How a “BIFF” music festival works

The words, “Music Festival” conjures up visions of crowds, huge audio systems, inadequate toilets and tents – and mud.  The Skipton Music Festival works hard to provide none of these!  A “BIFF” festival is there to provide a platform for our young musicians.  Unlike almost every other music event, the focus is not on the audience.  The festival is to provide opportunity for education and development for our children.   In many ways, a Festival such as ours is more akin to an athletics or other sporting meeting than it is to a concert.

Skipton’s Festival is affiliated to the British and International Federation of Festivals and provides an opportunity for (mainly) young people to perform in a safe and unthreatening environment.  Classes are arranged for children from pre-school age up to Year 13 while an “Open” section is available to those from 17 to pensionable age and beyond.  We believe that the Festival provides a vital support to the much-depleted musical education of our children.

All classes are adjudicated by a trained and approved professional musician and most are competitive, with grades awarded.  Each performance is critiqued, sometimes in some detail, and some classes attract a trophy for the winner.  Skipton currently offers no cash prizes.

The classes offer an eclectic variety of performance.  The traditional instruments naturally make up the bulk of the syllabus.  Piano, recorder, voice, and choirs, along with the usual orchestral instruments are well represented and range from first tentative Year 4 steps up to performances that would not be out of place on a professional stage.  Several Festival regulars do indeed move on to a full-time musical career.  The lesser-known instruments are also catered for.  Guitars and piano accordions feature, as do percussion instruments, glockenspiels and hand bells.  Some classes are defined in such a way as to welcome any instrument or any musical tradition.  Sitars would find a place and bagpipes and alpenhorns would (probably!) be welcome.

The Festival sessions are open to the public and both daily and weekly tickets are available.  Audiences are generally small, comprising other performers, chaperones, family and friends.  It is a regular sadness that these events that showcase young musical talent from across Craven and the surrounding area attract so few.

No child will perform for more than a few minutes.  All performances are limited, either by the time allowed or by the length of a set piece.  The senior solo recital has a time limit of 15 minutes but all regular classes are limited to between 8 minutes for some groups down to about 90 seconds for some very little pianists.  Each session (morning, afternoon or evening) is limited to three hours but most performers and their entourage will arrive in time for their class and leave soon afterwards.  Some of the bigger classes will last for up to an hour but a more regular time is around ten minutes.

Careful safeguarding is in place.  The Festival has a Safeguarding Officer, we adhere to the BIFF safeguarding policy and all of the regular officials are DBS-checked.  First-aiders are on site and the venue is carefully policed, not least to ensure that no unauthorized photography or recording takes place.

The Festival runs on a tight shoestring.  The significant costs of venue hire, payment for the professional adjudicator and accompanist, printing, publicity as well as piano transport and tuning are recouped through entry fees, audience tickets, advertisers and a “Friends” scheme.  The Festival committee also arranges occasional “Masterclass Days”, (this year for young choral singers, recorder players and pianists) which may attract some sponsorship.  The local organizing committee is comprised of volunteers and there are no paid posts.

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