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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.


Verse classes were introduced in 1953 under the general guidance of a new committee member, Mrs Sylvia Greenwood, who has been very largely responsible for the growth of this section and for the excellent choice of poems which brought forth many complimentary remarks from adjudicators. . . 'A syllabus which has given a rich intellectual and beautiful opportunity' (Ida Shaw, 1953), 'New and exciting poems which stretched the competitors and demanded their expertise', (James Dodding, 1970).

Since 1972 entries in this section have sometimes exceeded those for music classes, which necessitates two adjudicators working extremely hard on the Monday and Tuesday of festival week. In the late 50's and early 60's an evening was devoted to one-act plays, but it became increasingly difficult to cater for these, and the interest and standard declined. On the last occasion, 1966, there were four groups, none of which gained even a second class certificate. A feature of recent festivals has been some superb work in the choral speaking classes of which Malcolm Morrison had this to say in 1967, 'I am not really a devotee of choral speaking. This is the first festival I have been to where Choral Speaking really meant something,' and in 1975 .... 'a once-in-a-lifetime experience.'

The centenary of the birth of G.K. Chesterton (1972) was celebrated by a special class of own choice poems which was well supported. In his 'Reflections', the editor of the Ilkley Gazette mentioned that Chesterton was a frequent visitor to Ilkley.

It was said of the distinguished visitor that whenever inspiration came to him he was always prepared with paper and pencil to capture it before it escaped, and sat down wherever he was and wrote it down. The story is that he was once found by a policeman, his voluminous cloak thrown back from his shoulders in the middle of Hangingstone Road, writing steadily. He wanted no interruptions at that point and met the policeman's enquiries with testy waves of his hand until his entry was complete. His explanations were eventually accepted, but the policeman is said to have taken some convincing.

Robert Lantaff (C) 1976 & 1996

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