From Monday 24th to Sunday 30th June, a usually quiet field in Broad Chalke, near Salisbury in Wiltshire, will come alive and be transformed into the world’s largest festival entirely devoted to history. Spread over 60 acres, it is a unique combination of talks, discussions and topical debates, plus a vast living history encampment, where the very best living historians – all experts in their field – bring history to life with their extensive knowledge and passion for their subjects. The Festival also boasts a range of interactive tents and activities such as SOE Commando training and Royal Signals Morse code lessons; as well as archaeology walks, vintage vehicles, a book store, shopping emporium, a bar, fine dining and street food.
This summer, over 150 talks and debates will be delivered by eminent historians, writers and commentators. Speakers already confirmed include: Victoria Hislop, Michael Wood, Mariella Frostrup, Niall Ferguson, Kate Williams, Max Hastings, Elif Shafak, Ian Kershaw, Kwasi Kwateng, Neil Oliver, Antonia Fraser, Ben MacIntyre, and Olivette Otele. Plus, appearances by Ken Tout, a veteran of one of the most famous tank engagements of WWII, and John Jammes, French resistor and winner of the Croix de Guerre, promise to be particularly special events.
During the week, The Schools’ Festival enables pupils and teachers to get out beyond the classroom and experience history in a new way. The Festival provides a full programme of curriculum-based subjects, delivered with expertise and a fresh, interactive and immersive approach. Now in its 7th year, with increased numbers of children and schools attending each year, the Festival welcomed nearly 2,500 pupils in 2018.
The 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings will also be marked at Chalke Valley this year, and there will be a special D-Day morning to commemorate all those who fought in the Normandy campaign. For the first time, the Festival will also be recreating a World War II trench. The scene will be set in late June in 1944 and members of the public will be thrown into a fly-on-the-wall scenario that will demonstrate the equipment, conditions and dangers facing British troops on the Normandy frontline.
In addition, the festival weekend will see an exciting new programme of living history events, showcasing the age of the Anglo Saxons and Vikings, right the way through to the Second World War.
How exploration and navigation has changed, demonstrating the techniques of the Vikings, Tudor explorers such as Drake and Raleigh and also Captain James Cook.
Exploring the changing ways in which we live. From the Vikings to the Age of Chivalry and from the Tudors to the Stuarts, living historians will be showing how clothing and dressing has changed over the centuries, and how cleanliness and attitudes to hygiene have also progressed.
A major theme for this year, demonstrating a wide variety of different rural crafts and farming techniques, comparing ancient to modern day, from sheep driving, traditional sheering, haymaking and a series of connected skills from a wheelwright to hurdle maker to traditional blacksmithing.
The Festival weekend falls on Armed Forces Day, which this year will be centered round the local cathedral city of Salisbury. To tie in with this event, the Festival will play host to over twenty current British Army infantrymen from the Royal Anglian Regiment who will be transformed into British infantry from 1944. Using their current skills, they will be demonstrating both what has changed in the intervening years and what has remained much the same with a series of events that will showcase equipment, weapons, tactics and infantry skills.