Nine things

Countdown to festivals

EASTER is about a month away, the highpoint of the year for choral celebrations (keep checking The Art of Sound for news of the best concerts around the region) and the starting point for most of this area’s food, arts and music festivals, which run through till late autumn.

From the world’s biggest history festival, Chalke Valley History Festival (moving to a new venue at Broadchalke this year) to the tiny Plush Festival, in the little church by Plush Manor, there is hardly a week or a weekend without first class music, theatre, food, literature and even fossils to delight and inspire you.

So here is a chronological and shamelessly personal selection of the best festivals to look forward to – and yes, we do have more than a passing interest in some of them! (We haven’t included Glasto, because it’s such a huge event that you could pick out Nine Things just for that one event.) For full details of all the region’s many arts, music, food, literary and other festivals, see the Festivals section of this website, and check the Festival News pages – this really is just a tiny selection of what’s on offer.

Dorset Venison and Food Festival, 29th April – the date has moved on a bit from last year’s inaugural event (cold, wet, well attended and they ran out of venison by lunchtime!); the venue is the same, at Lytchett Minster; let’s hope the success of the inaugural event will ensure plenty of delicious healthy Dorset venison for all;

Dorset Knob Throwing & Food Festival, Sunday 30th April – this year Dorset’s most eccentric and entertaining festival celebrates its 10th anniversary and moves to a new venue at Kingston Maurward college; otherwise it’s the mixture as before, games of all sorts, really just about anything you could possibly do with a Dorset Knob plus lots of delicious Dorset food;

Lyme Regis Fossil Festival, 27th to 30th April – based in the town where Mary Anning was born and found so many important fossils in the early 19th century; if Anning is the mother of palaeontology, Lyme Regis could perhaps claim to be its birthplace; expect all things fossil, from serious talks and exhibits to fun theatre and funky music; plus of course great food in one of Dorset’s most foodie towns;

Bath Festivals, 19th to 28th May – we are really looking forward to this in 2017, to see whether the reorganisation, incorporating Bath Literature Festival with the long-established music festival, will revive this event, which was frankly dull last year; so far we’re impressed with a line-up that ranges from writers Colm Toibin, Salman Rushdie and Lionel Shriver to Mary Berry, the Philharmonia, Steven Isserlis and Martin Carthy;

Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival, 26th May to 10th June – venues all around the city and some outside, particularly the cathedral, Playhouse and Arts Centre; this is currently the region’s biggest and best festival; the 2017 theme is West, reaching the fourth and final point of the compass on director Toby Smith’s four year journey; expect a lot of interesting performers and companies from Canada;

Dorset Food and Arts Festival, 5th August – Queen Mother Square, Poundbury; this started as a one-off event in the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics and was such a success it has become an annual event; it’s free and it’s all about Dorset, local food, farmers market, food demos, live music, pottery, painting and photographs, children’s activities and more; raising money for local charities including Weldmar Hospicecare Trust;

Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival, Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th September – this really does what it says on the tin, it’s at Sturminster Newton and it’s all about cheese; artisan cheesemakers come from all over the region and further afield, plus there’s an excellent beer tent, food talks and demos, other food stands and stalls for many local organisations and charities; and the proceeds all go to charity;

Screen Bites Food Film Festival, 13th to 28th October – villages across Dorset, evenings beginning with mini farmers markets of local food, followed by gorgeous Purbeck Ice Cream and then food-themed feature films from around the world; this year will be the 13th festival and the last for founders Gay Pirrie-Weir and Fanny Charles, and Caroline Tory who has also been involved from the start; expect some old favourites as well as new films;

Bridport Literary Festival, 5th to 12th November – events around the town, with venues including the Electric Palace, the Bull Hotel, the arts centre and more; director Tanya Bruce-Lockhart always gathers a stellar line-up, not just the big names of the year, but writers across the literary spectrum with something to say;

Pictured: Spiffing fun at Dorset Knob Festival; fossils at Lyme Regis Fossil Festival; Mary Berry at Bath Festival; Keens traditional farmhouse cheddar at Sturminster Cheese Festival; Bridport Literary Festival’s 2017 programme cover with its Colmer’s Hill image by Marion Taylor.