Melvyn Bragg, Alan Rusbridger and Glenda Jackson amongst stars to feature at Hampstead Arts Festival

Hampstead Arts Festival

Hampstead Arts Festival - Credit: Archant

Featuring a cast that includes Melvyn Bragg, John Etheridge, Alan Rusbridger and Angela Hewitt, Hampstead Arts Festival returns in November with a programme of imaginative, inspirational concerts and talks. The three-week event established itself last year as one of London’s premiere celebrations of classical music, but alongside this will be numerous talks on politics and the arts.

Aiming to “lift the spirits between the lawn festivals of summer and the carols of winter”, this year’s concerts will see an emphasis on baroque music. British cellist Natalie Clein will make her debut playing all Bach’s six cello suites, while Mahan Esfahani – one of today’s most exciting harpsichordists – will launch his recording on Hyperion of the complete works of Rameau with a lecture-recital.

Following the popularity of last year’s jazz concert, Mercury Prize finalist and pianist Gwilym Simcock teams up for the first time with veteran guitar virtuoso Etheridge. Furthermore, there will be an acoustic quartet of up-and-comers led by trumpeter Freddie Gavita, who can be heard on Jeremy Sans’s score for the movie Le Weekend.

In addition, two concerts feature Romantic and 20th century music, while Simcock and Etheridge will lead the educational branch of the festival, holding a masterclass with young musicians with the Wac Arts charity.

Eric Usadi, festival director, says his initial philosophy was to get events which were not on anywhere else in London.

“It was a challenge, because London is a major arts capital of the world, but I really wanted to bring things that were unique in some way: either unique artists who weren’t playing elsewhere in London or artists that were playing elsewhere, but weren’t necessarily doing this particular programme. I worked with them to help them choose programmes that would bring people to Hampstead and that’s why it really worked last year.”

The “words” side of the festival, led by Piers Plowright, focuses on politics and the arts. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger will talk about a year of turmoil and Chopin, and double Oscar-winning Hampstead MP Glenda Jackson will discuss life as an actor and a politician.

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BBC presenters Ed Stourton and Bragg will discuss, respectively, changes in the Catholic church and Radio 4 series In Our Time. Journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown will consider immigration and multiculturalism, and HAF celebrates the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth with and readings led by James Roose-Evans, founder of the Hampstead Theatre.

Usadi adds: “Our hope is that we’re attracting local people, that we build an enthusiastic audience within Hampstead, but also that people from across London will find the events interesting and compelling enough to travel.”

Hampstead Arts Festival is from November 1-22 at St John’s Church, Downshire Hill and Burgh House;