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WOMAD festival comes to Wiltshire for 2017

Posted on 13th March 2017

WOMAD is a festival like no other, promising to entertain and alter perspectives while being both inclusive and informative. Due to be hosted at the glorious Charlton Park on the last weekend in July (27th – 30th), it is definitely something everybody should be marking in their calendars, whether you’re spending the week in a Wiltshire holiday cottage and just manage a day, or are a local looking to soak up the whole weekend. We have picked some of the more unusual events on offer that make this festival so special. WOMAD 2008 main stage

The Human Books revel in the art of conversation, as you ‘check out’ a person for half an hour and learn about their lives while moving away from the absorbing technology that defines this era. Go global with both the music and the food and discover new passions. The street food on offer is no meagre burger van, but instead offers an intense trip for the taste buds, as everywhere from South America to India is represented in cuisine, with both vegetarian and vegan options as a nod to the inclusivity that defines this festival.

The Global Market allows you to take a piece of WOMAD home, full of stalls selling everything from traditional clothing to instruments made from recycled materials. Like any bazaar, it is tantalising and a joy to discover.

Children under the age of thirteen are treated to free entry as well as many activities specially designed to include them, making this a truly family-orientated festival. The Arboretum combines discovery with nature as you are invited to try your hand at playing different instruments from a multitude of countries, as well as hearing your favourite performers talk about their own culture. All of this and more is nestled deep in the woodland.

There is also a spa for those looking for a little pampering to complement the bohemian lifestyle of WOMAD. It offers everything from massage and acupressure to the unique sound baths and, as with everything at the WOMAD festival, it is housed either outside or in tents.

This unusual festival has various counterparts across the world, featuring festivals in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, and Chile. So if you feel you would enjoy a weekend that will take you across the world from the comfort of your Wiltshire cottage holiday, WOMAD is a festival to watch out for.

Image Credit: York Tillyer

The top festivals to visit in Wiltshire in 2017

Posted on 11th January 2017

People visit Wiltshire for the scenery, the beautiful landscapes, relaxing walks and the fascinating history of this quintessential county. But Wiltshire is also something of a secret gem of culture, and each year the region plays host to some fascinating events to stimulate the intellect and imagination, both local and touring from around the world. If you’re planning your Wiltshire cottage holidays and are wondering what’s on in the area this year, you’ll be delighted to find that Wiltshire hosts countless festivals to accommodate any interest, from art to trainspotting. Here are our top picks of the best festivals in Wiltshire for 2017.

Music

Orchestra

When we think of festivals, most of us immediately think of music, and luckily Wiltshire has much to offer for the music lover of every persuasion in its festivals for 2017. If you’re a connoisseur of classical and choral music, the Edington Festival of Music will enchant and inspire, as for one week the town’s fourteenth-century church is filled with some of the finest cathedral and collegiate choirs in the country taking part in the daily services. The Great British Proms also venture to Wiltshire in 2017, with a prom at Bowood House near Chippenham and Calne on the 6th August 2017. The National Symphony Orchestra will make their debut at Bowood, accompanied by the Brit-Award winning vocal ensemble, Only Men Aloud, soprano singer Philippa Healey, and a traditional piped band for an evening of classical favourites performed by only the finest musicians.

For folk music fans, the Chippenham Folk Festival is the perfect weekend of entertainment, running from the 26th until the 29th of May. This participatory festival promotes the best in English folk music with performances, street parades and workshops led by artists such as Cloudstreet and the Exmouth Shanty Men. This explosion of folkloric excitement is matched only by the Marlborough International Jazz Festival from the 14th to the 16th of July. One of the top events of its kind in the UK, the bands featured range from well-known touring artists such as Clare Teal to grassroots local artists like the Wiltshire Blues Sessions. A carnival atmosphere spreads over this corner of Wiltshire over the weekend, full of music, dance and laughter.

