King's Lynn Festival preview

Annabelle DicksonThe King's Lynn Festival starts next month with a line up impressive as ever. Annabelle Dickson describes what's on offerAnnabelle Dickson

When Lady Fermoy founded the King's Lynn Festival 59 years ago she said the standard should be 'nothing but the best'.

Her high expectations have weighed upon artistic director Ambrose Miller's shoulders since he took the helm 10 years ago - and this year's festival line-up is of an undisputedly high quality.

Highlights include the internationally renowned Berlin Symphoniker making a debut appearance, while European links with the Hanseatic League are also being emphasised with the return of the European Union Chamber Orchestra.

While the festival started as a classical music festival, the breadth of genre has widened and this year the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain and Classical Brit winners Blake will also perform during the two-week feast of arts.

Mr Miller said: 'I always feel like Lady Fermoy is looking over my shoulder. The early festival programmes are an inspiration.

'We have our emphasis on classical music, as Lady Fermoy started it, but it's about bringing in other things as well'.

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When the festival started, he said the standard was equal to that of the Edinburgh festival - even though it was not on the same scale.

'We've got back to that over the last five years and it's a very strong programme this year. We are always thinking ahead.

'I think strategically - whatever we've had this year, I need some contrast next year. We want to bring artists back who are a big success.'

While people travel from across the world to the annual event, Mr Miller is keen the town should be involved and appreciate what a high calibre the festival is.

He said: 'The festival chorus is important because it's involving people living in Lynn and performing in the festival.'

He said local people should realise what an important role the King's Lynn Festival played in putting the town on the international map.

He said: 'I was in Cornwall five or six years ago and said I was off to King's Lynn. The people knew about the festival.

'People in Lynn do not realise the profile it actually brings Lynn.

'I think that's terribly, terribly important. There is a reason for noticing Lynn.

'I have agents writing to me from Europe trying to sell me artists. People from as far away as Australia are buying tickets for the festival.'

With its stunning venues and some concerts already sold out, this year looks like it will be as big a success as ever.

Mr Miller said: 'I think we are trying to get to everybody.

'I think with people like Blake, who are up-to-date we can do this.'

He said it was a myth that people were not going to classical music festivals, adding that this was only the case if the programme and marketing were not right.

This is clearly not the case in Lynn, where Mr Miller said that the artistic standard was also very high.

'The proof is that people are buying tickets.

'We are always looking to draw in new people but we have an impression that people do come back having been for the first time.

'We are always expanding the audience.'


t July 12: Festival Service, King's Lynn Festival Chorus and European Union Chamber Orchestra - 11.30am St Margaret's Church.

t July 13: In Conversation with the Rt Hon Shirley Williams - 7.30pm at the Guildhall Arts Centre.

t July 14: European Union Chamber Orchestra - 7.30pm at the Corn Exchange.

t July 15: Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick - 8pm Guildhall Arts Centre.

t July 16: Emma Johnson (clarinet) and Andrew West (piano) - 7.30pm Guildhall Arts Centre

t July 17: Literary Dinner including Dr Simon Thurley, Dame Stella Rimmington and A.N Wilson - 7pm Town Hall.

t July 18: Early Music Day - The King, the Minstrels and the Restless Jester - 11am All Saints' Church; Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment - A Grand Tour of Italy - 7pm St Margaret's Church; Ave Generosa - Songs of Hildegard of Bingen - 9.30pm St Margaret's Church

t July 19: Solstice String Quartet - 3pm Park House, Sandringham; Blake - 7.30pm Corn Exchange

t July 20: Solstice String Quartet - 11am Town Hall; Contemporary Consort - 6pm Town Hall; Instant Sunshine - 8pm Guildhall Arts Cenre

t July 21: Mitra Alice Tham (piano) - 11am Town Hall; David Starkey - 7.30pm Guildhall Arts Centre

t July 22: Fiona Slominska (Flute) and Louise Thomson (Harp) - 11am Town Hall; The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - 7.30pm Corn Exchange.

t July 23: Simon Hewitt Jones (violin) Daniel Swain (piano) - 11am Town Hall; Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble - 7.30pm Guildhall Arts Centre

t July 24: Brodowski Quartet - 11am, Town Hall; illustrated talk by Dr Paul Richards - King's Lynn and the Hanseatic League - 6pm Town Hall; Grappelli - A celebration Mike Piggott Hot Club Trio - 8pm Guildhall Arts Centre

t July 25: Berlin Symphoniker - 7.30pm Corn Exchange.

Further details at