Festival line-up revealed

Tickets for this year’s Bath Festival go on general sale on March 13th, and Bath Newseum can now reveal the 2022 programme, which appears to have an outstanding array of authors, musicians and influential thinkers lined up to entertain and inspire.

The annual world-renowned festival, celebrating books and music in a beautiful city, will run from Friday 13 May to Saturday 21 May 2022, with a series of citywide live events.

In a packed festival programme, going into more venues than ever before, many of the events involve the careful pairing of authors and musicians to create experiences that will be unique to Bath. Following the lockdowns of the pandemic Bath Festival has emerged with a strong focus on the importance of live arts events and performance as the lifeblood of what it offers audiences.

The festival fun begins with the traditional FREE Party in the City on Friday 13 May, offering dozens of live music events in city venues. This celebration of music attracts thousands of visitors to the city, to enjoy everything from choirs singing in churches, to samba on the streets, punk rock in pubs and the stars of the local music scene playing on stages in local parks.


Look out for innovative contemporary jazz ensemble Empirical who have carved out a name by taking audiences by surprise as they perform pop-up gigs in Tube stations and shopping centres. The group will set up in one of Bath’s empty shops, playing a series of FREE performances

For the first time a new Festival Hub will be set up in historic Queen Square over the first weekend of the festival. This will provide a welcoming gathering space with music, food and drink, hands-on activities for families, live entertainment and surprise performances.

The Bath Festival continues to make the most of the city’s historic buildings as venues, including Bath Abbey, The Assembly Rooms and the former Art Deco cinema The Forum. But this year seek out different events at Komedia, known as a band and comedy venue, the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute, hosting a series of eclectic talks and the official festival bookseller, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights will also be hosting a series of book events in store in John Street. Festival-goers will also find events at Persephone Books in George Street, at Walcot House and in the festival’s intimate Literature Lounge which will be set up in Alfred Street. Dorothy House Hospice is also hosting book events at its charity shop in Broad Street as part of the festival.

Highlights of this year’s wide-ranging programme include:

Literary highlights

  • A series of thoughtfully curated events created for The Bath Festival by Arifa Akbar, author of an acclaimed memoir Consumed and The Guardian’s chief theatre critic. This collection will include a unique literary moment, as Tanzanian-born Nobel Prize winner, Abdulrazak Gurnah, and eminent Turkish-British novelist and activist, Elif Shafak come together to talk about their work and the themes of home, Britishness, international fiction and post-colonial legacies.
  • Environmental campaigner George Monbiot will be talking to writer Max Porter about Regenesis, hisvision of a new future for farming, food and humanity. 
  • The singer PJ Harvey presents Orlam, her new work, in a spoken word event in conversation with renowned local author Max Porter. She reveals herself as a gifted poet who has written the first full-length book in the Dorset dialect for many decades.
  • Broadcaster Justin Webb (The Gift of a Radio) and author Richard Beard (Sad Little Men) will join broadcaster Mark Lawson, to discuss male power and privilege, life in Britain’s elite all-male boarding schools and its effect on the psyche of the men who often end up leading the country.  
  • The unofficial Poet Laureate of Twitter, Brian Bilston shares poetry from his book Alexa, What Is There To Know About Love? which features poems about reading and literature and the subject causing many of us heartbreak – politics. 
  • Join two of the best contemporary novelists in conversation. Claire Fuller (Unsettled Ground) won the Costa Award in 2021 and award-winning Sarah Moss‘s latest novel, The Fell, asks probing questions about what the world has become since March 2020.
  • Historian and presenter David Olusoga and geneticist and author Adam Rutherford, author of Control: the Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics, will be in what promises to be a stimulating discussion.
  • Women on Top is an evening of life-affirming comedy in the company of five furiously funny women. Anna Whitehouse (Underbelly) hosts Lucy Beaumont (Drinking Custard), Isy Suttie (Jane is Trying), Jessica Jones (Own It) and Helen Thorn (Get Divorced, Be Happy).
  • Two trailblazers come together to talk about identity, imagination and human rights. Jay Bernard, Ted Hughes Award winning poet (Surge), performs their spoken word poetry and talks to Shon Faye, a former lawyer and bestselling author (The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice). The event showcases the live literary platform, Speaking Volumes, which supports under-represented voices.
  • The festival continues its tradition of supporting debut voices, Julia Armfield, Susan Stokes-Chapman, Kasim Ali, Jendella Benson, and Lizzie Damilola Blackburn are among the exciting new voices who will be visiting Bath.  
The Colin Currie Group

