Ashbourne Festival kicks off with Street Fest

Ashbourne is promising us 17 days of non-stop entertainment during its annual festival from June 21-July 7.

As usual the fortnight kicks off with two days of Streetfest – a distinctive blend of daring and silliness for which this festival within a festival is known. 

There will be a great selection of street performers from around the world, including Ashbourne’s favourites, The Wardens and Ocho a seven-metre-wide roaming octopus.  

Other street acts will both thrill you and make you laugh with clowning, mime, gymnastics, contortion, hula hoops, pole balancing and, of course, catching cabbages on their heads. 

Headline speakers and performers include many who you will know from television and radio. These include; Val McDermid, the Queen of crime writing; popular historian David Olusoga who has made many brilliant television documentaries and will be talking about the Windrush scandal, artist and art historian Lachlan Goudie who has also made a number of TV shows; the young explorer Will Millard; ‘smart machine’ scientist Professor Danielle George and poet and TV producer Henry Normal who, in addition to having made many famous comedy shows and feature films, is now a regular broadcaster.  

There will be a fascinating talk from locally-based international photographer Clive Booth on the making of his documentary with Don McCullin in Kolkota who we featured in artsbeat last month.

The music programme ranges from the fast pace rock and roll band Hope & Social on the opening night; the popular folk rock group Oysterband (pictured above); Rob Heron and The Tea Pad Orchestra and, on a return visit to Ashbourne, the brilliant Dante Quartet.

The string quartet, Krysia Osostowicz, violin, Oscar Perks, violin, Yuko Inoue, viola and Richard Jenkinson, cello, is known for its imaginative programming and impassioned performances. They are frequently on BBC Radio 3 and have appeared many times at the Wigmore Hall in London.

Old friends of the festival, The Peakland Players, are performing a piece based on the children’s writing of Oscar Wilde. The versatile actor Guy Masterton is performing all the parts in his award winning production of Under Milk Wood.

The Summer Art Exhibition welcomes entries from professional and amateur artists to be exhibited alongside invited artists such as painter Lewis Noble, sculptor Simon Manby, print maker Graeme Reed and the ceramic studio, The Clayrooms.

The headline acts for the popular Comedy Night are, stand up and broadcaster, Adam Bloom and Canadian comedian Craig Campbell with the whole evening under the watchful eye of flamboyant MC Jonathan Mayor.

Poetry in the Garden will once again take place in the beautiful surroundings of Offcote Grange and the final free event, Picnic in the Park, features the brilliant Hot House band. 

Alongside the main programme are a number of fringe events, including The Angel Project, a trail of artworks from Midlands artists in places around the town. Other events will take place in churches and The Clayrooms.

Tickets are available  from or from the Tourist Information Centre in the Town Hall, Market Square, Ashbourne.