The Daily Mail Chalke Valley History Festival has announced its upcoming programme for 2021.

One of the very first ‘live’ events of the summer, the festival is set to welcome back families and history enthusiasts from around the country to its site in Broad Chalke from Wednesday, June 23 to Sunday 27.

This year the events will be spread across two big marquees, with socially-distanced seating, and two brand new amphitheatre-style outdoor stages.

An impressive list of eminent historians, writers and well-known personalities head up the wide-ranging and star-studded programme, which includes:

  • Playwright Tom Stoppard discussing his life with his biographer Hermione Lee

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Tom Stoppard  Picture by Matt Humphrey 

  • Award-winning historian Antonia Fraser in conversation with Lucy Moore about the 19th century heroine Caroline Norton

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  • Former commander of the Desert Rats Patrick Cordingley explaining how the two Gulf Wars have shaped the modern world
  • International bestselling author Kate Mosse examining The St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre
  • Historian Max Hastings recounting the gripping story of Operation Pedestal

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  • Diplomat Robert Cooper examines how statesmen can play a decisive role in shaping foreign policy, highlighting moments of diplomacy from Richelieu and Mazarin to the present day
  • Editor of the ‘Pevsner’ series Julian Orbach will give an illustrated talk about the most comprehensive and essential guide to Wiltshire’s architectural heritage

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  • Acclaimed television presenters and bestselling historians Neil Oliver and Michael Wood return to the festival line-up

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Neil Oliver  Picture by Bill Osment 

  • Dan Snow is appearing to talk about The Seven Years’ War, but also with his History Hit team will be orchestrating a number of dramatic re-enactments, and other events, in the outdoor area

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  • Al Murray and James Holland will be staging a ‘live’ episode of their popular podcast ‘We Have Ways of Making You Talk’.

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Picture by Andrew Chorley 

First time appearances

Guest speakers heading to the festival for the first time include:

  • Former MP and columnist Matthew Parris
  • Bestselling wine author Hugh Johnson
  • Economist and politician Vince Cable

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Vince Cable 

  • Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

Other highlights

Appearances by centenarian Christian Lamb, who worked on secret D-Day invasion maps with Winston Churchill, and by Patricia and Jean Owtram - now 97 and 95 - who are possibly the only living sisters to have signed the wartime Official Secrets Act - promise to be particular special events, along with a talk by Anne Glenconner, pictured below, Princess Margaret’s lady-in-waiting.

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Anne Glenconner Picture by Hal Shinnie 

Activities for children

  • The oldest travelling Big Wheel in the UK (built in 1922) and a vintage fairground, with traditional funfair attractions
  • Historical encampment that will take visitors bake through time from the Stone Age right through to the Second World War
  • A new Speaker’s Corner for shorter talks, late evening story-telling by the fire, live music every day, a chance to view the country’s only working Soviet T-34 tank

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The History Tellers  Picture by Elizabeth Perry 

  • For the first time, there will be a Second World War Soldier School where instructors will take young recruits from the parade ground to handling weapons
  • Food, hygiene and the home will be themes alongside Roman road-building, the age of chivalry, medicine and treating casualties in the trenches, and body snatching in the early 19th century

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Living historians  Picture by AWD Photography 


As in previous years, there will be a dining tent. This time, however, there will be two separate sittings in the evening.

There will also be a range of outdoor stalls and historic fast food.

The Big Top bar will be situated at the heart of the festival site, offering table service, with a mobile ordering service to enable people to purchase drinks via their mobile phones.

A message from the festival director

The director of the festival Jane Pleydell-Bouverie said: “We are so looking forward to welcoming the speakers and our loyal supporters back to the festival. We are hugely grateful to the Arts Council Culture Recovery Fund and for the incredible support from our patrons and sponsors.

“Great credit is due to the team and volunteers who have been working tirelessly to put on the programme in the most challenging of circumstances.

“I am delighted we have such a glittering line-up, from Niall Ferguson flying in from the US for the opening evening, to Juliet Nicolson on the last day of the festival with Charles Spencer, Mary Ann Sieghart, Richard Dearlove and Ben Macintyre in between.”

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Niall Ferguson

Where and when

The festival will take place at Church Bottom, Broad Chalke from Wednesday, June 23 to Sunday 27.

How to get tickets

Tickets go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, May 19 and will be released two days earlier on Monday, May 17 to the Friends membership.

The full programme is now online and can be found at

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