Alnwick International Music Festival cancelled

Lodz, from Poland, performing at the Alnwick International Music Festival in 2014. Picture by Jane Coltman
Lodz, from Poland, performing at the Alnwick International Music Festival in 2014. Picture by Jane Coltman

This year’s Alnwick International Music Festival has been cancelled.

Organisers made the shock announcement earlier this week, citing a lack of volunteers as the main reason.

The popular event began in 1976 and it is the first time in its proud history that it has not gone ahead.

But the organisers are still committed to supporting the Great Northumberland Day, in Alnwick, on Sunday, August 12, which will feature live music, workshops and local food.

And they have said that they are examining all options to make a return next year.

Festival secretary Dave Wearn said: “The festival trustees regret to announce that they have had to take the sad and difficult decision to cancel this year’s festival.

“The principal reason is the lack of volunteers, particularly with the necessary technical skills to support the eight-day daytime and evening programme.

“However, the Festival Trust is still committed to supporting Great Northumberland Day in Alnwick. Full details of the events of this day will be released shortly.

“The music festival has been running for 42 years. In recent years, changes in visa requirements and difficulty in finding legally-compliant accommodation have made it difficult to present the once popular international dance troupes.

“As most of the events are free entry, the festival has always relied on large numbers of unpaid volunteers to keep things going. Unfortunately, the drop-off in volunteers has finally made it impossible to guarantee a safe and enjoyable festival week.

“The trustees plan to examine all the options for providing a reformatted event for next year.”

This year’s music festival was planned for Saturday, August 4, to Saturday, August 11.

The news that it has been cancelled will no doubt come as a blow to residents, visitors and traders in the town.

After all, the music festival is one of Alnwick’s most popular annual events, drawing in thousands of people from near and far.

In previous years, the quirky and much-loved summer showcase has featured free daily performances on a stage in the Market Place.

The fun has then continued into the evening, with a series of nighttime events, including themed concerts in Alnwick Playhouse.

A way of promoting and sharing global culture and tradition, the festival has also previously held a series of workshops. Over the years, performers from around the world have appeared in Alnwick, including from Ghana, India, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Sates of America, among numerous other countries.

Local performers have also appeared at the event.

Alnwick Mayor Alan Symmonds, who stepped down as music festival chairman a few years ago, spoke of his regret and sadness that this year’s festival has been cancelled.

He said: “The music festival has made a significant impact on the cultural life in Alnwick, so it will leave a big gap in the cultural calender of the town.

“I know the people on the committee have been faced with various logistical problems through lack of volunteers, especially on the technical side, which has made it impossible to continue this year.

“I don’t think lack of volunteers is a unique problem to the music festival.”

Coun Symmonds is Alnwick Town Council’s music festival representative. After attending a committee meeting on Tuesday, he believes that the popular event will make a return in the future.

He said: “The phoenix will rise and they are determined that there will be a festival next year.

“They are optimistic about the performances on Great Northumberland Day and they have already started to talk about what needs to be done to come back again next year.

“But it will need volunteers, because they are in short supply.”