The Bath Festival

Wow! The Opening Weekend of The Bath Festival 2023 Went by in Such a Whirl

What an opening weekend of The Bath Festival 2023!

It was so good to see so many hundreds of people, of all ages, packing the venues on Friday night for Party in the City. Bath Abbey was filled with the beautiful sound of the young singers from Schools’ Voices, our festival choir who performed their own music (if you missed them, hear them sing on Thursday at the Concert for the People of Bath).

Schools' Voices choir

Parade Gardens and Queen Square were outdoor party venues as band after band kept the crowd entertained, while in St Michael’s Without a series of choirs were in superb voice. A big thank you to the musicians and singers who turned every corner of Bath city centre, from Milsom Place to No1 Royal Crescent into a concert space.

Performer playing guitar

And then Saturday and the audiences arrived for the main festival. The Guildhall was filled with lively debate and discussion. Author Sarah Churchwell, an America ex-pat turned her eagle eye on our own country as she separated uncomfortable fact after even more uncomfortable fact from the fiction of a mythmaking that continues to tear the US apart. There was more insightful debate too on the topic of our monarchy and its future. Also at The Guildhall, writer Kit de Waal shared some of her experiences growing up in 1960s Birmingham in a family with a mixed cultural background.

Kit de Waal in the yellow chair at the festival

We learned so much! Russell Foster gave tips on how to get enough sleep and reassured us that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to rest. Music journalist David Hepworth and cultural historian John Higgs took us on a glorious romp through pop culture – did you know that The Beatles’ album Abbey Road had originally been called Everest, after a brand of cigarettes? Psychologist Kimberley Wilson told us that the typical British diet is made up of 55% of ultra processed food, while the Portuguese only consume around 10% of ultra processed food.

Kimberley Wilson

Our minds and emotions were stirred. Comedian Cariad Lloyd and memoirist Cathy Rentzenbrink talked about grief, and about why it’s good to talk about it. There was a special, intimate and touching event opening up the difficult conversations surrounding miscarriage and baby loss. The sublime music of Mozart’s Requiem, by consummate performers the Bath Festival Orchestra and Bath Camerata choir touched our human spirit. Pianist Tom Borrow and the brass ensemble Connaught Brass gave uplifting performances in the elegant interior of St Swithin’s Church.

Connaught Brass

The salon above Persephone Books was full to capacity for three lively, literary events. Bestselling novelist Harriet Evans shared tips about her craft with aspiring authors, then returned with fellow author Joanna Nadin for a most delightful conversation about the long-lasting charms of I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith. Feminist writer and the founder of Persephone Books, Nicola Beauman delivered a thought-provoking talk on the topic of domestic feminism.

I Capture the Castle

At the Ustinov theatre there was a sell-out show by Dyad Productions, A Room Of One’s Own, which took a journey through the history of women writers. There were other events which were so popular they sold out, including a conversation with lawyer Jolyon Maugham on why now more than ever we need to be fighting injustice. There were no spaces left either on a fascinating walk and talk by historian Dr Amy Frost looking into William Beckford’s and Bath’s links to slavery.

Audience members clapping

We had such a great weekend, and it was fabulous to see so many of you. And now, as we start the next week of The Bath Festival we have more highlights to look forward to. We hope you will join us!

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