The mornings are getting lighter, the clocks are going forward, and we can start to imagine drinking chilled vino on the patio in the warm evenings again… As spring is nearly here, Jessica Hope rounds up some events and openings that will add extra sunshine to this season
1. Arts aplenty
Arts and antiques lovers are in for a treat as numerous new exhibitions and fairs are coming to Bath in spring. Kicking off this month, the Bath Art Fair is on from 1–2 March at Bath Pavilion, showcasing the work of some of the best contemporary professional artists in the country. Tickets are £5 on the door. Those looking for that special period piece will be well catered for at Bath Decorative Antiques Fair, 7–10 March, which is celebrating its 30th year at Bath Pavilion. Explore the vibrant mix of items from exhibitors from across the UK and Europe – expect everything from the rustic to refined English country house style; mid-century design to Swedish period painted furniture; and fashionable iron garden furniture to vintage pub signs and advertising collectables. The popular Bath Society of Artists Annual Open Exhibition is open from 18 May – 29 June at Victoria Art Gallery, displaying the best of the region’s artistic talent. The annual exhibition receives up to 1,000 entries, and all items on display are on sale – so you can even go home with one of the artworks! Residents will also be able to peruse some of the best local talent at the Bath Open Studios weekends and art trails around Bear Flat, Larkhall, Newbridge, Widcombe and Combe Down. The trails begin in May, and you can visit the studios of local artists and see them hard at work.
2. Operatic treats
The internationally renowned Iford Arts Festival is changing things up a little this year. The opera and proms season begins on 18–19 May with Johann Struass’s Die Fledermaus, starring legendary comic baritone Simon Butteriss in the glamorous Banqueting Room of the Guildhall, Bath. The season opener on 18 May will feature a gala Champagne reception with canapés in the Brunswick Room from 6pm. The festival will then continue from 30 August – 7 September at its new home in the beautiful grounds of the Grade I listed Georgian house Belcombe Court in Bradford on Avon. Pack a picnic and enjoy the cool jazz sounds of Clare Teal and her Trio, or laugh at Donizetti’s heart-warming comedy L’elisir d’amore.
Tickets are now on sale, call Bath Box Office: 01225 463362 or visit: ifordarts.org.uk
3. What a joker
Hope your stomach muscles are prepared as England’s fastest growing comedy festival returns to Bath with more than 150 shows from 26 March – 14 April. The Bath Comedy Festival is bringing a broad programme for you to chortle at including Olivier nominated duo Jonty Stephens and Ian Ashpitel’s homage to Morecambe and Wise, above, headliner Henning Wehn, a wine arts trail with Christopher Biggins, and multi-award-winning impersonator Jess Robinson. Britain’s best-loved satirical impressionist Rory Bremner will open the festival, while the opening and closing weekends will include gala shows featuring a mix of musical comedy and top stand-up. Plus Bath’s famous, globe-trotting Natural Theatre Company will help the amusement spill out onto the streets of Bath.
To see the full programme and to book tickets, visit: bathcomedy.com
4. Soaring sounds
Chart-topping Welsh mezzo-soprano singer and songwriter Katherine Jenkins is bringing her spellbinding classical tones to cities across the UK this year, including a visit to Bath Forum to promote the release of her first album in four years. Accompanied by London Concert Orchestra and conducted by Anthony Inglis, Katherine will be performing some of her all-time favourite songs, as well as tracks from her new album, Guiding Light, on 11 May, doors open at 7pm.
Tickets from £29.50, VIP packages available; bathforum.co.uk
5. Cultural questions
To coincide with the Holburne Museum’s new Why Museums Matter exhibition which explores the way people interpret and value museums in contemporary society, the museum is holding a discussion with some of the UK’s leading experts on 11 April, 7pm. Tristram Hunt (Director, V&A), Sonia Boyce, (Artist and Professor of Black Art & Design at University of the Arts London), Maria Balshaw CBE (Director of Tate) and Chris Stephens (Director, The Holburne Museum) will explore the significant ways in which cultural engagement can enhance, shape and alter people’s lives. There will also be a symposium on Why Museums Matter for Mental Health on 5 April, 10am–4.30pm, analysing the benefits and challenges of health and heritage projects which use creativity to promote mental health and wellbeing.
