Spitalfields Past and Future


Spitalfields Festival is 40 years old this year, and a celebration of this feat was held with a piano recital by that charming and thoughtful musician, Melvyn Tan who, although we could hardly believe this, is himself celebrating a 60th anniversary. Many people who have served in various ways came along to the concert in St Leonard’s Church Shoreditch (the unofficial home of the festival in recent years.)

This photo (thank you to Suzanne Jansen) shows a group of former Artistic Directors in ‘herding cats’ mode before eventually someone managed to line us up in a row and shoot us (with a camera, of course). When I first saw this image, it suggested a scene from a Michael Tippett opera, full of strong, questing characters. And it reminded me how much friendship and stimulating musical talk has come my way through being involved in this small but dynamic organisation, working in an area of London which, not so long ago, was mostly unknown and downtrodden.

I should perhaps create a pre-Christmas Quiz to indentify as many of these people as possible. But to save you the bother: from L to R, current executive director Elie Gussman; organist David Titterington; Anthony Burton, Michael Berkeley (that’s Lord Berkeley to you), Melvyn Tan, Anthony Payne, Diana Burrell. Then in the right-hand foreground, myself and Jonathan Dove; and typically invisible in the background, but making it all happen for twenty years, former executive director, Judith Serota, talking to current chair Maurice Biriotti. How many other musical organisations have put composers at the heart of their planning like this? Very few, I believe, and this trend is not reversing itself. But on this evening, exciting future Spitalfields plans were announced (including next year’s winter Festival to be curated by André de Ridder) suggesting that at least another decade is on the cards.

149 views
autumn.jpg

JUDITH WEIR

Composer