Shipley Arts Festival


Celebrating 21 years

Bernardi Music Group at Knepp Castle, photo by Malcolm Green

“The festival has exceeded anything we imagined and hoped for at the outset. There are so many magical parts to the festival that brings our communities together with the churches and the great country estates which host our concerts. Thank you all for being with us on our journey.”

These are words said by Andrew Bernardi at the launch of the 20th anniversary programme for the Shipley Arts Festival, and they just about sum it up perfectly!

Starting from an idea sprung from a conversation at a Charity Concert at Shipley Parish Church over 21 years ago, the Shipley Arts Festival has grown to be recognised as one of the most inclusive and diverse Music Festivals in the UK, with internationally based musicians returning year on year to perform.

Andrew Bernardi and the Bernardi Music Group

The composer John Ireland rests at Shipley Parish church and his continuing presence in the festival’s music has served to form a basis for their achievements for over two centuries. Inspired by English music, there is a passion to continue John Ireland’s tradition of creating and performing music inspired by Sussex. The commissioning of new music, both for Sussex and the festival, has been a huge and ongoing feature of this unique event, with many of the Shipley Arts Festival’s compositions being written by leading musicians and composers.

Over its twenty plus years of making music for the community, more than thirty new works have been given prominence through the Festival. These include pieces by: Professor Malcolm Singer, Professor of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and former Director of the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music; Cecilia McDowall, who is regarded as one of the UK’s leading female composers; Roderick Williams OBE who is widely regarded as the world’s leading baritone and an increasingly significant composer; and the late John Lord, famed Hammond keyboard player from the rock band Deep Purple.

Bernardi Music Group String Academy, The Yehudi Menuhin School Orchestra, and 382 pupils from across Horsham Schools in the closing of Shipley Arts Festival and Horsham Year of Culture 2019

The Shipley Arts Festival is also widely respected for engaging and providing a stage for musicians of all ages and standards to perform and contribute to the programme of events; including the Bernardi Music Group’s String Academy. On these occasions, highly respected professional musicians play alongside their youth counterparts; providing a unique learning opportunity for the students that perform as part of a larger orchestra and learn from the best!

Pupils from from seven local schools attend workshop and perform ‘Dragons’ by Malcolm Singer alongside professional musicians

Achievements on the website show how immensely proud this classical music festival is to be part of these talented musicians’ journeys, many of whom progress to become professional musicians, securing prestigious positions and awards within the classical music industry.

Last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the festival was one of the few in the country to complete its programme of events, by performing and sharing remotely online. The festival led classical music’s online field and was the first to integrate state of the art animation technology into its online performances. And to mark its 21st Anniversary, this year it has launched live streaming so that future concerts may be attended in person, or viewed live online through their new streaming technology.

As the festival has grown and become established over more than two decades, each year the festival has pushed boundaries and become increasingly embedded in our local Sussex communities. However, Andrew Bernardi is quick to point out that “The support of our sponsors: Toovey’s Auctioneers, Kreston Reeves, Nyetimber Wines, NFU Mutual and Wakefields; together with our partner YuYuan Arts and the Festival Friends, are key to our success in bringing our communities together. Without them, we could not have achieved this outstanding success. It has been an extraordinary journey, and one we look forward to developing for many years”.

Stradivarious Piano Trio at Great Ballard School

For more information on the Friends of Shipley Arts Festival membership packages and the up-coming 2021 celebratory programme, please visit or email

pictured at top: Malcolm Singer with String Academy, The Yehudi Menuhin School Orchestra, and 382 pupils from across Horsham Schools in the closing of Shipley Arts Festival and Horsham Year of Culture 2019; 

About Author

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: