Cheltenham Festivals

Coordinates: 51°53′24″N 2°04′41″W / 51.890°N 2.078°W / 51.890; -2.078 Cheltenham Festivals is a registered charity[1] that organises four festivals every year in the spa town of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England: Jazz, Science, Music and Literature. It also runs the science communication competition FameLab as part of the Science Festival and an education programme, with events linked to each festival. With the aim of involving the local community, such events range from family activity days to performances out and about in the local area.



Cheltenham Jazz Festival was formed in 1996. It has a close relationship with BBC Radio 2.

Cheltenham has become one of the country’s best-loved jazz festivals. Its trade-mark mix of international jazz icons, up-and-coming new artists and unique festival performances has seen them host some of the world's greatest musicians over a Bank Holiday weekend each May. Previous guests include Jamie Cullum, Hugh Laurie, Eartha Kitt, Imelda May, Van Morrison, Stephane Grappelli and Ornette Coleman.

Jamie Cullum: “The great thing about Cheltenham Jazz Festival is that it brings together so many genres under the umbrella of jazz… I think it is one of the best Jazz Festivals in the world.”


Cheltenham Science Festival was formed in 2002 and hosts an international science-based talent competition, FameLab which attracts finalists from over 30 countries from around the world and hosts live semi-finals and a final at the Festival. The Science Festival is situated in the Cheltenham Town Hall and adjacent gardens, with a tented science village built in Imperial Square.

The festival has many free activities for adults and children, including the Discover Zone in Town Hall which is full of hands-on activities. The excellent education programme includes a series of free Christmas lectures for local schools. Guests in previous years have included Robert Winston, Richard Dawkins, Steve Backshall, Brian Cox, Richard Hammond, Tony Robinson, Jonathon Porritt, Kevin Conrad, Colin Pillinger and Adam Hart-Davis, Peter Higgs and James Watson.

Professor Brian Cox: "Cheltenham is, without doubt, the premier science festival in the country because it is supported by pretty much everyone who cares about promoting science in Britain."


Cheltenham Music Festival was formed in 1945, and is the oldest member of the Festival family in Cheltenham. Events range from free family workshops and young artists' projects, through to concerts and the promotion of contemporary composers. The Festival is hosted in several venues across the county, including Cheltenham Town Hall, Pittville Pump Room, and cathedrals, abbeys and churches. As well as music, the Festival also features film, dance, the visual arts and the spoken word.

Artists in previous years include acclaimed violinist and Cheltenham 2014 Artist-in-Residence Nicola Benedetti, Marc-André Hamelin, Craig Ogden, Calefax, the Dante Quartet, Noam Greenberg, Ingrid Fliter, Danjulo Ishizaka, The Pavel Haas Quartet, Allan Clayton, Paul Lewis, Manchester Camerata, the Schubert Ensemble, Ailish Tynan, Gareth Hancock, Alekzandar Madzar, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, John Potter, Kathryn Tickell, James Gilchrist and Taraf de Haidouks. The Artistic Director is Alison Balsom.


Cheltenham Literature Festival was formed in 1949 and is now established as one of the country's principal literary events. It is the longest-running literature festival in the world.[citation needed] The Festival is currently sponsored by The Times and The Sunday Times. Taking place over ten days in Cheltenham Town Hall, Imperial Square and Montpellier Gardens, the Festival hosts a range of talks, workshops, debates, and other entertaining events. Most of the great names in modern literature have appeared at the festival at some time during its history.[2] The Festival also attracts the biggest names in culture, politics and sport and annually welcomes The Booker Prize finalists for a special Booker event.

Past guests have included Toni Morrison, Ian Rankin, Kate Adie, Patrick Stewart, Richard Attenborough, Simon Schama, David Starkey, Antony Sher, Michael Parkinson, Terry Jones, Tony Robinson, Sandi Toksvig, Dawn French, Simon Armitage, Clive James, Ruth Rendell, Alexander McCall Smith, Bruce Parry, Ray Mears, Frank Skinner, Janet Street-Porter, Roger Moore, Tony Curtis, John Barrowman, Russell T Davies, Dave Gorman, Charley Boorman, Alexei Sayle, Mark Thomas, JK Rowling, Kofi Annan, Salman Rushdie, AS Byatt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Steven Moffat, Jennifer Saunders.

