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Gloucester History Festival celebrates a double birthday year and plans to still deliver some elements of a live public programme.

This year marks a double celebration for Gloucester History Festival – the 10th year of the Festival itself and the 25th year of Heritage Open Days in the city.

Gloucester History Festival is doing everything it can to deliver some elements of a live programme across the 2 week festival which runs from Saturday September 5 to Sunday September 20 this year, but inevitably, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will be much changed with significant online and digital contributions for the first time. A new website (www.gloucester historyfestival.co.uk) will be launched soon, and people are encouraged to check it regularly as content will be added on a rolling basis.

All the elements which have made the event so successful in the past will still be there this year. Starting with the traditional Gloucester Day procession followed by City Voices events and Blackfriars Talks, then the Civic Trust organised Heritage Open Days (from Friday September 11 to Monday September 14).

The theme of this year’s festival will be Voyagers and Visionaries to mark the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower’s voyage to America in September 1620. Telling stories of discovery, migration, identity and discovery it reveals how journeys near and far have shaped our past. These ideas will be touched on at the Blackfriars Talks (Saturday September 12 to Tuesday September 15).

Talks are planned to take place in front of a live audience at Blackfriars Priory, adhering to the latest Government recommendations for holding live events. The live events will be filmed, and broadcast-quality films will be available to view on the festival website the following day. 

Speakers will include leading historian and broadcaster Michael Wood who will explore the Story of China, Michael Scott, star of BBC’s Ancient Invisible Cities, and Festival President Janina Ramirez who will present an item on medieval women.

“You can imagine how important it is for the Festival to celebrate its 10th year and we’re thrilled to be able to plan a live programme, albeit carefully and within guidelines. With every challenge there comes an opportunity and whilst we’re keen to welcome as many regular festival visitors as possible.  We see this year as an opportunity to welcome new audiences to enjoy the Festival for the first time.” says Janina Ramirez.

As part of the City Voices element of the festival, Historic England has made a grant to the city to inspire a citywide heritage response to COVID-19.  Entitled ‘Gloucester Looking Up’ it will encourage communities to look up at the buildings, look up online, look up their heritage and ensure that Gloucester’s built and lived heritage is part of a shared recovery.

As usual all Heritage Open Day events will be free of charge, and although the range of activities will be curtailed this year, the organiser Paul Drinkwater said: ‘‘At present we are planning guided walks limited to five guests per walk and access to venues, talks and music events in limited numbers with social distancing.’

Other ideas being considered are:- a display of Blue Plaque photos at St Nicholas; geocaching on Alney Island to pursue national theme of ‘Hidden Nature’; developing talks on video and a self-guide booklet for Gloucester pubs and churches.

Every year the festival relies on ticket income and support from sponsors and donors, and this year a financial loss is expected. Richard Graham, festival chairman, is asking people to donate whatever they can to support the festival in its anniversary year and ensure the 2021 festival is even bigger and better.

Our new website will be launched in early August.  Tickets for events within Gloucester History Festival 2020 can then be booked at www.gloucesterhistoryfestival.co.uk. All on-line and on-demand content will also be made available free of charge from the same address.

Gloucester History Festival is supported by Gloucester City Council and Historic England.

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For more information, further images and to book interviews contact Beckie Smith: Beckie.smith:flyinggeese.co.uk

Janina Ramirez is a leading historian, broadcaster and author based at Oxford University. Her many series for BBC TV include An Art Lovers’ Guide, Saints and Sinners and The Genius of Leonardo da Vinci. Her books include the acclaimed The Private Lives of the Saints, Julian of Norwich and her bestselling new series of children’s novels.

Top historian and broadcaster Michael Wood is the creator of some of the best known history series and books of the last thirty years including In Search of the Dark Ages, Story of England, The Story of India and In Search of the Trojan War. His latest book The Story of China is published in September.

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