Chair’s Report 2020
Hastings International Music Festival
Chair’s Report 2020
This year (since July 2019) has been eventful and exciting for both arms of the charity (Hastings Musical Festival and Hastings International Piano).
Hastings Musical Festival had another successful competition in February and March 2020, although it did seem very strange being the first year without Molly at the helm. I would like to thank everyone who stepped up and worked together to ensure that the Festival continued. There was increasing concern about Covid, but with some precautions we managed to complete the festival a week before lockdown, with excellent performances throughout the sections and age groups, from solos through to our increasingly popular choirs’ day with large community choirs. Our Festival Finale concert was perhaps less well attended than usual reflecting the increasing disquiet about venturing out, but we are pleased that we managed to provide a last opportunity for our talented competitors to perform at the White Rock Theatre, and for our supporters to enjoy live performances before the theatre went dark due to the pandemic.
We had started the 2019/2020 year with the Molly Townson memorial concert in October which I talked about in my Chair’s report last year. The proceeds from this concert, and many generous donations in memory of Molly, have allowed us to establish the Molly Townson bursary which we will award each year. We were delighted to award the first Molly Townson bursary to Maisie Edwards, a worthy recipient who has competed successfully in the Festival for many years. We are very pleased to be able to support Maisie in her professional training, as well as awarding Festival grants to a total of 13 recipients to assist them in their training for a career in the performing arts – we wish them all well in their studies and careers.
This year saw the inaugural Hastings International Piano Festival, a 2-week celebration of the piano across multi-genre performances, involving many international artists who we welcomed to Hastings. A major success was the growth in young audiences across the region enabled to experience the festival with the under-21 ticket scheme devised to provide free tickets for performances and a hugely popular free interactive piano concert for younger children. The music education programme provided over 1000 children with an opportunity to attend youth workshops, performances and master-classes, provided by many of the headline artists. This ambitious festival was made possible through the several generous grants and donations, including from the Arts Council and the Kowitz Foundation – we are very grateful for all support received.
We were extremely lucky to complete both events before the lockdown in late March 2020, although we feel for the performers and arts organisations who have been impacted so severely by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since the lockdown, we have been planning how to adapt the charity’s activities given the current uncertainty and restrictions. Hastings International Piano ran a series of popular streamed concerts, providing opportunities to hear and support recent prizewinners, and has held a number of socially distanced recitals. The Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition now takes place every other year, and during the year we were delighted to announce that Professor Vanessa Latarche, Head of Keyboard at the Royal College of Music in London, has been appointed as the President of the Jury for the 2021 competition. Professor Latarche will join the competition team to curate the 2021 competition, oversee the audition process, as well as to preside over the international jury. Due to the uncertainty and current Covid restrictions, the competition is planned to take place in June 2021 (rather than the usual February/March) with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra , but there will be a number of other events – both digital and socially distanced – planned before then. Please check on www.hastingsintenationalpiano.org for more details, and any changes due to Covid restrictions.
The Hastings Musical Festival management committee investigated the practicalities of running a "virtual” festival, with entries being submitted as videos rather than performed live, in the event that a live event proved to be impossible. Given the continuing uncertainty and Covid restrictions, we have decided to proceed with the virtual festival in 2021. The Festival is now open for entries with an adapted syllabus for all four sections (dancing, singing, instrumental and speech and drama) – see www.hastingsmusicalfestival.org.uk for more details. This is an exciting development which has already had an enthusiastic response, and we are pleased that in the current difficult times we can continue to provide the opportunity for local performers to work towards, participate in and benefit from our Festival.
Our Chair of the Hastings Musical Festival, Brenda Bailey, stepped down after this year’s festival. I would like to thank her for being such a key part of the festival for so many years, as a competitor, Singing Secretary, General Secretary and Chair of the Management committee, and for staying on for an extra year. Brenda will still be involved in the grants committee and the Board of Trustees, and I hope to be able to continue to benefit from her advice and experience with the Festival. Richard Eldridge also stepped down from the committee after many years as a member of the Festival Executive and management committee. I would like to thank him for all his support and dedication and hope we will continue to see him accompanying at the Festival. Lastly, we were all very sad at the passing of Mike Goodger, our membership secretary and assistant general secretary – Mike provided invaluable support behind the scenes, and of course throughout the Festival.
I would like to thank everyone who supported us over the last year. We could not run the Festival without our volunteers, the members of our management committees, our enthusiastic and tireless section secretaries, and of course Jenny, Ian and Hannah who run the two sides of the charity so effectively. We are also extremely grateful for all the donations, large and small, which enable us to put on such ambitious events, and to inspire local performers and lovers of the arts.
Next year will be challenging, but with your help we will ensure that the Hastings Musical Festival and the Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition continue to thrive.