Bury St Edmunds Festival Line Up Revealed!

11 days packed with over 50 events across 12 venues, the Bury St Edmunds Festival will feature top performances by renowned artists including classical violinist Nigel Kennedy flying in for a one-off concert alongside home-grown talent.

Now in its 34th year, the highly popular Bury St Edmunds Festival will bring a world class celebration of culture and entertainment to Bury St Edmunds between Thursday 16 and Sunday 26 May.  

The fantastic line-up includes renowned classical violinist Nigel Kennedy, returning after his sell-out concert in 2016; Rick Wakeman and Clare Teal, both also making return visits; John Cooper Clarke, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain; Quintet-a-Tete jazz band, the Puppini Sisters and Chineke! The programme also includes guided walks, exhibitions and an array of family events.

Celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, the Theatre Royal, Britain’s last working Regency playhouse, will be home to several key events.  Other venues include The Apex, St Edmundsbury Cathedral and the Abbey Gardens as well as Moyse’s Hall Museum and Bury St Edmunds Guildhall

Nigel Kennedy

Music and Song

This year’s Bury Festival presents a wide variety of music genres with something for most tastes from classical favourites and easy listening to blues, jazz and folk plus ceilidh, a brass band, Latin American sounds and an early music trio. Similarly, vocal artists range from close harmony and a cappella to a Judy Garland tribute, and concerts by the Cathedral Choir. 

The packed programme kicks off on Thursday, 16 May with an evening concert at The Apex by the ever-popular Rick Wakeman. Best known for his time in Yes the keyboard player, singer-songwriter, broadcaster and raconteur will be performing a selection from his two recent albums, Piano Portraits and Piano Odyssey, both of which entered the UK’s top 10 on release.

Regarded as the world’s leading close-harmony group, the Puppini Sisters will take The Apex stage the next evening. With their swing-style re-workings of modern pop songs and impeccable retro-futuristic fashions, the group can count Prince Charles, The Manhattan Transfer and Michael Bublé amongst their fans.  Saturday, 18 May sees award-winning jazz vocalist and BBC Radio 2 presenter Clare Teal and her BIG Mini BIG Band at the same venue with arrangements crafted by world renowned trumpeter and composer Guy Barker and pianist extraordinaire Jason Rebello. 

The Puppini Sisters

A highlight of the 2019 Bury Festival will be the return of bestselling classical violinist of all time Nigel Kennedy to The Apex on Wednesday, 22 May flying in especially from Poland for the one-off concert. He will reinterpret the work of George Gershwin with a selection from his recent album, Kennedy meets Gershwin, as well as perform music by Bach and some of his own compositions.

Unanimously described as one of the leading pianists of his generation, John Lill has given over 4,000 concerts in his 55-year long career. Also performing at The Apex, he has won many prestigious international prizes and awards including the coveted Moscow International Tchaikovsky Competition. 

Festival lunchtime concerts include the new Quintet-a-Tete on 25 May. Led by two highly regarded young jazz musicians, trumpeter James Davison and trombonist Callum Au, the band will bring the vibe of 50s and 60s jazz to life for the modern day. Get ready to tap your toes in the evening when George Hinchliffe’s Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain take the stage; stars of the ‘bonsai guitar’, they are regarded as the royalty of the ukulele scene.

Folk music fans can enjoy an evening with Yorkshire’s Kate Rusby on 25 May, while this year’s finale concert at The Apex will feature Chineke! Europe's first orchestra to feature a majority of black and minority ethnic musicians. Chineke! was founded by the pioneering double bass player Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE. They perform throughout the UK and abroad to great acclaim fulfilling their mission to champion change and celebrate diversity in classical music.

Poetry and Comedy

Dr John Cooper Clarke’s many talents make it difficult to describe his performance in a few words. The original 1970s ‘people’s poet’, his varied career has also seen him as a movie star, rock star, TV and radio presenter and social and cultural commentator. He’s also very funny. John will be taking the stage at The Apex on Tuesday, 21 May as part of his worldwide tour following publication of his new poetry book The Luckiest Guy Alive. 

