A festival not to be missed

YOU haven’t really lived if you haven’t been to the Chalke Valley History Festival. It has grown so rapidly that is has already become one of the summer’s must-go-to events.

Beautifully planned programmes of speakers, as well as debates, demonstrations and re-enactments, all complemented by a thoughtfully put-together range of events for school pupils have ensured that, each year, more and more people head to the back of beyond to have their minds stretched and their knowledge expanded.

Yes, I know many of the speakers are there because they have a new book out but they have to be on their mettle: if they are not impressive when they give their presentation or when they are interviewed on the stage, few people will buy the book from the on-site bookshop.

Held in a remote field at the top of a hill, the Festival was started by two history enthusiasts living nearby. With a plethora of good contacts, James Holland and James Heneage have, between them and their friends and neighbours, started something fantastic. This year, for example, more than 1,000 schoolchildren will be heading to the Festival to have their interest in history ignited, with the help of a schedule of events that links with the national curriculum, and the GCSE and A2 syllabuses.

As for the grown-ups, no detail is left to chance. Excellent sound quality in the marquees, fairly comfortable chairs, top-class catering (you order your choice of meal online in advance), and, so far, brilliant weather. Even the loos are good.

It also boasts its own air show, living history encampment and, for the first time, a Victory Party.

When it comes to choosing the events you want to attend, well, where do you start? First look online http://www.chalkevalleyhistoryfestival.org.uk to see if there are any tickets left because it all kicks off this week.

Ian and Victoria Hislop have both spoken at the Chalke Valley Festival in past years.

Ian and Victoria Hislop have both spoken at the Chalke Valley Festival in past years.

Old pals Lord Marland of Odstock, former Conservative Party treasurer, and Boris Johnson met at the Festival in 2013 when the ebullient Mayor of London came to talk about his book, “London”.

Old pals Lord Marland of Odstock, former Conservative Party treasurer, and Boris Johnson met at the Festival in 2013 when the ebullient Mayor of London came to talk about his book, “London”.

One of the exhibits at the Chalke Valley History Festival, and the first steam engine that The Happy Moonraker has seen being driven by a young woman.

One of the exhibits at the Chalke Valley History Festival, and the first steam engine that The Happy Moonraker has seen being driven by a young woman.

An authentic-looking First World War trench with soldiers in genuine uniforms.

An authentic-looking First World War trench with soldiers in genuine uniforms.

A close encounter

Trucks at Fisherton railway brdige 16 6 15

THE Happy Moonraker appreciates good driving – not the sort where vehicles go at twice the speed limit through villages, ignoring pedestrians walking on roads with no pavements, but the sort of driving that shows skill and judgement.

Just see how tricky the situation was for these two trucks who met in Salisbury trying to go under Fisherton railway bridge in opposite directions. The one on the right is a massive flat-bed articulated truck laden with huge pieces of stone. The driver had to be careful not to jack-knife as he performed his manoeuvres, and also avoid hitting the pub on the right, but at the same time allowing the green truck enough space to get out of the way.

He succeeded within a few minutes, having damaged nothing in the process. I could have clapped in appreciation of his skill, but he wouldn’t have heard me. Perhaps he does this quite often as he heads to the Cathedral’s works department with his rocks: he would be quite likely to meet another HGV there each time he approaches that bridge.

 

Strings attached

Ford gate wi string etc

MOST of us are in favour of repairing and recycling before replacing. However, this gate near Salisbury is perhaps a classic example of creative repair that has gone too far.

The Happy Moonraker would not like responsibility for actually trying to close it; any self-respecting sheep would soon get through, leading the rest of the flock behind it.

 

Festival events draw the crowds

David Bates, music director of La Musica Nuova, and his players acknowledge applause after their accomplished performance of Handel’s oratorio, Israel in Egypt. In the foreground lies the effigy and tomb of William Longspee, half-brother of King John.

David Bates, music director of La Musica Nuova, and his players acknowledge applause after their accomplished performance of Handel’s oratorio, Israel in Egypt. In the foreground lies the effigy and tomb of William Longspee, half-brother of King John.

THE Happy Moonraker had a fabulous time in Salisbury Cathedral at the performance of Handel’s oratorio, Israel in Egypt. It was given by La Nuova Musica, the ensemble founded in 2007 by moonraker David Bates who went to school in Salisbury before studying at the Royal Academy of Music.

Staged as part of this year’s Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival, the performance was recorded live by BBC Radio 3, and also attracted a large audience in the Cathedral itself.

The only downside for The Happy Moonraker was a bad case of Cathedral Foot, a condition brought about by prolonged contact with a cold stone floor, that affects both feet, no matter how careful the choice of footwear.

A couple of days earlier The Happy Moonraker went to listen to Anne Shooter, the Jewish cook, who was promoting her latest cookbook, Sesame & Spice, in an interview held in the Salberg Studio at Salisbury Playhouse.

Her interviewer was Matthew Stadlen who is always so admirable at his job: well-prepared, confident and friendly without being over-familiar.

Among Anne’s audience was Festival director Toby Smith, who said he’d been using the book regularly and bringing to the office examples of his baking from her recipes for colleagues to try. Everything had met with approval.

Unusually, the audience was invited to try samples of two of Anne’s cakes that she had brought: honey cake using a family recipe which was actually baked with golden syrup rather than honey, and her chocolate fridge cake.

Anne Shooter, journalist and food writer with the Daily Mail, prepares to sign copies of her latest book, Sesame & Spice, pictured with her Salisbury Festival interviewer, Matthew Stadlen.

Anne Shooter, journalist and food writer with the Daily Mail, prepares to sign copies of her latest book, Sesame & Spice, pictured with her Salisbury Festival interviewer, Matthew Stadlen.