Former MP Tom Watson among guest speakers at returning festival

Former West Bromwich East MP Tom Watson, who served on the frontline of politics for more than four decades, has been announced as one of the main speakers at this year's Bewdley Festival.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson

The music, art and literary festival was cancelled last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic but organisers have drawn up an exciting line-up of artists, speakers and events which will take place from October 8-16.

Various day and evening performances will be held and the former deputy Labour Party leader will be speaking at his first festival event since leaving politics in December 2019.

Mr Watson served as deputy leader from 2015 to 2019 and as Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport from 2016 to 2019.

Since leaving the House of Commons in 2019, he has concentrated on his passions of music, gaming, exercise, poetry and writing.

Mr Watson will present “Coming Home”, a series of reflections of a life spent in politics, books and music at the Bewdley Festival at 8pm on October 11 in St George's Hall in the town.

After leaving Kidderminster in 1984, aged 17, he went on to become a major political figure.

He worked at the heart of Downing Street as a minister with Gordon Brown and served as a defence minister for Tony Blair.

Thirty-five years later he returned to the Wyre Forest area for a quieter life after standing down as an MP.

Since then, he has made two television programmes, published two best-selling books and became the chairman of UK Music.

Trevor Price, chairman of the Festival Society Committee, said: "Tom Watson lives locally, having originated from Kidderminster, and we are pleased that he has chosen a local festival at which to make his festival debut.

"We are very much looking forward to hearing his reflections about his life not just in politics but also his books and love of music.

"It will be fascinating hearing about the lifestyle changes he expounds in his book.

"We all wonder what will be next for Tom after such a high profile political career."

Police Dog Hogan

Organisers of Bewdley Festival hope to kick off this October's event with high tempo from the popular band Police Dog Hogan, who have been on a two-year sabbatical from live performance.

The line-up includes various day and night-time performances including an appearance by Dom Jolly and the poet Lemn Sissay.

Mr Price added: "After 31 consecutive years it was doubly hard for Bewdley Festival to be cancelled last year, so it is wonderful news that a full festival is planned to take place this year.

“We hope, after the difficulties of the last 15 months, people will agree and support us as we try to bring some happiness back."

Other performers include television naturalist Miranda Kestovnikoff, who will make a return to talk about The Sea Around Me and remarkable encounters with marine wildlife around the British Isles.

“The Soho Songbook” by Ronnie Scott's All Stars will present a musical glimpse into the iconic venue’s history, combining amazing live music with narration and rare archive images.

Cerys Matthews has been a prominent musician, broadcaster and author and will be focussing on her latest collaborative work with a number of UK poets and spoken word artists.

Lemn Sissay appears on the resultant album “We Come From The Sun” as does festival favourite Liz Berry, who will be appearing alongside Cerys during the show.

Organisers expect their supporters will be extremely proud to have the legendary Fairport Convention appearing as part of their postponed 50th anniversary tour and they will be performing songs from across their canon of work.

As well as many other well-known names, there will also be an art exhibition by Andrea Hannon, an art film called Sunflowers, which unveils the mystery of Van Gogh's greatest works, and the fourth Bewdley Duck House Trail which will take place in Jubilee Gardens.

The Soup Trail will take place in the town on October 2 as a prelude to the opening of the festival.

For more information visit bewdleyfestival.org.uk

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