The Lanercost Festival aims to contribute to the cultural enjoyment and enrichment of the community which it serves by the promotion and organisation of a range of activities: musical, artistic, dramatic and creative. Since its genesis in 2004, it has sought to broaden and improve its range and appeal.
In its early days, the Festival was a 3-day event and its content was chiefly musical, with the choral concert, as the final event, providing an enjoyable and appropriate climax.
The Festival continued as a fairly small-scale event until 2007, when the period of the festival increased to 5 days. The Young Musician of the Year competition was added to the programme, as was a concert by musicians from Chetham’s School of Music. This was also the first year in which the Festival Eucharist was celebrated. The first two have been a popular part of the programme since their inclusion, but the Eucharist subsequently disappeared, to be revived in a small way in 2013 and with a higher profile in 2014. It is now specifically included as a Festival event on the Sunday morning at the beginning of the week.
In 2010, in order to attain a greater level of fidelity with the originally expressed objective, a play was added to the programme. An acting group was formed by then member of the committee Will Tillotson in order to stage Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Priory Ruins. Two Further Shakespeare plays followed, The Merry Wives of Windsor and Twelfth Night (2011 and 2012). Then, seeking more popular appeal, the group performed an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows is 2013 and, in honour of the year, Oh! What a Lovely War in 2014. In 2015, there was a return to Shakespeare, with The Tempest being staged by the newly formed Classic Theatre Cumbria. This was followed in 2016 by King Lear.
In an attempt to further achieve fidelity with the stated aims and also to involve children in the Festival, in 2013, an art competition was offered to local Primary Schools. Although few schools participated, the number of entries was encouraging enough to repeat the exercise, and the event took the form of a poetry and art competition in 2014. Sponsorship was obtained from two local businesses, which resulted in the donation of £100 worth of prizes. A prize giving ceremony was held in the Priory, at which the producers of some 40 short listed entries were invited to read their poems while the art work was projected to those present, who filled the Priory to capacity. In 2015, the Primary School event took the form of a choric recitation event, which will be repeated in 2016.
Also in 2013, in response to a bid to incorporate more activity of a local nature, a ‘Community Concert’ was staged by the Brampton Community Orchestra and the Brampton and District Choir on the evening before the start of the Festival. This was a non-ticket, charity event at which donations were invited to a charity of the performers’ choice. This was repeated in 2014 and also in 2015, as part of the Festival, the donation still being given to Charity. In 2016, the concert consited of a work especially written for the occasion. 2013 also saw the incorporation of lunchtime concerts into the programme. There were two of these in both 2013 and 2014, four in 2015 and five in 2016.
2014 saw the inclusion of a local ‘folk’ event, in a performance by Hadrian Clog, from Gilsland and other northern dance groups. Also, in the same year, in order to embrace literature, again in accordance with the stated aims, it was intended to run a short story writing competition. Judges and a sponsor were found. However, owing to a confusion in communication at committee level, the event was not given the required publicity and was withdrawn. It was offered, successfully, in 2015, then again in 2016. Currently, the Lanercost Festival spans 6 days: from a Tuesday to a Sunday and offers a full and varied programme of events.