As we approach the end of the Durham Festival of the Arts 2017, it is a good time to look back on the longest festival yet and pick out some of the highlights.
Biggest and best yet!
DFoA 2017 has encompassed more events than ever before with 16 concerts, 13 musical productions, 29 theatre shows, and 13 other arts events all within three short weeks. This year we also expanded beyond music and theatre to include a photography exhibition; running over five days with over 800 visitors this was a huge success and a credit to all of the artists exhibiting. Musical performances have ranged from modern opera, to contemporary festivals, from a brass band summer celebration to symphonic Mahler in Durham Cathedral. Theatre productions (all student led) have encompassed Shakespeare tragedies, improvised comedy, two black box series, and brand new student writing.
This year’s festival opened with a triple musical extravaganza; for ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ 250 student musicians and 350 audience members flocked to the Cathedral to celebrate British music and composers’. Following an evening of everything from Elgar to the Beatles. and Handel to Coldplay, performers and audience joined together for a rousing rendition of Land of Hope and Glory and Jerusalem in a spectacular opening night.
Arts on the Green
There was no rest for the musicians or the organisers though as the next day hosted Arts on the Green, a relaxed performance event on Palace Green with brass bands, concert bands, and jazz bands, as well as free refreshments and an ice cream van. To complete the weekend, the remaining university music ensembles treated audiences to ‘Around the World in 80 Minutes’, a celebration of the best music from across the globe, complete with a food and drinks reception in the beautiful grounds of Durham Castle. This weekend provided students and audiences alike the chance to experience a host of musical styles in Durham’s most iconic locations and will not be forgotten any time soon.
From Chaucer to disco
A particular highlight for this year, with both student actors, producers and the wider audience, was Durham Student Theatre’s first ever Gala production – ‘The Canterbury Tales’. To stage a production of this calibre (and difficulty!) and, as an audience member, I particularly enjoyed discovering a new style of theatre and watching months of preparation come together. A further theatre high point was DULOG’s ‘Zanna, Don’t!’ which frequently left the audience in stitches but also had some poignant moments to think about our own society and prejudices – an incredible performance!
More to enjoy
Despite only having three days left for this year, there is still plenty for audiences to enjoy. This evening (21st) hosts the Divinity Wind Quintet and Durham String Quartet in concert, or for those looking for something a little more unusual ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ is being showcased in Mary’s College. The final two days of the festival present the last of our musical events, the Palatinate Symphony Orchestra featuring Rachmaninov’s fiendishly difficult ‘Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini’, as well as two theatre classics: ‘Twelfth Night’ for Shakespeare supporters and ‘Blackadder III’ in the Assembly Rooms Theatre.
Despite the many challenges faced along the way, it has been an honour to be involved in organising the festival which has been enjoyed by so many students and members of the wider Durham community. I look forward to seeing the event flourish even further next year!