discuss his major history of how a changing climate has dramatically shaped the development and demise of civilisations across time.

Having received a standing ovation in 2022, the festival is delighted to welcome back Bill Browder who returns to talk about Russian money-laundering, state-sponsored murder and surviving Vladimir Putin’s wrath. For those who are keen to learn more from World War II veterans, two remarkable ladies will be sharing their memories on the stage this time: Betty Webb will be recounting tales of her codebreaking work at Bletchley Park, and Olga Henderson will explain what life was like as a child in a prisoner of war camp.

CVHF living history
Cannon fire booms across the valley as re-enactors bring history to life. © Martin Cook

The Chalke Valley History Festival for Schools will take place on Monday 26 and Tuesday 27 June and will feature a wide range of curriculum-based subjects, delivered by the very best historians in the land. Speakers already confirmed include Tracy Borman on Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I, Jeremy Jennings on the French Revolution and Hallie Rubenhold on the untold lives of women killed by Jack the Ripper. Over 15,000 children have attended since the schools’ festival launch and each year more and more students are inspired to engage with history in new and exciting ways.

Huge living history encampments will be constructed around the festival site, and these will range from the Iron AgeThe Iron Age of the British Isles covers the period from about 800BCE to the Roman invasion of 43CE, and follows on from the Bronze Age. through to the Cold WarA period of geopolitical tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies, 'officially' lasting from 1947 to 1991.. The Medieval encampment will be the centrepiece of the festival and is not to be missed. There will also be live music every day, special activities for children and families, as well as everything you’d expect from an English summer festival set in the glorious rolling chalk landscape of ancient WessexAn Anglo-Saxon kingdom in the south of England, and a noble house. After Anglo-Saxon times, the term has been used to refer to the south west of England (excluding Cornwall).: delicious locally-sourced food and drink, lots of shopping, more books to buy than you can shake a stick at, camping under the stars, and just the occasional crack of musketry, the thunder of hooves or the boom of cannon fire. The Chalke Valley History Festival is where history comes to life and where memories are made.

The full programme, and more detailed information about what’s in store this year, can be found on the Chalke Valley History Festival website. Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Tuesday 25 April.

Over 200 fascinating talks, given by incredible historians and entitled ‘Chalke Talk’, can now be heard on the Chalke Valley History Festival podcast. These talks have been taken from more than a decade of festival appearances.

The Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival will take place at Church Bottom, Broad Chalke, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 5DP. Follow all the news on Twitter at @CVHISTORYFEST and on Facebook and Instagram.

Images by Martin Cook

Author Info

Chalke History Festival

Chalke History Festival is the UK's largest history festival. It aims to excite, enthral and entertain about the past through programmes of talks, living history events, and programmes for schools. All proceeds from the festival have, since 2012, been directed to the Chalke History Trust, which promotes the understanding of history to all ages, but especially children.