Festival brings the city together

BATH’s combined festivals – music, arts, fringe and literature – really bring the community together, says Bath Festivals chairman John Cullum, as the city prepares for the opening night free Party in the City on Friday 17th May.

Running to 26th May, with a finale weekend on 1st and 2nd June, this year’s combined festivals have a stellar line-up, including Britain’s favourite ballet dancer and Strictly Come Dancing judge Dame Darcey Bussell, Radio 2’s drive time presenter Sara Cox, leading film critic Mark Kermode, Last Night at the Proms star saxophonist Jess Gillam and the original people’s poet, Pam Ayres.

The headline acts for the finale on Bath Recreation Ground will be Grammy award winning British band Clean Bandit on Saturday and legendary singer-songwriter Van Morrison on Sunday night.

New features at this year’s festival are BloodBath, events themed around crime and thriller writing; Classical Stars of the Future, hour-long concerts by rising stars who are all under 30; Song Play, two evenings of song and film, commissioned for the festival and curated by Iain Burnside and Neil Brand, exploring the alchemy between the two art forms, with some vocal magic added by Somerset-born mezzo Marta Fontanals-Simmons; and Hidden Stories, created by former artistic director Alex Clark, exploring hidden lives, voices and stories.

Across the main festival, other highlights include historian Kate Williams talking about her book Rival Queens, exploring the relationship between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots; the exciting Chineke!, the first professional orchestra in Europe to feature mainly black and minority ethnic musicians; Ted Hughes poetry award winner and spoken word artist Hollie McNish; Irish folk quartet Lankum; Sir Michael Parkinson, in conversation with his son  Michael; Penguin Cafe, who blur the boundaries between pop and classical music; Jo Brand, feminist, comedian and broadcaster, talking about life as a woman and what she wishes she knew when she was younger; Mark Kermode talking about his memoir and playing with his band, The Dodge Brothers; Austentatious, the comic improv troupe who discover a ‘lost’ Jane Austen novel to the delight of their audiences; and a Concert for the People of Bath, with Bath Philharmonia Orchestra with Isata Kanneh-Mason, piano, and Jess Gillam, saxophone.

Mr B’s Emporium Bookshop is the festival’s official bookseller. All the books in the programme will be available from Mr B’s Festival Bookshop at the Assembly Rooms throughout the festival and there will be pop-up bookshops at every event.

Festival chairman John Cullum says: “This is another exciting year for Bath Festivals as we move to fully embed the combined arts festival into our city and bring the community together through the power of the arts.”

See the full programme at www.thebathfestival.org.uk

Pictured: Chineke! photograph by Eric Richmond; Jo Brand, photograph by Pal Hansen, Isata Kanneh Mason, photograph by Stuart McIntyre.