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 five 8-day festivals to date; 2023 will be the sixth 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. In 2022 Music for a Summer’s Evening was held on the one wet evening of the summer before the long drought! Such is the unpredictability of British weather.
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. Since becoming a charity in 2018 it awards grants to local musical and artistic endeavours when funds allow.
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, and, in 2021, Ripe resident, Melvyn Tan, gave a much-appreciated recital. 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 Timothy Pitt-Payne KC
John Sloboda, Emeritus Professor, Guildhall School of Music & Drama
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
Mr James Robertson, Member
John & Lynda Clarke, Members
Mr Bill Rogers, Publicity/Sponsorship
Vacancy for Honorary Secretary
Design: Lisa Hallewell @lisadesign
Website: Simon Cooper @scoopsweb