Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (hcmf//) is delighted to announce a return to live events with a five-day programme for 2021 which runs from November 18-22.

It is with cautious excitement that hcmf// announces a programme of live concerts, performances and talks, alongside in-person exhibitions and installations. 

Organisers are placing a huge emphasis on protecting the health and well-being of artists, audiences and the festival team, as it celebrates live performance and brings a community of composers, musicians and artists back together with in-person audiences.

hcmf// is delighted to make a return to live performance following the devastating impact that the pandemic has had on the artistic community and the wider world of new music, not only in the UK but to partners and collaborators across the globe. 

In responding to the first lockdown, from March 2020, it adopted an artist-centred approach that has seen hcmf// fund and/or commission 30 new works, ranging from large-scale pieces to miniatures – providing immediate and direct support for artists, including established composers and new voices. In all, hcmf// has provided around 120 paid opportunities for artists/practitioners through 2020 and into 2021.

Following the unprecedented events of its 44-year history, organisers quickly decided to honour as many commissions and planned projects for artists as possible during 2020, devising an alternative festival programme that was presented online and via its partnership with BBC Radio 3’s New Music Show – bringing numerous works to the attention of an international audience and marketplace at a critical time for composers and artists.

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Vital and ongoing support for hcmf// was provided by Arts Council England, including a grant in October 2020 as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (administered by Arts Council England on behalf of DCMS), as well as the continued support of Kirklees Council and the University of Huddersfield.

hcmf// artistic director and CEO, Graham McKenzie, said: “Despite the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic, we’re now looking forward to bringing more commissions and projects to fruition as live events at hcmf// 2021, including welcoming Chaya Czernowin as its Composer in Residence and Laurence Osborn’s hcmf// commission Essential Relaxing Classical Hits, both of which were originally planned for 2020.

“Other concerts and events at this year’s festival will be live realisations of projects first presented online or as radio broadcasts, including hcmf// ‘s Zeitgeist Commissions (in partnership with the Riot Ensemble) and James Dillon’s echo the angelus, performed by Noriko Kawai.

“The hcmf// shorts programme will round off the festival’s five days on Monday November 22 in what will be a welcome return of its hugely popular day of free-to-attend events.”

Huddersfield Town Hall

With caution and safety considerations at the centre of the approach to presenting live events, hcmf// 2021 has focused its resources on creating a five-day programme concentrated across three of the larger spaces – St Pauls Hall, Huddersfield Town Hall and Bates Mill Blending Shed.

This will enable socially-distanced seating for optimum audience numbers, while also working closely with the venue-based teams to ensure that rigorous cleaning and sanitisation processes are in place and to safely manage access to and from the buildings.

Participants, staff and audience members will be required to adhere to Government guidelines – along with the venues’ and hcmf//’s safety guidelines, which will be published and updated on the hcmf// website. 

All events, including those that are free to attend, will be ticketed and will need to be pre-booked to manage venue capacities. The full programme and all booking information will be available on the website in mid-September.

Whilst some things will necessarily be different this year, with the number of events and capacity more limited, they are important changes, merited in order to enable artists and composers to share their music once again in a live setting.

Although hcmf// has adapted the way it works over the past 18 months, the core values that make it a leading international advocate for the manner and context in which new music is commissioned, curated and presented have not changed. In fact, its resolve to challenge, drive and demand greater inclusivity and diversity across everything it does do has, if anything, become stronger and even more focused.

hcmf// 2020 saw 84% of its events featuring women/gender minority music creators, while ethnic minority artists were represented across 56% of the programme. hcmf// is also at the heart of a pan-European project to drive intersectional diversity as a founder member of Sounds Now, a Creative Europe-funded project that aims to give greater influence on a wider diversity of experiences, voices, backgrounds and perspectives in shaping the future of the contemporary music and sonic art scene.

Increasing participation opportunities has been a key priority over the past year, and so far in 2021 hcmf// has delivered 18 community events for young people and adults – including Music at Play events, workshops exploring videography, filmmaking and using text with music, half-term and holiday workshops and two live installations – resulting in over 4,000 engagements.

Nurturing artistic talent is another driver that’s been at the heart of hcmf// for the last four decades. Ever since James Dillon received the Young Composers’ Award at the inaugural festival in 1978, hcmf// has been investing in the future of emerging composers and performers and, over the past decade, mentoring and guidance has become a core constituent of the hcmf// programme itself.

During 2020, it developed and launched its new Fielding Talent platform, bringing all of its formal talent development programmes together under a single unified banner and creating a dedicated space for this activity on the website. In recent months, it has showcased the work of some of its Fielding Talent artists through our Artist of the Month series across our digital channels – and will be sharing more details about related events during hcmf// 2021 very soon.

The full hcmf// 2021 programme will be published and open for booking towards the end of September. For up to date information, follow hcmf// on social media channels and sign-up to their email newsletters to get the latest news.