About the Charleston Festival

The Charleston Festival, now in its 29th year, is the home of lively conversation and a search for truth in the spirit of the Bloomsbury group.  The artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant made Charleston a meeting place for some of the major creators and thinkers of the first half of the 20th century, including Leonard and Virginia Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey, Roger Fry and E.M. Forster.  

In a period of exceptional political and social volatility, expect this Festival to feature heated agenda-setting debates, mirroring the impassioned discussions that took place at Charleston in the past. 

As sexual politics dominate the media, Bloomsbury’s association with feminism has never been more relevant. The Festival welcomes Lubaina Himid, latest winner of the Turner Prize; celebrates the centenary of women receiving the vote; marvels at Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; admires Ada Lovelace, 19th century computer pioneer; and we are inspired by brave women who took artistic and social risks.

Perpetuating Charleston’s commitment to experimentation, Festival innovations include Ali Smith’s commission in response to Bloomsbury’s Famous Women Dinner Service and  The Man Booker Prize 50th anniversary debate.  Jeanette Winterson’s personal tribute to Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, in the novel’s 90th year, anticipates our autumn programme which includes several events exploring gender fluidity.

We are delighted to announce that the 2018 Charleston-EFG John Maynard Keynes Prize, awarded annually to an individual of exceptional talents across many disciplines, will be presented during the Festival to Sir David Attenborough.

In this exciting year, we are planning the opening of our new galleries, café, visitor facilities and auditorium. Our future activities and aspirations take their inspiration from the Charleston Festival’s record as an artistic, intellectual and meeting place. 

Nathaniel Hepburn, Charleston Director and Chief Executive 

Diana Reich Charleston Festival Artistic Director



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Some Picture Highlights from 2017 Festival – view more

Vanessa Redgrave at Charleston   Charleston Festival 2017 Charleston Festival 2017 Charleston Festival 2017   

What's on

Young Bohemians Workshop 05 AugFamily
Family Art Activities

Free Family Art Activities Bringing the artistic tradition of Charleston alive today, we invite families to More

Woodcut Printmaking Workshop Helen Brown Charleston 03 Sep
Woodcut Printmaking Workshop with Helen Brown

Picture Credit: Helen Brown Learn the processes of woodcut printmaking, with tutor Helen Brown, from design More

11 Sep
Introduction to Oil Painting workshop with Tom Benjamin

In this day-long workshop, learn about the particular nature and use of this most sensuous of mediums.

Small Wonder Festival 2018 at Charleston 28 Sep
Small Wonder Festival 2018

This year’s Small Wonder pivots on the idea of transformations; very fittingly, as in its 15th More

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