There’s more comedy at the Theatre Royal on 23 May with Edinburgh Fringe’s favourite housewife ‘Barbara Nice’ created by actress and comedian Janice Connolly. With her enviable track record of garnering five star reviews and sell-out shows, Barbara will put a smile on your face with this new show about chance and luck.

Dance - Ceilidh to Ballet

Dance enthusiasts can enjoy two very contrasting evenings from high energy ceilidh to classical ballet.

Local folk/rockers The Bounty Hounds will be joining forces with accordionist Anne and caller Gill to present an evening of ceilidh dancing at the Risby Sports Club on 18 May. Whether you are an old hand or a complete novice, Gill will guide you through the steps.

For the two nights of 21 and 22 May, the Theatre Royal is hosting a spectacular new production of the timeless classic, Swan Lake. Featuring fresh choreography by Ballet Theatre UK’s Artistic Director, Christopher Moore with over 120 new costumes and stunning sets, this interpretation provides a new look at the classic tale of romance, sorcery and betrayal.

Walks, Films and Exhibitions

The Festival programme includes guided walks around Bury St Edmunds old town on Saturday and Sunday mornings with Bury St Edmunds Tour Guides. The first on 18 May is suitable for family groups with children aged six and above. There will also be free to watch street theatre in the Abbey Gardens the same morning.

Over the opening weekend of the festival, the Abbeygate Cinema will be screening a selection of Oscar Wilde plays filmed and recorded live at the Vaudeville Theatre in the heart of London’s West End, staged by the Classic Spring Theatre Company.  

The Apex Gallery will be displaying a photographic exhibition by Anita Corbin; entitled Visible Girls – Revisited, it will showcase her work from the 1980s looking at young women defying the mainstream. A second exhibition at Bury St Edmunds Guildhall over the Festival’s final weekend celebrates the 20th anniversary of Artworks, a co-operative of 30 East Anglian artists working across a range of disciplines from paintings to ceramics and glass sculpture.

Family Entertainment

With a younger audience in mind, the Theatre Royal is staging a couple of family shows. A new musical by the National Youth Music Theatre and written by best-selling children’s author Timothy Knapman, will be staged on 19 May. In ‘Growl – The True Story of the Big Bad Wolf’, you will get to meet the real Wolf, guardian of a beautiful forest, and all the creatures who live there. When a smooth-talking woodcutter turns up with deforestation and redevelopment in mind, even the gentlest of creatures learns there are times when you have to be Big and Bad.

On 24 and 25 May the hilarious tale based on the best-selling children’s book ‘Aliens Love Underpants’ by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort is wonderfully brought to life on stage for the very first time. With stunning effects, madcap action, original music, and lots of aliens, this fantastically funny production will delight the whole family.

Aliens Love Underpants

Also on 25 May at The Apex, comedian and author James Campbell will present a stand-up comedy show for children over six, their parents and anyone who likes comedy without the rude words. 

A day longer than usual

Looking forward to the 2019 Bury Festival, Portfolio Holder for Leisure, Culture & Heritage, Cllr Jo Rayner said; “This year’s festival is so crammed with goodies that we’ve had to make it a day longer than usual to fit in everything that we wanted to do.  

“Of course being able to tempt Nigel Kennedy back is always going to be significant but the fact that he is flying in especially for this one-off gig makes it even more special.  Then throw performers such as Rick Wakeman, Clare Teal, John Lill, Kate Rusby and John Cooper Clarke into the mix and you start to get a flavour of just how much there is to get excited about…. and that’s just scratching the surface!  It really does feel that Bury is going to be the place to be this May”.

See the full line-up and book online at Tickets are also now on sale and brochures available from The Apex and other venues around Bury St Edmunds or call the Box Office on 01284 758000.