Exciting plans for the new Dunster Festival were unveiled to an audience of local dignitaries on Friday evening. Rachel Wick and Rory McCleery, the Festival Founders and Artistic Directors, presented their vision to a packed Tithe Barn. Guests included MP Ian Lidell-Grainger, Sir Antony and Lady Acland, Deputy Lieutenant of Somerset Brigadier David Godsal and his wife Tamsin, Dame Margaret Drabble, local councillors Mandy Chilcott, Martin Dewdney, Andrew Hadley, Christine Lawrence, Peter Pilkington and Leader of the Council Anthony Trollope-Bellew, CEO of the West Somerset Academies Trust Paul Rushforth, as well as representatives from businesses in and around Dunster, and many local residents.
The drinks evening was organised by the festival to officially launch the programme for the first Dunster Festival, which will take place from 25-27 May 2018. The tantalising line-up of events, all of which will take place in the Priory Church of St. George, includes an opening night concert of romantic chamber music by Debussy, Ravel and Brahms with world-renowned string quartet, the Sacconi Quartet, a Saturday morning coffee concert with the Antara flute & harp duo sponsored by Miles Tea & Coffee, and a Saturday night gala concert with Gramophone Award-nominated vocal group the Marian Consort singing choral favourites such as Allegri’s Miserere as well as a new piece commissioned specially to feature local school children. The full listing of events will soon be published on Dunster Festival’s website, where tickets and festival passes will also be available.
Festival Directors Rachel and Rory explained the two-fold mission of their new festival; firstly, the May Festival weekend itself will bring world-class music to Dunster, with seven concerts over the course of the weekend. To encourage younger audiences, they have partnered with the CAVATINA Chamber Music Trust to offer free tickets to 8-25 year olds to any festival concert. Over a thousand people are expected to attend festival events, bringing much business to Dunster’s traders as well large numbers to Dunster’s beautiful fifteenth-century Church.
A year-round programme of outreach and education work comprises the other strand of Dunster Festival’s mission. This will include interactive chamber music concerts in local first schools, introducing young children to chamber music in a fun and engaging way, and choral workshops with middle schools, culminating in a side-by-side performance at the Festival. At the other end of the age spectrum, a partnership with the charity Live Music Now will help take musicians into local care homes. Making sure the Festival is accessible to all is at the heart of Dunster Festival’s philosophy.
At the launch evening, speeches were interspersed with musical interludes; a harp solo from Rachel Wick, and two “exquisite” songs sung by Rory McCleery and accompanied by harp. A range of ways in which local businesses and individuals could be involved with the Festival were laid out.
The Festival Directors have been overwhelmed by and are very grateful for the level of support and encouragement they have received from the local community. In the words of one guest and Dunster resident: “What a wonderful gathering last Friday. You both have such vibrancy! Your performance was superb, the likes of which I’ve not experienced before. We are all looking forward to the Festival in May.”