Share This


Affiliated to the British & International Federation of Festivals Logo

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.


No one should suppose, that having established itself, the Wharfedale Music Festival enjoyed unbroken public support and enthusiasm. Up to 1929 support was consistent as evidenced by a news reporter's comment that at 9.00 a.m. 50 people were waiting for admission to hear the solo pianists, and by 9.30 a.m. there were over 150 in the audience. There was a marked decline in patrons' donations and audience support owing to the growing popularity of summer sports, the 'motor habit' and the 'cinema habit', plus the effects of a general trade depression.

Thinking that the time of year and season might have some effect, the committee changed the date to mid March - this proved disastrous - with a further decline in entries and public support and by general consent the next year's festival reverted to its normal time. By 1933 a handsome investment fund of £500 in War Stock had been liquidated in order to keep the festival solvent. In the following year the committee seriously considered a proposal to wind up its affairs, but this was defeated, and a sub-committee appointed to consider ways and means of increasing support, with the happy result that by 1936 it was confidently booking adjudicators three years ahead.

Further troughs of depression occurred in 1954 when the Ilkley Gazette reported that 'unless there are material signs that there is more support, the committee will seriously consider winding it up.' During the 60's vague hints were made culminating in a committee proposal in 1967 to prepare a letter for general publication announcing its doubts as to continuation, but this letter was never published as a record number of entries was received. The nagging doubts, however, were not completely dispelled and the subject exercised minds of committee members regularly until 1971. Public exhortations by the press and various chairmen of Ilkley Urban District Council were made, one of whom said that 'Ilkley has in its midst an organisation which ranks highly in the festival world, and is held by many adjudicators to be of outstanding quality'.

Robert Lantaff (C) 1976 & 1996

Search the Wharfedale Festival

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