"A gem of an arts festival” - Marcus du Sautoy

The magic of Swaledale Festival has finished for another year!  We had classical guitar masters, champion brass bands, award-winning folk, cutting-edge saxophones, outrageous Celtic Gypsy Klezmer, comedy, theatre, film and stunning solos, duets, quartets and orchestras.  

We were treated to vihuelas, accordions, marimbas, harpschord, harp, kora and quanun - not to mention the theorbo (a lute so long it needed a special vehicle of its own!).  We featured national and international artists from Syria, Senegal, China, Australia, Canada, USA, Estonia, Latvia, Russia, Argentina and Venezuela. And in amongst it all were quoits, impromptu clog dancing and a series of art exhibitions by local artists.

Bach’s iconic Goldberg Variations featured in outstanding concerts by pianist Angela Hewitt and harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, as well as in mathematician Marcus du Sautoy’s Reeth Lecture. The piece also made a surprise appearance in Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita’s enchanting performance.

Participatory events were stronger than ever: from printmaking with artist Chris Moss, to fell-running with local historian Heather Hodgson, to Janet Seymour’s School of Theatre Dance - where twenty-five young dancers dazzled with ballet, jazz and folk routines. In one special Festival moment, audience members at The Young’uns sell-out concert stood up to join in with a haunting chorus they had learned at the singing workshop earlier in the day.

Sincere thanks go to our hard working volunteers who received special recognition when the Festival learned that it had won the most prestigious accolade available to a charity like ours - the Queens Award for Voluntary Service.

The Festival is extremely grateful for the generosity of our sponsors, funders, donors, legacy givers, Festival Friends and Angels, as well as the tireless work and dedication of our loyal volunteers, our staff, and members of the Festival Board. Swaledale Festival receives support from Arts Council England and from generous sponsors including  Sherwoods (Vauxhall) of DarlingtonHandelsbanken, Latimer Hinks Solicitors, Kenneth Easby Accountants, T&R Theakston Ltd, Purple Creative StudioTennants Garden RoomsMillgate House B&B in Richmond, the Burgoyne Hotel in Reeth and the Bridge Inn in Grinton. We are also supported by a number of Local Businesses shown here. 


Artistic Director Malcolm Creese is already working hard on next year's programme. The dates are 25 May to 8 June 2019. We look forward to seeing you!

Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita, international harp and kora stars, who performed in Grinton Church on Monday 28 May 2018

Recent News

The Swaledale Festival is in full (and uproarious) swing

The two-week festival of music, arts and walking launched on Friday 26 May with the opening of JAZZ! – a vibrant art exhibition by primary and secondary pupils at The Station gallery in Richmond.  Pupils, their families and carers were invited to a special evening preview, and were praised for their contribution and creativity in a welcome speech by Artistic Director, Malcolm Creese.  Heather Hodgson, Marketing Coordinator says: ‘it was amazing to see the faces of the pupils as they crossed the threshold of the Station and looked up at the gallery to see their work on display – they were grinning with pride.  This is a prestigious venue and it’s a great feeling for these kids to have their work on public display.’


During the first week of the Festival numerous venues across Swaledale, Wensleydale and Arkengarthdale were filled with high-quality music and sell-out audiences.

The Kanneh-Mason Trio – three talented siblings including the cellist and reigning BBC Young Musician of the Year Sheku Kanneh-Mason – performed a mesmerising afternoon concert to a stunned audience at St. Andrew’s Church in Aysgarth. ‘They are an extraordinary family and their playing is masterful’ says Creese.  ‘They also took the time to mix and talk with the audience afterwards, and that was very special’.

On the same day five miles down the road in Askrigg, Northern Monkey Brass Band who were preparing for their evening show gave an impromptu extra performance in Askrigg Village Hall to the community who were gathered in fancy dress for the annual village sports bash.  They went on to perform an energetic evening gig at St. Oswald’s.

On Wednesday 31st May The HandleBards, a four-strong troupe who describe themselves as ‘Shakespeare on Bikes’ performed a double-bill of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Reeth Community Orchard.  One audience member said: ‘they had the audience in stitches, and even got some of us taking part.  The sun shone, the orchard was in full bloom and there we all were, watching this amazing drama in our deckchairs whilst eating ice creams.  It was heaven, basically.’

With four days of the Festival to go, there is plenty left to see including Fidelio Piano Trio on Thurs 8 June in Richmond, Urban Folk Quartet on Fri 9 June in Grinton and Will Pound & Eddy Jay on Sat 10 June in Keld – the harmonica and accordionist duo.

Local resident of Wensleydale Karen Heseltine says: ‘on the first day of the Festival it’s like opening a box of magic that stays wide open for two weeks.  I cannot wait to see harpist Jean Kelly play in Reeth and jazz singer Vimala Rowe in Leyburn.’

For more details, or to book tickets, go to www.swalefest.org

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