Tickets Go On Sale for the Third Annual Chelsea History Festival

27 July 2021

Building on the success of previous years that saw almost 30,000 people – both physically and virtually – enjoy a brilliantly eclectic programme of world-class speakers, historians and performers, the Chelsea History Festival is returning for an action-packed third year, 17 – 26 September 2021.

Taking place in the heart of London in partnership with three iconic institutions: the National Army Museum, Royal Hospital Chelsea and the Chelsea Physic Garden, this year’s diverse festival will host over 70 exciting physical and virtual events with more than 15 headline speakers, including Jeremy Paxman, Olivette Otele and Jonathan Dimbleby, and feature a number of exclusive pre-publication launches.

Festival highlights

This year’s dynamic programme of events will cover a range of themes, delving into the worlds of military and art history, and platforming new perspectives on social and natural history.

The expansive line-up launches with bestselling author and historian Julie Summers speaking to former editor-in-chief of British Vogue Alexandra Shulman about the groundbreaking work of her wartime predecessor Audrey Withers. Discover the intrepid story of Vogue in its most formative years, when Withers forged an identity for the magazine that went far beyond just fashion.

Headline speakers include Jeremy Paxman exploring the incredible impact of coal in British history. In this exciting talk, Paxman will investigate not only the rise of ‘Black Gold’, but also the lives of those who worked in the mines and the important role they played in shaping Britain today.

Jonathan Dimbleby and Andrew Roberts will discuss Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s invasion of Russia in June 1941, and the tangled web of consequences it had for all those involved. This operation, which saw millions of men killed, wounded, or registered as ‘missing in action’, would ultimately bring about the destruction of the Third Reich.

Also joining this year’s festival headliners will be Helen Fry, with an exclusive look at her new book, Spy Master, which dives deep into the secretive life of Thomas Kendrick the secret agent who saved MI6, and bestselling author Damien Lewis, bringing to vivid life seven dramatic and daring escapes by members of the SAS during the Second World War.

Brand new for this year’s festival, the History Village in the heart of London will take visitors back through time to learn first-hand what life was like in Roman London or the First World War. This immersive outdoor event brings history to life with living historians, serving military units and local cultural organisations. Visitors will also have the opportunity to become knights in shining armour for the day as they clash blades at the Sword School, alongside a wide range of other family-friendly activities.

Resilience and recovery

Festival Director, Harry Parker, says:

‘So many of the stories we tell about the past are about resilience and recovery, it feels more important than ever to gather and reflect on the history that makes us who we are. This year we will have a new bigger headline venue to keep our audience safe, an outdoor history street packed with fun for history lovers and all the family, and the largest and most varied speaker programme we’ve ever had. I hope you can join us.’

Following a similar format to previous years, Chelsea Pensioners who served in the Korean War will discuss their involvement in the 1950s conflict. Our panel of veterans will come together to share their moving experiences of ‘the Forgotten War’ in a unique oral history event.

Other festival exclusives include a first look at Rob Lyman’s new book, A War of Empires: Japan, India, Burma and Britain, 1941-45. Ahead of the launch of his latest book, bestselling author of Normandy ’44 and Sicily ’43 James Holland will bring to life the story of the Sherwood Rangers, an elite tank regiment who played a pivotal role in the final months of the Second World War.

Catherine Ostler will be examining the astounding life of Elizabeth Chudleigh, radically re-evaluating her life, her behaviour and her legacy. And Shrabani Basu will uncover the story of a real-life criminal case that took place in Edwardian England, featuring Arthur Conan Doyle as the detective.

In a unique event developed especially for the Chelsea History Festival, renowned historians Professors Olivette Otele and Peter Frankopanconsider the challenges of telling the stories of people and places that are often overlooked.

Join General Sir Nicholas Carter, Chief of the Defence Staff, as he speaks to Justin Maciejewski, Director of the National Army Museum about the ever-changing world of conflict. Drawing on his 43 years of service, through a period of extraordinary change, the General gives his unique insight into the ever evolving world of conflict.

As we mark 300 years of British prime ministers and grapple with their momentous decisions, Iain Dale and Sir Anthony Seldon will explore the history of the office in this wide-ranging discussion that will shine a light on the challenges that have and continue to be faced by the occupants of 10 Downing Street.

Sixty years on from the release of EH Carr’s influential text What is History?, contributors to the ground-breaking new collection What is History, Now? will unpick the burning questions facing historians today. The panel will be chaired by the collection’s editors Suzannah Lipscomb and Helen Carr, great-granddaughter of EH Carr.

This year’s festival is a hybrid of physical and virtual events. Physical events will take place across the three founding partners sites along the Royal Hospital Road in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Host venues include the National Army Museum, an institution that tells the story of the British Army and its soldiers, the Chelsea Physic Garden, one of Britain’s oldest botanical gardens, and the beautiful grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which was founded in 1682 and is still home to the Chelsea Pensioners.

Tickets for physical events are priced from £0 to £14 with a 25% discount when booking three or more events. Virtual events are priced at £6.

To see the programme and book now, visit

Notes to editors

  • Festival dates: Friday 17 September – Sunday 26 September 2021
  • Ticket prices: £0 – £14
  • Ticket offer: Book three or more events and save 25%. Tickets must be purchased in the same transaction and the discount will automatically be applied within your basket. The offer does not apply to free events, or to any events which include merchandise in the ticket price.
  • Media centre and images:
  • Sponsor: Chelsea History Festival 2021 is sponsored by Cadogan
  • Hashtag: #ChelseaHistoryFest
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About the Chelsea History Festival

Launched in October 2019, the Chelsea History Festival is an annual festival aiming to draw visitors from near and far, to explore and celebrate history. Over five days, a diverse programme of events will entertain and inspire audiences of all ages. The festival is a partnership between three major heritage sites in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, along Royal Hospital Road: the National Army Museum, the Royal Hospital Chelsea and Chelsea Physic Garden.

About the National Army Museum

Established in 1960 by Royal Charter, the National Army Museum is the United Kingdom’s leading authority on the history and traditions of the British Army. It explores the impact that soldiers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth have had throughout the world, from the 17th century to the present day. Through its world-class collections, the Museum safeguards and shares the stories and values of ordinary people who have been called upon to bear extraordinary responsibilities on behalf of others.

About the Royal Hospital Chelsea

Since 1692 the Royal Hospital Chelsea has provided the very highest standard of care to retired British Army veterans. It is an independent charity and home to over 300 Chelsea Pensioners. We care for the veterans who were willing to risk their lives yesterday to give us freedom today. Due to the vulnerability of the Chelsea Pensioners to Coronavirus it has not been possible to open up the main Royal Hospital site to external visitors at this time.

About Chelsea Physic Garden

Chelsea Physic Garden is a peaceful oasis and centre for learning, right in the centre of London. The Garden was founded by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London in 1673 for apprentices to study the medicinal qualities of plants, and today our living collection of over 5000 medicinal, useful and edible plants means the Garden remains an important centre of botany and plant exchange. We are open to the public six days a week offering guided tours and bookable family activities that bring people closer the amazing plants that have an impact on our everyday lives.

About the Cadogan Estate

Cadogan is a family business, property manager, investor and developer with a 300 year history that informs its dynamic estate management approach today. As custodians of over 90 acres of Chelsea and Knightsbridge, their long-term stewardship aims to enrich the area’s unique character and community, while safeguarding its future vitality.

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