The Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival from Monday 27 June to Sunday 3 July is a true celebration of the past.
For a week, a normally sleepy corner of England, a hidden valley in South-West Wiltshire comes alive to sound of Merlin engines, cannon-fire, muskets and music as historic event across the thousands of years is brought to life in talks, demonstrations from re-enactment groups, mock battles and high speed aerial displays.
2016 sees the centenary of three very important battles of the First World War: the naval Battle of Jutland, the French and German ten-month Battle of Verdun, and of course the Battle of the Somme, so indelibly marked on our national consciousness. Now in its sixth year, The Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival will be marking all of them this summer, along with a vast range of talks, discussions, debates, and study mornings, from the dinosaurs right through to the Cold War and beyond.
With a unique combination of speaker events and living history entertainment, including combat displays and interactive experiences, as well as a series of stunning short air displays with historic aircraft across the weekend, the Festival once more looks set to dazzle, entertain and educate, whatever age you are.
Set against the beautiful backdrop of the Chalke Valley downs, 12 miles south-west of Salisbury, the largest festival in the UK devoted entirely to history attracts a line-up of speakers like no other. The 2016 programme has just been announced and tickets are now on sale.
Headlining for the first time this year, amongst others, are: the distinguished historian and commentator Niall Ferguson, author and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, former Secretary of State and European Commissioner Peter Mandelson, renowned biographer Hermione Lee, philosopher AC Grayling, and legendary musician Mark Knopfler.
Also making a debut appearance on this year’s impressive speaker list is former Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, former head of the British Army Field Marshall Lord Bramall, political commentator and writer Jonathan Dimbleby, the journalist and popular scientist Matt Ridley, art historian and BBC television presenter Dan Cruickshank, and former Beirut hostage Terry Waite. Festival favourites making a welcome return include Max Hastings, Michael Morpurgo, Dan Snow, Suzannah Lipscomb, Ian Hislop, Andrea Wulf, Michael Wood, Tracy Borman, Dan Jones, Alice Roberts, Simon Sebag Montefiore and Charlie Higson. The full literary programme of over 140 speakers, including eminent historians and experts in their fields, can be found here: https://programme.cvhf.org.uk/
Veterans of the Second World War have always been a huge draw at the Festival, and this year we are thrilled to be welcoming Herr Günter Halm, a German veteran of North Africa and Normandy and Knight’s Cross winner – awarded to him in person by Field Marshal Rommel in 1942. Johnny Johnson, the last surviving Dam Buster, will also be discussing the Dams Raid and his time in Bomber Command, while Joy Hunter, one of Churchill’s wartime secretaries, will be discussing with Andrew Roberts her memories of working for the Prime Minister, plus the incredible events she witnessed and people she met.
The annual Prospect Debate is bound to be controversial with the motion ‘Trident: Britain’s Nuclear Deterrent Should be Consigned to History’ – contested by Professor Lord Hennessy and Philip Dunne, Minister of State for Defence Procurement against Professor David Edgerton and Kate Hudson, General Secretary of CND – as relevant today as it has ever been. In 2015 the Festival introduced a series of panels entitled The Long View where current world issues were discussed by experts and Festival audiences through the prism of history.
Following its success last year, this June will see two topical issues discussed: the first on Migration, with historians Peter Heather and Keith Lowe as well as Jack Straw, and the second entitled ‘Baiting the Russian Bear’, when writers and opinion formers such as Peter Frankopan and Edward Lucas, along with Marina Litvinenko, will discuss the fragile relationship between Russia and The West, chaired by Mary Ann Sieghart.
For many attending the Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival one of the highlights each year is the series of spectacular air displays, which take place at intervals over the two weekend days. There can be few more stunning places to watch the historic aircraft overhead than in the Chalke Valley and, with many planes already confirmed for this summer’s show, this year’s displays promise to be particularly special. The list includes: the only Avro Lancaster (on both days) flying in the UK, a Fairey Swordfish, an Auster, a Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk, a Hawker Hurricane, a Supermarine Spitfire XIX, a Supermarine Spitfire IX, a Vought F4U Corsair and a Yakovlev Yak-3.