Whilst Larmer Tree Festival is taking a year off in 2017, there is no shortage of popular music festivals to explore this year. The globally renowned WOMAD Festival (World of Music, Arts and Dance) is back to Charlton Park for another year of what the Daily Telegraph calls an “annual unearthing of global gems”. Although the line-up is yet to be announced, big things can be expected of WOMAD, with 2016’s artists including George Clinton, Baaba Maal and Roots Manuva. Expect music from around the world over seven stages, along with poetry readings, comedy, interactive workshops, fairground rides and art installations. For something a little more low-key, Fieldview Festival from the 3rd to the 6th of August is the perfect choice. The festival describes itself as a “beautiful combination of top-notch, fun-filled, cutting edge music, locally sourced cuisine and delicious local brews”, and also offers interactive workshops and games, making it the perfect family festival.

Art

Ponten Pie’s Copacabana

Image Credit: Ponten Pie (Salisbury Festival)

If you’re looking for an experience that fuses the senses and comprises multiple art forms in one, Wiltshire’s many art festivals are set to inspire. Although there are several arts festivals in the area, the most notable of them all is Salisbury International Arts Festival. Running from the 26th of May to the 10th of June 2017, this is not one to be missed, as it is the final of their series of festivals that have been inspired by the points of the compass. In 2017, for Festival Director Toby Smith’s final year, the event looks towards the West and particularly the culture of French-Canadian province, Québec. The festival will feature an eclectic mixture of art exhibitions, classical music, folk, jazz, circus skills and dance performances, featuring artists as diverse as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, dance troupe Ballet Black and Québecois folk group Lu Vent du Nord. Everything from the performances to the food and décor will make you feel as though you have been transported across the Atlantic into this bustling urban centre.

Literature

Literature

Home to such notable wordsmiths as poet Thomas Moore, Ian Fleming, William Golding and Sir Terry Pratchett, Wiltshire has been a hub of literary activity throughout history. It’s no surprise, then, that the area is home to one of the UK’s most notable annual literature festivals: Swindon Festival of Literature. For two weeks from the 2nd to 14th of May, the twenty-third Swindon Festival of Literature will bring together novelists, poets, philosophers, naturalists, adventurers and more, all speaking and reading on several topics to interest readers of every enthusiasm. The festival offers both guided walks and traditional lectures to create a dynamic event that draws visitors from around the world. It also features names such as Brian Blessed, Joanne Harris, Ken Livingstone and Yasmin Khan.

Food and drink

Wiltshire Food Festival

Image Credit: Gentlebird (Flickr)

If you’re a self-professed foodie, Wiltshire is set to wow with its extensive programme of festivals celebrating the food and drink from both global and local sources. After dry January, treat yourself to a tipple at the Devizes Festival of Winter Ales on the 24th and 25th of February, where you can sample bespoke local ales whilst enjoying live acoustic music and hot pies at this charming event. Around the 13th of May, Devizes takes a more culinary focus in the Devizes Food and Drink Festival. Although in the early stages of planning, past years suggest that visitors can expect street food from around the world, curries, antipasti and baked goods. Last year also saw some fun food-based activities such as the Devizes Food Festival Bake Off, the Chilli Chuckin’ Challenge and Crumpet Frisbee, so prepare for the unexpected!

In Swindon, one of the county’s favourite festivals is hosted at Blunsdon Station. The Real Ale and Cider Festival allows visitors to drink local ales and home-brewed ciders, as well as enjoying steam train rides aboard Wiltshire’s only standard gauge heritage railway. For something a little more niche, visit the Cheese and Chilli Festival, which tours several towns in Wiltshire on weekends from the 10th of June until the 20th of August. Here, enthusiasts can try out unique cheeses and fiery chillies from across the globe, whilst also participating in live demonstrations and enjoying bike stunt shows, crafts and live music. For a decidedly more traditional fare, visit the Melksham Food and River Festival from the 2nd to the 3rd of September for excellent local food and drink, plus some amazing aquatic activities and on the river such as canoeing and zip wires.

