Returning for a 44th year and taking its inspiration from New Zealand, the Festival will once again fill every corner of the medieval City and surrounding countryside with a thrilling mix of music, comedy, film, theatre, circus, dance, walks, poetry, exhibitions, children’s workshops and street theatre, featuring an outstanding range of high-profile and emerging talent from the UK, New Zealand and beyond.
Over 16 days Salisbury will resound with artistic encounters of all kinds, throwing open its doors and public spaces to more than 150 events. Looking southwards as part of the Festival’s four-year journey around the cardinal points of the compass, artists from New Zealand will present work spanning every art form, many making their UK premiere, from Maori a cappella to award-winning circus and mime, to an epic Middle Earth day-long film marathon. You can share the playlist of one couple’s love story on the dance floor of The Chapel nightclub in Bullet Heart Club’s Daffodils, take part in a free massed Haka in the glorious grounds of Salisbury Cathedral, and watch Still House perform the contemporary dance of Of Riders and Running Horses on the roof of a Salisbury car park at dusk.
Over two packed days the Festival’s ever-popular City Encounters programme offers free street theatre, dance, circus, music and activities: an Urban Astronaut will fly through the air above the city centre; NoFitState + Motionhouse will take on an oversized Jenga tower; whilst Corey Baker Dance stretches the limits of what a vintage red telephone box really can do. Salisbury Live provides its usual mix of great music from local bands in venues throughout the city, offering free entry and a fantastic vibe across the three weekends of the festival.
A specially commissioned Opening Ceremony will celebrate the start of this year’s Festival drawing on the long and rich tradition of the Maori welcome, powhiri, and the arts of kapa haka. Under Festival Chorus director Howard Moody, hundreds of singers will welcome Ngati Ranana, the UK’s foremost Maori arts club, performing traditional Maori arts before joining forces with the Chorus in a newly commissioned ‘waiata’ or song to launch the Festival.
A diverse array of in-conversations and special guests fill the programme including the Right Honorable Sir Vince Cable MP; actor Richard E Grant; one of the world’s most respected Maori authors, Witi Ihimaera; naturalist and broadcaster Stephen Moss; comedian and writer Ben Miller; journalist and author Dame Joan Bakewell; actress Juliet Stevenson; former England Rugby Union captain Will Carling; comedian Jon Culshaw; Queen of Shops Mary Portas; and former Artistic Director of the National Theatre Sir Richard Eyre among others.
Exhibitions include Call & Response, which captures birdsong recorded by New Zealand artist Caro Williams collected from military spaces in New Zealand and Wiltshire and set into huge bird boxes that will hang in the trees of the military Rifles Museum. Ancient Tongan imagery meets pop culture in a striking new collection by New Zealand artist Benjamin Work, and Sophie Ryder, one of Britain’s foremost sculptors, speaks about her work with Jon Bennington as part of the ongoing Relationships exhibition featuring her work across the whole city.
Award-winning dance company Protein returns with its most playful show to date, May Contain Food, an immersive feast that invites the audience to sit around tables to be served by the artists as they sing for their supper. Corey Baker Dance fuses contemporary dance and Maori arts to create Kapa Haka Tale, and Arlene Philips CBE works with Candoco Dance Company, a company of disabled and non-disabled dancers, to present a new duet on how we fall in and out of love over and over again.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre will return to the Old Wardour Castle with a new production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, whilst aerial circus company Ockham’s Razor presents its new show, Tipping Point, with action veering from catastrophe to mastery as five performers take the audience on a thrilling journey into a teetering world where simple five-metre poles are hung from the roof, lashed, climbed and swung from to create a shifting landscape of forests, cross roads and pendulums.
Music comes from the legendary Courtney Pine performing with MOBO Award-winning pianist Zoe Rahman, Grammy Award-winning baritone Jonathan Lemalu and one of the UK’s most musically revered folk trios Lau perform their unique blend of acoustic folk. Celebrated American singer songwriter John Grant, renowned for his bold, emotive performance and brave lyrics, will perform at City Hall, and hypnotic melodies and driving rhythms from hang drum virtuoso Manu Delago, a regular performer with Bjork and Anoushka Shankar.
A programme of choral motets from the Bach Dynasty comes from acclaimed Belgian vocal ensemble Vox Luminis, making its Festival debut, the Modern Maori Quartet promises a trip down memory lane with its fresh close-harmony take on Kiwi golden oldies and recent international hits and, to close the Festival, Salisbury Cathedral will provide the perfect backdrop for The Philharmonia’s performance of Elgar’s Enigma Variations and Vaughan Williams’ Tallis Fantasia, with New Zealander Benjamin Baker joining the orchestra for one of the best-loved violin concerti, the Tchaikovsky.
An evening of music and words from Wolf Hall with Peter Kosminsky, director of the BBC’s adaptation, and composer Debbie Wiseman recreates the candlelit atmosphere of the TV series, whilst actor Simon Callow takes the audience on a magical musical journey tracing Francis Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe.
There’s comedy from rubber-limbed master of mime-comedy, Trygve Wakenshaw, presenting the final part of his delirious, sell-out underwater trilogy, and TV regulars Romesh Ranganathan, New Zealand-born comedian Jarred Christmas, and Hal Cruttenden.
Activities and performances for children include former Children’s Laureate Michael Morpurgo in an adaptation of his classic Where My Wellies Take Me. Celebrating the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth, the Wardrobe Museum Gardens play host to a heart-warming, open-air adaptation of Danny The Champion of the World, whilst Chotto Desh offers a magical mix of dance, storytelling and dreamlike animation celebrating the resilience of the human spirit from renowned dance company Akram Khan. Innovative New Zealand theatre company, Trick of the Light, presents Beards! Beards! Beards! the story of a young girl called Beatrix who wants a beard, not a tiara… and, set amongst the leather-bound volumes that line the walls of Longleat library, The Bookbinder explores how it feels to fall into the stories of a good book.
Festival Director Toby Smith said: “This year we look southwards to New Zealand, a distant land defined by Maori culture and its fusion with European and contemporary Pacific island traditions.
“New Zealand artists spanning every art form will be coming to Salisbury, bringing work rarely seen outside of the country while, once again, the city of Salisbury and the glorious landscape that surrounds it continue to provide inspiration for the rest of the exciting programme of events that we have on offer in May and June. The Festival is all about bringing the world to Salisbury and showing off our city to the world. Let’s bring it on.”