Culture notes

Ryedale Festival: a beacon of survival without subsidy

This musical celebration offers the opportunity to tootle across Yorkshire, picnicking along the way

12 July 2014

9:00 AM

12 July 2014

9:00 AM

There are festivals of everything, everywhere. So why get excited about the Ryedale Festival (11–27 July) apart from the fact that it happens on my Yorkshire home ground — and I used to be its chairman?

Every summer music festival proclaims the richness and variety of its menu. Ryedale, under the artistic directorship of Christopher Glynn, competes with the best, from its opening Monteverdi Vespers in Ampleforth Abbey to its Royal Northern Sinfonia finale at Hovingham Hall. But what’s really special about this one is the opportunity to pass an extended fortnight tootling across what I truly believe is England’s loveliest landscape, picnicking en route.

The itinerary takes in Lastingham on the North York Moors (for bassoonist Rie Koyama), Sledmere on the Wolds (saxophonist Amy Dickson) and splendiferous Castle Howard — above — (violinist Elena Urioste) in between. This year it also reaches the seaside at Scarborough, to hear double bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku with the Endellion Quartet.

And the other reason to notice Ryedale is that it is a beacon of survival without subsidy. In my time it was well supported by the Arts Council and local government; now it is cut off without a penny. But instead of repining, my successors have upped the sponsorship, maintained the sociability, become even more ambitious in programming, and kept ticket prices (even for a fully staged production of The Coronation of Poppea, also at Ampleforth) so reasonable that southerners will gasp at such northern value. Vaut le detour, as Michelin Guides used to say.

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