A Portugal based Holmfirth-born musician has bagged Holmfirth Arts Festival’s inaugural Steve Sykes Commission for new music. 

Tom Holman-Sheard, who originally comes from Holmfirth, and interviewed for the role over Zoom from his home in Porto, says he was inspired by the Holme River and the rambling hills he played in as a child.

Tom, 29, who attended Holmfirth High School and was brought up in Armitage Bridge with his two sisters, said of his commission: “Leaving Holme is a piece that aims to represent the soul of the Holme Valley.

“It is an audio-visual performance where I will interview people as well as make recordings from the environment itself, accompanied by ambient textures and melodies produced through various electronic means. 

“It is a celebration of community and landscape, and how one informs the other.

“Bearing in mind that life is brief; I want to know what sparks joy about living in these hills.” 

Tom is asking local people to contact him by email at tomholmansheard@gmail.com to get involved.

Tom, who has been living in Portugal for the last few years, is a music composer who also plays the Moog Matriarch synthesiser, as well as using his voice for performance.

He added: “This is a great opportunity for me and a chance to develop my career and of course; come back home.”

Musicians with a connection to the Holme Valley were invited to apply for the funded role and will receive support from professional creatives to help produce their work. 

The inspiration for creating the commission is Steve Sykes, who was chairman of the festival until he died suddenly after a stroke last year. 

Bev Adams, festival director, said: “Steve was our dynamic and inspirational chairman from 2016-2020.

“He had a fantastic energy and steered the organisation with drive, imagination and humour with his calm, inclusive leadership.

“Steve was born and bred in the Holme Valley and never ceased to wonder at the beauty of its landscape. Nature and music were his lifelong passions. He was an accomplished guitarist and saxophonist.

“He was a man who calmly and quietly made things happen, encouraging and enabling musicians of all ages to play their very best music.”

Steve Sykes

Festival organisers wanted to commission a new piece of music that responded to the Holme Valley landscape, its people and places whilst reflecting the aims and values of the event.  

The 2021 commission is an inaugural commission and the festival intends to commission a new piece of art annually in Steve’s honour.

Lesley Sykes, Steve’s widow, added: “Steve would be amazed to be honoured in this way and would approve of an opportunity like this for a talented young musician.”

Taking inspiration from its unique location in the Pennine foothills, Holmfirth Arts Festival celebrates creativity in the landscape by: commissioning new work and supporting diverse artists; inspiring diverse communities to engage with the arts and their heritage; caring for the environment plus connecting locally, regionally and internationally.

The commission will include a performance of the new piece in a double bill with experimental cellist, Slow Cooked, on Sunday September 19 at 3.30pm at the Civic Hall.  

More details at www.holmfirthartsfestival.co.uk