Sports

Castle Combe Circuit

Image Credit: Matt Buck (Wikimedia Commons)

With miles of stunning countryside, Wiltshire is the perfect location for sports and outdoor activities-based events, and there are plenty for visitors to enjoy. Both the Bradford on Avon Walking Festival from the 1st to the 3rd of September, and the Corsham Walking Festival, from the 9th to the 11th of June, are ideal for avid ramblers. Enjoy jaunts through beautiful landscapes with a group, from easy to demanding routes discovering the local wildlife and history with local experts.

For the more adventurous sports enthusiast, the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race makes for exhilarating viewing, with several competitions running from the 14th to the 17th of April, from singles to doubles, where records are challenged each year. Alternatively, for motorsports fans, the renowned Castle Combe Circuit is running its Summer Action Festival on the 22nd of July, where car owners are invited to participate in races, whether performance, classic, kit, modified or original. With club displays, drift demos, parades and more, car lovers will enjoy every second of this fantastic event.

Screen

 Film festival

Image Credit: Laura Lee Moreau (Visualhunt)

Film and TV buffs may be pleasantly surprised to find that there are several festivals in Wiltshire that celebrate all things screen. Two of the more unique events are the Banff Mountain Film Festival UK tour leg and Melksham Comic Con. The Banff Mountain Film Festival will appear in various locations including Bath, Swindon and Salisbury during February and March, showing some of the best adventure films from this internationally-renowned festival. Discover skydiving, extreme climbing, dog sledging and even a band of musicians playing in mid-air in these exhilarating screen showings. Aiming to “bring the fun, madness and intrigue of city-style conventions to a small-town, rural setting”, this festival was voted the third best UK convention by Conic Conventions in 2012, and will feature artists and writers such as Jack ‘Jackademus’ Lawrence and John-Paul Bove. Perfect for any comic book or superhero film fan.

Explore the Halloween history, culture and landscape of Wiltshire!

Posted on 15th October 2016

If you’re heading to Wiltshire during the Halloween season, you will not be disappointed! With a huge array of weird and wonderful events to give you the ghoulies this year, a cottage holiday in Wiltshire is the perfect way to experience the spooky season. Whether you’re a group of friends looking for a fun way to kick off a Halloween night out or are simply somewhere between thrill-seeker and easily scared, there are many events in Wiltshire to delight all.

Stonehenge Lightning Storm

If you’re seeking a scare, the county has plenty of creepy events to quell your curiosity. Whether you love a ghost story or fancy trying out something new and different during the Halloween season, these events are sure to surprise and spook all.

Delve into Wiltshire’s weird and wonderful history

Monster Treasure Trails, American Museum in Britain (Calverton, Bath)

Explore Dallas Pratt’s ancient map collection, curiously riddled with gruesome beasts and monsters. Guests can design their very own maps of the Museum and its grounds, which are filled with spooky creatures of your own creation.

Museums at Night (Salisbury and Bath)

Running in both Bath and Salisbury, “Museums at Night” will spark the intellectual interest of guests as well as the excitement of the weird and wonderful. Salisbury’s “Tim FitzHigham as Will Kemp” event commemorates the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, featuring Morris dancing and danger in a story of a journey from London to Norwich in 9 days, attempting to discover the true nature of comedy. Bath’s “Fright at the Museum” sees gloomy spirits emerge from the museum to mill around the galleries with spine-chilling stories ready to recite to visitors.

American Ghost Tour, American Museum in Britain (Calverton, Bath)

The American Museum in Britain invites guests to indulge in an evening of eerie tales taken from some of the darkest chapters of American history. Set in the Museum’s evocative Period Rooms, the journey begins in the famous witch hunts of 17th century Salem and takes you through the most unusual events that have occurred in the U.S.

