10 incredible initiatives from Cheltenham Festivals

While Cheltenham Festivals is known around the world for its amazing events in jazz, science, music and literature, behind every festival is a host of incredible charity initiatives encompassing everything from gender equality to inspiring young minds, with SoGlos rounding up 10 of them...

By Chloe Gorman  |  Published
From its unique VOICEBOX stage providing a platform for young people's issues, to nurturing the next generation of music, science and literary talent, Cheltenham Festivals has a host of incredible initiatives behind every event.
In partnership with Cheltenham Festivals  |  cheltenhamfestivals.com
Cheltenham Festivals

Bringing the biggest names in jazz, science, music and literature to Gloucestershire, from Hilary Clinton to Bono and Stephen King, Cheltenham Festivals is a charity whose mission is to bring joy, spark curiosity, connect communities and inspire change through its world-famous events. It also offers a unique 'around town...' programme of free events.

Cheltenham Festivals is known across the globe for its incredible events like Cheltenham Jazz Festival and the renowned The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival — but many people might not realise that the charity also provides a plethora of opportunities for young people, emerging artists and disadvantaged communities across Gloucestershire and beyond. 

SoGlos rounds up 10 of the incredible initiatives behind Cheltenham Festivals' beloved events — and how you can support them. 

Ensuring gender equality on line-ups

Cheltenham Festivals is proud to be part of international initiative, Keychange, making it one of over 100 festivals that has pledged to tackle gender inequality in the music industry and support inclusion, aiming to have an equal gender balance on its line-ups.

Nurturing STEM talent for 20 years

Cheltenham Festivals' groundbreaking FameLab competition launched in 2005 and has seen 40,000 of science's brightest minds take part since then, as well as the launch of FameLab UK, FameLab International, FameLab Academy and FameLab Academy International.

Celebrating its 20th year in 2025, the programme continues to discover, train and promote the most exciting and innovative new voices in science, technology and engineering on a global scale. 

Reducing greenhouse gases by 50 per cent

Aiming to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in festival-related greenhouse gases by 2025, Cheltenham Festivals has signed up to Powerful Thinking's Festival Vision 2025 pledge.

As well as working on its own emissions, it encourages visiting speakers and performers to reduce their travel-related emissions by choosing public transport, car sharing, cycling and using electric vehicles to get to each event.

Inspiring young minds

There's a whole team dedicated to inspiring young minds and nurturing the next generation of talent at Cheltenham Festivals, whose reach extends far beyond the festivals themselves — providing 180 days of outreach work within local communities around Gloucestershire to make music, science and literature accessible to children in the county.

Creating dedicated science and literature programmes for schools

Every year, Cheltenham Festivals creates dedicated Science for Schools and Literature for Schools programmes, giving nearly 19,000 pupils from over 100 schools the chance to head to its vibrant Festival Villages and experience mind-blowing demonstrations, hands-on activities and inspiring speakers covering topics like the science behind fairy tales; how to become an astronaut; the mysteries of the ocean; building a bot; and loads more. 

It also offers workshops and shows to home-schooled children, too, so nobody is left out. 

Making live music accessible

For the first time in 2024, Cheltenham Jazz Festival is hosting the inaugural 'Access to Music' conference, bringing leading industry figures together to explore and understand the challenges disabled people face when participating in live music and events.

Involving expert panel discussions on the experiences of artists and audiences; technological and educational developments; and the latest insights into policy, the event will also have live performances and an exciting, multi-sensory haptic dancefloor that transforms sounds into felt vibrations creating an immersive and accessible experience. 

Paying it forward at the festival bookshop

At both Cheltenham Science Festival and The Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, visitors can buy any book from the on-site Waterstones bookshop and gift a book to a child in the local community.

So far, festivalgoers have donated 100 books that have been distributed to local schools and low-income communities across the county, with the help of charities including Caring for Communities and People, Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees and Cheltenham Borough Homes. 

Providing opportunities for emerging artists

Taking emerging artists from the Free Stage to the Big Top, from the Inkpot to Cheltenham Town Hall, Cheltenham Festivals is big on nurturing and promoting emerging artists.

Some of its recent success stories include 2022 Children's Laureate Joseph Coelho; UK Jazz Act of the Year 2022, Georgia Cecile; novelist Maddie Mortimer; 2023 Mercury Prize winners, Ezra Collective; and singer-songwriter Jordan Rakei, who all received support from Cheltenham Festivals early in their careers as part of its talent development and outreach programmes.

Providing opportunities to access arts and culture

With a mission to bring joy to everyone in the community, Cheltenham Festivals' free ticket scheme — in partnership with Caring for Communities and People and Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees — has provided over 1,300 free tickets to people who otherwise wouldn't have been able to attend an event, made possible thanks to generous donations from the charity's patrons. 

Tackling important issues for young people

The unique VOICEBOX stage provides a safe space for young people to explore the issues that are important to them, from combatting climate change to fighting for trans rights.

From taking to the stage to have their voices heard to meeting likeminded people and creating a strong sense of community, VOICEBOX aims to shape the future for the better. 

To support Cheltenham Festivals and its wealth of learning, participation and outreach projects, visit cheltenhamfestivals.com/donate.

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