Chalke Valley History Trust receives lifeline grant from Government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund

Chalke Valley History Trust (CVHT) has been awarded £260,000 as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) to help face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and to ensure the Chalke Valley History Festival and its Festival for Schools have a sustainable future, the Culture Secretary has announced today.

CVHT, owner of Chalke Valley History Festival, is one of 1,385 cultural and creative organisations across the country receiving urgently needed support. £257 million of investment has been announced today as part of the very first round of the Culture Recovery Fund grants programme being administered by Arts Council England. Further rounds of funding in the cultural and heritage sector are due to be announced over the coming weeks.

The Chalke Valley History Festival is a unique celebration of history that includes talks, performance, music, living history, and story-telling, covering a very broad range of subjects from the deep past to the near present, and through many different perspectives. It is the largest festival in the UK (perhaps the world) devoted entirely to history and attracts a local, regional, national and international audience. The festival is owned by a charitable trust set up to promote the understanding and inspiration of the past to the widest possible audience of all ages but especially children through the Chalke Valley History Festival for Schools which runs concurrently.

In the decade since the festival has been running, we have brought a major cultural event to south-west Wiltshire – there is no rural-based cultural festival of this scale anywhere else in the area.  It attracts some 25,000-30,000 people annually and also provides a large number of jobs and boosts the local economy; we use local businesses as far as we possibly can.

Over a week, visitors enjoy a blend of talks, discussions and debates, alongside a vast through-the-ages living history encampment featuring interactive events and, at the weekend, air displays of historic aircraft. The festival is noted for the range of performers it attracts from leading academics and nationally renowned figures to the best living historians. In addition to political, social, economic and military history, experts in the history of art, music, theatre and literature educate and entertain the audience.

Following the cancellation of the 2020 festival and the attendant costs already incurred, without the funding from the Arts Council Culture Recovery Fund we were planning a greatly reduced festival for 2021 which would not have included the Festival for Schools. This funding will enable us to mount the Festival, including the Festival for Schools, with social distancing measures in place (provided, of course, that holding a festival at all complies with Government guidelines) from 21-27 June 2021.

Festival Director, Jane Pleydell-Bouverie, said:

“We are absolutely delighted and so grateful to have received funding thanks to the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. We passionately believe that it is only by learning about the past that we can make sense of the present and prepare for the future so this grant will enable us to continue to mount the Festival for Schools alongside the main Chalke Valley History Festival programme.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

“This funding is a vital boost for the theatres, music venues, museums and cultural organisations that form the soul of our nation. It will protect these special places, save jobs and help the culture sector’s recovery. 

“These places and projects are cultural beacons the length and breadth of the country. This unprecedented investment in the arts is proof this Government is here for culture, with further support to come in the days and weeks ahead so that the culture sector can bounce back strongly.”

Chair, Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota, said:

“Theatres, museums, galleries, dance companies and music venues bring joy to people and life to our cities, towns and villages. This life-changing funding will save thousands of cultural spaces loved by local communities and international audiences. Further funding is still to be announced and we are working hard to support our sector during these challenging times.”