Basingstoke’s annual arts festival will return to the town centre for its ninth year this evening.

Basingstoke Festival gets underway from today and will showcase the best of the arts locally, nationally and internationally.

The event, which runs until July 11, takes place in various venues across the town. It returns this year after being cancelled in 2020 because of Covid-19.

Bollywood Brass Band and Kala The Arts kickstart the weekend with a procession through the town on Friday at 5pm, before Sounds of the Earth, Pablo Sonnaillon and Sushmita Pati continue the evening of music and dance at Festival Place's outdoor amphitheatre.

Across the first weekend, there will be acts such as Urban Astronaut from Highly Sprung Theatre Company that combines storytelling with stunning design and an aerial performance, using a unique travelling flying machine that suspends the performer 20 feet in the air.

In addition, The JukeBoxes will also be bringing to life some of our favourite celebrity pop stars including The Beatles and Miley Cyrus using props, masks, puppets and a “terrible” selection of wigs.

You can also catch Proteus Youth Theatre in their production of Grimm Tales; bringing together over 45 young people from across the borough, aged between 8-18, Proteus Youth Theatre bring their trademark wit and vibrant flair for storytelling to this original production of famous fairy tales from across history.

The festival continues into the following weekend where artists such as Autin Dance Theatre present Out of the Blue, an outdoor physical theatre performance featuring a largescale Sea Giant Puppet operated by five puppeteers and a female contemporary dancer, inspired by the themes of the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis.

Meanwhile, Pictures in the Park will return at Down Grange’s Walled Garden from July 8 to 11.

Cabinet member for communities, planning and infrastructure, Cllr Simon Bound, said: “We are really excited to be bringing back Basingstoke Festival and the return of live art activities following a difficult year for everyone.

“It’s returning with a flying start during the first weekend and there is a fantastic line-up of free outdoor performances and workshops, with something for children and adults of all ages to enjoy.

"We’re making sure the events are all COVID safe, with social distancing measures in place, so come along and join in the summer festival fun.”

However, B Love festival, which usually rounds off the fortnight, will not be going ahead this year because of the pandemic.

As previously reported by The Gazette, the council are also looking for a third-party to take over the running of the event in a cost-cutting measure.

The full programme can be found by clicking here.

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