Shipley Arts Festival at Twenty

Shipley Arts Festival Director Andrew Bernardi with his 1696 Stradivarius at Toovey’s Auctioneers.

I meet up with the Shipley Arts Festival Artistic Director, Andrew Bernardi at Toovey’s Washington auction rooms. Andrew Bernardi is putting the finishing touches to the 2020 Shipley Arts Festival season. This important Sussex music festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary.

I ask Andrew how it all began, he replies “I met Christina Maude and Ginny de Zoete at a Charity Concert at Shipley Parish Church. The idea took shape when we all met up at Gordon Lindsay’s home and the festival was born!”
Andrew explains that 20 years on the festival’s distinctive foundations remain the same saying “At the Shipley Arts Festival’s heart is the inspiration of English music, in particular continuing John Ireland’s tradition of music inspired by Sussex.” The composer John Ireland is famously buried at Shipley. Andrew continues “We continue to commission new music for Sussex and the festival from many of the nation’s leading composers and musicians.”

Commissions and works written for the Shipley Arts Festival have included pieces by Cecilia McDowall, one of one of the country’s leading female composers, Roderick Williams OBE, the English operatic baritone and composer, Malcolm Singer, the former Director of the Yehudi Menuhin School of Music and current Professor of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, and the late John Lord of Deep Purple.

To mark the festival’s 20th anniversary Andrew and his musicians will be performing a number of Opus 20s by Elgar, Mendelssohn and Chopin, as well as works by Bach, Purcell, Beethoven and John Ireland.

One of the things I most value about the festival is how it remains generous and outward facing supporting our county’s young musicians through its String Academy who, together with Maria Marchant, Fuensanta Zambrana Ruiz, Victoria Greenwood, Jonathan Hennesy Brown, Bruce Martin and Christina Maude, moved us all with Elgar’s Serenade for Strings Op.20 and Bach’s Sonata Movement in C minor at the Sedgwick Park 2020 launch on Sunday evening hosted by Clare Davison.

Rupert Toovey with Andrew Bernardi

At the opening Andrew remarked “The festival has exceeded anything we imagined and hoped for at the start. There are so many magical parts to the festival and not least the Churches and great country estates which host our concerts. And all of you for being with us on our journey.”
Andrew, like me, is passionate about building communities through heritage and the arts here in Sussex.

The festival celebrates the local, national and international qualities of our nation and is building an important exchange program with supporters from China and Hong Kong.

Speaking about the festival’s sponsors Andrew says “What we have in common with our sponsors is that we care about people – that’s what we do.”
As the longest standing sponsor of the Shipley Arts Festival I am delighted that Toovey’s and myself remain at the heart of this remarkable celebration of music and community. Together with our fellow sponsors Kreston Reeves, Nyetimber, NFU Mutual, Wakefields and Rossana, we look forward to West Sussex continuing to be at the centre of our nation’s musical life thanks to the determination and talent of Andrew Bernardi.

For more information on the forthcoming Shipley Arts Festival concerts go to