Chalke Valley History Festival: full programme announced, tickets on sale

The end of June signals the start of one of the most popular, and indeed successful, fixtures in the summer festival calendar – the Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival.

A trip to the festival offers visitors the chance to step back in time and experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the past, while enjoying over 200 talks, live performances, and interactive experiences.

With a massive line-up, you can expect to hear from the most exciting, inspiring, and fascinating historians and performers around.

There’s never a dull moment at the festival. History buffs and casual festival-goers alike will have the opportunity to experience everything from thrilling jousts and medieval encampments to immersive World War II trench experiences and discussions on current political affairs.

The key themes this year are:

● Environment – from farming and food production to climate change and the shifting sands of time.
● Conflict – warfare throughout the ages from ancient times to Ukraine.
● Politics – whether in Ancient Rome or more recent times, the rise and fall of dictators, prime ministers and presidents have shaped and defined our lives.
● Science and exploration – from inventions to the crossing of oceans and deserts.
● Society and culture – everyday life through the ages: food, art, literature, music and how the fabric of society evolves.
● Sport – it is a large part of our lives; explore the rich human drama in the evolution of some of our favourite pastimes.

Visitors will might choose to learn about the current War in Ukraine and Putin’s Russia? Interested in busting myths about Charles I’s wife, Henrietta Maria?

Curious about the dramatic story of women of the American West? Perhaps you want to reminisce about an Ashes series gone by – former England cricket captain Mike Brearley is one of the speakers.

Maybe you want to find out more about the Abbey Road studios with David Hepworth, or hear the astonishing inside story of Colditz with Ben Macintyre? Gardeners can enjoy TV presenter and distinguished gardener, Alan Titchmarsh.

Tracy Chevalier, the author of the international sensation Girl with a Pearl Earring, is making her festival debut to talk to the ever-popular Dan Snow.

Max Hastings will be sharing stories from his graphic new history of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Michael Wood revealing the true story of The Trojan War, and Andrea Wulf talking about her eye-opening biography of the first Romantics.

War buffs will love the special mornings devoted to The Cold War and The Second World War. These two events will include live firing of a 3.7-inch heavy anti-aircraft gun, and a discussion about Britain and the nuclear threat, as well as a welcome return to the festival by 102-year-old veteran Mosquito bomber pilot Colin Bell.

Podcast fans can witness some light-hearted WW2 chatter with James Holland and Al Murray as they record a ‘live’ edition of their We Have Ways of Making You Talk podcast.

This year, there will be a new trench experience, where school children and adults can step back in time and experience the sights, sounds, and smells of World War II through the Oosterbeek Perimeter, where the British 1st Airborne valiantly held out with diminishing supplies during the Battle for Arnhem in September 1944.

There will also be a medieval encampment, complete with a full joust and other activities and demonstrations. Watch skilled knights battle it out on horseback and learn about the history and culture of the Middle Ages. This year, children can also build and test their own mini-trebuchets.

For those who want to soak up the atmosphere and sample a few local refreshments from the Chalke Valley Tap, then there may be a few unexpected visitors in the bar area. Dressing up is encouraged, but is not obligatory. As festival director Jane Pleydell-Bouverie says: “This festival has something for everyone, from the most serious historian to the casual observer who just wants to soak up the atmosphere and have a good time.”

As if all that weren’t enough, there will be live music throughout the festival, with each day focusing on a different era of 20th century popular music.

The line-up includes The Bluebirds, a stunning close-harmony trio passionate about keeping the vintage sound of the wartime years alive, Old Baby Mackerel who will recreate the music of the early 20th century, and The Soul Strutters will delight the crowds with their love of groove, disco, funk, soul and R&B from the 70s.

Festival-goers can expect to rub elbows with some of the most fascinating and accomplished historians and performers around.

The line-up this year is truly impressive, featuring big names like Michael Morpurgo, Antonia Fraser, Ian Hislop, Antony Beevor, Tracy Borman, John Major and Charlie Higson.

Of course, no festival would be complete without food and drink, and festival never disappoints. There will be plentiful food and drink outlets, and visitors can enjoy delicious lunches and suppers in the dining tent provided by Provenance: Field to Fork Food.

And for those who can’t get enough of the festival’s incredible speakers, there are over 200 Chalke Talks available on the festival’s podcast.

These talks, taken from over a decade of festival appearances, cover a wide range of historical topics and are sure to satisfy even the most voracious history buff.

The festival takes place from 26th June to 2nd July, tickets via

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