by Tom Pell

With an increasing number of straight-up music festivals cluttering up the Midlands’ summer calendar, Lichfield Festival offers an altogether more culturally-diverse alternative.

The event begins on July 4 with some of the city’s most prestigious hotspots – including Lichfield Cathedral, Lichfield Garrick Theatre, and Swinfen Hall Hotel – hosting a variety of arts events from theatre to writing and comedy.

Festival manager Peter Bacon says: “I think our appeal is the variety of experiences that we provide. We’re the only kind of multi-arts festival in the Midlands, and it’s the only time in the year where artists from all over the world will come to an event like this.”

A regular feature on the schedule is the Big Read and the Little Read, where copies of particular books are handed out before the author faces questions about them.

“We’re really lucky this year because we’ve got P.D James for our Big Read and Jacqueline Wilson, who is probably the most popular children’s author and surely the most borrowed in libraries, for our Little Read.”

Crime-writing legend P.D James will be discussing Death Comes To Pemberley, her new novel which puts a deliciously evil twist on the serene world of Pride and Prejudice.

Four Children and It will be the book of choice for Tracy Beaker scribe Jacqueline Wilson, as she gives a modern take on E Nesbit’s 150 year-old classic. This week 200 copies of each of the books were distributed around the city for people to have a read, and then go along and quiz the authors.

P.D James
P.D James

Though a back seat is taken, music is still prevalent in the festival’s proceedings. Again, variety is the name of the game, with The Swingle Sisters, Heath Quartet and folksters Spiers and Boden amongst those taking the stage.

The opening concert will feature a performance by the Chetham’s Youth Orchestra from Manchester, while Brummie soulstress and flavour of the year Laura Mvula will also take the stage on July 8. Mvula and her husband Themba have had links with the festival since 2009.

Peter explains: “She was involved in teaching in the Birmingham choir, Black Voices, and we did a project a few years back where we had them doing an evening of Gospel music.

Obviously, in those days, she was in a very different position to the one she is in now. By the autumn, she’ll be playing much bigger venues than Lichfield Cathedral. We’re thrilled to have her.”

A full event programme is available on the Lichfield Festival website, where all acts, times and venues are shown. Tickets for different events are all sold and priced separately, allowing the visitor to tailor their experience. Tickets can be booked online, by phone, or at the box office.

Peter concludes, “Personally, I’m looking forward to the concert by Roberto Fonseca. He’s a Cuban Jazz pianist, and he’ll be performing at the Lichfield Garrick Theatre.

It’s quite rare for him and his group to play over here, so that’s going to be very exciting. Overall, I’d just encourage people to look through the program, and to try something new. That’s really what we’re about. We want to bring new experiences to people in the area.”

For more details visit: www.lichfieldfestival.org            

The Highlights

Friday

Alan Davies: Lichfield Garrick.

The star of Jonathan Creek and QI brings his first stand-up show in a decade to the theatre. Sold out.

Sunday

Jacqueline Wilson: Lichfield Garrick.

The children’s author pays tribute to author E Nesbit and his novel Five Children And It with a modern re-imagining of the story.

Monday            

Jacqueline Wilson
Jacqueline Wilson

Kate Humble: Humble by Nature. 6pm Lichfield Garrick.

The TV presenter talks of moving from a London house with 20 square feet of garden to eventually becoming the owner of a 117 acre farm in the Wye Valley, saving it from being broken up into lots for sale.

P.D James: Lichfield Garrick.

The author discusses her new book, Death Comes to Pemberley, which recreates the world of Pride and Prejudice, and sets a murder at its heart.

Laura Mvula: Lichfield Cathedral.

The former receptionist for CBSO and Birmingham Conservatoire graduate is fast becoming a major star with her knock-out vocals. She caused a storm of excitement at Glastonbury and is now back on home turf for this gig.

Tuesday

Robert Winston: Lichfield Cathedral.

The leading scientist and television star is this year’s star in the Lichfield Lecture, which was established at the festival in 2001.

Spiers and Boden: Lichfield Garrick.

Before there was the Folk Big Band phenomenon that is Bellowhead, there was the Folk Duo Phenomenon that was and remains Bellowhead founder members Spiers and Boden. The two Johns first performed together in 1999 and have gone on to release several acclaimed albums.

Heath Quartet
Heath Quartet

Thursday, July 11

Roberto Fonseca: Lichfield Garrick.

The phenomenal pianist weds the improvising brilliance of Herbie Hancock and McCoy Turner to the sounds and traditions of Afro-Cuban music, forming an irresistible contemporary sound.

Friday, July 12

The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain: Lichfield Cathedral

The band bring their joyous brand of musicianship to bear upon some of the greatest songs in the canon, in what they describe as an all-singing, all-plucking obituary of rock and roll and melodious light entertainment.

Saturday, July 13

The Philharmonia Orchestra: Lichfield Cathedral.

Closing the festival in style, the Philharmonia return under the baton of Christopher Warren Green. Sibelius’ Finlandia and Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85 form the first half to an evening that concludes with the majestic sweep of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. The orchestra will be joined by cellist Philip Higham, soprano Jennifer Rust, mezzo Heather Lowe, tenor Robert Gardiner, bass Thomas Hopkinson, and the Lichfield Festival Chorus.