Wiltshire’s creepy cultural highlights

Dracula at Salisbury Arts Centre (Salisbury)

For theatre-lovers, this is the perfect way to celebrate Halloween. This classic story of love, blood and gore is recreated by The Last Baguette Theatre Company with 21 characters played by just 4 actors in truly impressive style. This wild quest to solve a befuddling murder will have you hooked throughout this age-old gothic horror.

Day of the Dead Fiesta, American Museum In Britain (Calverton, Bath)

Go global with the American Museum In Britain’s mesmerising Day of the Dead fiesta. Celebrating this unique Mexican tradition where families honour deceased loved ones with sugar skulls, dancing skeletons and piles of marigolds, this is the perfect opportunity to party whilst expanding your cultural knowledge. Enjoy music from the brilliant Mariachi Tequila band and leave your own offering on the altar.

Explore the eerie Wiltshire outdoors

Ampfield Woods’ Spooky Bushcraft (Romsey)

To truly get away from it all and try something new this Halloween, Ampfield Woods’ Spooky Bushcraft sessions are the answer. Enjoy spooky songs and stories around the campfire whilst learning how to safely light a fire in the wild, making popcorn and toasting marshmallows. There’s plenty of time for ‘wild play’ in the woods for the kids and also opportunities to learn new outdoor skills.

Walking the Dead: Exploring the Stonehenge Ceremonial Landscape (Devizes)

This family-friendly guided tour is fantastic for families and groups of friends alike. If you’re interested in finding out more about Wiltshire’s incredible history, this full-day tour of the curious collections of the Wiltshire Museum is perfect. Following this, groups will be taken on a guided walk from the Durrington Walls to Stonehenge to discover the spooky history of this spiritual site.

Image Credit: Bruce Rolff (Shutterstock)

Marlborough Jazz returns to Wiltshire in July

Posted on 07th July 2016

Summer days and nights full of sweet jazz music are on their way to Wiltshire as the annual Marlborough International Jazz Festival is set to return.

 Jazz Musician with Saxophone

Now in its 30th year, the event has grown into one of Britain’s premier celebrations of music. There are a number of performances over the three days at more than 20 different venues. The event is set to envelop this small Wiltshire community from July 15-17. Concerts and music will fill the day – and last into the wee hours of night.

There are a wide range of bands and artists performing at the festival. The list of talent includes a number of local groups, up-and-comers and, of course, international jazz stars. The event brings a carnival-like atmosphere to the town and is very exciting.

Each day offers some great entertainment for jazz lovers. It truly is a great weekend to enjoy a holiday cottage in Wiltshire. On Friday, there will be a performance by Alexander Bone. Now 19 years old, this multi-talented musician was the 2014 BBC Young Musician of the Year for Jazz. Bob Bowles leads his band to the stage on Friday night as well, an artist who Jamie Cullum hails as “probably the best blues guitarist in the country.”

Saturday features acclaimed international group the Crazy Hambones based out of Berlin. The festival also welcomes crowd favourite Steve ‘Big Man’ Clayton. He is a three-time winner of the British Blues Award and is a great entertainer.

For the full event program, please the festival website

Salisbury International Arts Festival programme announced

Posted on 16th March 2016

The International Arts Festival will be returning to the Wiltshire capital for its 44th year, with leading actors, dancers and performers filling every corner of the medieval City and surrounding countryside, perfect for those visiting on their Wiltshire cottage holidays.

Salisbury International Arts Festival programme announced

With a thrilling mix of music, comedy, poetry and children’s workshops, and much more, the two-week extravaganza will showcase the UK’s emerging talent in the performing arts industry.

This year, the festival will be taking its inspiration from New Zealand, drawing on the long and rich tradition of the Maori welcome, powhiri, and the arts of kapa haka.

Along with the cultural performances, a diverse range of special guests will fill the programme, including actor Richard E Grant, comedian and writer Ben Miller, and former Artistic Director of the National Theatre, Sir Richard Eyre, among many others.

The festival will run from May 27 to June 11 in and around the city. For the full line-up, visit Salisbury Festival.

Image Credit: Shiny Things (flickr.com)