AUDIENCES can expect to be “excited and surprised” as Salisbury International Arts Festival returns.

The programme for the event, which runs from May 24 to June 9, was announced during a launch event on Tuesday.

Gareth Machin, the artistic director of Wiltshire Creative, speaking about what to expect, said: “They can expect to be excited and surprised but also find there is much that is familiar and well loved.”

And guest festival director and composer Jonathan Dove added: “It is a mind expanding festival.”

The festival will mark two global anniversaries - the 1969 moon landings and the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall - with music, spoken word, film, dance, circus, theatre, comedy and family events.

City Encounters returns and will see free, outdoor dance, circus and music fill the city centre over the opening weekend. And a family fiesta will also be held in Bemerton Heath.

Jonathan will have several of his works performed, including two new commissions.

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Moon Songs, with words by Alasdair Middleton, will be performed by hundreds of school children in Salisbury Cathedral, and Vertue, a setting of words by George Herbert, will be performed by a capella favourites Voces8.

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 for the duration of the Festival.

The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra will play Holst’s The Planets; Harriet Mackenzie leading a nature-inspired concert with the London Chamber Orchestra including Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending; and the Festival Chorus performing Alec Roth’s Earthrise.

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 blend of gypsy, jazz and classical and folk singer Grace Petrie. Clare Teal will make a return to the festival as well as Salisbury Live.

Zizzi in Salisbury will be the unusual venue 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.

Zvizdal, a multimedia performance about a real life couple who refused to leave Chernobyl, is being held at Five Rivers Health and Wellbeing, and The Chapel nightclub is hosting an evening of flamenco music and dance.

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Spoken word events include appearances from MP David Lammy, 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 comes from The Lord Chamberlain’s Men with A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed outdoors in the Cathedral Close and Theatre Re bring The Nature of Forgetting.

Comedy will come from Mark Watson as well as Noise Next Door who will transform audience suggestions into funny scenes in Remix.

Old Kent Road come to Salisbury Playhouse with their tap dance show while Ballet Central present classical ballet and contemporary dance. Swing Circus will also be entertaining audiences.

Gareth added: “Since its founding in 1973, the International Arts Festival has provided an annual celebration of the vitality, distinctiveness and diversity of Salisbury’s cultural offer. This year is no different with the anniversaries of the moon landings and end of the Cold War inspiring artists from across the world to animate the buildings, spaces and streets of our wonderful city with a thrilling artistic programme.”

Guest festival director Jonathan said: “Salisbury has always been a significant part of my cultural landscape. My career as a full-time professional composer began here 30 years ago, when I was invited to be Musician in Residence at the 1989 Salisbury Festival and I’ve continued to write music for Salisbury ever since. So it feels both natural and exciting to be Guest Festival Director for the 2019 Salisbury International Arts Festival, working with the Wiltshire Creative team to bring excitement and inspiration of all kinds to Salisbury and beyond.”

General booking opens on March 15. Visit or call 01722 320333.