Background to the Festival

The Villages Music Festival was set up with the aim of bringing together the communities of Ripe, Laughton and Chalvington in a celebration of live music, performed by professional musicians and local people of all ages. It welcomes visitors and friends from far and wide to enjoy the beauty of this small part of Sussex, nestling inland, close to the South Downs National Park and Glyndebourne. The Festival became a registered charity in 2018.


The biennial festival was founded by local residents Joan Royle and Pat Appleby in 2012. There have been four 8-day festivals to date; 2020 will be the fifth festival.  Each one has been more ambitious and has attracted visitors from further and further afield, as well as local residents of all ages, and music lovers from East Sussex. In 2017 there was a screening of Britten’s ‘Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach’ with supper, at a country house, and a weekend celebrating French music, which was of great artistic merit, and in 2019 an open-air performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ by the Festival Players, which was very well received.


The Festival has donated considerable sums to local community good causes: to the two village halls, villages stores, the schools, parish magazine, and towards the ongoing restoration of three medieval churches. In doing so it has achieved the aim of bringing music of different genres at affordable prices to the local community and has led to the development of other initiatives in the villages. It has greatly enhanced the musical experience of children in Laughton County Primary School.


The musical events in past years have included an opera evening in the garden of a country house, a pop-up orchestra, jazz evenings, fifties-style disco, folk music, classical chamber music concerts, cream teas with a string quartet, an opera workshop for children, solo recitals, storytelling, and a finale concert featuring the Laughton Village Choir and friends. In 2018 a concert celebrated the music of the late composer Ruth Gipps, previously an organist at Ripe. Past fringe events have included an art trail, cookery demonstrations, and guided walks. The tickets are at affordable prices, and refreshments are served at many of the performances. The village community is involved in many volunteer roles. Everyone receives a warm welcome.

The Villages Music Festival Governing Body

Patron: Dame Felicity Lott



Dr Joan Royle (Chairman)

Sir Gordon Conway

Mr David Kemp

Mrs Jacqueline White


The Villages Music Festival Committee

Dr Joan Royle, Chairman

Ms Joanna Hoban, Member

Mrs Sarah Carroll, Member

Mr Keith Hopson, Honorary Treasurer

Mr Chris Smith, Box Office

Mrs Patricia Appleby, Member

Mr James Robertson, Member

Mr Bill Rogers, Publicity/Sponsorship

Vacancy for Honorary Secretary


Co-opted Members

Design: Lisa Hallewell

Website: Simon Cooper

The Festival’s Director Dr Joan Royle says: ‘It is with great sadness that we have had to cancel the 2020 Festival. We will all miss the lovely performances on long June evenings in our delightful village venues. We have been awarded an Arts Council grant, which is a fantastic tribute to the work of the Festival committee. Our kind sponsors are continuing to give their support, and I do hope you will be able to enjoy the Festival even more in 2021. Meanwhile I trust that you and yours will remain safe and well. We look forward to seeing you in the future.'