Salisbury International Arts Festival

Salisbury International Arts Festival

All you need to know about getting to one of the biggest art festivals in the UK

2019 sees key anniversaries of two momentous occasions in history: the first Moon landings in 1969, and the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall. It's these themes that the Salisbury International Arts Festival marks with more than 120 related events over 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 Wiltshire school children in Salisbury Cathedral, and Vertue, a setting of words by George Herbert performed by a capella favourites Voces8.

Salisbury Cathedral taken at Sunrise

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.

When the Festival's on

The festival runs from 24 May to 9 June, with events spanning the whole 16 days. For the full list of events and what days they're on, visit Wiltshire Creative.

Getting there

With fantastic events across the city, getting to Salisbury International Arts Festival by train is easy. Book in advance for cheap train travel to Salisbury – it’s less than 90 minutes from Waterloo – and from Salisbury train station it’s a 15 minute walk to the city centre. Alternatively you can get a bus from outside the station, or use the taxi rank.

What to expect


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 Orchestraincluding Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending; and the Festival Chorus performing Alec Roth’s beautiful choral work Earthrise.

Two violinists playing. Image is taken in shallow focus

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

Milford Street, Salisbury

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.

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