Festivities reaching for the skies

From aliens to astronauts and from classics to the cosmos, this year Portsmouth Festivities will be reaching for the skies to celebrate Portsmouth: Space City.

Events kick off today and run for the next 11 days (June 16-26).

Festivities general manager Pippa Cleary said: “Inspired by the city’s motto Heaven’s Light Our Guide, our programme will mark Portsmouth’s role as a centre of excellence for cosmology, astronomy and space technology.

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“Science fiction will also feature, inspired by the father of science fiction, former Portsmouth resident HG Wells. Internationally-renowned figures from the world of music and the arts, science and technology will take part in a wide range of events including an opening weekend featuring husband-and-wife NASA astronauts Andrew Thomas and Shannon Walker and a finale weekend ending with Lift Off! a large-scale community outdoor event celebrating space and the history and science of flight with a carnival procession and twilight fire spectacular!

“Speakers include Professor Lord Robert Winston, Sir Patrick Moore, Simon Singh, Jim Al-Khalili, Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Toby Stephens, Margy Kinmonth, Sir Ronald Harwood, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston amongst others.

“Musicians include the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, The Tallis Scholars, Tasmin Little, Mungenkyo Taiko Drummers, Voces8 and many more. Lunchtime recitals, Twilight events, new music, world music and more make this the most varied programme to date.

“Space on Screen Film Season includes some sci-fi classics, exhibitions and education projects abound. Outdoor events include Space Station Gunwharf Quays featuring a real Mars Rover, satellite models, a planetarium, telescopes, a time machine, Sparky the Robot and a space art wall. Live music will be on offer at Southsea Bandstand and our finale event features entertainment at Gunwharf Quays and at Southsea Bandstand, a spectacular carnival procession and a Twilight Fire Spectacle on Castle Field.”

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Pippa added: “Portsmouth Festivities is an inspiring 11-day annual arts festival presenting a diverse programme of events celebrating Portsmouth’s history and heritage, and providing opportunities for the community – with a focus on young people – to engage with the arts. Events feature professional artists, speakers and performers of international renown.

“A wide ranging programme includes concerts, talks, drama, dance, outdoor events, education projects, exhibitions and a platform for local performers. Established by Partnership Portsmouth in 1998, the Portsmouth Festivities first took place in 2000 and since then has steadily grown from a programme of 16 to around 70 events in 2010. The Festivities is rapidly gaining a reputation as a major force in the cultural life of the city.”

Among this year’s musical events is Show of Hands at the New Theatre Royal on Friday, June 17 at 7.30pm.