The Frome Festival opened on Friday 2nd July with a surge of sales at the box office for events that will continue until Sunday 11th.
A steady stream of visitors attended the opening of the festival’s 20th Anniversary exhibition at Rook Lane Arts. Curated by Sue Bucklow, the exhibition comprises a series of panels featuring the artwork, press coverage and highlights of each of the Frome Festival’s 20 years. A special talk was given on Sunday amongst the exhibits by the festival’s founder and President, Martin Bax, relating to his 7 years as Director. The talk was the inaugural Bob Morris Lecture which will now become an annual event. Bob Morris was the much loved Chair of the Frome Festival for 15 years until his death earlier this year.
On Friday evening, two well attended concerts won rave reviews. Sonic Silents presented “Beggars of Life” which set live bluegrass music to original silent film at the Merlin. At Christ Church, Stephen Marquiss, one of the founding talents of the Frome Festival, gave a superb piano concert including a selection of Chopin’s etudes. Excellent drama was also provided by Frome Drama Club at the Assembly Room with “God of Carnage” by Yasmin Reza which ran for three nights.
Saturday saw a fantastic Flash Mob Opera pop up in the town’s Westway Centre. Professional singers arrived to create a love scenario from a selection of operatic favourites including Bizet’s “Carmen”. Accompanied only by a piano- accordion and singing in the original language of the libretti, the group held an audience of over hundred spellbound for 30 minutes of pure joy, and received rapturous applause. More classical music appeared at St. John’s on Saturday evening with the Frome Consort at St. John’s Church and the irreverent musical duo Jonny and the Baptists, appearing as the first of a series of shows at the outdoor Ecos amphitheatre next to the Merlin Theatre.
Walks and talks all around Frome ensured the town was packed with visitors on both Saturday and Sunday. Frome Town Football Club presented a Family Fun throughout Sunday into the evening, the Open Art Trail attracted many visitors into the studios of local artists and the Town Walk and Beekeeping Taster Sessions were sold out. A lunchtime Harp-Guitar concert by Jon Pickard also played to a packed audience under a large canopy at the Silk Mill which has converted its courtyard into an open-air theatre. Quirky Comedian Paul Foot was a safe-distanced sell out at the Merlin on Sunday night.
Covid restrictions have given rise to some imaginative open- air options in this year’s programme including the Terry Hill Big Band on the bandstand in Victoria Park on Sunday 4th, and several shows at the Green Heart Space at Chesterblade Hills. The music nights at the new glamping site Marston Park just outside Frome were at capacity with revellers who booked their free places early. The combination of live music under tented canopies overlooking the glorious lake is proving seductive with only a few spaces left during the week nights too.
Martin Dimery, Creative Director of the Frome Festival was delighted with the the way the first few days had gone. “Covid restrictions have been turned to our advantage with many outside performances which might otherwise not have been considered. Even with some inclement weather, attendances have been terrific. The box office has suddenly surged with demand for tickets from people who were perhaps waiting to see what was going ahead. While we had to cancel some notable events a couple of weeks ago due to Covid restrictions remaining, most have gone ahead safely and the festival atmosphere has returned again to Frome.”
Social- distancing has meant that performance poet John Hegley has now sold to capacity and the show moved from the Masonic Hall to Rook Lane Arts on Thursday 8th. Popular comedian Reginald D Hunter has also sold all tickets available at the Memorial Theatre on Friday 9th. There are still some tickets available for two superb bands at Ecos- The Fabulous Red Diesel on Thursday 8th, and Rob Heron and the Tea Pad Orchestra on Friday 9th.
On Friday 9th through to Sunday the11th the town will expect a thousand or more visitors to the Hidden Gardens and with the Farmer’s Market re-locating outdoors to the Boyle’s Cross on Saturday, the Festival will see its busiest days.