Swaledale Festival shines light on local talent

Rebecca Lundberg.

Swaledale Festival will this year feature at least 20 events by local musicians, poets, puppeteers, choirs and visual artists.

The annual celebration of music, arts and walking takes place in the Yorkshire Dales every May and June.

Rebecca Lundberg, a trombonist with the prize-winning WFEL Fairey Band and conductor of Leyburn Band, grew up in the Dales and will take part in three concerts in the festival fortnight.

The first is a family-friendly screening of the ground-breaking animation Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers, but with a twist. 2023 marks the film’s 30th anniversary and the Fairey Band has teamed up with its creators, Aardman, to celebrate the milestone by accompanying the movie with live brass band music from a specially adapted score.

The film will show at 1.30pm on Sunday 28 May at the Garden Rooms at Tennants in Leyburn. Afterwards, some of the band members will be on hand in the foyer to demonstrate and talk about their instruments.

At 7.30pm on the same day, WFEL Fairey Band will perform a full evening concert at Tennants with Rebecca Lundberg playing solo trombone. The programme will include brass-band favourites such as film themes, marches and hymns, and some exciting new arrangements.

Rebecca said: “The exclusive Wallace and Gromit tour is one way we are trying to take brass in different directions – not only by showcasing brass band music, but by engaging new audiences.

“The film performance at Tennants will be ideal entertainment for families, and a great way to introduce young people to the thrill of live music.”

Rebecca is also the conductor of Leyburn Band.

Under her baton, Lower Wensleydale’s award-winning brass band will perform a concert on 30 May at St. Andrew’s Church in Aysgarth.

“I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to learn to play when I was quite young and more importantly encouraged to do it,” she said.

“I learnt to play at the same time as my two sisters in an environment where we were often making music together which can be different from practising individually.

“Once we got brass lessons at school, our dad took us to the local band and that got us hooked. The social environment, the rehearsal discipline and the sense of achievement and enjoyment that comes from playing in a group is a brilliant mix.

“There is no substitute for performing with others. We have played for almost all of the local dales bands at one time, Reeth, Muker and Bedale, and obviously now Leyburn, I’m proud to say.”

The festival features more Yorkshire talent with Lempen Puppet Theatre’s Cardboard Carnival in Richmond’s beautiful Georgian Theatre Royal on 31 May. Liz and Daniel Lempen are the tour-de-force behind Skipton Puppet Festival and creators of original shows that tour everywhere from tiny Scottish islands to international festivals.

In this performance, a series of ingeniously created animals will unfurl to Camille Saint-Saëns’ evocative Carnival of the Animals music. The show is a magical celebration of the power of puppetry that will delight all ages.

In advance of the festival, Lempen will run a series of free puppetry workshops for local children who will each assemble a puppet from everyday materials.

The students will then share their creations in a unique Puppet Talent Show on 28 May – to the audience gathered for the Wallace and Gromit screening. The workshops will take place at Tennants on Sunday 14 and Sunday 21 May and are suitable for children from school Years 5 to 8.

Heather Hodgson, Swaledale Festival’s community and education officer, said: “This is a fabulous chance for children of the local area to learn about new art forms and work with professional and innovative artists.

“t’s always amazing to see what arts opportunities can ignite.” For more information on how to sign up, please contact her at heather@swalefest.org.

Other local highlights include Swale Singers on 1 June in Aysgarth; harpsichord player David Francis performing with Manchester Baroque on 2 June in Richmond; Fourum on 4 June in Gunnerside; Jervaulx Singers on 5 June in Aysgarth; the world-renowned lute virtuoso Jacob Heringman on 7 June in Low Row; Reeth Brass Band on 7 June in Arkengarthdale and Muker Silver Band on 9 June in Muker Public Hall.

There are also poetry walks and workshops in the landscape with Dales poet Mary-Jane Holmes, late-night moon-gazing on Reeth Green with the Reeth Informal Astronomy Group, and exhibitions by talented local artists including the exceptional painter from Gunnerside, Rachel Antill.

Swaledale Festival runs from Saturday 27 May to Saturday 10 June 2023. Tickets for under 25s are available for nearly all events for just £3. For details and tickets please visit www.swalefest.org.