From classics to comedy – King’s Lynn Festival 2011

It’s one of the most prestigious cultural events in Norfolk, and this year promises to be extra special…

One of the most prestigious events in the local arts calendar, the King’s Lynn Festival, celebrated its diamond anniversary in 2010. Sixty years ago, the Guildhall of St George, a significant building not only to the heritage of the town but also of national importance (it’s said to be the oldest theatre in Europe) was saved from demolition by campaigners. At the forefront of the drive to restore the dilapidated Guildhall was Lady Fermoy (grandmother of Diana, Princess of Wales) who was passionate about the arts and particularly King’s Lynn.

Lord and Lady Fermoy raised funds for an ambitious restoration project which completed in 1951. To celebrate this remarkable achievement, Lady Fermoy organized a week-long festival of music and arts which included the best of the best from the industry including Sir John Betjeman, Benjamin Britten and Peter Ustinov.

“The programme for the first King’s Lynn Festival organized by Ruth Lady Fermoy read like a who’s who of the world of music and the arts,” says Festival Press Officer Alison Croose, “and the event quickly earned national and international renown. In more recent years world-famous names have included Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Stars of the Bolshoi Ballet, Alfred Brendel, Sir James Galway, John Lill, Lesley Garrett and Dr David Starkey.”
A close friend of Lady Fermoy, The Queen Mother agreed to become the patron for the festival – she would spend a week in July residing at Sandringham House so she could enjoy both the Sandringham Flower Show and The King’s Lynn Festival.

The high standard was set and so it continues year after year, as internationally acclaimed performers are presented in some of King’s Lynn’s (and West Norfolk’s) most historic buildings.

King’s Lynn Festival organisers are receiving calls and e-mails from people all over Britain who want to attend concerts during this summer’s feast of music and arts staged from 17th–30thJuly 2011.

Top names from the worlds of classical and popular music will be appearing throughout the festival. There’s already a lot of interest in the visit of New Zealand soprano Hayley Westenra who’ll be singing from her wide repertoire at the Corn Exchange on Sunday 24th July. Another big attraction will be the return of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and the charismatic conductor Libor Pesek for the final concert on Saturday 30th July.

The range of entertainment on offer during the two-week event caters for all tastes – from violin virtuoso Tasmin Little (who’ll be performing with the European Union Chamber Orchestra in St Nicholas’ Chapel) to the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain.

But it isn’t just the global stars putting on the breathtaking performances – our own local King’s Lynn Festival Chorus will feature at the opening concert with the European Union Chamber Orchestra in the Corn Exchange.

St George’s Guildhall, the largest surviving medieval guildhall in England, is another significant venue providing the setting for several festival events.
Aside from the stunning concerts, the festival is a huge asset to the town as Alison Croose explains:

“It’s a highlight of the year not just for local people but many from across East Anglia, the four corners of Britain and some from abroad,” she says.

“Visitors provide an obvious boost to tourism. Business isn’t only generated by festival audiences but also by the large number of visiting musicians and artists needing accommodation and using restaurants. The festival puts King’s Lynn firmly on the map and is a significant contributor to its economy.”
Other festival highlights include a lively and light-hearted evening on 27th July, entitled The Virginia Monologues: Why Growing Old is Great. It’s the hit Edinburgh Fringe show featuring columnist and agony aunt, Virginia Ironside.

And not to be missed is author Max Jones who’ll commemorate the 100th anniversary of Captain Scott’s fateful Terra Nova expedition with a talk entitled Scott of the Antarctic: From Hero to Villain? on 18th July. The literary dinner will be in Lynn Town Hall on 22nd July.
For full details, visit the official website at or call the festival office on 01553 767557. The brochure is out now and the box office is open at the Corn Exchange on 01553 764864

20th July St. George’s Guildhall
Illustrated talk on the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum by classical historian, Professor Andrew Wallace-Hadrill

21st July St. George’s Guildhall
The Vienna Mozart Trio

23rd July St. George’s Guildhall
Carole Cerasi, harpsichord virtuoso on Early Music Day

25th–29th July Town Hall
Morning Coffee Concerts

26th July Corn Exchange
Ukulelescope by Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

27th July St. George’s Guildhall
Virginia Monologues – Why Growing Old is Great

28th July Corn Exchange
Recital by pianist Melvyn Tan

29th July St. George’s Guildhall
Jazz Singer Clare Teal (above)

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