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.

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