Playful, entertaining, energetic and thought-provoking – here are the highlights from this summer’s crop of festivals
Go wild in Wiltshire, roam the streets of Bath, or head for the hills beyond the city. But whatever you do, keep your eyes open for art, music, comedy and dance as a series of summer festivals entices us to join them.
The Fringe started on Friday 26 May, but there’s still plenty to look forward to in this annual smorgasboard of cultural treats. A weekend of free street entertainment will take passers-by unawares in the city centre as the always surprising Bedlam Fair kicks off from lunchtime on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 June. Then Fringe events continue at a pace, in venues all over the city until Sunday 11 June.
There are bands at The Bell, original drama at Burdall’s Yard, a comedy sketch show at the Old Theatre Royal and the evergreen master of the double entendre, Mr Bill Smarme with his backing band The Bizness at Widcombe Social Club. The Kilter Theatre Company launches its unique pub crawl cum quiz and there’ll be a tribute to Pink Floyd at The Barley Mow.
Pick up a fringe programme to find out about these and many, many more events, including celebrations, on Sunday 11 June, of the 20th anniversary since the first Walcot Nation Day. Sadly they can’t close the street this year but The Bell has promised to squeeze a whole festival into its environs. Visit: bathfringe.co.uk.
I Should Save This at the Bath Fringe Festival
FRINGE ARTS BATH
It pays to be curious about the goings-on in empty shops in Bath city centre at this time of year. Look carefully at Walcot Street, New Bond Street and Westgate Street this month as artists set up pop-up galleries inside. These exhibitions include traditional forms of media, such as lino prints and photographs alongside performances. Unusual venues include the Cleveland Pools and themes tackled include obsessive compulsive collecting, the emotional power of home the island of Orkney. The FaB programme details can be found on the flipside of the Bath Fringe programme or visit: fringeartsbath.co.uk.
CORSHAM WALKING FESTIVAL
Now in its fourth year, this year’s festival programme includes 18 walks – many of them themed – taking place over three days, from Friday 9 to Sunday 11 June. Walks will include tours and talks of the history of the town, local quarrying and medieval life. For the energetic there are also a 19-mile and a 20-mile guided walk through the Wiltshire countryside. Check out the festival website: corshamwalkingfestival.org.uk.
BATH COMEDY FESTIVAL
Not content with making us laugh for just a few weeks each year, the comedy festival is now spreading the love with gigs throughout the calendar. Next up is waspish/slash/outrageous US comedian Scott Capurro, who is bringing his Gay Turnaround show to Widcombe Social Club on Thursday 8 June, from 7.30pm. Tickets are £12 / £10 concessions from: bathcomedy.com or tel: 0800 411 8881.
BLUE SKY FESTIVAL
The Pound Arts centre in Corsham continues to offer entertainment by some big names, alongside the quirky and the curious. Its annual Blue Sky arts festival runs from Monday 13 to Sunday 18 June, offering events and activities for all ages.
As part of this year’s festival there’s an intimate theatre show in a caravan. Mobile is brought to us by Paper Birds company and based on real people’s aspirations and dreams. The 40-seat theatre will be parked in the arts centre car park and has won rave reviews from The Guardian. Shows are on Friday 16 June, at 5pm, 5.45pm, 6.45pm and 7.30pm. Tickets: £10, from: blueskyfestival.org.uk.
On Sunday 18 June at 2pm there’s a rare appearance by Gas Giants featuring Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory, also at The Pound, and known for their experimental music which blurs the boundaries of jazz, electronica and pop.Tickets: £10.
Austentatious: The Improvised Jane Austen Novel is on Saturday 17 June, 7.30pm at The Pound, tickets: £18. This is an entirely improvised, Regency comedy show, in which the cast improvises a new ‘lost’ Jane Austen work, based on nothing more than a title suggestion from the audience. Previous masterpieces include The Sixth Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Shark and Double O Darcy. This show was a sell-out runaway success at the Bath Literature Festival a couple of years ago. The Blue Sky Festival rounds off with music from folk singer songwriter Bella Hardy with support from Mary Spender, on Sunday 18 June, 8pm at The Pound. Tickets: £18. Find out more at: blueskyfestival.org.uk.
Singer songwriter Bella Hardy will be singing at the Blue Sky Festival in Corsham
TASTE OF CORSHAM
This is a new food festival, taking place in the town centre on Saturday 17 June, whose aim is to show off the best local produce from the area. There will be tasting tents, bars selling local cider and beer, stalls offering food and the restaurants, cafés and pubs in the town will also be joining in.
