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I often suggest to my overseas visitors that they visit West Malling in Kent. Less than an hour out of London, on a handy rail line, it's remarkably full of beautiful old buildings (don't take my word for it, there's a watercolour by Turner) teamed up with restaurants and pubs galore. There's even a still active (Anglican Benedictine) community of nuns in St Mary's Abbey, whom I had the pleasure of meeting a few years ago, thanks to the wonderful Music@Malling festival.

The best time to visit the town is any time the Music@Malling is in operation, and that's why I went this week, to hear one of the solo recitals by cellist Richard Harwood in Pilsdon Barn (pictured). His programmes were based round Bach Cello Suites; the concert I heard started with a beautiful piece by John Woolrich (With Land in Sight) and ended with my own cello suite, Unlocked.


Music@Malling is the brainchild of violinist Thomas Kemp, who grew up in the area. The concerts feature a great deal of contemporary, often newly composed, music alongside the classics, and it's remarkable how successful this is with the local public, who attend the events in some numbers. Indeed the programme is so adventurous, you wonder every year how Tom has managed to bring it off yet again, while playing in so many of the concerts himself. While these are rocky times for some of the big name festivals, a few smaller enterprises are showing the way, thanks to their true local grass roots.





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