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Spring sees festival season in full swing across the South West

  • Date: 13 May 2014
  • Area: South West
Frantic perform Acrojou to watching crowd

Frantic perform Acrojou, part of Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival 2014, co-commissioned by Without Walls, Brighton Festival, Hat Fair, Mintfest and Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival. Credit: (c) Frantic

The South West is home to hundreds of festivals, from the world's best known music and literature festivals to spectacular carnivals, melas and traditional local events.  Many of them are supported by Arts Council England through our National portfolio and the National Lottery funded Grants for the arts scheme.

As the festival season gets into its stride for 2014, there is an astonishing range of events on offer and they are a great way to try something new and exciting, often for free.

Nick Green, Relationship Manager, Combined Arts, South West, said: 'In the last Taking Part Survey, data showed that people in the South West were twice as likely to attend carnival and festival events as those in other parts of the UK.   Our investment is supporting exciting new work as well as helping artists take their work to new audiences.'

Adam Gent, Relationship Manager, Combined Arts, South West, agrees.  He said: 'Festivals are about a unique, intense burst of the unexpected, something truly out of the ordinary that audiences could not access at any other time of the year. New commissions, international work, work from national artists previously only available far away, and work from local artists in new contexts and with new partners can be a catalyst for audiences to develop a new interest, try something different and open up new horizons.'

This month Arts Council-supported festivals include:

  • The Observer Bristol Festival of Ideas (3-31 May), a full month of stimulating and inspiring discussion and debate, often controversial, always engaging. The ninth annual festival addresses the crisis in capitalism and the banks; looks at the work of the great social historian E P Thompson (with some rarely seen films); debates feminism and what the sexual revolution has delivered; examines science and technology; looks at God, humanism, religion and the Bible; asks whether we are denying our children freedom; addresses identity and immigration; explores modernism and the arts; and much more, with speakers such as Mark Kermode, Professor Sir David King and Sadie Jones still to come. And the year-round programme continues the debate, with Germaine Greer, Tony Hawks and Jonathan Porritt amongst the speakers in June.


  • Mayfest (15-25 May) is Bristol's unique annual festival of contemporary theatre with a broad range of unusual, playful and ambitious work from leading theatre makers from Bristol, the UK and beyond. It's been described as a festival of 'adventurous theatre for playful people' and has caused a stir for all the right reasons since it burst onto the scene in 2003. Highlights this year include Time Out Performer of the Year Scottee and the UK premiere of Czech artist Andrea Miltnerova's striking dance solo.


  • The Telegraph Bath International Music Festival (16-26 May) showcases a rich range of high quality events featuring orchestral and classical virtuosos, jazz giants, folk roots and world musicians, innovative collaborations and unique commissions. The opening night Party in the City promises to be a spectacular occasion, celebrating the diverse local music scene and vibrant cultural life of the city.


  • This is the 11th year for the biennial Dorchester Festival (22-26 May), which offers an eclectic mix of free events including a Festival Parade, bhangra beats from RSVP, a digital funfair, outdoor theatre and dance, an acoustic café, a 45-foot seahorse and music galore.


  • The Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival (23 May - 7 Jun) has been running since 1973 and is a major multi-artform festival with an international reach. This year the festival is celebrating the Nordic lands of the midnight sun with a programme including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra performing Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and Sibelius' Violin Concerto in Salisbury Cathedral. Closer to home is Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare's Globe Theatre at Old Wardour Castle Tisbury.


  • Exmouth Festival (23-30 May) offers eight days of music and arts including West Country Traditions Day on The Strand, which features the Shanty Dancers. The line-up this year features a variety of genres from jazz and folk to ska and reggae, showcasing the incredible wealth of talent from Exmouth and further afield.


Look out for our next festival round-up soon.     

You can find out more information about Grants for the arts and the projects we support at: