THIS year’s Bath Festival line-up features some of the biggest names in literature and music, from Ian McEwan, Lionel Shriver and Joanna Trollope to Charles Hazlewood and his Paraorchestra, queen of punk Patti Smith, the Gesualdo Six, and McFly, Scouting for Girls and KT Tunstall over the finale weekend.
The stellar line-up for the festival, running from Friday 15th May to Sunday 24th, will take place in some of the city’s most beautiful and historic venues and features not only top writers and musicians but also big name comedians and some of the most influential leaders and thinkers of our age.
The festival returns to Bath Abbey for an evening of Renaissance choral music with the Gesualdo Six, pianist Bertrand Chamayou will be giving a virtuoso recital at the Assembly Rooms, and Charles Hazlewood and the Paraorchestra will be at the Roman Baths with the elegiac Sorrowful Songs.
The queen of punk Patti Smith will be at The Forum, while folk singer Chris Wood gives an intimate gig at Walcot House, and Bath Philharmonia will be joined by the Band of the Royal Marines School of Music for the Concert for the People of Bath.
The 2020 programme sees a revival of the Bath Festival Orchestra, originally set up by Yehudi Menuhin in 1959. Its first festival concert at the Assembly Rooms will be recorded by BBC Radio 3.
The literature programme looks at some of the big issues of our time, from sustainability and democracy to mental health and morality. Speakers will include Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and MP David Lammy, who will be talking about tribalism and community, the subject of his new book Tribes.
Festival-goers can enjoy comedian Marcus Brigstocke tearing through the Sunday papers, Rachel Parris bringing her new stand-up show to Bath, or drop in to a lecture in a lunch break to learn about the sixth century hero Beowulf or how to cultivate a healthy brain with advice from psychologist Kimberley Wilson.
Global bestselling novelist Neil Gaiman will commemorate the centenary of the sci-fi guru Ray Bradbury in spirited discussion live via Skype with award-winning Bradbury biographer Sam Weller. Marine biologist Monty Halls and his family will be sharing stories of their wildlife adventures on the Galapagos.
Ahead of this year’s Glastonbury Festival, Emily Eavis will be looking back at 50 years of the legendary festival and comedian Adam Buxton will be delivering his comic ramblings. There will be a strong poetry and spoken word collection, including the three times World Poetry Slam Champion Buddy Wakefield. Other visiting writers include Ian McEwan, George Alagiah, Lionel Shriver, Polly Toynbee, Claire Tomalin, James Runcie and Joanna Trollope.
In an exciting site-specific series of performances audience members will be invited to a Georgian home in Bath where they will eavesdrop on a woman’s phone call to her lover as her relationship dissolves. La Voix Humaine, sung in English, will be an intense and memorable theatrical experience.
Jazz fans can look forward to gigs by Empirical and Bristol band Get the Blessing. The Dodge Brothers with film critic Mark Kermode on bass, will provide a live soundtrack to the 1928 silent movie, Beggars of Life starring Louise Brook. The festival is delighted to be working with Scala Radio, the new national entertainment radio station which plays “classical music for modern life” and is supporting the Classical Music Rising Stars concerts.
The line up for the finale weekend, a spectacular two-day event on Bath recreation ground, includes McFly, Scouting for Girls and KT Tunstall on the Saturday and UB40, featuring Ali Campbell and Astro, Billy Ocean, Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Seth Lakeman on the Sunday.
Young people will play an important role in this year’s festival. The Creative Learning programme includes Common Ground, a commissioned community project involving schoolchildren from St Michael’s and Roundhill primary schools in Bath along with adults from Action for Hearing Loss and Carrswood Day Service.
As always, the festival begins with the traditional free Party in the City on Friday 15th May, with musicians, poets, bands and choirs in more than 30 venues plus outdoor stages in Queen Square, Parade Gardens and SouthGate.
For more information and tickets, visit www.thebathfestival.org.uk
Pictured: The 2020 festival programme, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the Gesualdo Six and KT Tunstall.