Bury St Edmunds Festival Celebrates its 35th anniversary!

The popular Bury St Edmunds Festival returns this year to celebrate its 35th anniversary with a diverse line up of music, dance, comedy, walks and talks.

Featuring 11 days packed with over 50 events across 12 venues, the Festival will bring a world class celebration of culture and entertainment to the vibrant Suffolk town between Thursday 14 and Sunday 24 May.

In the early 1980s, the month of May would feature Weekends of Words and Music with events across various venues in the town. By 1986 this had morphed into the Bury St Edmunds Festival. The Festival will be revisiting those early beginnings and, in addition to the usual smorgasbord of wonderful music, will be teaming up with FANE for a Words Weekend to open the festivities.

The line-up will begin on the 14 May with an extraordinary performance by Aurora Orchestra who will be showcasing a 35-minute presentation on Beethoven’s Eroica, with musical excerpts and spoken word, before a complete performance of the symphony from memory!

This will be followed by a Words Weekend from 15- 17 May featuring national treasures, local favourites and stars of literature, radio, stage and screen including journalist and newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald and ex-Editor-in-Chief of British Vogue Alexandra Shulman. Mental health, gender roles and feminism are among the topics discussed in these open and honest conversations with celebrities, writers, actors and presenters.

Jenni Murray will celebrate women from around the world, Alastair Campbell will speak openly about depression, Robert Webb will discuss modern masculinity and Katie Piper will explain how she has overcome anxiety. The packed programme will also include a book fayre, workshops, walking tours and family activities. The full line up for the Words Weekend will be revealed on the Festival website soon.

Bones Apart, a trombone quartet showcasing the music of female composers and songwriters, will be welcomed to the festival on Tuesday 19 May. On the same day acclaimed jazz singer Stacey Kent will perform music from her new album with a 5-piece band.

Wednesday 20 May will feature a performance in the atmospheric setting of St Edmundsbury Cathedral by St Petersburg Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra will be joined by former BBC Young Musician of the Year, Jennifer Pike and conducted by former Bury St Edmunds student, Ben Palmer.

Over at The Apex, Dead Ringers Live will have the festival laughing – and crying – at the state of political life in 2020, featuring the dream team Jon Culshaw, Lewis MacLeod, Jan Ravens and Duncan Wisbey.

On Friday 22 May audiences are in for a sensational double bill when ambassadors of Malian music Amadou & Mariam join forces with the Blind Boys of Alabama, living legends of gospel music.

The Athenaeum will be hosting an inside-out piano recital about climate change by acclaimed pianist and composer, Sarah Nicolls. Her compelling show, 12 Years was inspired by a 2018 IPCC Special Report that said we had just that 12 years to change our behaviour and save the planet. There will be a mix of original music interwoven with recorded speech from fictional characters challenging each other about their environmental views. Join Sarah Nicolls and Rupert Read, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of East Anglia, for a post-show discussion.

The following day, on Saturday 23 May, singer-songwriter Teddy Thompson will perform his new album ‘Heartbreaker’ at The Apex.

The legendary crooner Tony Christie will close the Festival with a collaboration with the iconic Nelson Riddle Orchestra on Sunday 24 May.

Anniversary celebrations

It’s not just the Bury St Edmunds Festival that has a big birthday this year! The town itself will be celebrating 1000th-year anniversary of the Abbey of St Edmund with a whole host of events planned for the year. Find out more at 

To tie in with the anniversary, the Festival will be holding concerts at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, including a performance by The Sixteen  on Monday 18 May. 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of The Sixteen’s Choral Pilgrimage Tour. This year they will include St Edmundsbury Cathedral as part of the 1000-year landmark and have chosen Rome as a theme for their performances.

Other events at the Cathedral include a Late Night Organ Recital, Festival Eucharist and Bury Bach Choir.

The Apex also has its own milestone to commemorate – its 10th birthday! The venue will be hosting over 23 events during the Festival and will have a new exhibition entitled, ‘A Year in the Life’ that depicts behind-the-scenes photos of the venue in all its glory. Local photographer Geoff Price has been following The Apex’s journey for the last year, recording events seemingly big and small, as well as day to day life of the staff, acts and crew

Ticket information

Tickets will go on sale to Festival Friends on Friday 21 February and to the general public on Monday 24 February.

The full line up can be viewed at

Related posts

Events Planned to Mark Abbey's 1000th Anniversary

In 2020, Bury St Edmunds will mark the 1,000th anniversary of the founding of its...