Full festival line-up announced.

More than 140 events are being announced this morning for the 2020 Bath Festival, including world-renowned musicians, acclaimed writers, comedians and some of the most influential leaders and thinkers of our age.

The Bath Festival runs from Friday 15 May to Sunday 24 May, celebrating the best in music and books in a beautiful city. A diverse programme ranges from acclaimed British novelist Ian McEwan talking to broadcaster Simon Mayo to a pop-up music lounge featuring contemporary jazz band Empirical, from showcasing debut novelists to a performance of the elegiac Sorrowful Songs beside the waters of the Roman Baths.

Ian McKewan


Festival books

The literature programme this year embraces the spirit of enquiry as some of the big issues of our time are subject to lively debate, from sustainability and democracy to mental health and morality. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks will be exploring issues of morality, while MP David Lammy will be talking about tribalism and community, the subject of his new book Tribes.

David Lammy

Festival-goers can enjoy comedian Marcus Brigstocke tearing through the Sunday papers, Rachel Parris bringing her new stand-up show to Bath, or drop into a lecture in a lunch break to learn about the sixth-century hero Beowulf or how to cultivate a healthy brain with advice from psychologist Kimberley Wilson.

Rachel Parris

Global bestseller novelist Neil Gaiman will be commemorating the centenary of the sci-fi guru Ray Bradbury in spirited discussion live via Skype with award-winning Bradbury biographer Sam Weller. The cult graphic designer Stanley Donwood, the man behind Radiohead’s artwork, is coming to talk about his creative career and share notes and sketches. Marine biologist Monty Halls and his family will be sharing stories of their wildlife adventures on the Galapagos.

Ahead of this year’s Glastonbury Festival Emily Eavis will be looking back at 50 years of the legendary festival and comedian Adam Buxton will be delivering his comic ramblings. There will be a strong poetry and spoken word collection, including the three times World Poetry Slam Champion Buddy Wakefield. Other visiting writers include George Alagiah, Lionel Shriver, Polly Toynbee, Claire Tomalin, James Runcie and Joanna Trollope.

Emily Eavis

Festival music

This year’s music programme offers magic and mystery with performances in some of Bath’s most beautiful and historic buildings. The festival returns to Bath Abbey for an evening of Renaissance choral music with The Gesualdo Six, while pianist Bertrand Chamayou will be giving a virtuoso recital at the Assembly Rooms. 

The Gesualdo Six (l know there’s seven pictured!)

The queen of punk Patti Smith will be filling The Forum, while folk singer Chris Wood gives an intimate gig at Walcot House. International conductor Charles Hazelwood will be bringing the Paraorchestra to the Roman Baths, while Bath Philharmonia will be joined by the Band of the Royal Marines School of Music for the Concert for the People of Bath.

Band of the Royal Marines School of Music

The 2020 programme sees a revival of the Bath Festival Orchestra, originally set up by Yehudi Menuhin in 1959. Its first festival concert at the Assembly Rooms will be recorded by BBC Radio 3. In an exciting site-specific series of performances, audience members will be invited to a Georgian home in Bath where they will eavesdrop on a woman’s phone call to her lover as her relationship dissolves. La Voix Humaine, sung in English, will be an intense and memorable theatrical experience.

La Voix Humaine. Claire Booth. Photo credit – Polly Thomas

There will be jazz from Bristol band Get the Blessing. Festival favourites from 2019, The Dodge Brothers with film critic Mark Kermode on bass, will provide a live soundtrack to the 1928 silent movie, Beggars of Life starring Louise Brook, in a screening held in partnership with Bath Fringe. The festival is delighted to be working with Scala Radio, the new national entertainment radio station which plays classical music for modern. Scala is also supporting the Classical Music Rising Stars concerts, with the ticket price including coffee and cake enjoyed in convivial surroundings before the start of each performance.

Get the Blessing

Immerse yourself in music at a workshop with Bath Camerata exploring Brahms’ Requiem, followed by a performance from the choir in the acoustically perfect historic Prior Park Chapel, or listen to young people’s voices raised in harmony as the massed ranks of a new multi-schools choir take to the stage at the festival Finale Weekend.


The Finale Weekend is a spectacular two-day music event on Bath Recreation ground on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 May, the bank holiday weekend. The line-up includes McFly, Scouting for Girls and KT Tunstall on the Saturday and UB40, featuring Ali Campbell and Astro, Billy Ocean, Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Seth Lakeman on the Sunday. One-day tickets and weekend tickets for Finale Weekend are on sale now.

Billy Ocean

Festival projects

Young people will play an important role in this year’s festival. Bath Festival’s Creative Learning programme is involved with several projects, including Common Ground, a specially commissioned community project involving schoolchildren from St Michael’s and Roundhill primary schools in Bath along with adults from Action for Hearing Loss and Carrswood Day Service. Young Producers is an ongoing creative project in which teenage participants stage their own event during the festival and writers from the Young Writers Lab will be producing their own zine, False Starts.

 Festival partner Bath Spa University is holding its annual Spark Fest for its creative students to put on a month-long programme of innovative performances.

Festival experience
The Bath Festival 2020 opens with the traditional Party in the City on Friday 15 May, attended by thousands of people each year. Musicians, poets, bands and choirs will perform in more than 30 venues across the city, with outdoor stages in Queen Square, Parade Gardens and Southgate. It’s a free event which starts at 5pm and runs throughout the evening. Bring your family, meet friends and enjoy food and drink from Bath’s vibrant restaurant scene along with festival stalls and bars.

During the first festival weekend don’t miss the Literature Lounge marquee in Alfred Street, returning for its second year and featuring brilliant book and author events. Award-winning independent bookshop, Mr B’s Emporium, will set up a festival bookshop in The Octagon at the Assembly Rooms, where there will be free readings. Party On will take the festival out on to the streets with free pop-up performances featuring poetry, music and theatre. Follow @thebathfestival to find the times and location of the pop-up jazz lounge.

Ian Stockley, Bath Festivals’ chief executive, said: “We are delighted to announce the outstanding line up for the 2020 festival. We bring Bath alive with music, writers, readers, revellers and more across the ten days, opening the celebrations with Party in the City on Friday 15 May.”

Tickets are available from: www.thebathfestival.org.uk ,  01225 463362 or in person from Bath Box Office, 2 Terrace Walk, Bath BA1 1LN. Members’ booking opens on Thursday 27 February with general release on Thursday 5 March.

Keep up to date with Bath Festivals news at: www.bathfestivals.org,uk
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