First look: Must-book events for Bury Festival 2020

Environmentalist and acclaimed pianist and composer Sarah Nicolls who is appearing at the Bury Festi

Environmentalist and acclaimed pianist and composer Sarah Nicolls who is appearing at the Bury Festival 2020 Photo:Bury Festival - Credit: Archant

The Bury Festival celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. They have come up with a vibrant programme of star names and first-class talent as well as a mini festival-within-a-festival to ensure that the programme delivers something for everyone

Amadou and Mariam who are performing with the Blind Boys of Alabama at the Bury Festival 2020 Phot

Amadou and Mariam who are performing with the Blind Boys of Alabama at the Bury Festival 2020 Photo:Andy Hall - Credit: Archant

This year the Bury St Edmunds Festival celebrates its 35th anniversary and the organisers are pulling out all the stops to make sure that 2020's event is better than ever.

The popular Bury St Edmunds Festival will be bringing a selection of leading figures from the world of arts and entertainment to Suffolk's cathedral town to make sure that the 11 day celebration of all things creative and cultural will have a diverse line up of music, dance, comedy, walks and talks in its programme.

More than 50 events will be staged across 12 venues throughout Bury from Thursday May 14 to Sunday May 24. The line-up will begin on the May 14 with an extraordinary performance by Aurora Orchestra who will be showcasing a 35-minute presentation on Beethoven's Eroica, with musical excerpts and spoken word, before a complete performance of the symphony from memory.

Aurora Orchestra who are appearing at the Bury Festival 2020 Photo:Nick Rutter

Aurora Orchestra who are appearing at the Bury Festival 2020 Photo:Nick Rutter - Credit: Archant

This year's festival will be bringing back some echoes from the past in order to honour the roots of the modern festival. In the early 1980s, the month of May would feature Weekends of Words and Music with events across various venues in the town. By 1986 this had morphed into the Bury St Edmunds Festival. The Festival will be revisiting those early beginnings and, in addition to the usual smorgasbord of wonderful music, will be teaming up with FANE productions for a Words Weekend to open the festivities. The Words Weekend runs from May 15- 17 featuring national treasures, local favourites and stars of literature, radio, stage and screen. Mental health, gender roles and feminism are among the topics discussed in these open and honest conversations with celebrities, writers, actors and presenters.

Jenni Murray will celebrate women from around the world, Alastair Campbell will speak openly about depression, Robert Webb will discuss modern masculinity and Katie Piper will explain how she has overcome anxiety. The packed programme will also include a book fayre, workshops, walking tours and family activities.

Bones Apart, a trombone quartet showcasing the music of female composers and songwriters, will be welcomed to the festival on Tuesday May 19. On the same day acclaimed jazz singer Stacey Kent will perform music from her new album with a five-piece band.

Bones Apart will be bringing their lively sound to the Bury Festival 2020 Photo:Bury Festival

Bones Apart will be bringing their lively sound to the Bury Festival 2020 Photo:Bury Festival - Credit: Archant

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Wednesday May 20 will feature a performance in the atmospheric setting of St Edmundsbury Cathedral by St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra will be joined by former BBC Young Musician of the Year, Jennifer Pike and conducted by former Bury St Edmunds student, Ben Palmer.

Over at The Apex, Dead Ringers Live will have the festival laughing - and crying - at the state of political life in 2020, featuring the dream team Jon Culshaw, Lewis MacLeod, Jan Ravens and Duncan Wisbey.

On Friday May 22 audiences are in for a sensational double bill when ambassadors of Malian music Amadou & Mariam join forces with the Blind Boys of Alabama, living legends of gospel music.

Dead Ringers Live will be appearing at the Bury Festival 2020 Photo:Andy Cotterill

Dead Ringers Live will be appearing at the Bury Festival 2020 Photo:Andy Cotterill - Credit: Archant

The Athenaeum will be hosting an inside-out piano recital about climate change by acclaimed pianist and composer, Sarah Nicolls. Her compelling show, 12 Years was inspired by a 2018 IPCC Special Report that said we had just that 12 years to change our behaviour and save the planet. There will be a mix of original music interwoven with recorded speech from fictional characters challenging each other about their environmental views. Sarah Nicolls and Rupert Read, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of East Anglia, will be hosting a post-show discussion.

The following day, on Saturday May 23, singer-songwriter Teddy Thompson will perform his new album 'Heartbreaker' at The Apex while legendary crooner Tony Christie will close the Festival with a collaboration with the iconic Nelson Riddle Orchestra on Sunday May 24.

But, it's not just the Bury St Edmunds Festival that has a big birthday this year, the town itself will be celebrating 1000 years since the founding of the Abbey of St Edmund.

Jazz star Stacey Kent who is appearing at the Bury Festival 2020 Photo:Bury Festival

Jazz star Stacey Kent who is appearing at the Bury Festival 2020 Photo:Bury Festival - Credit: Archant

To tie in with the anniversary, the Festival will be holding concerts at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, including a performance by The Sixteen on Monday May 18. This year marks the 20th anniversary of The Sixteen's Choral Pilgrimage Tour and they will include St Edmundsbury Cathedral as part of the 1000-year landmark and have chosen Rome as a theme for their performances.

Other events at the Cathedral include a Late Night Organ Recital, Festival Eucharist and Bury Bach Choir.

In a year of anniversaries The Apex also has its own milestone to commemorate - its celebrating its10th birthday. The venue will be hosting over 23 events during the Festival and will have a new exhibition entitled, 'A Year in the Life' that depicts behind-the-scenes photos of the venue in all its glory. Local photographer Geoff Price has been following The Apex's journey for the last year, recording events seemingly big and small, as well as day to day life of the staff, acts and crew.

The legendary Tony Christie who will be closing the Bury Festival 2020 Photo:Bury Festival

The legendary Tony Christie who will be closing the Bury Festival 2020 Photo:Bury Festival - Credit: Archant

Tickets will go on sale to Festival Friends on Friday February 21 and to the general public on Monday February 24.

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