A HISTORY

OF EXCELLENCE

Newcastle under Lyme Festival is an annual event, organised by volunteers, which provides a valuable performance opportunity in speech, drama, and music. We aim to provide a well organised and enjoyable festival; a platform for amateur performers of any age, from far or near, to demonstrate their talents.

For anyone who can act, recite, play an instrument or sing, or is in a band or choir, this chance to perform in front of a live audience should not be missed.

Budding composers and poets are also catered for with competitions to perform their own creations, or have them performed on their behalf.

Competitors are given a verbal and written adjudication by carefully chosen and respected adjudicators of international standing, and these ‘words of wisdom’ should help the competitors in the development of their art.

For the visitor, whether connected to a competitor or not, we provide a pleasant, and cheap, day out, one in which you can see and appreciate the talent of others, matching your conclusions with those of the adjudicator.

There is a friendly atmosphere at our festivals, and this is reflected in the favourable feedback we receive from competitors and audience alike.  In 2016 close to 1000 performers took part and they were supported by an audience of at least an equal number of family, friends and other visitors.

 

HISTORY

The seeds of the Newcastle-under-Lyme Festival were sown in the late 1920s. After a period of national strikes and recession, the Newcastle Chamber of Trade arranged shopping weeks to promote local trade. Encouraged by the success of these events, the Chamber of Trade enlarged its November 1931 festival with the introduction of competitive vocal classes. This tentative step of launching joint Shopping and Music Festivals ended in 1934, but the performing arts elements have survived to celebrate its 80th year in 2011.

By 1936, the festival expanded to include music, folk dancing, drama and elocution classes, with its name changing to the Newcastle-under-Lyme Music and Drama Festival. In 1937, new classes for Newcastle junior, senior and infant school choirs, plus vocal, violin, woodwind and brass solos were introduced.

The festival's current two-weekend format was first adopted in March 1949 with drama on the first weekend and music on the second. The festival expanded with new competitions for instrumental solo classes, an instrumental trio competition and for two years, a conductors' class. Prior to the 1951 Festival of Britain, Newcastle Festival became affiliated to the British Federation of Musical Festivals. In 1951 there were over 50 music classes, with expanded entries in solo singing, pianoforte and brass instrumentalists' classes.

The success of the brass competitions grew further throughout 1952 and 1953, mainly due to the festival’s brass quartet competition being designated as the North Midland Championship.  Responding to local demand in 1997, speech and drama classes were re-introduced to the festival.

Entries gradually decreased from the 1981 peak, most noticeably in the adult solo voice and choir competitions. Recovery came in 1989 with good entries justifying the return to two weekends. The trend towards lower adult competitive entries accelerated from 1990, perhaps heralding the change towards younger competitors.

 

 

The 1997 festival syllabus contained 33 speech and drama classes. After a break of 40 years, drama classes achieved immediate success. Solo singing, adult male, ladies and mixed voice choir competitions also increased in popularity. The speech and drama classes were repeated in similar format and increased entries during 1998, with over 60 competitions for one class.

The 1999 syllabus included 55 classes that were again fully supported. Junior pianoforte, instrumental and vocal solo competitions continued to flourish against a slow decline in adult competition and choir entries. Perhaps because of escalating travel costs adult choir entries stopping altogether, this resulted in 2002 with adult choir classes being suspended.

Over the past 75 years the average age of competitors has decreased significantly. This trend suggests the 21st century emphasis should be directed towards younger age groups.

Liaison with performing arts teachers and personnel from local education departments has helped the festival to provide drama, music and speech classes relevant to competitors’ needs. Competitors appreciate festivals where they can receive authoritative adjudication of their public performances. Whilst this interest remains, Newcastle Festival's team of dedicated volunteers will continue to satisfy demand. This team of festival volunteers is always open to additional helping hands.   The seeds of accomplished performances are often sown in childhood when interest and talent are recognised and fostered by parents, teachers or other inspirational figures. Whether festival competitors perform alone, with a choir, a symphony orchestra or in a theatre, they are trained to listen to and watch their fellow performers extremely carefully. Performers are dedicated to producing results that satisfy themselves and delight their audiences. Fortunately entertainment has become an international concept capable of building bridges across borders of nationality, geography and language.