50th Swaledale Festival to open this weekend

Magnard Ensemble.

Swaledale Festival starts this weekend with 50 events across the Dales from May 28 to June 11 to mark the festival’s 50th anniversary.

The 2022 programme combines festival favourites with new faces and local artists with international stars.

There will also be a mix of classical, folk, jazz, blues, brass, film, poetry, masterclasses, guided walks and more.

Tickets for under 25s are only £3, and there are a number of free events too, such as art exhibitions and a family fun day in Reeth.

Organisers say several events still have availability.

For tickets and information, please visit www.swalefest.org



The festival launches with its first event in a cathedral, a performance of Handel’s Messiah in Ripon on Saturday 28 May. This celebratory curtain-raiser brings together two local choirs (Swale Singers and Richmondshire Choral Society) with a superb period instrument orchestra and four internationally acclaimed soloists. This unique concert is one of the Festival’s largest and most ambitious events to date, bringing Dales musicians and world-class professionals together on one stage. Don’t miss it!

Classical gems

Swaledale Festival has developed a reputation for attracting big classical names to the area. This year percussion superstar Dame Evelyn Glennie will perform The Language of Bells in Richmond, exploring the meaning, sound and resonance of bells through the centuries. Evelyn had a prominent role in the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, and is the first person in history to sustain a full-time career as a solo percussionist.

Another international star taking the stage is New York-based violinist Alexander Markov. Markov has been hailed as one of the world’s most captivating and versatile musicians. Whether performing as a soloist with prestigious orchestras at major concert halls around the world, or playing at sports arenas in front of 25,000 people on his gold electric violin, he makes an instant connection with his audiences, so go and hear him in Grinton!

Hallé Cellos comprises the eight cellists from The Hallé, Britain’s longest-established permanent professional symphony orchestra founded in Manchester. They create a memorable sound, rich in sonority and high in virtuosity, and will perform a concert with a distinctly Latin flavour in Richmond.

Other top classical names include flamenco legend Paco Peña, nineteen-year-old piano sensation Jeneba Kanneh-Mason, Sacconi Quartet and the outstanding vocal ensemble VOCES8, who will also lead a relaxed singing workshop for all abilities in the afternoon before their show.

Folk, Jazz and Blues

If folk is more your thing, a vibrant new duo comprising harmonica wizard Will Pound and guitarist Jenn Butterworth will perform a toe-tapping show in Spennithorne. This is an opportunity to experience some wonderful sparring between two electrifying young musicians.

The Irish virtuoso fiddler, concertina player and singer from Killarney, Niamh Ní Charra, will perform beautiful ballads, infectious jigs, reels and slides with her band in Grinton.

Northumbrian pipes and fiddle legend Kathryn Tickell will perform in Leyburn with her band The Darkening – invoking the dramatic and powerful sounds of the wild weather-beaten countryside along Hadrian’s Wall.

And in another Festival first, there will be a mini folk fest at the picturesque Raygill House Farm in Upper Wensleydale (Sunday 5 June). Performers include the award-winning Rheingans Sisters from Sheffield with their playful and innovative music and Paul Cookson, the performance-poet and occasional ukulele player. Food, drink and crafts will be on-sale.

Acoustic Triangle is a classically-influenced jazz trio which has become a firm favourite with the Festival audience. Saxophonist Tim Garland, double bassist Malcolm Creese and pianist Gwilym Simcock will perform in Richmond, and in the second half they will be joined by six very special guests.

In a further jazz offering The Versatility Serenaders, an entertaining early jazz era band, will stage a late-night session in Leyburn on the last day of the Festival.

And this year some blues will be coming to the church in Grinton in the form of guitarist Dave Kelly and keyboardist Bob Hall. These living legends, who cut their teeth with the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, will be jamming with bassist Hilary Blythe.

Young Artists

The Festival’s Young Artists Platform, which showcases tomorrow’s stars, sees Bammental School Symphony Orchestra travelling from Germany with their inspirational conductor to perform orchestral classics, tangos and Irish folk tunes in Aysgarth, and Magnard Ensemble, a talented woodwind group with great chemistry, perform a mouth-watering programme of Byrd, Mozart and Stephen Dodgson in Grinton.

In today’s climate there can be unexpected programme changes, and the exquisite Australian mezzo soprano Lotte Betts-Dean, who was due to perform with her father, will now take the stage with the brilliant young guitarist Dimitris Soukaras to perform Travels with a Guitar in Spennithorne – an entertaining selection of songs and solo guitar pieces from Elizabethan ballads and love songs to fiery Brazilian Bossa Novas.


The extraordinary Kanneh-Mason family has captured the hearts of the world. This year’s Reeth Lecture is given by the family’s inspirational matriarch Kadiatu Kanneh-Mason, who will talk about the trials and tribulations of bringing up seven incredibly gifted musicians. You will also be able to purchase her book: House of Music: Raising the Kanneh-Masons.

Another talk taking place in Reeth, The Legacy of the Kearton Brothers, will be given by local historian Helen Guy of Keld Resource Centre. She will explore the lives and legacy of the celebrated pioneers of wildlife photography who grew up in Thwaite, Swaledale. Cherry Kearton’s 1930 film inspired David Attenborough to develop his interest in the natural world.

Free art

Get your fix of art with five free art exhibitions. The Station will show Soul of the Earth by students from Risedale School and Reawakening by painters Michael Bilton and Garry Brannigan. Moray Welsh will exhibit his scene-scapes through windows in Inside Out at Hudson House in Reeth. Julia Corfe’s paintings inspired by the Pennines will be on show at her exhibition Distance Drawn in Gunnerside Village Hall, and there will be another opportunity to see The Story of the Schools in the Upper Dales, an exhibition exploring the education heritage of the area through themed interpretation panels and a spectacular 4.5 metre-wide photo mosaic, at Tennants in Leyburn.

There will also be a free Family Fun Day on Reeth Green (Saturday 4 June), with samba drummers and dancers, evocative music from Reeth Brass Band and moves and grooves from the fabulous Zulu Tradition – as well as kite flying and quoits.

Visit swalefest.org for more information.