Highlights Of 2007 In Britain

by Bob Barton (courtesy of VisitBritain.com)

The composer Elgar, writer Daphne du Maurier and the Merseyside city of Liverpool all have anniversaries being marked in Britain in 2007. They join events, exhibitions and new attractions galore in what is promising to be a year of culture, music and fun. Here are some of the highlights to look forward to over the coming months.

Culture fans can start the year enjoying some big London exhibitions: the first major UK retrospective of contemporary artists Gilbert & George for 25 years will open at Tate Modern (Feb.-May 2007); a major Canaletto in England exhibition will open at historic Dulwich Picture Gallery (Jan. 24 – April 15); while the National Gallery holds Renoir Landscapes 1865-1883, examining the work of the artist’s early career (Feb. 21-May 20). Later in the year (June) one of the capital’s great cultural venues, the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank, reopens: the opening concert features four orchestras and 250 musicians.

The former Millennium Dome in Greenwich opens in the summer as a musical concert and sports venue called The O2 Arena. Part of a new leisure and entertainment quarter, there are plans for bars, cafés and restaurants, a live music club and more.

Don’t think all the action will be in London. A new contemporary art gallery is to open in North East England. The £19.2 million Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima) includes paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and sculpture by internationally known modern artists like Ben Nicholson and David Hockney and the gallery overlooks lawns and water-jet fountains.

In Kent, fans of English literature eagerly anticipate Dickens World, a £62 million visitor centre opening at Easter in Chatham, where Victorian author Charles Dickens spent much of his childhood, and the complex will take visitors back to the Victorian era, including a boat ride through the old London sewers.

It is the first full year for the city of Bath’s splendid Thermae Bath Spa, opened last summer, and nearby, the 'Wilderness' at the National Trust's Prior Park Landscape Garden will be completed. The garden’s lake, cascade and Gothic Temple will be splendid, with a grand opening/celebration for this intimate 18th-century garden overlookingthe city. www.visitbath.co.uk

It’s a big year for gardens in general. The spectacular Eastern Pleasure Gardens, at Trentham, Stoke-on-Trent, opens in spring. The “Year of the Cotswolds Garden” is prompted by anniversaries in the Cotswold Hills, notably 100 years of Hidcote Manor Garden which is one of the world’s most renowned. Gardens will be putting on special events, plus visitors can ‘meet the gardeners’ at several. www.cotswolds.com

In Stamford, Lincolnshire,Elizabethan stately home Burghley House – which has starred in films such as Pride and Prejudice and The Da Vinci Code, is creating an Elizabethan style Garden of Surprise (opening in the spring) containing more than 30 water features, a mirror maze and revolving Caesars’ busts!

Not forgetting the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, West London, where a summer-long festival, Mediterranean Year (May 26 – Sept. 9) includes a new lavender walk. In the autumn there is an exhibition of 28 large bronzes by sculptor Henry Moore, “Henry Moore at Kew Gardens” (Sept. 15, 2007 – March 2008).

The Scottish Highlands are preparing for an all-year party. Highland 2007 is the first festival encompassing the whole region (including the Islands), celebrating the arts, heritage, language, sport, science and the environment. A varied programme includes music, sport and – of course – whisky. www.highland2007.com

In Argyll, walkers can now try out the new Kintyre Way, an 89-mile (142km) long distance trail which traverses the peninsula immortalised by Sir Paul McCartney in “Mull of Kintyre”.

Back in England, a Wedgwood Museum opens (September) in Stoke-on-Trent, the heart of the area known as The Potteries and housingthousands of Wedgwood pottery artifacts.

Some of Britain’s liveliest cities are getting a makeover: the New England Urban Village, transforming 20 acres of Central Brighton, on the South Coast, will be complete in 2007. Two new hotels (including a 249-room Jury's Inn), a language school, shops, and a classic public square will be included.

Major developments continue in Birmingham which has been so dramatically transformed in recent years. Look forward to a new 175m-high vertical entertainment tower, the Birmingham Pinnacle, which will offer a variety of attractions. The city hosts one of Europe's leading sporting events: the European Athletics Indoor Championships (March 2-4) with more than 600 athletes from 50 countries competing.

In the South-East, cycling fans are preparing forthe Grand Départ of the world’s biggest cycle race, the Tour de France, held in London for the first time (July 6-8)before heading out to leafy Kent.

Manchesteris gearing itself up for a banquet of original artistic work next summer: the Manchester International Festival is the first of its kind, premiering new works by established and up-and-coming musicians. www.visitmanchester.com

Liverpoolmarks its 800th birthday as “the world’s party capital” ahead of its role as European Capital of Culture in 2008. A four-day extravaganza of pageantry and street entertainment is planned in late August to celebrate the granting of the city’s first charter in 1207. Over 300 events are planned, including plenty on its best-known export – Beatlemania (the Cavern Club has its 50th anniversary). As a contrast, the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery is marked with an evocative museum on the subject (August). www.visitliverpool.com

In maritime Cornwall they will be marking the 100th anniversary of Daphne du Maurier’s birth at the annual festival that bears the writer’s name (May 10-19). Re-live Frenchman’s Creek, Jamaica Inn, Rebecca and the other salty tales set in the county. www.dumaurierfestival.co.uk

In the Heart of England – and farther afield – they will mark the 150th ‘birthday’ of England’s best-loved classical composer, Edward Elgar. Enjoy concerts by some great orchestras, celebrations and other events (from May 30 onwards) in Worcester, Malvern, Birmingham and at his birthplace, now a museum, at Broadheath. www.elgarfoundation.org

The National Museums and Galleries of Wales is marking its centenary, which will be celebrated with special exhibitions and other events in many parts of the country, including the Welsh capital, Cardiff; and Swansea, home to the new National Waterfront Museum. www.museumwales.ac.uk Another national institution, the National Botanic Garden of Wales, will complete a big tropical hothouse in the spring: it promises to be steamy stuff.

For more events information, and to start planning your holiday, see www.visitbritain.com.