Chelsea History Festival | What’s on

This year’s festival will take place both physically and virtually with an exciting programme of talks, tours and events presented by three iconic institutions: the National Army Museum, the Royal Hospital Chelsea and Chelsea Physic Garden. The programme will cover a wide range of themes, from military to art history and social to natural history.

The  Chelsea History Festival is returning for a second year, 17-27 September 2020.

This year’s festival will take place both physically and virtually with an exciting programme of talks, tours and events presented by three iconic institutions: the National Army Museum, the Royal Hospital Chelsea and Chelsea Physic Garden. The programme will cover a wide range of themes, from military to art history and social to natural history.

Festival highlights

Headline speakers include Philippe Sands, one of the UK’s most prominent human rights barristers, in conversation with James Holland discussing his most recent book, The Ratline: Love, Lies and Justice on the Trail of a Nazi FugitiveHallie Rubenhold whose book, The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, won the Baillie Gifford Prize and was named Hay Festival Book of The Year.

Following a similar format to last year’s sold-out Remembering Arnhem event, the Chelsea History Festival will present an evening with Bletchley Park spotlighting its role in the Second World War. In keeping with the intelligence theme, Ben Macintyre, one of Britain’s most acclaimed historians, tells the incredible story of Ursula Kuczynski. Codenamed ‘Sonya’, she conducted some of the most dangerous espionage operations of the 20th century, including planning an assassination attempt on Hitler and helping the Soviet Union build the atom bomb.

Former Children’s Laureate and one of Britain’s best-loved writers, Sir Michael Morpurgo will talk about how he turns the subject of war into fiction. He has adapted his much-loved novel ‘War Horse’ into a picture book, providing a gateway to help children understand the history of the First World War. Olivette Otele, who last year became the first Professor of the History of Slavery at Bristol University, will provide a fascinating insight into the rich, varied complex history of encounters between people defined as ‘Africans’ and ‘Europeans’ spanning back over 2,000 years. She will be showcasing new research ahead of the release of her book African Europeans in October.

The expansive line-up also includes science journalist and novelist Laura Spinney, whose recent book Pale Rider explores the global history of the Spanish Flu, one of the greatest human disasters of all time.

Award-winning war reporter Christina Lamb has worked in combat zones for over 30 years. Her new book, Our Bodies, Their Battlefield, gives voice to the women of conflicts. She will be in conversation with world-renowned human rights lawyer Baroness Helena Kennedy, who has worked internationally with women in conflict zones.

Renowned historians Valerie Hansen and Peter Frankopan will discuss the birth of globalisation, exploring the impact that the flow of goods, people, ideas and technologies between Afro-Eurasia and the Americas had on the world 1,000 years ago. Professor Peter Frankopan is the bestselling author of The Silk Roadsand The New Silk Roads.

During a career spanning 60 years, Sir Don McCullin has become one of Britain’s foremost war photographers. In a short film made specially for the festival, he will be joined by historian Barnaby Rogerson to reflect on their time exploring and photographing archaeological sites across the Middle East.

Also joining this year’s festival is Martin Brown, illustrator of Horrible Histories, who will take families on a journey from the bloody Battle of Waterloo to the frightful First World War and will get them drawing in a quick-fire workshop.

Closing the festival, award-winning historian James Holland will be sharing his extensive new research into Operation Husky, the Allied assault on Sicily in 1943, which remains the largest amphibious invasion ever mounted and was a major turning point of the Second World War.

Reflecting on our past

Festival Director, Harry Parker, says:

‘We are living through a global crisis that connects us all in ways that didn’t seem possible a few months ago. It feels like it is more important than ever to gather and reflect on our past. The team has put together a varied and diverse programme of over 50 events that I’m really excited about and I’m so grateful to all the authors and supporters who have got behind us this year amidst all the uncertainty.’

This year, due to the current pandemic, the festival is a mixture of physical and virtual events. Physical events will take place across two of the founding partner sites in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea along the Royal Hospital Road. Host venues are the National Army Museum, an institution that tells the history of the British Army and its soldiers, and the Chelsea Physic Garden, one of Britain’s oldest botanical gardens, which will open its doors to the public free of charge on Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 September.

All virtual events are free to attend but must be booked in advance. Tickets for physical events are priced from £0 – £15 with a 25% discount when booking three or more.

To see the programme and book now, visit www.chelseahistoryfestival.com