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Lichfield Festival 2017: Preview

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by Tony Collins (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer specialising mainly in health and education and living in Staffordshire. Find me on Linked In
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Stars Of Stage And Screen Coming Out For Entertainment Feast
A feast of entertainment awaits people in Staffordshire this summer after organisers of the 2017 Lichfield Festival unveiled the stunning line-up of musical, theatre and comedy talent coming to the city. Running from July 7 to 15, the Lichfield Festival features a wonderful array of music, film, theatre, comedy, dance, family events, walks, talks and visual arts. The nine-day event is one of the most eclectic multi-arts festivals in the UK with an abundance of world-class performers that are sure to bring audiences flocking to the historic city of Lichfield in their thousands from across Staffordshire and beyond.

Evelyn Glennie
Evelyn Glennie will be banging her drum for percussion. Credit Philipp Rathmer

Headline performers include The Hallé orchestra, folk violinist Seth Lakeman, leading percussionist Evelyn Glennie, comedian Rich Hall, author and TV actor/presenter Sir Tony Robinson, actress Juliet Stevenson, theatre company The Malachites and Ballet Cymru. At the same time, festival themes will investigate aspects of America and trans-Atlantic journeys, while also in the mix will be celebrations marking the anniversaries of famous author Jane Austen and Lichfield's own actor and playwright David Garrick. Community and family events include a Hare and Tortoise city art trail, Festival Friday and a chance to join a giant choir in the Big City Sing.

Ballet Cymru
Ballet Cymru Dream 11 with Sian Trenberth

The Lichfield Festival commences in style with a first night performance by The Hallé orchestra on July 7 featuring Beethoven's Third Symphony. The orchestra will be joined by young American pianist Andrew Tyson for Rachmaninov's glorious Paganini Variations. Other musical highlights will include a celebration of Broadway legend Richard Rodgers featuring a cast of West End and opera house singers and Chethams Symphony Orchestra. The festival also features Europe's finest female a capella group Black Voices who will be reunited with Lichfield Gospel Choir – the community choir they created in 2009 – for an evening illustrating the appeal of African American Spirituals. There is also an American-inspired programme from Orchestra of the Swan including Dvořák's New World Symphony and Gershwin's jazzy Rhapsody in Blue played by 18-year old pianist Thomas Nickell, dubbed 'The American Mozart'.

Hal Cruttenden
Comedian Hal Cruttenden. Photo Steve Ullathorne

The bi-centenary of Jane Austen's death is marked with a reading of Pride and Prejudice by actress Juliet Stevenson given in period costume in a drawing room setting and interwoven with music by Carl Davis from Matthew Trusler (violin) and Ashley Wass (piano). There will also be a chance to re-live the BBC's Pride and Prejudice with an all-day screening of the entire six-part series which starred Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. Author Professor Emma Clery delves into new research on the Austen family relationships and Rebecca Vaughan brings 13 of Jane Austen's heroines to life with illuminating observations of Austen's Women. This year is also the 300th anniversary of Lichfield's own David Garrick which will be marked by a staged reading of the two winning plays selected from nationwide entries to the Garrick 300 Playwriting Competition. The Malachites theatre company also give a performance of Richard III, the role in which Garrick made his name.

Rich Hall
Rich Hall adds his sardonic humour. By Tina Downham - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Other highlights throughout the festival include top comedians Rich Hall, Hal Cruttenden and Zoe Lyons, BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner Seth Lakeman with acclaimed Anglo/Americana trio Wildwood Kin, and five-time Grammy winners, The Swingles. Other stage productions include The Pretend Men's comedy blockbuster Police Cops and Ballet Cymru's vibrant production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, while, on screen, film fans can see showings of The Jungle Book, Casablanca and Forest Gump. A smattering of author talks includes actor and writer Sir Tony Robinson, acclaimed science writer Brian Clegg, round-the-globe adventurer Sarah Outen, and historian James Evans, while exhibitions feature jewellery and metal crafts, a tranquil art installation at Stowe Pool Boat House by Luxmuralis, and children's own superhero creations transformed into comic book art by professional illustrators.

Sir Tony Robinson
Sir Tony Robinson will be giving a talk. By Southbanksteve from London, UK - Baldrick points out the bogs, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The city art trail returns with this year's decorated models inspired by Aesop's fable of The Hare & The Tortoise and will form a trail around the streets with associated activities. Festival Friday marks the start of both Lichfield Festival and FUSE Festival (7-8 July) in Beacon Park and includes a Song Trail of local youngsters singing through the streets. Another exciting collaboration with FUSE is Big Sing Day which involves a giant specially-formed community choir of experienced singers and beginners plus a performance by Estonian youth choir ESTuudio noortekoor. The popular Festival Market is also back, while other events for families include Showstoppers for Kids – an improvised musical show where the audience decides where the show is set and what happens next – and an adaptation of David Walliams's The First Hippo on the Moon with puppetry and music.

Seth Lakeman
Seth Lakeman performing in 2009. By Garry Knight - originally posted to Flickr as Seth Lakeman, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Sonia Stevenson, Artistic Director of Lichfield Festival, said, "It has been a privilege to put together the West Midlands' premier multi-arts festival which, once again, brings extraordinary talent, amazing events and unique experiences to the city. With a rich programme, brimming with cultural goodies, I hope everyone will find a must-see event (or five!). Join us in July for this summer's hottest ticket and a fantastic day out in one of Britain's most picturesque cities." Lichfield Festival 2017 runs from July 7-15. For full details visit online. Festival Box Office 01543 412121, or call in person to Lichfield Garrick Theatre, Castle Dyke, Lichfield, WS13 6HR. A copy of the brochure is available online. Public booking for tickets opens on April 10.
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Why? A Feast Of Entertainment Including Music, Theatre, Dance, Film & Comedy
When: July 7 to 15
Where: Lichfield Garrick, Castle Dyke, Lichfield WS13 6HR
Cost: Event prices vary
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