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Affiliated to the British & International Federation of Festivals for Music, Dance and Speech

Important Dates


1 March 2022 - Closing date for entries to the Wharfedale Festival of Performing Arts Speech, Drama and Music Festival 2022.

17th- 20th May 2022 - 2022 Wharfedale Festival of Performing Arts Speech, Drama and Music Festival.

To celebrate the 70th festival in 1976 Robert Lantaff prepared a short history up to that date. A number of interesting events and developments have occurred since then which are well worth reporting and have therefore been included in this update (1996). Since the historical background obviously remains the same, I have merely included the original text with suitable amendments and additions.

In this series of articles, "I" refers to Robert Lantaff and the original copyright remains with him. These articles are repeated for anyone interested in the history of the Wharfedale Festival.



During both World Wars the Committee determinedly carried on albeit on a restricted scale, this decision being of the utmost importance in maintaining the festival movement in Wharfedale. Its policy was expressed in the programme note for 1940:

In providing this outlet for the musical activities of the young people, the Committee feels that they will be serving the National interests, and, by doing so, they will brighten the lives and homes of the young competitors. Home-made music is the foundation stone of the competitive festival movement, the latter is the nursery and training ground of musical England, and, in anxious and dangerous times such as we are passing through, it is a vital necessity that we should protect and preserve this side of cultural life in every possible way.

In the Second World War it was possible to hold only a Saturday festival owing to the requisitioning of the Kings Hall for military purposes and the use of the Assembly Hall as a day school. The 1940-1945 festivals were for children only, and consisted mainly of pianoforte, solo singing and choir classes. The curtailment of bus and train services made travelling difficult and it is known that many children walked over the moors from Keighley, and others living in Poole and beyond had to walk to and from Otley. The last bus out of Ilkley in either direction left at 9.00 p.m. Ironically, the surrender of the German Armed Forces nearly caused the 1945 festival to be abandoned. This surrender was imminent and caused the Committee much concern lest the celebrations should coincide with the festival date, but fortunately V.E. Day was observed three days later.

The General Strike of 1926 resulted in many entries being cancelled, particularly those from choirs and orchestras. The calling off of the rail strike on the first day came too late to remedy the situation. Plans were made to hold the school choirs session in Bradford, since all the competitors came from schools within that city, but in the end this proved unnecessary. In more recent years the postal strike nearly strangled the 1971 festival at birth, industrial action occurring at that most vital period around the closing date for entries. A few years later at least one committee meeting was held by candle light because of phased power cuts through industrial action.

Robert Lantaff (C) 1976 & 1996

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Festival Secretaries

General Secretary
Mrs Patricia Dibb
01943 865180


Speech & Drama Secretaries
Mrs Julie James
01943 433444

Mrs Elizabeth Whiteley
01943 830780

Piano Festival Secretary

Piano Festival Secretary


Piano Festival