The Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival


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The Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival

Whenever I visit Salisbury I feel all cities should be like this. The open market, the Arts Centre set in an old church, the two theatres, the city walls and old buildings nestled with the new, the flowing river and open spaces, the cafés and the incredible cathedral all give the city its own unique flavour. It is certainly appropriate that the city holds one of the most prestigious festivals in the country each year.

The Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival is arguably one of the most varied and aesthetic of all the festivals that occur in the UK. The festival always produces the most eclectic mix of creativity from all corners of the globe, and in December the Festival unveiled six highlight events for the 2014 Festival to Festival Friends and invited guests at a launch event at the Guildhall, Salisbury. These highlights included Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and a performance of the late Sir John Tavener’s work by the South Iceland Chamber Choir. The Festival 2014 will celebrate the Nordic lands of the midnight sun. Launched in 1973 with a performance by Paco Peña, this leading commissioning and producing annual 16 day Festival attracts over 70,000 attendances each year and contributes £3m to the regional economy.

Details of the full programme will be revealed to all at the main Festival launch on 24th February 2014 and the Festival runs from 23rd May to 7th June. 

Stranger by Emke Idema. photo: Jan Boeve/De Balie

Stranger by Emke Idema. photo: Jan Boeve/De Balie

Notes on the highlights…

Having visited the majestic Salisbury Cathedral many times and noted its tremendous acoustics, the idea of the sound of a full blown classical concert from a full symphony orchestra cascading through the vast space is quite a concept. Yet this is exactly what is going to happen at the Festival; the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with musical director Andris Nelsons and violinist Pekka Kuusisto will be performing Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and the Violin Concerto in D minor by Sibelius in the Cathedral.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre are regular performers at the festival. This year Old Wardour Castle at Tisbury is the setting for Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing by the players. Beatrice and Benedick, who don’t seem to be able to admit the fact that they are in love, are two of the Bard’s most humorous lovers. The setting of Old Wardour Castle is the perfect venue for the Globe Theatre players to present this funny yet suspense-filled tale.

Madeleine Peyroux. photo: Rocky Schenck

Madeleine Peyroux. photo: Rocky Schenck

Salisbury Cathedral is perhaps a very fitting venue for ‘In Memoriam Sir John Tavener’. The composer’s recent death robbed us of his exquisite talent and his music is celebrated by the South Iceland Chamber Choir performing a number of his works including the recent Three Shakespeare Sonnets and also new work by Jack White.

‘Stranger’ is an interactive theatre piece by Emke Idema, exploring the social mechanisms at work when people first meet each other and will be performed at the Salisbury Playhouse.

The festival brings the enigmatic American singer/songwriter Madeleine Peyroux to City Hall in Salisbury and she will be revisiting some of her favourite songs from past albums. Although having been compared to Billie Holliday by critics and having such diverse influences as Bessie Smith, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, Peyroux does not seek the limelight, in fact she can keep a very low profile. For example, after the release of her first album she ‘disappeared’ for eight years before releasing her second. Since then she has treated us to just five more albums. But she is a unique talent and kudos to the festival organisers for bringing her to perform.

The British vocal quartet the Hilliard Ensemble and Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek will be showcasing their mesmerising partnership also in the wonderful acoustics of Salisbury Cathedral. The incredible combination of choral voices and saxophone in this inspiring spiritual setting will surely create a few truly transcendent moments for the lucky audience.


The Hilliard Ensemble with Jan Garbarek

The Hilliard Ensemble with Jan Garbarek

Recently appointed festival director Toby Smith said: “We are proud to announce the first six events planned for the Festival next year, from the welcome returns of The Hilliard Ensemble and Jan Garbarek, the CBSO and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, to participatory theatre from Emke Idema, an exclusive visit from the South Iceland Chamber Choir and an intimate date with the incomparable Madeleine Peyroux.  Thanks to ongoing support from our principal sponsor Ageas, as well as a range of other sponsors, donors and friends, and the backing of Arts Council England, Wiltshire and Salisbury City Councils, the 2014 programme is taking shape and these highlight events hint at the exciting Festival that lies ahead.”

To book tickets and/or purchase Festival Friends membership visit or call the box office on 0845 241 9651.





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