Music highlights

  • A concert and talk by US pianist Jeremy Denk – The Bath Festival is one of only two UK dates he is playing this summer. He will be playing Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier and talking about his memoir, Every Good Boy Does Fine in an event he has curated especially for The Bath Festival.
  • The Bath Festival Orchestra, re-launched during the pandemic to give a platform to young musicians, will be giving a one-off performance beside the waters of the Roman Baths, playing an appropriately water-themed programme inspired by the sea. There will also be pop-up performances from this exciting young orchestra.
  • Colin Currie, acclaimed as the world’s most daring percussionist, will be filling Bath Abbey with sound as the Colin Currie Group and Synergy Vocals put on a thunderous live performance.
  • The band Public Service Broadcasting, favourites on the festival circuit, will bring their own brand of original music and intriguing stage performance to The Forum, a former Art Deco cinema.  
  • Pianist Jeneba Kanneh-Mason, who will perform in the historic Holburne Museum, is part of the festival’s Rising Stars of Classical Music series of concerts.
  • Karine Polwart (seven-time winner at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards) brings her latest project, collaboration with jazz/folk pianist Dave Milligan. Audiences can expect an intimate event featuring a stripped-back collection of songs performed entirely with voice and grand piano.
  • Saxophonist Jess Gillam is an exciting live performer who will be bringing a wide range of musical styles to a concert at Komedia with the Jess Gillam Ensemble.
Marcus Brigstocke

One of a kind – festival highlights

  • An intimate, intense theatrical experience has been created in a performance of La Voix Humaine, a 20th century opera classic, which will take place up close and personal in an apartment in Bath. This is a co-production between the Wales Millennium Centre and Welsh National Opera and the performer is Claire Booth.
  • Comedian Marcus Brigstocke will be dissecting the Sunday papers, joined by author and campaigner Dr Rachel Clarke, Channel 4 News journalist Symeon Brown and comedian Rachel Parris for a brunch time event. 
  • The Bath Festival walks are a regular sell-out and this year’s specially commissioned trio of guided tours are sure to attract interest. Choose from the Bath Blitz walk, which revisits the WW2 bombing raids of 1942, a behind-the-scenes look at the city as a screen location and a walk which explored Bath’s evolution as one of the great spa towns of Europe.
  • Two major publishing houses, Penguin and Picador, are to host proof parties, previewing as yet unpublished works to a small gathering, with the chance to take home proof copies of books ahead of their publication.
  • Music and words events created especially for Bath include author James Runcie talking about his new novel, The Great Passion, which was inspired by JS Bach’s masterpiece. The illustrated talk will be accompanied by violinist Irene Duval.

The Bath Festival 2022 also features appearances by Ali Smith, Martin Bell, Clover Stroud, Mark Haddon, Monica Ali, Nicholas Crane, Tracy Borman, Phil Wang, The Tallis Scholars, Sean Shibe, Torrey Peters, Daisy Buchanan, Marian Keyes, Viv Groskop, Nina Stibbe, Lucy Mangan, Cathy Rentzenbrink, Stacey Halls and many, many more.

Bath Festival chief executive Ian Stockley, said: “A festival celebration has never been more important for bringing the city together. We are proud to have worked with so many different people and organisations to create unique collaborations and look forward to seeing audiences’ reactions to the very special live events we’ve got planned for Bath.”

Arifa Akbar

Arifa Akbar, guest curator at this year’s festival, said: “It was truly a delight and an honour to be invited to guest curate a strand at the Bath Festival this year. I have had a long working relationship with the festival and this curation feels all the more special in the light of that history . . . I have been an audience member, often rapt or moved, and always walking away inspired.

In former incarnations as a journalist, moderator, trustee and punter, I picked up a keen sense of excitement the programme unfailingly sparked in the room. Now I am curating a strand of five events to run across the opening weekend, and I hope they will spark just as much excitement in you. “

With thanks
The Bath Festival would like to thank sponsors, including Bath Spa University, Bath Recreation,Bath BID, Wessex Water, the Kaleidoscope Collection, Pixie, Kingswood School and The Royal High School. The festival is supported by Arts Council England, Bath & North East Somerset Council, Panda Sanctuaries, Visit Bath, The Forum, Komedia, BRLSI, Steinway and Sons, The Roper Family Charitable Trust, The Coles-Medlock Foundation, The Trevor Osborne Charitable Trust Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation.  It would like to thank its patrons and members and its invaluable army of volunteers, without who the festival would not happen. The festival official bookseller is the independent Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights and festival partners are: The Bath Magazine, Scala Radio, GWR, The Arts Show podcast, The Francis Hotel, Bath Box Office, Sparkfest and Minuteman Press.

Tickets go on general release on Friday 11 March. 

For full programme details visit: thebathfestival.org.uk

To get priority booking before tickets go on general release, sign up to become a Bath Festivals member: https://bathfestivals.org.uk/the-bath-festival/sign-up/

Festival partner Bath Spa University is holding its annual SparkFest for its creative students to put on a month-long programme of innovative performances in theatre, music and dance, from Monday 9 May – Saturday 11 June. More information at www.sparkfest.co.uk www.bathspalive.com