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Cheltenham Festivals is a registered charity 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.
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 director is Meurig Bowen.
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. 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, such as themed meals in its spectacular Spiegeltent. Most of the great names in modern literature have appeared at the festival at some time during its history. The Festival also attracts the biggest names in culture, politics and sport and annually welcomes The Booker Prize finalists for a special Booker event.
The Festival's children and family programme Book It! offers events for children and young adults. It also has Family Fun days with free activities at the weekends of the Festival.
James Naughtie said of the Festival: “The lovely thing about Cheltenham is that it’s a literary festival that works. You meet old friends and, more to the point, you meet new friends. You hear things that are interesting and intriguing and moving and humane and funny, and that’s what books are all about and its fantastic to celebrate that.”
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.
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.
The Festivals have an extensive education programme.
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.