This year’s Mrs Sunderland Festival in Huddersfield featured almost 4,000 performers.

And nearly 2,500 people went to watch the classes and concerts at the 134th festival which ran over 11 days at Huddersfield Town Hall and featured dance for the first time. This means it has evolved into a performing arts festival.

New events this year included a dance showcase featuring nine local dance groups and events including toddlers so performers during the festival ranged in age from just to two to more than 90.

The number of performers increased in all but the instrumental classes but have yet to reach pre-Covid levels.

There have been 125 classes for piano, instrumental, young and adult vocals, junior, youth and adult choirs and speech and drama.

This year saw new classes for adult solo voices and some of the previous speech and drama classes have been adapted to incorporate solo acting across the age ranges.

Images courtesy of: Brian Eastwood, Stephen Drew and Tony Renshaw of Huddersfield Photo Imaging Club

All classes are judged by internationally renowned adjudicators who give support and encouragement to the performers along with helpful hints for future improvement. All performers awarded a first place in a class receive a trophy.

The major competition with a £1,000 prize is the Young Musician of the Year open to any qualifying musician from across the country and was so popular the entries had to be closed early this year. The winner was percussionist Tom Hall from the Royal Northern School of Music.

The festival always ends in spectacular style with a Last Night of the Festival concert which sees the finals of the adult choirs, selected outstanding performers from throughout the festival and a performance by the Young Musician of the Year.

Workshops included:

·         An adult singing workshop where 150 singers and more than 100 musicians practised and performed Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man. Images of war and its consequences were displayed on an enormous screen which filled the town hall stage.

·         A toddler workshop saw a group of two-year-olds and their families enjoy a craft-based session with singing and dancing on the theme of a tiny acorn growing into a large oak tree.

·         The Reach for the Stars workshop saw local special needs school children learn techniques and perform with the Dark Horse Theatre Company and then each school performed a prepared piece for everyone else before it finished with everyone singing and dancing to the theme tune Reach For The Stars.

·         A tea dance featured children from Lindley Junior School singing for people with dementia.

·         The Celebrate and Sing workshop for key stage 2 children filled the town hall with more than 800 junior school children. Thom Meredith from Musica Kirklees led the workshop, introducing the youth orchestra and their instruments and leading the singing.

Two long serving committee members, Charmaine and Gareth Beaumont from Beaumont Park (pictured below with Mayor of Kirklees Clr Masood Ahmed) stepped down this year although they will continue as helpers. The festival awarded them Honorary Life membership at the Last Night of the Festival concert.

Festival administrator Ann Talboys said: “The festival couldn’t happen without the unstinting work of the army of volunteers who make up our committee and band of helpers. They give their time, energy and support to the festival and we are very grateful to them.”

  • Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.