FROME Festival is back this year, after last year’s Covid-reduced programme, with a full line-up of great performances and participation events from Friday 1st to Sunday 10th July.
Headline names for 2022 include Radio 1 DJ Jo Whiley, hosting an opening night party at the Cheese and Grain; followed by legendary singer guitarists Andy Fairweather Low and Wilko Johnson; and American rock outfit the Kris Barras Band, all at the Cheese and Grain. Popular vocal group Blake will appear at the Memorial Theatre on Saturday 9th July.
Ever-popular performance poet Roger McGough, once a member of The Scaffold, who topped the charts in the 1960s with hits like Lily the Pink, will be appearing at the Merlin Theatre, as part of a substantial literature programme, much of it hosted by the Frome Writers Collective.
Another headliner will be Chris Jagger, whose recent autobiography, Talking to Myself, is featured in a recital including some of his songs. As well as his own intriguing career, Chris is able to lift the lid on life with brother Mick, their childhood days, and the meteoric rise of the Rolling Stones.
Another major event will be a visit to Frome by historian and TV presenter David Olusoga, who will give the second Bob Morris lecture at the Cheese and Grain, discussing his hugely popular programme, A House Through Time.
Last year’s programme saw an increase in outdoor events to enhance social distancing. These proved so popular that Marston Park and the Silk Mill will again be running musical nights under the stars. The Ecos Amphitheatre in particular came into its own, and this year celebrates its 30th anniversary.
Surrounded by monolithic stones donated by quarrying communities from the founding members of the European Union, the Greek-style outdoor venue has the great advantage of standing next door to the Merlin Theatre, which provides all facilities and serves as a back-up bolt-hole for audiences in heavy rain.
Back in 1992, Ecos was opened with a huge festival featuring nearly 100 students from all across Europe. The grand finale was a performance of The Who’s rock opera Tommy, directed by the current festival director Martin Dimery, with colleague Mike Walker, when both worked as teachers at Frome College.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been involved in anything quite so spectacular as Tommy,” says Martin, “but this year, I’ve decided to produce a new musical called The Haunting of Richard the Third, which will receive its premiere on 7th July and run for three nights. “I hope the show will rekindle the great atmosphere the Ecos stage can generate.”
The musical tells the story of the last English king to die on the battlefield, whose body was extraordinarily found ten years ago under a car park in Leicester. Martin Dimery has written the script and lyrics, with the musical score co-written with musical director David Hynds. Richard III features on the cover art of this year’s programme, designed as usual by Sholto Walker.
This year’s major exhibition will be the Photo Frome project, led by Frome Wessex Camera Club which will take over four major exhibition areas in the town, with free admission.
“One of the distinctive differences about this year is the number of free and outdoor events,” says Martin Dimery, who will be retiring from the festival at the end of the year. “For example, we have two free children’s theatre shows, a Turkish dance and music display and two big bands in Victoria Park, a free Richard the Third show for Frome College students and many walks, talks and health events. This has been made possible by generous funding from Frome Town Council, the Cooper Hall Trust and the Foyle Foundation. We are delighted to have such support after two years in which Covid decimated our resources. I hope to hand over the festival in robust financial health with a return to capacity audiences.”
Tickets for many events will be available from the hosting venue in the coming weeks. Visit fromefestival.co.uk