Culture fund lifeline for history festival

THE Chalke Valley History Festival has been awarded £260,000 as part of the government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) to help face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and to ensure a sustainable future for the history festival and its Festival for Schools.

The history festival, based in the Chalke valley in south Wiltshire, is a unique celebration of history, with talks, performance, music, living history, and story-telling, covering a very broad range of subjects from the deep past to the near present, and through many different perspectives.

It is the largest festival in the UK (perhaps the world) devoted entirely to history, and a major rural-based cultural event for the region, attracting a local, regional, national and international audience. It attracts some 25,000-30,000 people annually to the week-long event, provides a large number of jobs and boosts the local economy; and where possible uses local businesses.

The festival is owned by a charitable trust set up to promote the understanding and inspiration of the past to the widest possible audience of all ages but especially children through the Chalke Valley History Festival for Schools which runs concurrently.

The programme features talks, discussions and debates, a vast through-the-ages living history encampment featuring interactive events and, at the weekend, air displays of historic aircraft. Participants include leading academics, and experts in political, social, economic and military history, and the history of art, music, theatre and literature educate and entertain the audience.

Without the funding from the Arts Council Culture Recovery Fund the festival organisers were planning a greatly reduced festival for 2021 which would not have included the Festival for Schools. This funding will enable them to mount the festival, including the Festival for Schools, with social distancing measures in place (provided, of course, that holding a festival at all complies with government guidelines) from 21st to 27th June 2021.

Festival director Jane Pleydell-Bouverie said: “We passionately believe that it is only by learning about the past that we can make sense of the present and prepare for the future so this grant will enable us to continue to mount the Festival for Schools alongside the main Chalke Valley History Festival programme.”