Travelling through time, music and literature at Bath

THE 2024 Bath Festival, running from Friday 17th to Sunday 26th May, will take audiences on an astonishing and exciting journey through some of today’s most exciting writers, challenging thinkers, hilarious comedians and brilliant musicians, with subjects that range from the climate crisis to silent horror classic Nosferatu, from the Sky at Night presenter Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock sharing insights into the marvellous world of stars to the Post Office scandal with Rebecca Thomson, the journalist who first broke the story.

The city’s oldest and biggest arts festival is a sparkling mix of inspirational speakers, consummate story tellers and music to lift the spirits and soothe the soul. Events take place in some of Bath’s most beautiful and historic venues, including the Guildhall, Bath Abbey, St Mary’s Bathwick and St Swithin’s Church.

Among the musical highlights are Stile Antico, one of the world’s finest vocal ensembles, with a programme of Renaissance music, including Allegri’s Miserere, in the architectural splendour of Bath Abbey; the Maxwell Quartet, playing works by Haydn and Beethoven and their own arrangements of Scottish folk songs; and four concerts curated by artist in residence, Grammy-nominated guitarist Sean Shibe, including one with the Carducci Quartet playing two guitar quintets and an exploration of Virginia Woolf’s time-travelling, gender-switching protagonist Orlando, with mezzo soprano Ema Nikolovska, performing works by Dowland, Schubert, Laurie Anderson and Bob Dylan.

The festival’s packed literature programme ranges from Booker prize-winning novelist Howard Jacobson talking about his new novel, What Will Survive Of Us, to BBC World Affairs correspondent, news presenter and Mastermind host Clive Myrie in conversation with one of the festival’s writers in residence, author Kit de Waal about his memoir Everything is Everything. Known for his reputation for fearless, objective reporting on some of the biggest stories of our time, most recently from the front lines in Ukraine, Clive will be talking about his career, his family history and how being Black has affected his perspective on the issues he’s encountered during his 30 years covering major global events.

Much-loved comedian Shaparak Khorsandi brings a delicious mix of stand-up and excerpts from her new book Scatter Brain, as she looks back on her life through the lens of ADHD and finally makes sense of the chaos. George Monbiot, the often controversial environmental campaigner who has been fighting for a better future for our planet for decades, takes on the ideology that controls our lives. Dr Nighat Arif, resident doctor on BBC Breakfast and ITV’s This Morning, talks to Pragya Agarwal in an empowering conversation about the key stages in every woman’s life.

Back by popular demand, art expert Will Gompertz takes us into the minds of artists – from contemporary stars to old masters – to show us how to look and experience the world. How can Rembrandt help us see ourselves? How can David Hockney help us to see nature? And how can Frida Kahlo help us see through pain?

Dorset-based Julius Roberts, first-generation farmer and restaurant-trained chef, is on a mission to live a self-sufficient life on his family smallholding. He chats to friend, filmmaker and activist Jack Harries about his book, The Farm Table, and the many benefits of learning to live seasonally, with and from the land.

Other festival events include Murder in the Bookshop, a chance to try your hand at Murdle; West End legend Michael Ball talking about his memoir, Different Aspects, and sharing anecdotes from his glittering career; comedian Ruby Wax offering advice on staying sane in a chaotic world, author David Mitchell marking the 20th anniversary of his famous book, Cloud Atlas; and folk singer Cara Dillon singing and talking about her book, Coming Home.

For anyone interested in the early days of cinema, there is a rare chance to enjoy a screening of the 1922 silent film, Nosferatu, accompanied by live organ improvisation by award-winning organist Sebastian Heindl. This will be introduced at Christ Church by Sir Christopher Frayling, cultural historian and author of Vampire Cinema: The First One Hundred Years.

As always, the festival opens on the Friday night with Party in the City, Bath’s biggest FREE night out, with 130 acts, including bands, choirs and solo performers playing live music in city centre venues, from parks to churches, museums to pubs.

There will be a series of guided, themed site-specific walks created for the Bath Festival by Fred Mawer, including Less Discovered Bath, Five Georgian Crescents, Bath’s Remarkable Women, Reading Bath: Between the Lines, Bath Blitz: A Story of Destruction and Rebuilding and Bath on Screen – The Other Star of the Show.

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Pictured are: Stile Antico; Clive Myrie © Sophia Spring; art expert Will Gompertz; guitarist Sean Shibe; Party in the Park © Nick Spratling; Maggie Aderin-Pocock; George Monbiot, © Guy Reece.