Bedfordshire Festival of Music, Speech & Drama began this weekend, with classes taking place over the next seven days at the Bedford Corn Exchange complex in Bedford.
2020 sees the most entries the Festival have ever had, particularly in the Speech and Drama classes. Music entries have also increased.
Festival Chair Julia Smith said, “This is extremely encouraging given the challenges we face locally and country wide with ever decreasing funding of music tuition.”
The Festival has supported the performing arts in Bedfordshire for many years by staging this annual week-long event in the heart of the town centre, allowing singers, musicians and dramatists of all disciplines and ages to perform in public whilst receiving feedback from professional adjudicators who are specialists in their fields.
The Festival, which is a charity and is entirely self-funded, is run by a committee of volunteers and a part-time secretary.
During Festival week in March, the Committee and a further group of over 50 dedicated volunteer stewards take over the Bedford Corn Exchange to manage the huge numbers of performers, teachers, parents and local audience members.
Last year there were nearly 2,000 people taking part in over 150 classes covering different areas of the performing arts.
Entrants vary from school singing and drama groups, to community choirs, world music groups and those just wanting an opportunity to be able to perform in public.
It is also an ideal platform for those taking exams in the performing arts to be able to practice performing their piece of work in front of an audience in a wonderfully supportive environment.
The Festival is about to enter its 99th year and recently they were awarded The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service which recognises how the Festival, one of the largest and longest-standing in the Country thanks to the amazing input of their volunteers over the years, has had the ability to evolve and change over time since its inception in 1921, and remains relevant to the needs of the Bedfordshire Community today.
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in their communities.
It was created in 2002 to celebrate the anniversary of the Queen’s coronation and is equivalent to an MBE for volunteer groups.
The festival cumulates with a gala concert on Saturday 14 March, a spectacular event showcasing some of the best performances during the week.
The gala concert is open for anyone to attend, not just the performers and their supporters and tickets will be available on the door on the night.
The Gala concert begins at 6.30pm in the Bedford Corn Exchange.