All the fun of the Bury Festival

Son Yambu

Son Yambu - Credit: Archant

West Suffolk’s annual cultural explosion The Bury Festival is back to being its usual ten-day wonder this year. Andrew Clarke spoke to festival director Nick Wells about the treats in store

Bury Fest 4 Girls 4 Harps

Bury Fest 4 Girls 4 Harps - Credit: Archant

After the truncated four-day event last year, the Bury Festival returns with a full ten-day programme featuring music, cabaret, theatre, comedy and circus performances.


Endelion - Credit: Archant

Festival director Nick Wells said that although the town’s concert venue The Apex will remain the focus of the event, they were working hard to spread performances across a wide variety of spaces to enable the whole town to enjoy that festival feeling.

Penguin Cafe orchestra

Penguin Cafe orchestra - Credit: Archant

The Abbeygate PictureHouse will be running an extensive programme of preview screenings and classic restorations to add to the festival atmosphere.

Among the attractions at this year’s festival is the debut of the Suffolk Camerata, a new chamber orchestra founded by Suffolk-born professional conductor Ben Palmer, as well as a return performance by Leslie Olive’s Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra which had its inaugural performance at St Edmundsbury Cathedral last year.

Nick said that the programme was a balance of well-loved favourites from previous years and new acts which would capture the public imagination.

Among the returning attractions are The Penguin Café Orchestra, the Aurora Orchestra, the Mbawala band along Endellion String Quartet and the Royal Academy of Music String Soloists.

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Jazz continues to play a major role in the festival line-up with a series of lunchtime concerts at The Apex including Four Girls and Four Harps, saxophonist Alan Barnes, the Dixie Strollers and the West Suffolk Youth Jazz Orchestra.

Among the new features of this year’s Bury Festival is a tribute to the music of composer Burt Bacharach. The show, What The World Needs Now, relives the sound of his particular brand of sophisticated and stylish pop as well as his contributions to stage and screen.

Music forms of the core of the festival and stems from a wide array of sources. The Armonico Consort along with the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble will be performing some extraordinary medieval pieces including Tallis’ Spem in Allium, which topped the classical charts after featuring in the best-selling novel 50 Shades of Grey.

The festival will also feature acclaimed soloists Lavinia Meijer, a Dutch harpist with a diverse repertoire which takes in both Einaudi and Philip Glass, and pianist Lara Melda, a rising star after winning the BBC’s Young Musician contest in 2010.

Along with jazz, there is salsa supplied by Cuban band Son Yambo who will be exploring The Beauty of the Bossa Nova with award-winning singer Georgia Mancio. There will also be some virtuoso guitar playing from Jaleo Flamenco and some evocative music from our own past provided by folk legends The Fureys.

Nick said: “The great news is that the festival is back up to 10 days this year. I think everyone recognised that the four days we had last year just wasn’t long enough.

“I have put together a very broad programme that covers classical music, jazz, folk, world music. There’s family stuff, there’s fun stuff. We have a weekend of free street entertainment with buskers and street performers dotted around the town which coincides with the display of the Lincoln Magna Carta at St Edmundsbury Cathedral in preparation for the 800th anniversary.”

He said that although they wanted to make The Apex and Charter Square the focus for the festival there were still plenty of other events happening at the Theatre Royal, The Cathedral, the Atheneaum, The Hunter Club, Smith’s Row and Abbeygate PictureHouse.

“There’s plenty of community involvement which is always exciting. We’re getting the much-loved Mbawalu band back which is made up of some South Africa’s top jazzers and they will be putting together a 200 strong community choir to work with them along with pupils from local schools. It’s something we have done before and has been very popular. We’ve given it a rest for a few years and it feels like the right time to bring it back.”

The Bury Festival runs from May 16-25. Tickets are now on sale.