A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE FESTIVAL
PAST PATRONS: THE RT.HON. THE EARL OF MALMESBURY, BRIGADIER GENERAL THE EARL OF SHAFTESBURY, SIR LEONARD LYLE (Lord Lyle of Westbourne), SIR ARTHUR BLISS ( Master of the Queen’s Music), SIR CHARLES GROVES CBE. RICHARD HICKOX.
CURRENT PATRON Dr Peter Stark Hon D Mus, Hon FTCL, Hon ARAM, GRSM, ARCM
In 1921 the various forms of Music Competitive Festivals which existed in Britain were drawn together by the foundation of the British Federation of Music Competitive Festivals ( now with International status). Under the influence and encouragement of this Federation, the movement spread rapidly throughout the country, and by 1926 Dan Godfrey (late Sir Dan) conductor of the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra, together with Mr Hamilton Law, were at work on ideas for a Festival to take place in Bournemouth. A town meeting enthusiastically supported the proposal that “a music competitions festival should be held in the following year” and a general committee under the Chairmanship of Sir Dan Godfrey launched the first festival in the Winter Gardens in July 1927, when over 700 people from all parts of the Country competed in music, elocution and folk dancing. Despite a gap of several years during the second world war, the festival has grown and developed from 1945 until the present day, with the introduction of new classes and the encouragement of overseas competitors.
Mr Stanley Arthur became Chairman in 1945 and was succeeded by Mrs Joan Willoughby in 1971. In the intervening years, the festival was extended to two weeks, dancing was reintroduced, and new classes were offered; with the result that the Dance Section is held as a separate festival with over one thousand competitors and is now a nominated qualifying Festival for the All England Dance Championships.
Many people have given unstinting and distinguished service to the festival. Among these we recall Mr Cyril Knight, Mr H E Piggott OBE, Mr Cyril Marshall and Mr Howard Dalton (still in office) as Vice President, and Mrs Joan Willoughby as President and later Vice President in her long and outstanding 30 years service to the festival: Mrs Kathleen Coe and Mr Terrence Keats and Douglas Eyre and Phyllis Baxter as chairmen, with Mr. Lawrence Williams as the present chairman. Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries have included Mr Hadley Watkins, Mr Arthur Dewdney, Mrs Eileen Bolt, Mrs Kay Knight, Mrs Margaret Millier, Mr Leslie Griffiths, Mrs Anne Griffiths, Mrs Paddy Hunter, Mrs Judith Ruff and the current incumbent, Mr Kevin Knight. Mr Rex Taylor acted as Honorary Treasurer until 1982 when Mr John Page, took over. John retired from office in 2009 after 28 years service, and has been replaced by Mr Clive Rogers. The contributions made by all these officers have been outstanding, their sense of service has been strong, and generosity and involvement have characterised what they offered so willingly.
Miss Trissie Cox made a memorable contribution by acting as the official accompanist to the festival from 1927 until 1988. Miss Rosemary Barnes served in this capacity for almost forty years and in recent years Mrs Barbara Cowland and Miss Christine Taylor have also been official accompanists. Sixty volunteers give their services regularly by way of announcing, time keeping, manning the box office, dealing with queries from teachers and competitors, providing refreshments, sorting out music and looking after the adjudicators. Their work is vitally important in ensuring the smooth running of the festival.
Over the years many new classes to satisfy present day interests have been introduced into the Syllabus, including Contemporary street dance, Book at bedtime, pianist of the year, adult and youth choirs of the year, singer of the year, jazz and contemporary composers classes.
In the past the Festival’s success depended to a large part on support from Bournemouth Corporation in the use of the Winter Gardens and the Pavilion Theatre. We have now established an ongoing relationship with BHLive and hope to continue our events at The Pavilion Theatre, Covid restrictions and price competition permitting although we have missed out on 2020 and 2021. The Dance Festival has necessitated a move to Queen Elizabeth School, Wimborne where excellent facilities lend themselves towards continued success.
It’s an ill wind which blows nobody any good, and as a result of Covid, The Rotary Club has been unable to hold its annual search for young musicians to put forward to the Rotary Club’s Young Musician of the Year, so we have combined our class (The BSO Instrumental Prize) with Rotary’s Young Musician of the Year. This will take the form of a recital on the final afternoon of the Instrumental classes, and all this will take place at The Freemasons Hall in Knole Road.
Things will never stand still but we sincerely hope that, with your continued support, the festival will be able to shine on well into the 21st century and beyond.