Chalke Valley History Festival

Discussion in 'The Book Club' started by old_fat_and_hairy, Jul 13, 2011.

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  1. old_fat_and_hairy

    old_fat_and_hairy LE Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    Last week, on the 7th July, I had the pleasure of attending the Chalke Valley History Festival, in Wiltshire.

    The venue was a cricket club in a beautiful valley and one that was an adventure to reach, with very narrow, winding lanes and hills. Now these are alien to me, as I live in Cambridgeshire.

    The festival was essentially a celebration of literary history, hence being placed in this forum. It was organised by James Holland and James Heneage, and supported by some very well-known patrons.

    This was the first festival of it's type and as James Holland explained ...'there are book festivals and history shows, but not the two together, so this is a first, but hopefully not the last'.

    Essentially, it was a coming together of authors and historians to share and discuss their works and books and to talk to the readership.


    The first event, at 1930, was a presentation by Peter Snow on Wellington, and Professor Andrew Lambert on Nelson. This was to be chaired by Richard Holmes, but sadly, as we know he is no longer with us. Instead he was replaced by a friend and colleague of his, Dave Musgrove.

    This event, in common with most that followed, took the form of each speaker giving a short outline of their subject; in Peter Snow's case Lord Wellington, although since it was concentrated on the early years, and the Peninsular War, he was more properly referred to as 'Wellesley'. I imagine most people are familiar with Mr Snow from his election night shows, and yes, he is just like that in real life. Booming voice, swinging arms and very exuberant. And also very knowledgeable of his subject, as is Andrew Lambert. At the end of the presentation the floor was thrown open for questions, and the audience participated well.

    There was a break for supper, and I was fortunate to sit with Peter Snow and Prof Lambert, excellent blokes and willing to chat about anything.

    The next event was chaired by James Holland and was a discussion on both Rommel and Montgomery, with Gary Sheffield and Peter Caddick Adams. Again this was of a similar format to the previous talk, and was very interesting and entertaining.

    The rest of the event followed these lines with talks on Alexander (The Great, obviously) and a discussion on Greeks and Romans on the Friday evening.

    Saturday was a full day event, which began with a talk by Martin Brown, the illustrator for 'Horrible Histories'. Now I love these books, as does my grandson, and was fascinated by Martin and his observations, which were mostly that we all can draw, yet most choose not to. He is a very funny speaker and had the audience enthralled and in gales of laughter.

    The presentation which many attended was a round table talk by several well known authors on writing historical fiction. Among the speakers were Simon Scarrow, whose books seem to be in great demand, talking about his Roman legion stories and Guy Walters who writes WW2 stories. Again the audience were greatly encouraged to take part and the talk went on for longer than scheduled.

    Later events in the day featured Lord Ashcroft talking about the VC and GC heroes, and his collection, the author of 'In Shackelton's Footsteps' (Guy Worsley, a former Rifles officer) and the Georgians at Home, with several distinguished speakers. John Jullius Norwich gave a talk on The Popes, then came 'The Face of Battle', which was easily the best attended. With speakers such as Col. Tim Collins, Major Chris Hunter and Surgeon commander Rick jolly, it was chaired by Patrick Bishop. Taking as it's theme 'From the Flaklands to Afghanistan' it was lively and informative, as well as being fascinating.

    This was the very first of these festivals, but more are planned, and I heartily advise that they are well worth visiting. The support for 'Help for Heroes' is just one very good reason to go.

    I was fortunate enough to meet and talk privately with a great many of the guests, and all of whom knew of and support the work of ARRSE. Perhaps the one I was most fortunate to meet was our own 'Bad Co.' A rare and great privilege. He is not at all how I pictured him, only one head for a start, and not at all a fire breather.

    I would thank James Holland and his wife Rachael as well as his friend James Heneage for their hospitality and company, and all the other speakers i was lucky enough to talk to. They made me welcome and were helpful in every way.

    When this comes around again, please support it, the money raised goes to a very worthwhile cause, and as it's not far from salisbury, Warminster or Blandford, it's accessible to many of you.It's a great eveing listening to fascinating and knowledgeable speakers, and there is a bar!

    More details at

  2. OFAH,

    I'd seen the flyers for the Festival & would love to have attended (i live not far away), but we had house guests last weekend & I don't think I would have been given a leave pass!
    Like you, I hope it's the first event of many in this area & I'll certainly try to make it next time around....would have particularly liked to meet James Holland as I'm reading his Jack Tanner books at the moment.
    Thanks for the review, sounds like it was a success & the fact that the historians were so generous with their time in meeting the audience guarantees a winner.

