Beverley aims to establish itself as a major tourist destination and cultural hub
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 May 2017 | UPDATED: 08:52 15 May 2017
Hull might be grabbing all the headlines but East Yorkshire’s premier market town is a culture hub too, says Jo Haywood.
Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month (May 26th-29th), adding yet another milestone event to the region’s extraordinarily full cultural calendar.
The festival, which was originally initiated by the local council to attract visitors with a rich medley of history, architecture and music, has grown in the past three decades to become one of East Yorkshire’s cultural crown jewels, attracting internationally renowned musicians to perform alongside emerging youth ensembles and engaging community projects.
‘We began all those years ago with a dozen events, including practical demonstrations of the making of musical instruments and street entertainment,’ said Delma Tomlin, festival director and director of the National Centre for Early Music. ‘The festival has grown in size and stature since then. With the addition of a touring exhibition, we’re confident that the programme in 2017 is one of the best ever.’
This year’s line-up, organised by the National Centre for Early Music in York and East Riding of Yorkshire Council, is suitably special with appearances by some of the world’s finest musicians, including The Tallis Scholars, The Carnival Band and La Serenissima.
In a nod to the multi-strand cultural juggernaut that is Hull UK City of Culture, happening just 10 miles south, Beverley’s Early Music Festival is widening its artistic remit this year.
Among the numerous must-see events is a large-scale immersive installation at Beverley Minster, which presents a visually and aurally striking interpretation of pan-European music. Running from May 26th to July 16th, Through the Looking Glass includes a heptagonal display of oversized mirrored structures and sound projections that draw visitors in with a magical opportunity to walk through a polyphonic maze of music.
The artwork, taking a brief sojourn in Beverley on its way from Antwerp Cathedral via a European tour to New York, is accompanied by a digital collection of manuscripts and an engaging children’s discovery pack, that reveal all about Renaissance music scribe (and spy apparently) Petrus Alamire.
Councillor Richard Burton welcomed the arrival of the monumental minster installation – and the festival’s milestone anniversary.
‘We’re delighted to still be celebrating this fantastic music festival 30 years on,’ he said. ‘It’s always been a highlight in our annual event calendar as, in addition to drawing in new visitors, it reaches out to encompass the local community and their activities.
‘It promotes the entire region and its many historical venues and, three decades on, I’m happy to say the festival continues to make a positive contribution to our community.’
May is also a busy month at Beverley’s East Riding Theatre, where the productions have all been liberally sprinkled with magic since Harry Potter’s dad, actor Adrian Rawlins, took over the helm as artistic director earlier this spring.
He said he was very honoured to take over from founder – and fellow actor – Vincent Regan, who launched the professional theatre in a converted Baptist chapel in his home town in 2014 and remains the overall creative director.
You might know Vincent from Hollywood blockbusters like 300, Clash of the Titans and Snow White and the Huntsman or, if you live in Beverley, as that good-looking chap buying stamps in the post office.
Theatre manager Sue Kirkman said: ‘Adrian encapsulates the very essence of what ERT is about; an all-hands-on-deck theatre that delivers top-notch work in a welcoming and community-driven environment.’
On the bill at East Riding Theatre this month are Shakers by John Godber (April 26th -May 20th); Tale Spinners, Beverley’s take on the US story-telling success The Moth (May 24th-25th); songs and sketches performed in revolutionary fashion in Misscast by She Productions (May 26th-28th) and an all-male version of The Mikado (May 30th-31st).
It’s clear that Beverley has a lot on, but local businesses think it could be even busier. To that end, they’ve set up a new independent organisation – Destination Beverley – to promote the town regionally, nationally and internationally as a king pin in the visitor map. Sally Iggulden, chair of the group (and chief executive of Beverley Racecourse), explained its key aims.
‘Destination Beverley will bring together and promote more effectively all the great things the town has to offer,’ she said. ‘It will also enable the delivery of initiatives that will make the experience of visiting Beverley even better.’
The organisation is made up of representatives of the town’s leading attractions, Beverley Racecourse and Beverley Minster, as well as the Flemingate Centre, traders and people with a passion for the town.
Rick Bailey, chief executive of Daniel Thwaites, the company currently investing £6million in redeveloping the Beverley Arms Hotel, is a key supporter.
‘This is a fantastic market town and we’re delighted to be a new addition to the community,’ he said. ‘It’s a really exciting time for us to join, as the launch of Destination Beverley looks set to raise the profile and reputation of the whole area.
‘We have some bold plans for the Beverley Arms that will restore many original features while breathing new life into it to make it one of the best hotels in Yorkshire. We hope our investment and ambition will help support the work of Destination Beverley by providing even more reasons to visit and stay in the area.’