CHF 2024: Day 3

The third day of Britain's premier history festival gets a run down from our Editor at Large.
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CHF 2024: Day 3

The Chalk Stream, Feargal Sharkey

Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey gave what might have been the most anticipated talk of the festival, telling the story of how England’s unique chalk streams are dying because of negligence by the privatised water companies. As a keen fly fisherman Sharkey has seen first-hand the destruction caused as millions of tonnes of raw sewage are discharged into rivers, killing all aquatic life.

The water companies (which are teetering on bankruptcy) are laden with £70Bn worth of debt, a figure which is surprisingly close to the value of dividends paid out to shareholders. Sharkey is an effective campaigner and a powerful public voice. Whether the incoming UK government is willing to sort the problem out or not only time will tell as the rivers degrade further and the supply of clean drinking water to London and the South East starts to run dry.

Adventures in Arctic Siberia, Charlie Walker

As festival goers sat in the blazing sunshine, trying to stay cool, Charlie Walker told the remarkable story of his Arctic Russia expedition in minus 50 degrees. These really are the ends of the earth, and he vividly describes the people he meets, the reindeer herders, truck drivers and cops, with traditional ways under threat, as the weather changers, the permafrost melts and youngsters abandon the rural life for the cities.

Walker’s trip coincided with the war in Ukraine, otherwise known as the ‘special military operation’. As a result, and because the Russians suspected he was ‘carrying out journalism’ he was arrested, tried, incarcerated, tried again and after a month in prison was finally deported. His penalty included a 5-year ban, which is a shame because his empathy and interest for these remote people deserve a sequel.

We Have Ways Live and The Pub Landlord

Two blokes sitting on a sofa with a microphone and recording a podcast is the format du jour.  If you don’t have your own podcast you should probably start one.

We Have Ways with James Holland and Al Murray now has over 700 episodes, and combines laddish banter with a kind of ‘this day in history’ approach. If anybody is worried about the onward march of the politically correct brigade you shouldn’t, off colour banter is alive and well. “Hitler had a point” is the sort of line that taken out of context could get you cancelled but in context gets some good laughs.

The Pub Landlord was characteristically obscene and offensive. His recitals of children’s nursery rhymes in mock Nazi accents brought the tent down.

Justin Doherty is Editor at Large at Aspects of History. Head to the CHF site here where tickets are available.