"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, Latvia and Venezuela.  And in amongst it all were quoits, impromptu clog dancing and a series of sensational art exhibitions by local artists.

Bach’s 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.  It also made a surprise appearance in Catrin Finch and Seckou Keita’s enchanting performance of Bach to Baisso where world music met classical.

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 from the local community dazzled with ballet, jazz and folk moves.  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 that day.

Thank you as ever to all our supporters: audience members, Festival Friends, Angels, Sponsors and of course our volunteers who were recognised with the most prestigious accolade – the Queens Award for Voluntary Service.  

Artistic Director Malcolm Creese is already working hard on next year’s programme.  The dates are 25 May to 8 June.  See you there!

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.

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

Recent News

Swaledale Festival: Malcolm Creese’s 10th year as Artistic Director

In October 2007 Malcolm Creese took up the post of Artistic Director of the Swaledale Festival.  Under his stewardship the Festival has received several local, national and international awards, and ticket sales have grown by three times.  Malcolm has bought a number of innovations to the Festival, including the Young Artists Platform, numerous children’s art and music projects, the annual Reeth Lecture (in Reeth, of course!) and the Stationary Walk - designed for those who want to enjoy and learn about the landscape and history of Swaledale but are unable to go on a long hike.


Whilst focusing on presenting art and music of the highest quality, Malcolm has broadened the programme to include music from as far afield as the Middle East, Japan, Korea, Africa, Eastern Europe, North and South America and Australasia, as well as drama, astronomy, archaeology, puppets, film and comedy. These days Swaledale Festival is considered by artists, visitors and the media to be amongst the finest rural arts festivals in Europe.


As well as being a Festival Director, Malcolm is a much sought-after double bassist, and he occasionally appears onstage at Swaledale with groups such as 21st Century Baroque and his own trio Acoustic Triangle.


Malcolm has brought an impressive list of world-class artists to the Festival, many of whom are personal friends and colleagues. Highlights include pianist and composer Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, violinist Alexander Markov, guitarists John Williiams and Anthony Forcione, pianist Peter Donohue, the Skampa and Heath String Quartets, folk artists Niamh Ní Charra, Kathryn Tickell and Lau, avant-garde theatre group the People Show, playwright Alan Plater, art historians Brian Sewell and Andrew Graham-Dixon, comedian Barry Cryer, and poets Jenny Joseph and Don Paterson. Last year Malcolm made history by bringing the Hallé to Swaledale Festival for the first ever professional symphony orchestra concert in the region.


On behalf of the Festival, Malcolm has commissioned new music from Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Hugh Wood, David Blake, Alexander Goehr, Sally Beamish, Roxanna Panufnik, Tim Garland, Heather Fenoughty and Jonathan Dove, amongst others. He commissioned a permanent sculpture by Michael Kusz to commemorate the visit of the Tour de France to Swaledale and he ‘borrowed’ the iconic steam locomotive ‘Bittern’ for a unique day on the Wensleydale Railway during the Festival.


Local choirs and traditional brass bands have a permanent place in the Festival each year, and Malcolm’s programming and commissioning of new works reflects and celebrates the special landscape as well as its history, legends and characters. All this makes for a unique Festival which could only happen in the Northern Dales.


Malcolm is passionate about ancient buildings, remote Dales churches in particular, and by expanding the number used as Festival venues he has undoubtedly helped some of them to stay open in these difficult times. The Festival events take place in more than fifty churches and village halls in around 900 square miles of breathtaking North Pennines landscape.


During Malcolm’s tenure the Swaledale Festival has won an impressive number of awards, including the Ability Media International Award for Inclusivity and Artistic Excellence in 2009, Dalesman Magazine’s Top Award for Artistic and Cultural Achievement in 2011, Richmondshire District Council’s Community Group of the Year in 2012, and the Prime Minister’s Big Society Award for education and outreach work in 2014. In 2015 the Festival was awarded the new EFFE (Europe for Festivals - Festivals for Europe) label in recognition of its artistic quality, its involvement in its local community and its values of openness and inclusivity.


Malcolm’s programme for 2017 includes appearances by the vocal group VOCES8, pianist Stephen Hough, the London Mozart Players, the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, Red Priest, the Unthanks, Urban Folk Quartet, Northern Monkey Brass Band, the cellist and reigning BBC Young Musician of the Year Sheku Kanneh-Mason, and a trio of world-renowned guitarists: John Williams, John Etheridge and Gary Ryan. “I’ve been fortunate to secure a fantastic line-up of world-class performers for 2017, and there really is something for everyone” says Creese.  “It’s my strongest programme yet”.

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