Commenting on the huge range of events lined up for this year, co-Chair of the Festival James Holland said: “This year we have a wider range of subjects, more diverse speakers, incredible historic aircraft, and a truly spectacular living history show with World War II tank battles, Vikings, Romans, a totally authentic scale section of First World War trench and a fabulous 1940s Blitz Party. To have the likes Mark Knopfler on stage talking about and playing his history songs and eminent historians like Niall Ferguson speaking, while at the same time there are a vast number of activities and other events for people of all ages, from battles to historic cookery, is incredibly exciting.”
This summer at the Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival there will be a wider range of living history activities than ever before. The centrepiece of this year’s programme will be the spectacular Second World War displays which will include multiple tanks in action, guns and infantry, all working together. At the weekend will also be a tough SOE and Commando training course, on which participants can be put through their paces and learn some of the skills needed to operate in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Another major focus will be on King Alfred’s Battle for Wessex. There will be a week of activities at the ever-popular Anglo-Saxon settlement, with more than 100 re-enactors, as well as a recreated Viking longship. Covering some two thousand years of history, there will also be an impressive list of demonstrations and displays to choose from, with lots of family-based inter-active events, including Anglo-Saxon Bread Making, Musketry in the American War of Independence, a Battle of Waterloo Diorama with the BBC’s Peter Ginn and Mark Evans, and Tudor Fast Food.
Continuing the success of last year’s Pop-Up History programme, 2016 will also see a series of fun, fact-filled, informal talks at various locations around and throughout the Festival. These will be interactive and free half-hour talks where audiences will be encouraged to ask questions and feel involved. Talks will be given by living historians, speakers and experts who will talk on a wide range of topics – from a shipwreck off the Dorset coast to steam trains, and from fabrics of the First World War to the efficacy of the Cromwell tank.
At this year’s festival there will be a scale section of a First World War trench. Built by a team of experts and local volunteers, using authentic methods and materials, plus official period manuals, as well as drawing upon the testimonies of those who built and fought in them, this will be as close a representation of what a First World War trench was like as is possible. To mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme, there will be a service at the Trench from 7.15am on Friday 1st July, led by the Bishop of Salisbury.
Running alongside the main programme, the Festival for Schools sees thousands of pupils, from primary school to sixth formers, visit during the first half of the week on special days dedicated to different year groups. Aimed at Years 6, 10 and 12, a wide range of curriculum- based subjects will be discussed by eminent historians on subjects as varied as The Vietnam War, The History of Medicine, Radio Women: History through the BBC, 17th Century Witchcraft, and Stalin’s Great Terror. Experts will be on hand to show and explain the secrets of the past, encouraging students to learn and to get involved. Guest speakers for 2016 include Ben Kane, Professor Hew Strachan, Dr Kate Murphy, Peter Caddick-Adams and local adventurer Charlie Walker.
On the evening of 2 July and as part of Dress Up Saturday, with a Spitfire and Hurricane flying over, it will be time to get your dancing shoes on for The Chalke Valley History Festival Blitz Party. There will be live music all night, from beautiful Bombshell Belles, the legendary London Swing Orchestra, and the delicious D-Day Darlings, with a scrumptious wartime-inspired supper served up by Victoria Blashford-Snell and a barrage of drinks at the bar.
New at the Festival this year is the Children’s Creative History Tent, which will provide art and craft activities for children aged 6 – 12 throughout the weekend and will be where children can create their own exciting historical object to take home. The History Tellers will also be giving free talks – primarily aimed at children – using props and costumes, and recounting tales from our rich historical past. There will be plenty of stalls for some well-earned retail therapy, plus both glamping and camping for those wishing to stay near the site. Book signings will be arranged by Festival partner Waterstones.
The Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival will take place in Ebbesbourne Wake, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP5 5JH.
For more details about the Festival, please visit the website www.cvhf.org.uk Tickets can be purchased from here or by calling 01722 781133.
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