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14 things to look out for in Bath in 2020

As we step into a new decade, we may not be able to pre-empt what will happen in the years ahead. But there is one thing we can confirm – there’s plenty to look forward to around Bath this year. Jessica Hope rounds up the things to look out for in the months to come

1) Mayday mayday

May is always one of our favourite times of year – the mornings get lighter, the days are warmer, and the city’s biggest celebration of music and literature returns! The Bath Festival is back from 15–24 May this year, and already the line-up is making us excited. The headliners for The Finale Weekend at the Bath Recreation Ground will be chart-toppers McFly who will take to the stage on 23 May as part of their national tour (with many other venues having already sold out), and they will be supported by BRIT-nominated trio Scouting For Girls. Legendary reggae band UB40 featuring Ali Campbell and Astro (known for Red Red Wine and I Got You Babe) will perform on 24 May, along with the biggest selling British black artist of all time, Billy Ocean. Legendary American singer-songwriter and Grammy-nominated Patti Smith will be making a rare UK appearance at The Forum on 22 May, and Bath Festivals is joining in with the worldwide celebrations marking the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth with a series of six concerts of the composer’s entire cycle of 16 String Quartets in March and May. The rest of The Bath Festival programme will be released soon – so keep an eye out for more.


The queen of punk rock Patti Smith is coming to The Bath Festival © Steven Sebring

2) Cheer on

This summer athletes from across the world will be heading to Tokyo to try their chances at bagging some medals at this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games. While some countries’ athletes have already been confirmed, the rest of the teams will be called up over the coming months, and there’s a few locals and people who train at the top-class facilities at the University of Bath that you might want to look out for.

The British Swimming National Centre elite squad has several swimmers who are well-placed to qualify after impressing at the World Championships this year, including James Guy (also a medallist at Rio 2016) and current student Tom Dean. Coaches David McNulty and Jol Finck have already been selected for Team GB. In the Paralympic Games, Stephanie Millward is hoping to be selected for a fourth successive games and add to the 10 Paralympic medals she has already won.

In wheelchair fencing Piers Gilliver (silver medallist at Rio 2016) and Dimitri Coutya have all but secured qualification for Tokyo 2020 after finishing the year ranked number one in the world in Category A epée and Category B epée and foil respectively.

The university is home to Pentathlon GB’s National Training Centre, so the four athletes (two men, two women) selected to represent Team GB will all be based there. Great Britain has already secured three of those four Olympic qualification places thanks to Joe Choong (World Cup Final Champion), Jamie Cooke (European Champion) and Kate French (World and European silver medallist).

Triathlete Vicky Holland, bronze-medallist at Rio 2016 and the 2018 World Champion, is hoping to qualify for Tokyo 2020, as is her training partner Joanna Brown who represents Canada. And siblings Ben and Megan Fletcher are both well placed in the qualification rankings for judo as they bid to represent Ireland.

Wheelchair fencers Dimitri Coutya and Piers Gilliver © onEdition

3) Swoon

We got rather excited last month when the news was released that the king crooner himself, Grammy-award winning Michael Bublé is coming to Bath for two very special open-air performances this summer. As part of his UK tour, the singer will be bringing his biggest hits such as Haven’t Met You Yet, Home and Cry Me a River to the Royal Crescent on 24 and 25 July, making this the first concert to take place on the lawns of this Grade I-listed location in 17 years. Tickets are limited.


4) Fly high

Since winning BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2016 and his solo performance at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason has become one of the most sought after classical artists. Now he is joining Bath Philharmonia on 24 September at The Forum for an evening of myth, fantasy and aviation as they perform Wagner’s Ride of The Valkyries, as well as Jonathan Dove’s Airport Scenes and Antonin Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor. Tickets £5–£35.

bathphil.co.uk; bathforum.co.uk

5) Get your art hit

One of the most eagerly anticipated shows of the year at The Holburne Museum, Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years will open from 24 January – 25 May, showcasing a broad range of Perry’s early works including pieces from the artist’s own collection and many works not seen publicly before. For Perry’s legions of fans, The Pre-Therapy Years will bring a new perspective to the 2003 Turner Prize-winner’s influential and inspiring outlook.

The Holburne has gone into partnership with Woburn Abbey while it is undergoing refurbishment, so from 12 June – 20 September the Roper Gallery will display a selection of paintings which are usually on display in the abbey by Canaletto, which were commissioned by the future Duke of Bedford in 1731.

Then from 9 October, the museum’s winter exhibition will feature works by Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830), who arrived in Bath in 1780 and was considered to be a boy genius like his Renaissance predecessors Raphael, Michelangelo and Dürer. Thomas Lawrence 1780-1794: Coming of Age will present work from Lawrence’s early years, telling the story of an exceptional portraitist growing up at the end of the century when Britain created its own unique artistic voice.


6) Transformative times

Last season, Bath City played in front of its highest average crowds for more than 40 years, and 2020 has the potential to be even bigger for the football club. The community-owned club is awaiting the result of a crucial planning application which, if approved, will secure its long-term future within the city. The application includes constructing a new grandstand at Twerton Park with up to 2,000 more seats, installing a 3G playing field, establishing a community hub, building student accommodation and affordable housing, and other enhancements to Twerton High Street, helping to provide better services for the local area.

After more Bathonians were encouraged to support their local club last season, Jerry Gill’s team ended the 2018/19 campaign with crowd numbers up by 58 per cent. So far this season, the number of fans attending match days have increased by a further 16 per cent. On the pitch, the team is pushing hard to make it into the top three of the National League South, and is hoping to improve on last season’s fifth place play-off position.
Come on you Stripes!


