The first ever multi-arts Bath Festival 2017 comes to a close with record-breaking sales.

The Bath Festival 2017 – Bath’s new flagship festival of music and literature – came to a close on Sunday May 28. Building on the heritage of Bath Literature and Bath International Music Festivals and with more than 130 events over 10 days, it brought together some of the world’s leading writers, musicians and cultural figures into the iconic buildings and onto the streets of Bath.

With total ticket sales of over 20,000, the festival enjoyed the best combined music and literature festival sales since 2012, and had the best year for music events sales since the 2009 Bath International Music Festival, when the festival was 17 rather than 10 days.

A key aim of the new festival is to engage a much wider cross section of the community. No more did the programme illustrate this than by the contrast of the opening event with Mary Berry and the closing night of the festival with the electrifying a cappella group from New York, Naturally 7. With sell-out words and literature events from Colm Toibin, Ed Balls and John Simpson, and late additions to the programme from global literary superstars such as Helen Fielding and Howard Jacobson, book lovers were treated to a cornucopia of literary delights. These were coupled with concerts from the Philharmonia Orchestra with Herbert Blomstedt, Cecilia Bernardini, Richard Goode, Brad Mehldau, Madeleine Peyroux, and an extraordinary atmospheric performance of Joby Talbot’s ‘Path of Miracles by Tenebrae, in Bath Abbey.

The festival’s first year as a multi-arts festival saw a series of exciting ‘firsts’. These included Sam Sweeney and Martin Carthy performing together for the first time; a stunning collaboration by Alice Zawadzki with Fred Thomas and Misha Mullov-Abbado; and a premiere of Stormy: The Life of Lena Horne starring Camilla Beeput. Added to this was the launch of BathSongs – a series of six concerts exploring song, with world renowned established artists sharing the stage with rising stars of the future, featuring Ann Murray, Malcolm Martineau and The Prince Consort, among others. The combined literature and music festival created the opportunity for events to span both art forms. Novelist Madeleine Thien appearing with pianist Richard Uttley performing some of Bach’s Goldberg Variations gave a uniquely moving event, providing another festival highlight. Together these events meant that festival goers were able to enjoy world-class classical, jazz and folk music alongside contemporary fiction, intelligent debate, science, politics and poetry – with many events culminating in standing ovations.

Bath’s biggest free night of music, Party in the City, launched the Festival on 19th May with over 2,000 performers entertaining people across the city. The streets, parks and venues of Bath were filled with a multitude of arts from electro-swing to cheerleading to Chinese shadow-puppetry. This was followed throughout the ten days by an eclectic programme of free entertainment for families – from free creative workshops and circus skills classes, to live music, theatre and poetry performances by local students and young people.

Alex Clark, Artistic Director of Words and Literature, said:
“It’s been thrilling for me to join the team at Bath Festivals just as it’s entering a new and exciting phase in its history. This year, we brought some immensely gifted writers to Bath and we created some truly magical collaborations between authors and musicians. I know we all hope to open up this very special world to even more audiences, and I can’t wait to get started on next year’s programme.”

James Waters, Artistic Director of Music added:
“The new multi arts Bath Festival has the weight of one of the really major European Festivals. The combination of literature, words, classical, jazz and international music really cannot be found anywhere else.”

And David Jones, Artistic Director of Music commented:
“It’s been exhilarating to be programming music into a dynamic new Festival – and so great to see such an enthusiastic response from Festival audiences citywide. Above all, there’s a sense that the Festival is back creating new work and offering artists new opportunities, and the way it combines music and words offers an exciting route forward as it celebrates its 70th birthday next year.”


1. ​Bath Festivals deliver a year round programme of music and literature projects which give children and young people opportunities to work with leading arts professionals, gain real-world experience, grow passions and interests, gain access to cultural events and create and produce their own events.
2.​Bath Festivals is a charity, whose main sources of funding are donations from individuals, patrons, corporate partners and grants from the Arts Council and now Visit Bath (2016 is the final year of funding support from B&NES) and ticket income.
3. ​The Bath Business Improvement District (BID) was a strategic corporate partner of The Bath Festival, supporting this city-wide celebration and the development of the new flagship festival for Bath. The new Bath Festival intends to appeal to a wider audience, build visitor numbers and support the positioning of Bath as an accessible, contemporary, cultural destination. These aspirations align with those of the Bath Business Improvement District, whose purpose it is to enable businesses in Bath to succeed
4. In addition to staging many free events across the course of the ten days, the Festival had a range of ticket offers to make top flight arts performances accessible to families and younger audiences, including a 50% off full price ticket offer to all Forum main room events for Under 18s.
5. Bath Festivals was founded in 1948 and has a strong sense of heritage with a 68 year history of bringing incredible artists and thinkers to the city. Whilst the Music Festival has traditionally been rooted in classical music, it has always been a place where a range of creative ideas develop and evolve – in 1969 the Festival organisers collaborated to stage The Bath Festival of Jazz and Blues (headlined by Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin) which inspired a young dairy farmer in attendance named Michael Eavis to start ‘The Pilton Pop Festival’ near Glastonbury.

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