Lichfield is being treated to an even wider range of arts and cultural events this year, as an expanded Lichfield Festival takes over the city. Leonard Cook reports
The 2012 Lichfield Festival packs in more than 100 events this year with more popular appeal than ever before.
There really is something for everyone in this festival, with acrobatics and pyrotechnics in the city’s recently refurbished Beacon Park, rousing folk and world music bands filling Lichfield Cathedral and TV comedy stars appearing on the Lichfield Garrick Theatre stage.
This is in addition to the wide-ranging programme of orchestral and chamber music, theatre, dance, film and visual arts for which the festival has become renowned over the past 30 years.
Festival director Fiona Stuart says: “Last year we celebrated our 30th anniversary and it was wonderful to see so many people involved in the festival and helping to make it such a great success.
“There was a real buzz about the city.
“This year, we’ve had a close look at what we offer to our local community and made some significant changes that I hope people will like and that will encourage them to try some new things.”
One of those changes is the introduction of a spectacular new final night event. In place of previous firework displays, the alternative circus company No Fit State is coming to Lichfield to perform its new Barricade show.
This is a combination of acrobatics, pyrotechnics and high-wire performance with live music and a dramatic storyline.
No Fit State performs Barricade at 9.15pm on Saturday, July 14. Tickets are £10 and on sale at www.lichfieldfestival.com.
But there is plenty happening before then.
Lichfield Cathedral concerts include the spectacular Orchestra of the Music Makers with live illustrator for a family concert, the prestigious Lichfield Lecture, which this year is being given by Sir Jonathan Miller, and an exquisite Schubert recital by tenor Ian Bostridge.
The Chicago star and celebrated modern interpreter of cabaret music, Ute Lemper, makes an exclusive visit to the Lichfield Festival from New York.
Lemper will be going back to her roots with songs by Berthold Brecht and Kurt Weill, and the songs of Berlin cabaret. She then moves into the poetic universe of the French chansons of Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf, and then south to Argentina and the sensuous tango world of Astor Piazzolla.
Ute Lemper appears in Lichfield Cathedral at 7.30pm on Friday, July 13.
From a very different tradition comes the Russian Chamber Philharmonic, and their conductor Juri Gilbo. These old friends of the festival are playing Mozart, Britten and Bach in addition to the more likely Dvorak, but they bring their authentic Russian passion to all their music.
The Russians are coming into Lichfield Cathedral on Thursday, July 12.
Over in the Lichfield Garrick Theatre, the accent is on theatre, comedy and dance, with Never Mind The Buzzcocks star Phill Jupitus trying out a new “work in progress” – remember, you’ll hear it here first! – and the Armonico Consort bringing a dramatic edge to the music of Handel.
The main Garrick stage also welcomes children’s author Michael Rosen and film critic Mark Kermode, whose books form the festival’s Little Read and Big Read respectively.
Funnyman Miles Jupp, well known to viewers of Rev and Have I Got News For You, was at the Lichfield Festival last year for a recording of the BBC Radio 4 show Just A Minute. He returns this Saturday with hysterical tales from his disastrous attempt to be a cricketing journalist.
Tomorrow evening SMITH dancetheatre, who mix dance with compelling stories, bring Agnes & Walter: A Little Love Story, to the Lichfield Garrick Theatre, while on Sunday LipService bring their Sherlock Holmes spoof, Move Over Moriarty, into the same venue. On Tuesday The Reduced Shakespeare Company presents The Complete World Of Sports (Abridged) in honour of London 2012.
The French Compagnie Arcosm present a mix of percussion and dance on Friday, July 13, also at the Lichfield Garrick Theatre.
Late nights have their own delights in the festival programme with a wide range of films and music.
The beautiful setting of Lichfield Cathedral’s little east-end Lady Chapel hosts Penguin Cafe leader Arthur Jeffes, who returns tomorrow evening with a project called Sundog. The results are sure to be magical in this wonderful space.
Other late-night events here include Lichfield Cathedral Chamber Choir, Salome, a silent film with live music, and She’Koyokh, who mix klezmer and Balkan sounds.
Add outdoor cinema, a huge arts and crafts market, and a free late-night jazz series at the George IV pub, and it’s a richly packed ten days.
►Lichfield Festival runs until July 15. For the full programme, visit www.lichfieldfestival.com