We all love the Cheltenham Festivals from Science, to Music, Jazz and Literature they're an annual staple of Cheltenham's fantastic calendar of events. 

But what you might not know is that, behind the highly professional, polished presentation of the main Festivals, the Festivals team do a huge amount, year after year, to help so many underprivileged young people, and support the wider local economy. The Charity is all about delivering on their real social purpose: "We believe in a world where everyone can explore and create culture."

Read on below for 12 more things you may not know about Cheltenham Festivals...

People enjoying Cheltenham Festivals

Did you know?

  • The main Festival Events are just the tip of the iceberg. For each day they are live, six days are spent on community outreach. That’s 180 days of year-round community activity and partnerships.

  • This ethos has its roots in 1945 when the first Music Festival was run to “uplift peoples’ spirits with beauty and culture” after the war. As the birthplace of Holst and links with composers like Vaughn Williams, music was a natural way to start. 

  • Although originally set up and run by the Borough Council, Festivals has been completely independent since 2006. All the costs involved in planning, creating, setting up, clearing down, and restoring the festival sites come from generated income.

  • Ticket sales account for just under 50% of income. The rest comes from sponsorship, patrons, membership, trusts or grants. This means they can bring in big names and run the Festivals professionally, as well as fund important outreach programmes.

Performers at Cheltenham Festivals

  • They reach 35,000 children through 400 schools. However, local schools come first, especially those in low-income communities. They aim to reach every local special needs school and all schools with 25%+ Pupil Premium.

  • Programmes are run by a small, dedicated team, working closely with teachers. As Ali said, “We believe in the power of teachers. If you can inspire one, you can inspire a hundred children.”

  • “Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils” is Cheltenham Festivals’ flagship literacy programme. Working in partnership with literacy charities across the UK, it simply promotes a love of reading. Transforming some teachers’ careers and inspiring troubled children to become passionate readers. Some of them even had the chance to meet the author of their favourite books!

  • Other programmes include ”Musicate”, and “DataFace” a new programme designed in partnership with CyberFirst (part of GCHQ) and the Jean Golding Institute at Bristol University. This aims to bridge the cyber / tech skills gap, by helping teenagers learn in a fun, engaging way.

Children enjoying Cheltenham Festivals

  • The Festivals team recognize that a vibrant culture is key to inward investment and attracting the right talent. Ali is Chair of the town’s Culture Board and represented Festivals at the recent Canadian cyber business delegation.

  • They provide lots of free tickets. Working with community groups such as CCP and Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees. Their Connections programme means many local people who are living in poverty, are disabled or are refugees can enjoy the most relevant events. These take priority over tickets on sale.

  • The Festivals feature several events and activities that people can enjoy for free. From the free stages to interactive workshops, these contribute hugely to the buzz that surrounds every festival.

  • No greenwashing here. Sustainability and its related topics often feature in the Science and Literature Festivals, but they know they must “walk the talk.” For example, by switching generators from diesel to bio-fuel in 2023, CO2 output for the Jazz Festival fell from 22 tonnes to just 0.28 tonnes. A 96% reduction!

Much of the Festivals’ community programme is only possible with sponsorship and partners. Local businesses of all sizes can raise their CSR profiles while supporting their work. Anyone interested can simply contact Jenna Marks ([email protected]) for an initial chat.

This article was supplied by Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce, you can find more local and member news stories on the Chamber website.


Cheltenham Literature Festival
Cheltenham Literature Festival

Every October the world’s foremost writers, thinkers and performers descend on Cheltenham, The Festival Town, for ten days of fascinating discussion and unforgettable memories.

Cheltenham Science Festival
Cheltenham Science Festival

This popular annual festival brings together the UK’s most respected scientists, favourite science communicators, writers, and artists to talk about today’s hottest topics.

Cheltenham Jazz Festival
Crowds at Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2024.

Cheltenham, The Festival Town, is home to one of the country’s best-loved jazz festivals, attracting over 20,000 music fans annually. The popular annual event will next take place 30 April - 5 May 2025.

Cheltenham Music Festival
Cheltenham Music Festival

Cheltenham Music Festival brings eight days of performances and events by leading international artists, new talent and innovators.



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