I first visited Calne's Festival of Music and Arts in 1977, when the town was an industrial centre, based round the Harris pork factory, unlikely amidst its beautiful Wiltshire Downs surroundings. Things have changed over the years I've known it - the factory was demolished in 1984 - and on brief visits in the following I've sensed its gradual uplift out of uncertain times.
But, as I remarked at the opening reception this week, the Festival itself feels just like it always was. That can't actually be the case of course; it must have gradually evolved with the times. But, managed by a voluntary local committee, it remains true to itself and has never hankered after a flashy redesign. The list of low-key events is always broad and welcoming - musical recitals, jazz, folk, classical, talks, drama, local history and even a bit of G&S.
This year's art show - think RA Summer Exhibition but all painted in Calne - was particularly bursting at the seams, and the paintings themselves were noted to be often bigger than usual. Clearly some industrious people have been putting those long shutdown months to good use. After my recent visits to much bigger Festivals, Edinburgh for instance, which have had perforce to operate a 'shadow' or 'ghost' programme under pandemic regulations, it was cheering to experience this festival 'firing on all cylinders'. (Do we still have cylinders?)
Pictured - the River Avon in nearby Chippenham