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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

Small Wonder Festival 2018 at Charleston 28 Sep - 30 Sep
Small Wonder Festival 2018

The Small Wonder 2018 website is now live – visit the festival website for full information. More

13 OctPerformance
The Marlborough Theatre Presents Cabaret Orlando

Revel in a rebellious performance art cabaret that breaks the gender binary with Nando Messias, Marisa Carnesky, Travis Alabanza and KUCHENGA.

10 NovFilm
Difficult Love | Zanele Muholi

Film and panel discussion Difficult Love, co-directed by photographer and activist Zanele Muholi, is a compelling More

17 NovTalk
Transgressive Identities

Join curator of the Museum of Transology, E-J Scott, dress historian Dr Jane Hattrick and trans Muslim dandy Sabah Choudrey

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