Never has there been such a longing for the way things used to be. So we make absolutely no apologies for trumpeting the launch of what will be one of the first big gatherings of this summer – the Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival.
As things stand, June 21 is scheduled to be England’s Hallelujah moment – or, as officials prefer to call it, the start of ‘Step Four’. For the time being, that is at least the day on which almost all legal limits for social contact will be lifted.
Just two days later, the gates open during the Chalke Valley History Festival. Always held at the end of June, this spectacular event has a well-deserved reputation as Britain’s finest summer celebration with a great history for all the family – from Iron Age life to the Romans, Victorians, WWII and the World. coronation (in the company of one of the ladies-in-waiting of the queen’s coronation).
Deep in the heart of Thomas Hardy’s country (where else would you find a festival that rejoices in the name of Church Bottom?), The festival takes place on the border between Wiltshire and Dorset, not far from Salisbury. This year’s program features over 100 events – all Covid compliant – for every age and taste.
So we’re not making any apologies for trumpeting the launch of what will be one of this summer’s first major gatherings – the Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival.
This has been one of the many gems on the summer festival calendar for a decade, but it has certainly never been so much anticipated given the year we’ve just been through.
The pandemic has already spawned other major events, such as the Hay Festival, online, while Glastonbury’s massive pop bonanza was reduced to a supposed ‘concert’ in September.
But at least there will be one more place where people can liberate the soul again; where they can experience the simple pleasure of being entertained and enlightened in the heart of the British countryside; where they can dine in a huge open gazebo, or sit on a hay bale, or lie on the grass and enjoy fish and chips or a platter of Asian street food with a beer or a Pimm’s in the company of great storytellers and the occasional pass through Spitfire.
The organizers of Chalke Valley are still in the process of finalizing part of the program, but it has been decided to continue so that people can put the dates (June 23-27) on the agenda.
Always held at the end of June, this spectacular event has a well-deserved reputation as Britain’s best summer celebration with a great history for all the family
All planning has been agreed with the relevant authorities, although precise details will not be disclosed until the next phase of the lockdown roadmap is clearer.
However, blessed with tons of open space, there’s more than enough room for a lineup of top historians, biographers and broadcasters, along with as many members of the public as the rules allow at the time.
Whatever your favorite period, there will be lectures and panel discussions, with historians such as Margaret Macmillan, Philippe Sands, Antony Beevor, Max Hastings and Tracy Borman. Margaret Thatcher’s biographer, Charles Moore, will conduct a ‘Whodunnit’ about the overthrow of the Iron Lady, while our main playwright, Sir Tom Stoppard, will be grilled by his biographer, Hermione Lee.
Courts of the past and the present loom. Charles Spencer investigates Norman’s betrayal, while Lady Anne Glenconner reflects on life as Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting and the day she accompanied the new queen down the aisle of Westminster Abbey for the coronation.
Spooks from the past and the present are also in the mix. Former MI6 head Sir Richard Dearlove will exchange espionage notes with Elizabethan scholar Stephen Alford.
Boris Johnson, the then Mayor of London, was a speaker at the Chalke Valley History Festival in 2013
Younger festival goers have just as much to choose from, including Tudor cooking classes and sword school. Comedian and author Charlie Higson will explore in eerie detail how our less fortunate monarchs came to an end (and yes, that includes Edward II and red-hot poker).
And then there is music – a lot. “It just gets that great jamboree party feeling with tents and flags and archery and a lot of living history,” said the chairman, historian James Holland. “Think of it as a return to the sun-drenched highlands.”
While there will be two large, airy marquees for lectures, there will also be Roman-style open-air amphitheaters. Most family events are also in the open air. All events are scheduled in accordance with Step Four guidelines, but they may also comply with the more stringent Step Three rules if they are in effect.
Everything is organized in collaboration with the authorities. ‘We are in their hands and will abide by whatever the rules are at the time,’ says James Holland, noting that the festival is only taking place thanks to a grant from one of the government’s rescue plans, the Arts Culture Restoration Fund. Council. .
Since the public has helped keep these types of events alive, it seems only right that they can now enjoy them.
And right now we could all do with a blast from the past.