The Strength of British Arts Festivals

Musical Opinion, March/April 2003 | Go to article overview

The Strength of British Arts Festivals


New research published by British Arts Festivals Association confirms the measurable contribution made by arts festivals to the cultural and economic wealth of the nation. Following on from the original report Festivals Mean Business which was written in 2000, the 2002 Update shows that festivals continue to make an enormous impact.

Festivals Mean Business was the first nationwide study of festivals since Heather Rolfe's report for the Policy Studies Institute in 1992 and, as far as BAFA is aware, the first attempt to consider the cultural, social and economic impact of arts festivals in the UK. The 2002 survey of 83 festivals, undertaken by Phyllida Shaw and Keith Allen relates to the financial year 1999/2000 and found that Festival productivity and economic contribution:

83 arts festivals provide well over 6,500 events per year over 952 days of programming

54 festivals spent L11.8m, in amounts ranging from L3,362 to L1.2m

Festival Audiences

In 1998/99, 1.5m people attended events or took part in activities organised by 70 British arts festivals. A recent MORI poll for the Arts Council of England found that 21% of the adult population had attended or participated in a festival or carnival in the previous 12 months. Festivals cultural contribution

44% of festivals' expenditure was on artists' fees

Festivals are pioneers in innovative programming: site-specific commissions, large-scale community events, international, culturally diverse work and street art are regular features of arts festivals.

69% of festivals commission artists to make new work. The larger a festival's budget the more likely it is to commission.

Festivals Community Contribution:

* 80% of festivals run education and community programmes.

* 50% of festivals employ someone specifically to run this programme of education and community activities, leading year round events in schools, community groups and local residents and youth arts groups.

* A small number of festivals also work with health and social care sectors.

* Half of all festivals provide a platform for amateur artists.

The 2002 update to Festivals Mean Business is available from: BAFA, 3rd Floor, The Library, 77 Whitechapel HIgh St, London E1 7 QX Telephone 020-7247-4667. Fax 020-7247-5010. info@artsfestivals.co.uk Price L1 inc p&p in UK. The original Festivals Mean Business report with the 2002 update is priced at L40 inc p&p.

Buxton Festival

Buxtons Opera House was opened in 1903 and now boasts a Quarter-Century of Festivals, which this year is expanding by three days, running between 5 and 20 July. Visitors to this delightful spa town in the Peak District can enjoy five operas including two Festival productions; a rare opera by Donizetti, Maria Padilla, and Handel's late masterpiece, Semele. Donizetti's opera was first staged on 26 December 1841 in Milan's prestigious La Scala, two years before Don Pasquale. At Buxton the title role is sung by the American soprano Brenda Harris. Semele, composed as a Masque, based on Ovid's Metamorphoses, was first staged in Covent Garden on 10 February 1744. The other works in the 2003 opera schedule are Leonard Bernstein's sparkling Candide, Humperdinck's evergreen Hansel and Gretel and Music Theatre Wales' delicious production of Lynne Plowman's Gwyneth and the Green Knight, the unique children's opera project praised by Rian Evans in our 125th Anniversary issue last September.

An additional concert programme is matched by a mouth-watering morning collection of 15 literary names.

Call 01298-70395 for the full brochure. Hampstead & Highgate Festival

In just four years the Hampstead & Highgate Festival, which takes place this year from 10 to 24 May, has established itself as one of the foremost events in the musical calendar.

With concert programmes that draw on neglected treasures of the repertoire, and held in venues rich in cultural associations, the festival offers an experience that cannot be obtained anywhere else. …

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