Eleven days of ballet, cabaret, symphony orchestras, steel pans, family fun, chamber music, live cooking, story-telling, drama, laugh-out-loud comedy can only mean one thing – Lichfield Festival is back! Taking place between 8-18 July, the annual event brings thousands of visitors to the beautiful cathedral city and is a cornerstone in the region’s cultural calendar.
“We’re thrilled to be back with the 39th Lichfield Festival this July - a year later than envisaged – with a typically exciting range of superb artists to bring the joy of live performance back to the City,” says Lichfield Festival Director, Damian Thantrey. “With distancing and regulations expected still to be in place, things will be a little different this summer, with shorter event times and repeated performances, particularly those in the smaller venues. There will also be a number of outdoor events making the most of the glorious summer weather (we hope) and some of Lichfield’s beautiful and verdant outdoor spaces. We’re looking forward to joining artists and audiences alike, immersing ourselves in eleven days of fabulous entertainment and culture.”
The 2021 Festival opens on Thursday 8 July with the captivating Ballet Cymru performing a brand new version of the classic ballet Giselle in the spectacular setting of Lichfield Cathedral.
The Cathedral is the centrepiece of Festival activities and this year plays host to some amazing vocalists who top the line-up, including the undisputed British Queen of Soul, Mica Paris, whose most recent release Gospel in 2020 shot to No 1 in the UK R&B Album Charts, and Brit-award winning folk singer/songwriter Eddi Reader, widely considered Scotland’s greatest living female voice.
Liza Pulman, whose show Liza Sings Streisand wowed audiences in 2018, returns with timeless classics and lost gems from songwriters like Irving Berlin, Randy Newman and Judy Collins, and master impressionist turned pianist, Alistair McGowan entertains with a unique mix of classic comedy and classical music.
Other highlights in Lichfield Cathedral include fiery flamenco with guitar and Spanish dance duo Xuefei Yang and Maria Vega, a slimmed down BBC National Orchestra of Wales, now in the third year of their residency, and superb vocal group I Fagiolini with a concert of music ancient and modern inspired by the environment and TS Eliot’s The Waste Land. Two atmospheric late evening concerts feature baroque violinist Rachel Podger (Bach by Candlelight) and jazz saxophonist and improviser Tommy Smith OBE.
The Festival’s Aspire! Family Day takes place outdoors on the final Festival Saturday, centred around the Cathedral lawn. It begins with a new costumed production of Peter and the Wolf, designed especially for the Festival, in the gardens of Lichfield Cathedral School. There’s an appearance from the world-renowned Grimethorpe Colliery Band on the West Lawn ahead of their Cathedral shows later that day, plus three Lichfield Mystery Plays, and song and dance from local groups to keep the festival vibe buzzing and picnickers entertained throughout.
The Festival continues its tradition of engaging Artists in Residence who perform during the Festival. This year’s four superb collaborative musicians are Chloë Hanslip (violin), Danny Driver (piano), Jessica Walker (writer/vocalist) and Joseph Atkins (composer/piano). Chloë and Danny include a selection of Beethoven’s violin sonatas within their three duo recitals as a belated tribute to the composer’s 250th anniversary last year.
Meanwhile, the creative partnership of Jessica Walker and Joseph Atkins brings three cabaret shows: Roaring into the 20s is devoted to music of the era that ushered in the Jazz Age; (Dead) Funny Women recaptures the rollercoaster lives and musical genius of great women of musical comedy; and Songs For Our Times is a special Festival commission, first shown as a film in 2020.
Variety is the buzzword of every Lichfield Festival – it’s one of the most eclectic multi-arts festivals the UK has to offer – so it’s no surprise there’s everything from an appearance by the Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen, to live cooking and laugh-out-loud comedy from George Egg, a whistle stop tour of Gilbert & Sullivan by the Charles Court Opera and a monologue on the life of Clementine Churchill, wife of Winston Churchill.
There’s comic entertainment from Justin Moorhouse (star of Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights) and Lichfield expat Katie Arnstein in her semi-autobiographical show Sexy Lamp. The story of another former Lichfield resident, the 19th century composer, pianist and instrument maker Muzio Clementi, is told through words and music, played on an original Clementi square piano.
The programme continues with a series of spectacularly talented Young Artists in recital, Notting Hill Carnival favourites The Metronomes Steel Orchestra performing al fresco at Swinfen Hall, Jonathan Gee’s jazz Quartet Re-imagining The Beatles and a return visit by world music and folk group Kabantu.
"The Festival is extremely grateful this year for the support it has received from its corporate and individual sponsors and, in particular, from Arts Council England and the Culture Recovery Fund."
Lichfield Festival 2021 runs from 8-18 July. Tickets and details from www.lichfieldfestival.org.