Education and outreachEdit

A broad education and outreach programme sits at the heart of Cheltenham Festivals, delivering bespoke activities that extend the reach of each Festival and help to achieve the organisations aims of developing talent, engaging year-round with schools and the community and creating unique experiences. In 2017, 25,000 students took part in Cheltenham Festivals' school offer, as well as teachers from 246 schools.

The Education and Outreach programme comprises Festival-specific events and workshops that take place in the run up to and during the Festivals. Alongside these activities, six year-round programmes extend the four Festivals' engagement beyond the Festival boundaries. The programmes are:

Beyond Words

Beyond Words reaches out from Cheltenham Literature Festival to young people in Gloucestershire who are temporarily unable to access mainstream schooling due to a severe mental or physical illness. Working with the Gloucestershire Hospital Education Service(GHES) the programme gives these students the opportunity to work over time with a writer-in-residence. Their work is professionally published in an anthology, and showcased at Cheltenham Literature Festival.

Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils

Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils aims to engender a love of reading in primary school pupils by increasing teachers' enthusiasm for and knowledge of high quality children's literature. Local networks of teachers' reading groups gives them the time and space to share children's literature so that they can use more whole novels in their teaching. As a result, their pupils read more, and standards are raised.


LabLive takes the best of Cheltenham Science Festival on tour, presenting spectacular science to hundreds of year 8 and 9 students across the UK in a bid to inspire and engage inquisitive young minds. As well as enjoying science and maths at its most amazing, students learn more about the benefits of studying maths, technology, engineering and science at GCSE.

FameLab Academy

FameLab Academy is a science communication competition for year 9 students in local secondary schools. The students, supported by their teachers, prepare 3 minute presentations to explain a STEM topic in a dynamic and engaging way to a panel of judges whose assessment focuses on content, clarity and charisma. The winner from each school receives a Masterclass in communication skills, a work placement in a local STEM company, and entry into the Gloucestershire FameLab final.


Musicate aims to inspire a love of music by giving children the skills to engage with unfamiliar genres of music. The programme brings primary school teachers and early career musicians together, and equips them with creative approaches to music education. In collaboration they produce vibrant music experiences for children throughout the academic year, and the musicians also have the opportunity to plan and present a bespoke concert for schools at the Cheltenham Jazz and Music Festivals.

Community Outreach

The Community Outreach programme encourages contribution and participation in cultural activities in order to positively impact on social exclusion, poverty, ill health and disadvantage. Cheltenham Festivals recognises the importance of making the arts accessible to people who struggle to engage. The first two phases have been embraced in a large neighbourhood in West Cheltenham where a concentration of relative poverty sets it aside from the rest of Cheltenham. The final phase, a community opera called A Likely Story, will begin in Spring 2018.

Further informationEdit

Cheltenham Festivals is responsible for the four festivals, which include two of the country's oldest. The first Music Festival was held in 1945 followed by a Literature Festival in 1949. These were augmented by the first Jazz Festival in 1996, followed by the Science Festival in 2002.

There is a commitment to produce festivals with 'attitude', 'bite' and 'edge', creating programmes that give audiences the opportunity to discover and participate in new and interesting work.[citation needed] With the four festivals of Jazz, Science, Music and Literature, Cheltenham Festivals host hundreds of events across 12 months. The Festivals have combined ticket sales of more than 200,000.

Previously linked with the Cheltenham Borough Council, in 2006 the four festivals set out independently as they collectively became Cheltenham Festivals. As a registered charity, Cheltenham Festivals has its own marketing, education and development teams.


  1. ^ Charity Commission. Cheltenham Festivals, registered charity no. 251765.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 June 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External linksEdit