  3. I grew up in the Chalke Valley and it feels somewhat sullied now I know Tim Collins has been there...
  4. Auld-Yin

    Auld-Yin LE Reviewer Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    OFAH, sounds like you had a ball!!

    Hope we can turn this into an annual event, covered by ARRSE. Any (printable) pics with you hobnobbing with the literati? Bung them up if you have.

    Glad you enjoyed yourself.
  5. old_fat_and_hairy

    old_fat_and_hairy LE Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    It's a shame you couldn't make it, was very good indeed, and James Holland is most approachable. A friendly chap indeed. He plays for the cricket club there, so can be found whenever a game is on.
    The historians and authors were superb value, and again, very approachable and friendly.
  6. old_fat_and_hairy

    old_fat_and_hairy LE Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    It would be well worthwhile covering it whenever it's on. Most of the books are the staple of a great many of the site members, and the authors are very approachable. I put out feelers for any new books, but since the writers generally don't have much to do with their product once the agent/publisher has it, they were not sure what they could do, but promised to try.

    James said he will be at Edinburgh, and will hold you to the promise of a bucket of beer. He and Rachael spent most of the time running around organising. It was a tad chaotic at times, due to the need to greet guests, and add to that, the roads are very narrow, driving was sometimes difficult and signing was not superb, it was easy to see why things were a bit busy.

    As for photos; thanks to a royal visit from His most Eminenet and Mighty, Lord Mong, I took Oh camera with me but left the usb charging lead on my desk! And being in an electronic wilderness down there, could not get a replacement. Bugger.

    I agree that we should try to blag ( or should I say beg) for tickets to other events. Imperial War Museum Duxford springs to mind, conveniently a very short distance away from me. But there are literary festivals that we could perhaps attend.
  7. What a letdown, I was hoping it was about this (-Sarah) Chalke:

    Attached Files:

  8. old_fat_and_hairy

    old_fat_and_hairy LE Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    I suspect her valley is probably easier to get to and much more entertaining than even the one I was at, and her hills look most climbable.
  9. Just a few more to divert the thread further... In case you were wondering she was in Scrubs (possibly still is) as Dr. Eliot Reid.

    Attached Files:

  10. old_fat_and_hairy

    old_fat_and_hairy LE Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    Of course she is! Only just looked at her face. Looks much better without her scrubs. Does it make her a scrubber?
  11. dockers

    dockers Old-Salt Book Reviewer

    Bumping this thread because the Chalke Valley History Festival is taking place this year from 26 Jun to 1 Jul 2012 year. They are now taking bookings for sessions at: Chalke Valley History Festival | 26th June – 1st July 2012

    This year, a new, bigger, location, and over 50 sessions in two locations, sweeping across many centuries and genres of history. Quicklink to the programme here: Programme At A Glance | Chalke Valley History Festival

    Speakers include: Thomas Asbridge, Guy Walters, Professor Amanda Vickery, Dan Snow and Professor Jeremy Black, Professor Michael Burleigh, Rowland White, Ian Hislop and Guy Walters, Michael Wood, Professor Gary Sheffield and Dr Peter Caddick Evans, Wg Cdr Tom Neil, Sqn Ldr Tony Iveson, with Patrick Bishop, and James Holland, Anthony Beevor, Max Hastings, Saul David.

    Based on last year, well worth the attendance and also worth mentioning that the childrens' sessions are great too.
  12. old_fat_and_hairy

    old_fat_and_hairy LE Book Reviewer Reviews Editor

    This is a great event, and has a bar and restaraunt

    I shall certainly be there at some stage this year, likely the weekend part, and would commend the event most heartily. The hosts are welcoming and friendly, and the venue is charming . The list of speakers scheduled for this years event are most impressive and there are many more displays and talks that the first one. Some are very hands-on too. I can heartily endorse the one with Martin Brown from 'Horrible Histories', a very amusing and engaging chap.

    If you can, go to this festival, you will not regret it.
  13. Sounds like a plan. I'll try and catch 2 days.
  14. old_fat_and_hairy

    old_fat_and_hairy LE Book Reviewer Reviews Editor


    Just to reiterate, this event is well worth attending. A really good day out.
    And, the guy from 'Horrible Histories' is very good value.
  15. Have booked to go to this year's event, having missed the inaugural one last year which you reviewed.

    Tickets booked for James Holland, Max Hastings, Antony Beevor & the 2 Battle of Britain veterans with Spitfire flypast, plus the demos of WW2 weaponry & eqpt & the WW1 Yeomanry display. When I ordered the tickets I asked if the authors would be signing copies of their works at their presentations, & the reply was that they would so I'll be taking a few to be autographed.

    Looking forward to it, hope the weather forecast is good!