For tickets to these events, visit: holburne.org
6. Musical heights
Put one of the world’s most distinguished musicians together with one of the most highly respected professional orchestras in the south west, and what do you get? A night of thrilling music you certainly won’t forget. Be transported to the city of Vienna as internationally renowned cellist Steven Isserlis performs both of Joseph Haydn’s cello concertos alongside Bath Philarmonia on 29 March, 7.30pm, at The Assembly Rooms, Bath. Two of Britain’s most celebrated living composers, Max Richter and Jonathan Dove, will also be featuring, as well as Mozart’s most popular overtures The Marriage of Figaro and Cosi fan Tutte.
Tickets: £5–£35, from Bath Box Office: 01225 463362; bathphil.co.uk
7. Laugh your socks off
If you need a right royal laugh this spring, then a trip to Theatre Royal Bath is highly recommended. The first major revival in over a decade of David Mamet’s Olivier award-winning Glengarry Glen Ross is coming from 18–23 March. Starring Nigel Harman and Mark Benton, below, it follows four salesmen as they are pitched in a high stakes competition against each other. Following a sold-out run at the National Theatre and direct from the West End, The IT Crowd’s Katherine Parkinson reprises her acclaimed role as Judy in Laura Wade’s new comedy about one woman’s quest to be the perfect 1950s housewife in Home, I’m Darling, on from 16–20 April. Elsewhere, the latest smash hit from the brilliant brains behind the award-winning The Play That Goes Wrong – The Comedy About a Bank Robbery – is coming to Bath from 30 April – 4 May. It would be criminal to miss it!
For tickets, visit: theatreroyal.org.uk
8. Gloves are on
Fashionistas rejoice! From beautiful 17th-century embroidered gauntlet gloves to a costume glove from the Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back, the Fashion Museum in Bath will be showcasing one of the best collections of gloves in the world from 2 March. Woven throughout the permanent exhibition A History of Fashion in 100 Objects, Glove Stories will display the breadth and depth of The Glove Collection of the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London. Then from 17 May, a new exhibition – Collection Stories – opens, revealing an exciting look behind the scenes of the museum’s outstanding collection of historical fashionable dress.
Entrance to the Fashion Museum is £9.50 for adults or free for Discovery Card holders; fashionmuseum.co.uk
9. Gourmet grooves
We had so much fun at last year’s Pub in the Park that when we heard it was coming back to Royal Victoria Park this June, we may have squealed a little… Top chefs like Tom Kerridge, Angela Hartnett and Josh Eggleton will be serving up delicious dishes from 21–23 June, and local producers will be showcasing the very best artisan produce that the west country has to offer. And don’t forget the live music! Basement Jaxx and Gabrielle will be opening the festival on Friday night, with Scottish chart-topping band Texas headlining the Saturday night, and Will Young taking to the stage on Sunday evening, as well as many more. With a G&T in one hand, Angela Hartnett’s rigatoni in the other, and with our dancing shoes firmly on, we’re ready to pub the park out!
For tickets, visit: pubintheparkuk.com
10. Festival fun
Bringing the very best from the worlds of literature and music together, The Bath Festival’s 2019 programme won’t disappoint. Taking place in venues across Bath from 17–26 May, you can expect to see the likes of Jo Brand, Sir Michael Parkinson, Dame Darcy Bussell, Simon Armitage, Melvyn Bragg and Kate Williams heading up the literature sides of things. While in the music world, don’t miss a special live broadcast of BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night, or the series of hour-long concerts by some of classical music’s finest newcomers under 30 – including pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason and Benjamin Goldscheider on brass. Opening the festival is Bath’s biggest night of free music – Party in the City – which features more than 2,000 performers across 30+ venues. And closing the festival on an almighty high is the Festival Finale Weekend at the Recreation Ground on 1–2 June, where Grammy winners and Brit nominated band Clean Bandit will headline Saturday, with legendary Van Morrison headlining the Sunday line-up. More music announcements to follow.
To see the full programme and for tickets, visit: bathfestivals.org.uk/the-bath-festival