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Meeting their Waterloo

Britain’s largest history festival celebrates the Waterloo bicentennial

Anthony Gardner | July/August 2015

Circling Spitfires, a Roman encampment, a Jacobean sword school and a Great War trench: a time traveller landing in Wiltshire’s Chalke Valley at midsummer would check his co-ordinates in vain. Britain’s largest history festival has a battalion of speakers, many of them focusing on the bicentennial of Waterloo. Peter and Dan Snow analyse Napoleon’s downfall; Barney White-Spunner gives the view from the troops; Peter Ginn and Mark Evans examine archaeological evidence. The second world war is also on the agenda: Tom Neil, a Battle of Britain ace, mines his experiences, as do all seven members of a Lancaster bomber crew. Lord (aka Dr David) Owen looks at how health affects leaders’ decisions, while Ian Hislop takes part in the Histrionics quiz show. Don’t miss Tom Holland on the Caesars, Amanda Foreman on women through the ages, Kate Mosse on historical fiction, or Antonia Fraser discussing her memoirs with her brother, Michael Pakenham. ~ Anthony Gardner

Chalke Valley History Festival June 22nd-28th; cvhf.org.uk


Talks at a glance

Shubbak Literary Festival (British Library, London, July 25th-26th). A weekend of Arab writing: political poetry, sci-fi, Elias Khoury, Hoda Barakat and a debate on taboos. 

David Sedaris (Britain, to June 15th; New England, July 27th to Aug 1st). Superwry humour.

Hay Festival Kells (June 25th-28th). It’s a bit like selling snow to Eskimos, but HFK has come in from the cold. Roddy Doyle, Ben Okri and Anne Enright speak; Brian Eno shares his ambient manifesto.  

Curious Arts Festival (Pylewell Park, Hampshire, July 17th-19th). Hedge-foraging and  snail-racing, plus “Tosca”, Phil Manzanera’s guitar, David Nicholls and Esther Freud. ~ AG

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