Abbey hosts Festival opener.

The Bath Festival 2021 has opened with a dramatic flourish with The Bath Festival Orchestra played Monday’s opening concert in the newly refurbished historic Bath Abbey to a sell-out audience.

All the space in the abbey’s nave was carefully managed to allow social distancing and the audience were delighted to be able to enjoy live music on the first day that the government lifted restrictions. The concert featured works by Brahms, Strauss and Weber and the conductor was Peter Manning, the soloist soprano Rowan Pierce. The Bath Festival Orchestra was originally established in the 1950s under Yehudi Menuhin and has been revived to provide opportunities for rising young stars of classical music.

Also sold out for the first day of the festival were the three inaugural Frankenstein walking tours of Bath. These are being run by the Show of Strength Theatre Company and show the places in Bath which influenced Mary Shelley to begin writing her famous dark tale, Frankenstein during her time in the city.

The Bath Festival programme of more than 40 live music and books events runs until Monday 24 May. Highlights include an appearance by Richard Osman, whose debut crime novel The Thursday Murder Club has been one of the biggest hits during lockdown. Other big names visiting the south west in person include Telegraph columnist and author (No Such Thing as Normal) Bryony Gordon, comedian and TV presenter Mel Giedroyc, columnist Polly Toynbee and BBC correspondent turned thriller writer Frank Gardner and bestselling author Kate Mosse.

Some events are sold out. These include the Concert for the People of Bath with Bath Philharmonia, an appearance by performance poet Hollie McNish, guided walking tours themed around the filming of Netflix hit Bridgerton and the Gothic tale of Frankenstein. Other sell-out hits of this year’s festival include a discussion about the peri-menopause and a talk from bestselling Skincare Queen Caroline Hirons, as well as two concerts by the Gesualdo Six, staged beside the Roman Baths.

There will be appearances too from debut writers, including comedian Tez Ilyas talking about his recently published memoir The Secret Diary of a British Muslim aged 13 ¾ and two up-and-coming voices in fiction, Caleb Azumah Nelson and Daisy Buchanan.

John Cullum, chair of the festival board, DL, said: “I am pleased that on the first day possible we were able to bring live events back into our beautiful city. The vision, courage and hard work of our chief executive, Ian Stockley and his equally hard-working small team at Bath Festivals have made these eight days of events possible. 

I would like to thank them and our patrons, friends, partners, sponsors and the local council and Arts Council England for all helping us to keep our heads above water during these challenging times. We’re back and I’m delighted!”

The Bath Festival is also offering its audience the chance to enjoy highlights from the May 2021 festival of music and books with The Bath Festival At Home, a digital broadcast for people to watch at home from Friday 28 May to Friday 11 June. The Bath Festival Orchestra concert will also feature on BBC Radio 3.

Each of the At Home events will be introduced by presenter and writer Francesca Beauman. These short films will include highlights of Bath, showcasing the city for a global audience. All events in The Bath Festival at Home are FREE to watch but please consider donating to Bath Festivals, a registered charity.  All donations will support future festivals and creative learning projects with young people in the local community.

Tickets for this week’s festival can be bought at:  or tel: 01225 463362.

The photo (attached) shows Bath Festival Orchestra leader Maren Bosma rehearsing in Bath Abbey on Monday May 17

Bath Festivals would like to thank its partners and sponsors, particularly media partners The Bath Magazine and Scala Radio and sponsors Bath Spa University, Bath BID, Bath Recreation, Wessex Water, B&NES, Hallmark Care Homes, Kingswood School and Arts Council England. Award-winning independent Bath-based Mr B’s Emporium is the festival’s official bookseller.

Tickets are available for Bath Festival Finale Weekend, Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 August.

This family-friendly two-day festival takes place in the heart of Bath, on Bath Recreation ground.

Bath Festivals and music promotersOrchard Livepresent headliners McFly, Scouting for Girls, Billy Ocean and UB40. The line-up also includes, Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Seth Lakeman. Tickets are available from Bath Box Office or Ticketmaster, for single days or for a full weekend ticket.

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