Our story

Royal Hospital Chelsea

Join us for a celebration of history from the heart of Chelsea

The past will be brought to life in an immersive mixture of digital and physical events for the Chelsea History Festival 2020.

In response to the pandemic, our new website will host short films and digital content. These films will allow you to explore the hidden histories of one of London’s most historic and beautiful districts. Join us as we walk around Chelsea with Paul Wood, resident tree expert, looking at the ancient and unique trees of Chelsea. We will have exclusive behind-the-scenes tours of iconic Chelsea institutions, including the Chelsea Physic Garden.

The festival’s co-founders – the National Army MuseumRoyal Hospital Chelsea and Chelsea Physic Garden – are proud to host a diverse programme of talks from world-class speakers, authors, thinkers and historians.

We’re looking forward to welcoming as many as possible to the festival either digitally or in our venues. The pandemic may change the way we can bring the festival to people, but it’s also making us more aware of our history. There has never been a more important time for us to gather and reflect on who we are.

Harry Parker

Creative Director, Chelsea History Festival

This year we have a range of digital and live events to reflect, inspire and entertain

With an impressive range of speakers, we will show you history in all its variety.

The world-renowned human rights lawyer and author Philippe Sands will be joining us to discuss his new book on the Ratline. These were infamous escape routes used by Nazis and other fascists fleeing Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War.

We will delve into the natural world by looking at the healing power of gardening with Sue Stuart Smith and unknown world of fungi with Merlin Sheldrake.

Valerie Hansen demonstrates that the world was a globalised and connected place in the year 1000, and Laura Spinney reminds us that this is by no means the first global pandemic as she examines the Spanish Flu of 1918.

Winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2019, Hallie Rubenhold uncovers the lives of the five women killed by Jack the Ripper.

Professor Olivette Otele will reveal the fascinating history of Africans in Europe, ahead of the publication of her ground-breaking new book, African Europeans.

While Michael Morpurgo, former Children’s Laureate and acclaimed writer of War Horse, will discuss his experiences of lockdown and turning war into fiction for children and adults.

The full programme will be announced in early September. Register for festival updates below.

A look back at 2019

Get festival updates direct to your inbox