Festival will now take place across online and broadcast platforms: 

Friday, November 20 – Sunday November 22, 2020

hcmf// awards 20+ new artist commissions


After many weeks of monitoring the circumstances and restrictions imposed by Covid-19, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (hcmf//) team and its Board of Trustees has reached the decision that it is not possible to produce the usual 10-day festival in November of this year.

In its place, the organisers propose a three-day event to take place across what would have been the opening weekend of the 2020 festival (Friday 20 – Sunday 22 November), with concerts taking place across a number of online and broadcast platforms. 

Further specific announcements about the programme will be made later in August.

Founded in 1978, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival is Britain’s oldest festival of new and experimental music as well as being a leading player in the European contemporary music calendar.

“Whilst this is a huge disappointment to everyone involved with the festival, the safety and wellbeing of our staff, volunteers, artists and audiences – many of whom come to Huddersfield from across the UK and around the world – has been the primary consideration in reaching the decision”, said the festival’s Artistic Director, Graham McKenzie

“Taking into consideration our international programme and audience, travel restrictions, quarantine requirements and social distancing guidelines have also inevitably played a major part in our decision making”.

In the meantime, the festival is pleased to announce that the Israeli-American composer Chaya Czernowin, who was to be the hcmf// Composer in Residence for 2020, has accepted the festival’s invitation to become Composer in Residence for hcmf// 2021. The festival looks forward to working with Ms. Czernowin on a wide-ranging exploration of her work, including new commissions.

hcmf// creates opportunities for composers and artists during lockdown

Since the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were first introduced in March, hcmf// has been actively working with a number of partners to create opportunities for some of the music creators whose livelihoods were immediately devastated by cancelled concerts and events, as well as by loss or cuts to funding, and the inability to travel and collaborate. To date, the festival has awarded more than 20 commissions to both established and emerging artists for performance at the 2020 and 2021 festivals, and on online platforms. These include:

– hcmf// major commissions

  • James Dillon: The Freiburg Diptych – a new work for Irvine Arditti & SWR Experimental Studio (Freiburg) for solo violin and electronics, first performed at ECLAT (Stuttgart) in 2020. Information on the UK premiere at hcmf// will follow later in August.       
  • Laurence Osborn: Essential Relaxing Classical Hits – a new work for Ensemble Klang + Agata Zubel (soprano), to be premiered at hcmf// in 2021.
  • John Butcher: New concert-length work for 15 musicians, to be premiered at hcmf// in 2021
  • Laura Bowler: Advert – a new concert-length work for Ensemble Decoder + Laura Bowler (voice) + tattooist, to be premiered at hcmf// in 2021
  • Rebecca Saunders: Scar – a new work for Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, first performed at CBSO Centre (Birmingham) in December 2019. Information on the hcmf// performance will follow later in August.
  • Sam Hayden: New work for Séverine Ballon (cello) + electronics by Centre Henri Pousseur, to be premiered at hcmf// in 2021
  • Chaya Czernowin: Fast Darkness – the UK premiere of a new work for The Riot Ensemble + Gareth Davis (bass clarinet), to be performed at hcmf// in 2021
  • Ailie Robertson: New work for Red Note Ensemble + Ailie Robertson (harp), to be premiered at hcmf// in 2021
  • Una Monaghan: New work for Red Note Ensemble + Una Monaghan (harp), to be premiered at hcmf// in 2021
  • Angharad Davies: New work for GBSR Duo, to be premiered at hcmf// in 2021

– Covid-19 Commissions

hcmf// has set up a Covid-19 fundraising project to help fund five £1,000 commissions for five UK-based artists to create a 15-minute work to be presented at a future edition of the festival. The open call for proposals attracted over 200 responses and the selected artists are:

  • Natalie Sharp
  • Timothy Cape
  • Nwando Ebizie
  • Luke Nickel
  • Cath Roberts

– Zeitgeist Commissions (in partnership with The Riot Ensemble)

The hcmf// Zeitgeist Commissions are solo works for members of The Riot Ensemble and will be premiered online during hcmf// 2020 through Zeitgeist’s online space, with the first live performances at hcmf// 2021. The commissions have been awarded to the following artists:

  • Auclair
  • Heloise Tunstall-Behrens
  • Tonia Ko
  • Matthew Grouse
  • Anna Appleby
  • Hannah Kendall

The Riot Ensemble launched Zeitgeist in response to the worldwide lockdown caused by Covid-19. In an attempt to keep music flowing and work for composers circulating, the group teamed up with Zeitgeist, the online gallery that presents contemporary work through a digital lens; through the project, they have commissioned young composers from across the globe.