7) Nature sounds

The outdoor concert series Forest Live is returning to Westonbirt Arboretum from 11–14 June, offering top live music in a spectacular forest location. So far BRIT Award-winning artists Will Young and James Morrison have announced that they will be headlining the Friday night, Madness will be entertaining the crowds on the Saturday, while multi-million record-selling band Keane will be rounding off the concerts on the Sunday. Keep a look out as more artists are announced in the next few months. Tickets from £44.50.


James Morrison and Will Young will be performing among the trees at Westonbirt this summer

8) You can-can

Following a successful fundraising campaign last year, the Victoria Art Gallery will be bringing the sights and sounds of Bohemian Paris to life with more than 80 works by the renowned 19th-century French painter and caricaturist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Toulouse-Lautrec and the Masters of Montmartre, running from 15 February – 26 May, will revisit the street art of Toulouse-Lautrec’s era, and there will be a range of evening events on offer to echo the joie de vivre of the Belle Époque and Toulouse-Lautrec’s Paris, including visual art, music, dance, and a display of personal items from the performers. Plus there will be a dressing up area. £6/free for Discovery Card holders.


Troupe de Mlle Eglantine by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec © Musée d’Ixelles-Bruxelles / Courtesy of Institut für Kulturaustausch, Tübingen

9) New vision

The plans for building a Stadium for Bath have been in the pipeline for some years and although construction may be a long while off, the planning application submission will go ahead in early 2020, followed by an exhibition in a city centre location for the final designs to be put on public view.

The Stadium for Bath project aims to not only create a new home for Bath Rugby with a bigger capacity, better facilities and improved pitch, but also regenerate the riverside between Pulteney Bridge and North Parade, connect with the wider community, and inspire younger generations through education and new opportunities.

There are plans to create a Chef Academy for young people, as well as running apprenticeships in areas such as hospitality and catering, and there will be work-space open for local charities to use. News regarding the public exhibition will be available online soon.


10) Theatre of Dreams

Theatre-lovers get ready – Theatre Royal Bath has announced some of its productions for this year and it looks like there’s going to be something for everyone to enjoy. Following an acclaimed run as part of the theatre’s 2018 Summer Season, the Tony and Olivier Award-winning God of Carnage returns to Bath prior to a West End run in January, starring Downton Abbey’s Elizabeth McGovern. Tickets are already very limited for the sell-out London smash hit SIX which arrives in February, but there is availability for other musicals including the international award-winning Irish folk production of Once, while on the other hand the Bath Operatic and Dramatic Society will be bringing Elle Woods’s tenacity to the stage in Legally Blonde The Musical, both on in March.

There’s also Dial M For Murder starring Tom Chambers and Sally Bretton in February, and classical actor Michael Pennington will bring Prospero to life in The Tempest in April. There’s nostalgic and naughtiness from Emma Rice’s take on Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers in May; Julian Clary and Matthew Kelly take on Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser in September; and Nigel Havers brings his new theatre company to the city for Noël Coward’s comedic masterpiece Private Lives in October.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the 2020 Summer Season productions, which will be announced soon.


Henry VIII’s wives finally tell their stories in the Olivier-nominated SIX

11) Laugh a minute

You will be laughing into spring this year as venues around the city are hosting plenty of big names on the comedy circuit in the coming months. First up is three-time Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee and BBC Radio 4 regular Josie Long who will be bringing her brand new show to Komedia on 20 February. Then, following the success of his Spoiler Alert! tour, Ed Byrne is back on tour with his brand-new masterclass in observational comedy If I’m Honest… and is heading for The Forum on 19 March.

Then we’ll be treated to more fun times as Bath Comedy Festival returns from 31 March – 19 April. The line-up will be revealed soon, but what we do know is that BAFTA-nominated and star of Channel 4’s The Last Leg, Josh Widdicombe, is coming on 18 April with his new stand-up show.

komedia.co.uk; bathcomedy.com; bathforum.co.uk

12) Raise a pint

Following its huge success last year, Tom Kerridge’s Pub in the Park festival will be returning for its third year to Bath’s Royal Victoria Park from 19–21 June, bringing some of the biggest names in food and music to the city. There will be Michelin-starred and award-winning pubs and restaurants serving tasty dishes and showcasing their signature style, as well as chef demonstrations and artisan stalls. While the music line-up is still to be announced, previous years have included Texas, Tom Odell, Mel C and Gabrielle, so you can expect more big names to be bringing the festival fun to the park this summer. Tickets go on sale 7 February, or sign up to the newsletter for priority access.


13) Be the first

For those wanting more films after the FilmBath Festival last November, your dreams have been answered. The festival has created FilmClub – a year-round programme of the kinds of films you’d find at the festival, but on a monthly basis. The eight films will be screened at Walcot House from January to May and September to December, and it’s a great opportunity to watch a film and discuss it afterwards – and there’s an optional of having a movie-themed dinner too. A FilmClub membership is £10 and offers you priority booking on FilmClub events and a discount on film screenings.


14) Marvel

Fashionistas, rejoice! Following the triumph of the Fashion and Textile Museum’s 1920s Jazz Age: Fashion and Photographs exhibition, which went on tour at the American Museum and Gardens in Claverton in 2017, this year the Fashion and Textile Museum’s curators will be returning to the American Museum with the exhibition Night and Day: 1930s Fashion and Photographs. From 14 March to 19 July, a selection of pieces from the exhibition from glorious gowns to casual chic will be on display. Using women’s fashion as a bellwether, the exhibition will explore the social, cultural and political landscape of the period.


Main image: McFly will be coming to the Bath Recreation Ground for The Bath Festival Finale Weekend on 23 May