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Your Total Guide To entertainment

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The return of live events has been massively celebrated this weekend as the opening of The Bath Festival brought crowds of people into Bath city centre. The annual festival kicked off on Friday night with Party in the City, which saw revellers of all ages enjoying free live music in dozens of venues, from churches and pubs to museums and parks.

Stages were set up in Queen Square and Parade Gardens where partygoers enjoyed the sunshine and danced into the night. Bath BID (Bath Improvement District) recorded the highest footfall of the year so far on Friday night, with a recorded footfall data of 38 per cent higher than the average Friday evening, giving a boost to the local economy.

The festival’s opening weekend was a huge success, with good natured crowds queuing to see visiting authors and musicians. Thanks to the support from Bath Festival sponsors and partners, including Bath BID, Bath and North East Somerset Council, Bath Recreation, Bath Box Office staff, the schools and businesses who offer financial and practical support for the arts charity, as well as the army of festival volunteers who make the festival such a success.

Highlights of the opening weekend included:

  • A pop-up jazz lounge set up in an empty shop in New Bond Street, where people crowded into the space to hear contemporary jazz group Empirical, who were joined by surprise VIP guest, Iain Ballamy, one of the jazz scene’s finest saxophonists.
  • Singer PJ Harvey, who gave a world exclusive reading from her new book, Orlam.
  • Bestselling author Marian Keyes, along with award-winning Nina Stibbe and columnist turned author Lucy Mangan, spoke to a packed audience at The Assembly Rooms. Marian Keyes later posted a charming film of herself enjoying the beauty of the gardens at the Royal Crescent Hotel.
  • Comedian Marcus Brigstocke chaired a panel comprising NHS campaigner Dr Rachel Clarke, journalist Symeon Brown and comedian Rachel Parris to share views on the Sunday papers with their audience at Komedia, an event filled with laughter, but also some hard-hitting political comment.
  • Also at Komedia, multi-award winning Scottish singer-songwriter Karine Polwart, accompanied by pianist Dave Milligan, played her first ever gig in Bath, delighting her audience with her pure voice.
  • There was laughter as poet Brian Bilston, shared some of his work, ranging from poems about love to biting critique of government, there were tears too as memoir writers Cathy Rentzenbrink and Clover Stroud talked to psychotherapist Julia Samuel and members of the audience also shared their own stories of grief and loss.
  • Nobel Prize winner Professor Abdulrazak Gurnah and Turkish activist Elif Shafak, veteran journalist Martin Bell, broadcaster Justin Webb, novelists Monica Ali, Ali Smith, Mark Haddon, Janice Hallett and Harriet Evans were among the big names who entertained and enlightened.
  • The Festival Hub in Queen Square, a new addition to the festival, provided two days of free entertainment for the city and proved incredibly popular. Entertainment included live music on the stage throughout the weekend, children’s creative hands-on sessions and activities for all the family.
  • The festival put Bath in the spotlight, as ITV filmed live from Queen Square on Friday, The Guardian, the BBC and a party of literary journalists all attended festival events. And a group of influential bookstagrammers were guests in the city, promoting a love of reading and books.

The Bath Festival continues all this week with so much more to look forward to. Bath Philharmonia will play the Concert for the People of Bath on Thursday, with a big brass sound supplied by the Band of the Royal Marines School of Music. There’s a series of intimate concerts at the Holburne from the rising stars of classical music including Jeneba Kanneh Mason and Bath Royal Literary Science Institution on Queen Square is hosting a series of fascinating talks on everything from the BBC to Britain’s place in the world.

Friday promises more fun and laughter as five funny women (Isy Suttie, Lucy Beaumont, Jessica Jones, Helen Thorn and Anna Whitehouse) take to the stage at The Forum for Women on Top. Saturday, 21 May, is a day packed with live events, including appearances by writer Elizabeth Day, comedian Phil

Wang, authors Claire Fuller and Sarah Moss and US writer Torrey Peters, whose book Detransition, Baby was nominated for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction, who has included Bath on her list of UK dates,

The 2022 Bath Festival will close on Saturday with some real musical gems. American pianist Jeremy Denk will be playing Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier at St Swithin’s Church in the afternoon, followed in the evening by the Consone Quartet also in St Swithin’s Church. British contemporary group, Public Service Broadcasting will be putting on one of their unique performances of film and music at the close of the festival in The Forum.

For more festival events and to buy tickets, visit: thebathfestival.org.uk

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