May I say thank you on behalf of those of us involved in the Frome Festival, to the people of Frome who supported the 2011 event so well. As Creative Director, it is a great pleasure for me to see local people embracing the spirit of the Frome Festival by organizing events that we are delighted to include in our programme. The opening Friday alone saw all Frome’s theatres and halls operating to near capacity with nearly 2000 people attending events.
On the first Saturday, the town was swarming with visitors from far and wide to see the Open Studios, Hidden Gardens, and attend workshops. Many were delighted along the way to visit the Farmer’s Market at the Cheese and Grain, witness poetry on a soap box, watch gnomes fishing in Cheap Street, and mountaineers “climbing” Catherine Hill. A beautiful and busy day was completed with record attendance of possibly 4000 at the Festival Food Feast, and revellers staying out late to enjoy the Candlelit Concert in Trinity Church and music at the Archangel. The pattern of participation continued throughout the week. It was so gratifying to see St. John’s sold out on Wednesday 13th July for the marvellous and moving concert celebrating the work of Christina Rossetti, the 19th Century poet, and former Frome resident.
Equally exciting was the sell out for Harpeth Rising the little known but brilliant American Folk Quartet at Rook Lane Arts on the last Saturday. Attendances were astonishingly high throughout the 10 days. For those who may not know how it works, the Frome Festival is an object lesson in co-ordination and co-operation between the numerous public venues in Frome, including privately owned spaces like the Silk Mill and Bastion Gardens. Each venue sources much of its own programme, and the Festival hires each space to add on its own promotions. From the Festival office we attempt to co-ordinate and publicise this wide variety of events.
The formula seems to work, but can only be successful with the enthusiasm and willingness of numerous partners and volunteers. So much time is given free of charge to the Festival, and all of our professional contractors, designers, and administrators give of their services at well below the commercial rates. May I extend my personal thanks to Dr. Bob Morris, the most inspiring and brilliant Chairman of the Frome Festival, and the rest of the Festival Board, who all made major contributions. In particular, we could not have managed without Fred Rolfe who oversees our administration amongst much else; Suzanne Cooke who has co-ordinated our successful sponsorship campaign; and Richard Davies, who has been invaluable keeping our website and internet services on-line. Suzanne and Richard are standing down as Board members this year, and their voluntary contributions will be greatly missed. Gavin Rea, also a Trustee, gains special thanks for taking on the very important role of organising the many workshops in the Festival, which manage to provide an educational service, at very low cost to the participants, and with no funding from outside sources.
I would be taking up far too much space if I named everyone involved, but if I may, I’d like to pay special thanks to those who have put up with my artistic temperament more than most others this year: our university intern Lou Waller; our immensely creative Publicity and Marketing co-ordinator Claire Yeoman; and the Festival Administrator Robyn Wilkinson, whose hours are even longer than mine, and on whose judgement and efficiency I have been totally dependent. Robyn will be leaving us in the Autumn to take up a new career path, and will be a hard act to follow. I’m not a great fan of thank you speeches, but how else does one acknowledge the kind of dedication that enables Frome to put together a festival as diverse and creative as any in England with but a fraction of the public funding others enjoy? Finally, thanks to our dedicated sponsors and Frome Town Council for their support, and to my colleagues at the Cheese and Grain for selling and accounting for many thousands of ticket sales in the space of two months.
We look forward to another Frome festival in 2012 (currently set for 6th to 15th July inclusive).