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2019 Salisbury Festival marks global anniversaries with a packed 16-day programme

Salisbury International Arts Festival
27 February 2019

Fri 24 May – Sun 9 June 2019
General booking opens 15 March


Gareth Machin, Artistic Director of Wiltshire Creative, and Guest Festival Director Jonathan Dove today announce the programme for the 2019 Salisbury International Arts Festival (24 May to 9 June) which will mark two global anniversaries - the 1969 moon landings and the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall - with an ambitious mix of music, spoken word, film, dance, circus, theatre, comedy and family events.

The Festival features more than 120 events across 16 days.

Guest Festival Director Jonathan Dove is one of our leading contemporary composers and several of his works will be performed during the Festival, including two new commissions: Moon Songs, with words by Alasdair Middleton, performed by hundreds of Wiltshire school children in Salisbury Cathedral, and Vertue, a setting of words by George Herbert performed by a capella favourites Voces8.

Central to the Festival will be a dramatic installation inside Salisbury Cathedral. Luke Jerram’s Gaia is a huge, seven-metre wide sculpture featuring detailed NASA imagery of the earth’s surface which will be displayed under the spire crossing in the Cathedral for the duration of the Festival.


With Gaia as a stunning backdrop, events in the Cathedral will include the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra playing Holst’s The Planets; Harriet Mackenzie leading a glorious, nature-inspired concert with the London Chamber Orchestra including Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending; and the Festival Chorus performing Alec Roth’s beautiful choral work Earthrise.

Elsewhere, music lovers can enjoy international pianist Melvyn Tan performing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Debussy’s Clair de Lune alongside Jonathan Dove’s Catching Fire; the acclaimed Sacconi Quartet who will be joined by tenor James Gilchrist to perform Jonathan Dove’s In Damascus and music by Arvo Part and Shostakovich; and the Pavel Haas Quartet playing Schubert’s Trout Quintet.

Other music includes the internationally renowned Tim Kliphius Trio with their infectious blend of gypsy, jazz and classical; folk singer Grace Petrie’s unique take on life, love and politics and Radio 2’s Clare Teal making a welcome return. Salisbury Live also returns with great live music for free in Salisbury’s pubs and clubs.

Unusual venues

Unusual locations for Festival events include Zizzi’s Italian restaurant in Salisbury for a Binaural Dinner Date; a pop-up city centre secret location for Collisions, a virtual reality journey into the homeland of a remote tribe in Western Australia whose first experience of the developed world was witnessing an atomic test in the 1960s; Five Rivers Leisure Centre for Zvizdal, a multimedia performance about a real life couple who refused to leave Chernobyl; and The Chapel nightclub for an evening of flamenco music and dance.

Festival of Ideas

The central weekend of the Festival will see a new Festival of Ideas, a programme of discussion and debate about the fragility of our planet. Our Fragile Home: A Festival of Ideas is curated by Rebecca Johnson, long-time campaigner and founding co-chair of ICAN (The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons), which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. Speakers will include leading climatologist Chris Rapley and best-selling author Tim Marshall with the full programme to be announced in April.

Spoken word

In addition to the Festival of Ideas, other spoken word events within the Festival will see visits from David Lammy MP, international cricketer Vic Marks, former Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger and news anchor Mark Austin. Other names speaking at the Festival include authors Victoria Hislop, Minette Walters and Alison Weir as well as naturalist Stephen Moss and retail champion Mary Portas.


Theatre includes the return of The Lord Chamberlain’s Men with A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed outdoors in the Cathedral Close, following their performances of A Comedy of Errors in 2017, and Theatre Re bring The Nature of Forgetting, a powerful and joyous performance about what is left when memory is gone. Meanwhile, award-winning artist Rachael Young is inspired by Grace Jones to imagine a different future for women of colour in Nightclubbing.


There is a full film programme throughout the 16 days, including The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, documentary Being Neil Armstrong, When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs, Dr Strangelove, Ryan Gosling in First Man, Ralph Fiennes in The White Crow and Judi Dench in Red Joan.


One of the UK’s most beloved and thinnest acts, Mark Watson, delivers a stand-up show about empathy with his usual, high joke-and-rant-per-minute rate and the undisputed masters of off-the-cuff comedy Noise Next Door will transform audience suggestions into ferociously funny scenes in Remix, while also performing their shiny new family show All At Sea.


Celebrating Wiltshire Creative’s ongoing relationship with Bemerton Heath, Salisbury International Arts Festival will present a Family Fiesta at Bemerton Heath including performances, music and participatory arts activities. Other family events include literature and theatre, a disco for very young children and a beatboxing show.


Following sell-out performances in The Salberg last year, Old Kent Road take to the Main Stage of Salisbury Playhouse with their ground-breaking tap dance show; Ballet Central presents a varied programme of classical ballet and contemporary dance; and Swing Circus will dazzle with world-class circus skills that include the cyr wheel and acrobatic dance.

Visual art

The key Festival exhibition is Insatiable Mind at Salisbury Arts Centre which explores the theme of curiosity with seven international artists shortlisted from 400 submissions. Salisbury International Arts Festival is also hosting a community graffiti project on panels to be displayed around the city.

Wiltshire Creative Artistic Director Gareth Machin said: “Since its founding in 1973, the International Arts Festival has provided an annual celebration of the vitality, distinctiveness and diversity of Salisbury’s cultural offer. This year is no different with the anniversaries of the moon landings and end of the Cold War inspiring artists from across the world to animate the buildings, spaces and streets of our wonderful city with a thrilling artistic programme.”

Guest Festival Director Jonathan Dove said: “Salisbury has always been a significant part of my cultural landscape. My career as a full-time professional composer began here 30 years ago, when I was invited to be Musician in Residence at the 1989 Salisbury Festival and I’ve continued to write music for Salisbury ever since. So it feels both natural and exciting to be Guest Festival Director for the 2019 Salisbury International Arts Festival, working with the Wiltshire Creative team to bring excitement and inspiration of all kinds to Salisbury and beyond.”

Salisbury International Arts Festival has been enabled through wide charitable support, including sponsorship from Scala Radio, Wilsons Solicitors, Smith & Williamson, Richard Griffiths Solicitors, Wiltshire Life, Bill’s, Byron Burger, Côte Brasserie, Zizzi and Sarum College.

General booking for the Festival opens on 15 March. For more, visit or call 01722 320333.


For press enquiries please contact Lucy Rouse, PR & Communications Officer, on 01722 345166 or

Notes to Editors:

Salisbury International Arts Festival runs from 24 May to 9 June 2019.

Priority booking for Wiltshire Creative Members begins on 5 March. General booking opens on 15 March.

Salisbury International Arts Festival blazed into life in 1973 with a thrilling artistic programme that captured the hearts and minds of Salisbury. Since then, successive inspirational Festival Directors have built upon that original offer ensuring that, for two weeks every year, the buildings, streets and open spaces of the city have been alive with creativity and artistic excellence. In 2019 the Festival enters a new stage in its evolution as part of Wiltshire Creative.

Wiltshire Creative is funded by Arts Council England, Wiltshire Council and Salisbury City Council.