There will also be an opportunity to take part in the national Great Get Together campaign being held as a positive tribute to the late MP Jo Cox. Leave a message of hope on the Pound Arts centre’s wishing tree, or take the children along to the workshops on the High Street to make a head garland or have their faces painted. There’ll also be a stage in the town centre with live music. Visit: corsham.gov.uk/tasteofcorsham.
FESTIVAL OF NATURE
Families are invited to join in a celebration of wildlife in the heart of the city as the Festival of Nature returns to Bath. There will be lots of fun things to do at the Parade Gardens on Sunday 25 June between 11am and 6pm at this free festival.
As well as a photography safari – seek out the creatures in the park – young visitors are invited to dress as pirates and take part in a wildlife treasure hunt, or to help make bee-friendly installations for the city centre.
There’s plenty of interest for adults too as organisations include the Bath Natural History Society, Bath City Farm, the Avon Bat Group and the Canal and River Trust will all be holding stalls and talking to visitors on the day. Visit: bnhc.org.uk/festival-of-nature.
One of the cultural highlights of the British summer is an evening of opera – always sung in English – in the romantic setting of the Peto Garden at Iford, six miles from Bath in the Wiltshire countryside.
Iford Arts Festival features fabulous productions set in the cloisters in the grounds, for a 90-strong audience. The three operas this year are: La Bohème by Puccini, which runs until 13 June, followed by Barber of Seville by Rossini, which runs until 1 July, and finally Jephtha by Handel, which closes on 2 August.
There are also the Picnic Proms in the gardens on 7 and 8 July and on 5 August featuring musicians including Clare Teal, Pee Wee Ellis and Hailey Tuck. For tickets, tel: 01225 448844 or visit: ifordarts.org.uk.
The Fairy Queen, one of last year’s magical productions at Iford Arts, where opera is sung in English
FOREST OF IMAGINATION
In June 2016, the Forest of Imagination appeared like a magnificent dream in the heart of Bath. The area around Bath Abbey was transformed as a forest of trees sprang up; giant, silver, inflatable, baobab forest guardians appeared and thousands of butterflies fluttered among the soft dust motes of the abbey’s vaulted ceiling. It won the hearts of all ages and the organisers of this year’s Forest of Imagination, which runs from Thursday 29 June until Sunday 2 July, are determined that this year’s event will be equally captivating.
Forest of Imagination was co-founded by Bath architect Andrew Grant, (celebrated for his work on the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore – recently highlighted on the BBC’s Planet Earth series) and Penny Hay, senior lecturer at Bath Spa University, champion of children being able to enjoy their childhood and founder of charity 5x5x5x=creativity. The creative project, which is free to visit and enjoy, is a unique pop-up event encouraging us all to set our minds free and engage in creative play.
This year the National Trust is partnering the event, which take place next to the University of Bath campus at Claverton, in Bushey Norwood, a huge meadow and Iron Age site which is part of the historic Bath Skyline.
A major highlight for Forest 2017, is the arrival of Argentinian artist, Tomas Saraceno, whose work explores the relationship between the atmosphere and earth. He harnesses the energy of solar power to create free-flying objects. His Areocene Project collects atmospheric data, using self-inflating balloon structures.
Last year’s giant inflatable baobab trees were designed to encourage a people to think about the forests of the world and how we can help to protect them. Bristol Zoo is again partnering with Forest and the House of Fairy Tales – an educational arts charity and travelling art circus founded by artists Deborah Curtis and Gavin Turk. In addition Anthony Head, digital artist and creative director of Illuminate Bath, will offer an insect workshop inviting visitors to discover more about the yellow meadow ants, a species unique to the Bath Skyline.
The meadows will come alive with installations, workshops and other interactive experiences designed through partnerships with architects, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Carpenter Oak, Bath Spa University, the RSA, Illustrious, BuroHappold Engineering and Bath Abbey. Anna Newell, who creates immersive theatrical events, will create a sensory forest, and musician, Martyn Ware, founding member of The Human League and Heaven 17, and sound muralist will create an audio soundscape hidden within a forest dell. There will also be musical workshops led by WOMAD artists, Chartwell Dutiro and Denise Rowe, 5x5x5x artists and architect students from the University of Bath, the Edge Arts, and students from Bath Spa.
Running in conjunction with Forest, the first International Festival of Childhood (IFC) will be held at The Edge, a symposium of interested parties and experts sharing ideas and concerns about modern childhood.
Forest of Imagination is a free event is funded by the Arts Council and Herman Miller Cares among others. Find out more at: forestofimagination.org.uk.